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Inside the Pages of CARETAKER: A Conversation with Authors Jason and Rhonda Halbert
Norm Goldman --  BookPleasures.com Norm Goldman -- BookPleasures.com
Montreal, QC
Monday, May 13, 2024

Inside the Pages of CARETAKER: A Conversation with Authors Jason and Rhonda Halbert

Bookpleasures.com welcomes the dynamic authors, R.J. Halbert (Jason Halbert and Rhonda Halbert), whose recent novel CARETAKER - Book One of The Goodpasture Chronicles, has just been published.

Jason is a musical maestro whose accolades include Emmy and Grammy Awards for his remarkable contributions as a producer and songwriter. With a career spanning over two decades, he's not only left an indelible mark as Music Director and Producer for the likes of Kelly Clarkson but has also lent his creative genius to various film and television projects. Beyond music, Jason's passions range from bee-keeping to Sci-Fi, and his knack for storytelling is as legendary as his musical talent.

Partnering Jason in this literary endeavor is his wife Rhonda Halbert, whose journey from homeschooling their children on a tour bus to managing music and television talents speaks volumes of her versatile skills.

A published photographer, music supervisor, and culinary enthusiast, Rhonda brings a unique blend of creativity and practicality to the table.

Together, Jason and Rhonda infuse their shared experiences and boundless imagination into a

captivating narrative that promises to break generational curses and ignite sparks of hope in their readers' hearts.

Norm: Good day Jason and Rhonda and thanks for taking part in our interview.

How did your experiences in the music industry influence the creation of "Caretaker?"

Jason: I think my experience in songwriting, as well as an understanding of how the music industry operates, from creation to distribution, set the foundation for telling a story, then having an understanding of how to produce that story and get it out to the public. The terminology may not be one to one with the music industry, but the general concepts are.

Norm: "Caretaker" explores the theme of breaking generational curses. Could you elaborate on the significance of this theme and its personal resonance for you?

Rhonda: Jason and I have come from dramatic childhoods. When we got married at 18 & 19 years-old, we made a promise that we would change how we raise our kids, and that we would break the cycles of brokenness. Because that is such an important part of our lives and our family, it was a natural and important story we wanted to tell. We believe that the future can be changed for the good by breaking generational curses from the past, and letting go of the bitterness and anger that can come from that.

Norm: Could you discuss the process of blending elements of thriller and supernatural genres in "Caretaker?" What challenges did you face in maintaining suspense while introducing supernatural elements?

Rhonda: I have found that most people are naturally hesitant to dabble in the supernatural, with Jason being one of them. I feel that makes it easier to maintain suspense and thrill, because most people either don't believe or don't want to acknowledge the supernatural realm. We've actually had some personal supernatural experiences from our past, so we took the liberty to express a version of these experiences to help tell this story. As new authors, we started by drawing from what we knew and experienced, then allowed our imaginations to expand and explore going further and pushing the chilling possibilities. That's my favorite part of writing this trilogy.

Norm: Family dynamics play a significant role in "Caretaker." How did you approach portraying the complexities of familial relationships amidst the supernatural elements of the story?

Jason: We attempted to approach the complexities of familial relationship from the perspective of our belief that people tend to operate on a spectrum, rather than just one black or white emotion. I believe at times it is possible to hold two conflicting emotions simultaneously, and that doesn't lessen the depth of either emotion. We have our characters excited, yet scared … hopeful, yet held by despair. We were also careful to try and give legitimate reasons for the family to be uncertain as to whether some of these experiences were actually supernatural or mental in nature.

Norm: "Caretaker" has been praised for its fast pace and suspenseful storytelling. How do you maintain momentum throughout the narrative, and what techniques do you use to keep readers engaged?

Rhonda: One technique that we incorporated came from the advice of an incredible author friend of ours. Our original manuscript was approximately 14 long chapters. He suggested we break the book into smaller chapters to keep the momentum going. Amazingly, without even changing any words, just dividing into smaller chapters really increased the pace of the reading experience.

Norm: The setting of the story, particularly the house on the hill, feels like its own character. How did you go about crafting such a pivotal location, and what atmosphere were you aiming to create?

Rhonda: Jason and I have owned 3 different homes, and each one came with some crazy stories and tales. We took a little of our experiences with each house and wove it into one fantastical story. Jason has always called me a closet Goth. I've always been drawn to places that look abandoned and disheveled, or have been around for hundreds of years. I've been known to question what the walls would say if they could talk. So the house in CARETAKER is our way of answering that question.

Norm: Could you discuss the role of trauma in shaping the characters and their journey throughout the story? How does the theme of resilience intersect with the supernatural elements?

Rhonda:  Starting in 2020, Jason and I began one of the darkest and hardest seasons in our lives. Of course we all experienced Covid, which was tragic in so many ways, but that was just the beginning for us. I lost 2 dear aunts, our beloved family dog of 18 years, and then my mother to a horrible disease which I spent all of 2020 taking care of her until her death. It was such a traumatic experience. 

Then 2021 maintained its trauma by Jason and I losing our home to a flood, around 10 more people to Covid, a dear friend to cancer, and our nephew was shot from a random apartment across the way, and he died at only 19 years old. Near the end of the year Jason's mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and she later died from the surgery and infections in early 2022. This was the lowest point of our lives and we couldn't deal with our own pain anymore. So, we put our characters through some traumatic moments, gave them situations to experience what we were feeling, and then we worked out our feelings of depression, anxiety, fear, and brokenness through them. 

I wanted to look into the metaphysical to find different answers, because I didn't like what was going on in our physical world. It gave us the ability to look at things from a bigger perspective, and then gave us opportunities to work out our own healings, much less the healing of our characters. I have always been attracted to the power of the physical and metaphysical, and how they interact with each other. What if we could open our eyes to see the metaphysical and what it is trying to say to us, and when we do, can we affect our physical world around us?

Norm: What do you hope readers take away from "Caretaker," both in terms of entertainment value and thematic resonance?

Jason: We hope readers approach the book from several vantage points, and encourage them to re-read the book a few times from different perspectives. On its face, the book can be read as a literal journey of a family seeking a fresh start, and working together to overcome obstacles. On a second reading, they may find some allegorical truths that deepen the experience. And we hope that upon further readings, the reader may discover some hidden easter eggs and spiritual truths that aren't quite as obvious after their first experience of completing the novel.

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and "Caretaker?"

Jason and Rhonda: Readers can go to RJHalbert.com to learn more about us and our history, or they can follow us @R.J.Halbert on Instagram or Facebook.

Norm: As we end our interview, "Caretaker" is the first book in The Goodpasture Chronicles. What can readers expect from future installments, and how will the series continue to explore themes of family, trauma, and the supernatural?

Jason and Rhonda: Our hope is to have Book 2 out in the first half of 2025. This book picks up right where we leave book 1, and takes the reader on a new journey discovering an ancient past that plays into the modern day family. The trauma continues to build in the family, and the house has a lot "to say" about it. 






 Norm Goldman of Bookpleasures.com

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Name: Norm Goldman
Title: Book Reviewer
Group: bookpleasures.com
Dateline: Montreal, QC Canada
Direct Phone: 514-486-8018
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