A short while ago I met a fellow budding author named Randal Eldon Greene who was just starting off his journey into the big bad world of publishing.
Just look at that handsome devil
He was kind enough to offer some support and encouragement on my writing earlier this year, and now that his writing is being published I wanted to help support him in return. His first book, titled Descriptions of Heaven, has finally been released and is available through his site here, or on the mighty Amazon here.
Spoiler Alert: It’s a good book
One of the ways I wanted to help Randal was by pimping out his story to my followers and helping readers get to know him a little better. Randal graciously agreed to answer some questions for a short interview.
Thanks again for letting me help out with your writing journey, Randal. Now, What was your inspiration for the story, Descriptions of Heaven?
The inspiration was actually from some monster-hunter show. In it, they talked about how there are actually lakes all over the world—not just Loch Ness—that supposedly have lake monsters in them.
There is a dedication in the beginning to your grandmother. Did her passing help influence this novel?
My grandmother passed away after the book was complete. I dedicated it to her on her deathbed. Lydia was a firm nonbeliever. I almost made a quote of hers the epigraph for the book: “You die, you’re dead.” That was her saying. But I ended needing something a little more neutral and contemplative than a dead set unbelief in an afterlife as was expressed so curtly in the words of my wonderful, atheist grandmother.
The main character has a love for words and etymology. Does that stem from a passion of yours as well, or did you create that to help establish the college professor persona?
I do love words, but I am no professional. As a logophile, I did give Robert one thing from my life: a collection of antique dictionaries. It was quite hard to write the character of Robert; he’s so much smarter than I am, that I found it quite a slow process composing Descriptions of Heaven, choosing my words ever so carefully. The particular vocabulary and the voice of the character are really not separable. The words were responsible for the rhythm and the flow of Robert’s voice, not the other way around. But the character of Robert necessitated the need for these words. It’s the large and poetic use of the vocabulary Robert has that really makes this story work.
How different was the first draft from the one published?
The first draft got to the ending too early. Though a latter draft I submitted to be published was longer than what ended up being published. Editors sure know how to trim a book down. Martine Bellen was a good editor for this book—she is a poet and librettist, so had a good ear for the lyricism in Descriptions of Heaven. She also split up a number of the longer sentences. I’m still a fan of the long sentence, like those you might find in a Krasznahorkai novel, and retained those that made sense to keep in, though far fewer than I had started with.
You mention that this is your longest work to date. How long did it take you to complete it, from outline to publication?
I wrote it between 2012 and 2013. I began in the fall and finished by Spring. I write almost all my first drafts by hand, so it’s hard for me to know an exact start date. My computer has a first, though incomplete, electronic file of the book dated November 11th. So I was typing it up even before I had finished the hand-written draft. A first complete draft is dated November 29th. But yes, somewhere between 4 and 6 months, if you count all the revision I did before giving it to proof readers. After that, I set it aside for a while so I could return to it with fresh eyes. And only later did I start sending it to potential publishers.
This novel is mainly about a man struggling with thoughts of the afterlife and how to live wisely on earth. Does that reflect something you struggle with in your own life?
No. Not really. Maybe the “live wisely” part, but not the death-obsessed part. Personally, I’m not all that curious about the afterlife, though I find phenomena such as out of body experiences quit fascinating. Is it proof of a soul? Can the experience be described by science? If there is a soul, I believe it’s quite explainable by science, that the so-called spiritual is as bound by the fundamental laws of the universe as everything else (and couldn’t one consider us as composed of the fundamental laws, an expression of those forces of nature?). Nothing is truly supernatural, though some things we experience are not yet totally described by science. So the afterlife is not really a struggle for me, just an interesting question among other interesting questions. Living wisely though, that the daily goal.
What sort of fiction do your normally work on?
I like to write connoisseur fiction—fiction for those with a discriminating taste in what they read. Literary fiction is what most would identify as connoisseur fiction (though the aspirations of much literary fiction fall short of the taste test, and traditional genre fiction can certainly qualify as having been written for the connoisseur). Admittedly, most of what I’ve published is realist in nature. Frequently, though, I let my imagination take the reins and allow fantastical stories to stream from my pen. Nonetheless, everything I write is still literary—still written for the connoisseur.
What comes now for you? What can we expect to read after ‘Descriptions of Heaven’?
I have a short piece coming January out in Unbroken Journal titled “When the Dog Gets Ready to Die.” I’m letting them call it a prose poem, though I wrote it as more of a fictional vignette.
While I’ve been editing and marketing Descriptions of Heaven, I haven’t had much time for writing. Consequently, there is a backlog of short story ideas that I’m now gleefully dislodging from my brain.
Also, next year you can look for a forthcoming reader’s theater play for children, titled Humpty Dumpty Goes to the Beach. It’s been performed twice now by middle schoolers who seem to especially enjoy a rather comic donkey featured in the play.
Did I mention that I have half a novel also waiting to be finished? The only thing I can reveal is that it’s about a rock band that gains fame through infamy. I put it aside as soon as Descriptions of Heaven was accepted for publication. My first book needed my full and undivided attention. And it’s still getting my attention. But I’ve got a lot of words—a lot of images—in my head. That means more stories in one form or another for those connoisseurs looking for the tastiest tales they can find.
Thanks for sticking around to find out more about Randal Greene. If you want to follow his website and everything he’s up to, check out his twitter @authorgreene or his website authorgreene.com
. I’ll be posting a review of his book soon, so be sure to check back and read up on just how emotional of a story Randal’s debut book is.