INTERVIEW and EXCERPT
Descriptions of Heaven
by Randal Eldon Greene
Author Randal Eldon Greene stops by today for an interview and to share an excerpt from Descriptions of Heaven. Keep an eye out for my review coming in 2017.
A linguist, a lake monster, and the looming shadow of death - news of an unknown creature in the New Bedford Lake coincides with news that Natalia's cancer has returned.
On the shores of the lake in a strange house with many secret doors, Robert and his family must face the fact that Natalia is dying, and there is no hope this time. But they continue on; their son plays by the lakeside, Natalia paints, Robert writes, and all the while the air is thick with dust from a worldwide drought that threatens to come down and coat their little corner of green.
A lament for what is already lost and what is yet to be lost, Descriptions of Heaven leaves only one question to be asked: What's next?
As a child, I shinnied the coarse trunks of trees, carrying a book in a backpack or clamped resolutely between my chin and chest. I’d sit in the boughs of shady retreat and dappled light up there where the wind blew through leaves, and the leaves were an instrument, accompanied by birdsong, and I’d read of dichotomous fairyland entities who struggled against one another. The hero’s armor always shone, and he’d raise his double-edged sword above his windblown hair in righteous victory. The villain was always diabolical, sometimes of misshapen form and other times human, but beastly in nature; always the villain was intent on domination, always intent on fulfilling evil desires through evil deeds.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]
Praise for the Book
"Descriptions of Heaven is an admirable sort of quietly suspenseful literary novel; its prose flows without awkwardness, and heartrending gothic secrets are revealed in due course as the philosophical narrative unfolds." ~ Kevin Polman, author of The Extra Key
"From the very first pages, I saw the lives of these characters like a shattering mirror. All those details which make everyday life normal will be torn apart in front of the characters, leaving them unable to do anything but wait for that final dreaded moment and afterwards try to move on." ~ eLitere
"Randal Greene masterfully created a character who fights in silence, who faces life with her heart and her feelings out in the open. I loved meeting her, and her last journey seen through her husband’s eyes was beautiful to witness." ~ Chocolatenwaffles
"In My Opinion if you like to read books there is no reason you shouldn’t pick up this one ... It’s short and easy to read, it packs a punch for something so small, and it will touch each and every one of your emotional strings by the time you read the ending." ~ Victor G. Espinoza, author of Greyhart
"I loved the author’s prose and his style in general. Greene makes poetry of his prose and commands the page. For that reason alone, it was a joy to read." ~ The Underground
"Let yourself get involved, and you may be pulled in by the linguist’s efforts to use the tools of his craft - words - as aids in his search for answers to his son’s (and his own) questions about why Natalia is dying and where she is going." ~ IndieReader
"What’s surprised me is how such a short novella has left lasting thoughts. Greene’s use of words has evoked such vivid images and thoughts that I find I’m contemplating life and death myself. An interesting and thought-provoking read." ~ happymeerkatreviews
"This work of art is incredibly poetic from beginning to end. Randal Eldon Greene paints his words with every array of colors imaginable." ~ Paperback Darling
"With so many hauntingly beautiful lines, and characters that I cared about and became attached to, I felt as if I, too, took this journey, and I’ve been changed along with them. And for me, that’s the ultimate gift that a story could give." ~ Unbroken Journal
Interview with the Author
Randal Eldon Greene joins me today to discuss his new book, Descriptions of Heaven.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
This is an adult book. One reviewer said Descriptions of Heaven "would be an excellent choice for a literary-minded book club or a college literature class tasked with analyzing the works of emerging novelists." This reviewer is spot on, though fans of contemporary and women’s fiction are also giving great reviews.
What sparked the idea for this book?
It was actually television show. This was one of those pseudoscience shows where they chase ghosts and monsters. In one particular episode, the investigators talked about how there are hundreds and hundreds of lakes around the globe that harbor supposed lake monsters. That’s what sparked the whole idea.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
The idea for the novel. Or, really, a particular scene. Usually, I have an image of the final scene or just the final sentence, and I write toward that. Descriptions of Heaven was the same. The first thing I wrote was the final paragraph of the novel.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
There’s a little conversational bit between Robert - the main character - and his father-in-law. That part took a few edits to get right. Emotionally, the pumpkin-patch scene is pretty moving.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
I hope it moves them to tears and sweeps them away with its poetic lyricism.
How long did it take you to write this book?
It’s a short book, so not that long. I wrote the first draft between 2012 and 2013. It took probably 4 to 6 months to complete. I write by hand, so I don’t have the certainty about dates that a time-stamped computer file gives.
What is your writing routine?
After breakfast and seeing my fiancé off to teach her middles schoolers, I’ll take a cup of coffee upstairs and do one of two things; I either pick up a pen or stare at a blank piece of paper. I write (or stare) for 4 to 6 hours.
How did you get your book published?
I found it was far too long for any literary journal to accept and a little too short for an agent to take on, so I opted for an independent press. I received three acceptance letters and decided to go with the Harvard Alumni publishing house Harvard Square Editions.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Slow it down and write by hand. And, when it’s time to type, get a really nice computer, but take out the wireless card. You need a fast word processor with lots of memory, not a timesuck.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I enjoy cooking, reading, and long walks.
What does your family think of your writing?
My mother thinks my writing is great. My fiancé couldn’t be more proud. My future mother-in-law gave it an honest 4 stars.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
I grew up in Dakota City, Nebraska near a meat-packing plant and with a nice view of farm fields.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
Oh yes. Staples of reading included the Goosebumps series, Wayside School series, and later the Sword of Truth series, plus loads of other common kid’s books: The Chocolate Touch, How to Eat Fried Worms, Fudge-a-Mania, The Westing Game.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In first grade, after I won an award for a short story about a mailman penguin.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Certainly. As a child I managed to see a bit of magic in a lot of the mundane. Or maybe I saw the mundane through the lens of magic. This way of seeing and feeling through images laced with magic have found their way into my writing.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Have you heard from any readers yet? If so, what kinds of things have they said?
Well, though the book has been out just over a month, I haven’t heard from any but advance readers so far. I did have one fan email me a while back, saying he enjoyed the short stories of mine he could find published online. I’d love to hear from more readers. Especially readers who have bought my book.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
I have another novel in the works (this time it’s a much longer book), plus more short stories. Also, look for a readers theater play I’ll be releasing on my own for use by educators and people who work with kids. It’s been performed twice with great success.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today. Best of luck with your future projects.
Thank you, Lynda. It was a pleasure.
About the Author
Randal Eldon Greene is a novelist and short story writer residing in Sioux City, Iowa. Greene holds a degree in English and Anthropology from the University of South Dakota. He reads fiction for Heart & Mind Zine and works full time as a seeing eye human for his blind dog, Missy.