Interview with Robin Epstein, Author of HEAR
24 Feb 2016
HEAR is a thriller about a young woman named Kassandra Black, who’s quite the badass. (She’s the girl I always wanted to be!) Expelled from high school months shy of graduation, Kass is sent to work in the lab of her great-uncle Brian at Henley University. What Kass doesn’t know is that the Henley Engineering Anomalies Research lab — the HEAR lab — studies ESP. She soon discovers the other teenagers who are there possess startling abilities, and the mind games they play begin immediately. After forming a strong connection with one of the seductive young men in the group, Kass finally becomes aware of the power she’s always possessed. But discovering that questionable (and possibly dangerous) forces seek to harness the group’s talents, Kass comes to understand that though the future is predictable, people are not.
What’s rocking your world this month?
I’ve been a runner since high school but haven’t raced competitively since then. For the last X number of years (and let’s leave it at X, please!), I’ve loved jogging and haven’t felt any need to approach it as more than an enjoyable pastime. But I was recently given this TomTom GPS watch that tracks your distance, mile splits, and heart rate and it’s totally inspiring me to run harder and more efficiently. I had no idea a piece of technology could encourage me to do that, and to bring back the inner competitive warrior in me. So if I bring home Olympic gold–or even a “Well, you finished the race” consolation medal–we can definitely credit this watch!
If you could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?
If I could choose anyone, it would be my dad. He died almost seven years ago and I’ve missed him every day since. He gave me perspective on things, made me laugh all the time, and would tell me to knock it off when I was acting like an idiot or doing something that wasn’t in my best interest. He was smart and kind and generous, and I’d give anything to be able to sit down and have another meal with him.
What is the one movie that you can quote the most?
I don’t tend to see movies repeatedly (I’d much sooner read a new book!), but I have a soft spot for When Harry Met Sally. From its great jokes (that I fear I resemble):
Harry Burns: There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.
Sally Albright: Which one am I?
Harry Burns: You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.
To its moments of tear-jerking romance:
“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Where is your happy place? Why does it bring you joy?
I spent a lot of time thinking about this answer, but I don’t think I have a happy place, per se. I feel incredibly fortunate to be a person who can be happy almost anywhere, especially if my friends are with me and I have easy access to Coke Zero.
What books are currently on your night stand?
I just finished two very different books, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, and On The Run by Alice Goffman. I’m currently reading Veronica by Mary Gaitskill. The next book in the queue after that will be A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.
What’s your favorite quote or scene from HEAR?
I think my favorite scene in the book is near the beginning when Kass confronts her Uncle Brian about what he’s doing in his lab in the Engineering department. I think it gets to the heart of doubt: just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean it can’t or doesn’t exist.
“You run an ESP lab?” I demand.
“Here, I got your favorite,” he replies cheerily, ignoring my brusque tone. He pulls out a carton and peels the top off the bucket of Edy’s Slow Churned and then tips the green mint chocolate chip in my direction. I have to hand it to him: if he’s trying to distract me, it’s working. Green mint chocolate chip ice cream is what heaven tastes like.
“My dad told you my favorite flavor of ice cream?”
“No,” he says.
As I take the frozen tub from my uncle’s hand, a chill runs through me. “Then how did you—”
“Just a guess,” he interrupts. He motions to the table. “Have a seat. It’s my favorite too. And to answer your question, yes, I do run an ESP lab. You know, Kass, those with closed minds are always suspicious of those at the forefront of science.”
I remain standing. “I wouldn’t say that I have a closed mind. I would just say a lot of the people who claim to have psychic abilities are big phonies.”
“And by extension ESP can’t be real because we don’t have proof; is that your thought?” He takes two bowls down from the cabinet above the table and then reaches into a drawer for spoons. “But before people learned that the Earth was round, what did they think? Automobiles, airplanes, the Internet—none of these things were even conceivable until one day, ‘suddenly,’ they were. So to think that we already know everything that we’re going to know about how this works”—he sets the spoons down and taps his head—“is, if I may say, pure folly. And my job as a scientist is to explore and explain that which is not understood.”
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
I quoted this in my high school yearbook and I still repeat it all the time: “You can’t win unless you play.” It comes from an ad run by the Pennsylvania Lottery.
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