Sunday, June 18, 2017

An interview with novelist R.E. Greene, author of the novella ''DESCRIPTIONS OF HEAVEN''

1. How did you go about finding an agent an editor and a publisher for your novella?

I found most agents wouldn't represent something quite so slim word-count-wise. So I sought out publishers who took unagented manuscripts. Three publishers took an interest in my book. I ruled one out myself based on a close inspection of their company. The second ruled themselves out when they heard they were competing against Harvard Square Editions (they admitted they had even less resources and had much less experience publishing books).
Harvard, like most publishers, decided that an editor was needed for a final coat of polish on the novella. I ended up with Martine Bellen. Descriptions of Heaven is a poetic book, and Martine is a poet. This, I believe, worked to my manuscript's advantage. When I found out she was a librettist too, I knew that this was an editor who would understand my sensibilities.

2. Why is it a novella and not a novel? What's difference?

A diet novel; novel 'lite' perhaps? Descriptions of Heaven is simply a short book, but (as some readers have pointed out) it's compact with ideas and themes which can be excavated at length from any number of angles. It's about the right length for the tone and pacing.
And although the right length, I didn't know exactly what I was composing when the idea for this work first came to me. I was playing with a theme for a novel-in-progress that wasn't taking root. "Perhaps," I thought, "this is just a writing exercise" when I began working with this theme through the lens of a different story. But as I wrote, I realized it was more. And once it was far past the length of any short story I'd ever read, realized that I had a small book in my hands. Beings I write all things by hand at first, I wasn't even sure what length I had reached. After typing it, I judged it to be around the size of Heart of Darkness or Crying of Lot 49 (I believe Descriptions of Heaven actually falls somewhere between these two).

3. How you YOU prefer to  classify your novella in terms of genre?

I classify it as literary fiction. This is itself a broad category, which subsumes a lot of the best of the world's literature. My book has elements that take it beyond contemporary realism: it's set in the future during a time of worldwide drought. The family lives in one of the few places that still gets rain regularly. The lake their house looks on is actually artificial, made to naturally pool more water.
With that said, the book doesn't don the trappings of typical sci-fi, forcing some sort of post-apocalyptic future or even focusing on the science of the sci-fi. But the elements are there, and they're there to help make a point about the climate, which is the backbone of the book, the theme that threads together this tragedy. So it is cli-fi, climate fiction firstly, subtle sci-fi second, and the overall mood, tone, and writing places Descriptions of Heaven squarely in the camp of literary fiction.

4. What kind of PR and promotions has your publisher done and what PR are you doing? Radio, TV, blogs, podcasts, newspapers?

My publisher does run on a shoestring budget, but they have help to advertise events and articles on related websites and within their realm of influence. They've run a free ebook campaign on Amazon and had a great list of places to which advance release copies were sent.

I've been fortunate to be featured in local newspapers several times. Many bloggers have done interviews with me, and many others have reviewed Descriptions of Heaven. While I've slowed down on actively getting book reviews, I ran a Goodreads giveaway until the end of May. What I'm focusing on now is finding more places to do book signings. I've had one book signing at a Barnes & Noble and one book signing/reading at a cafe. I'm happy to say that both were quite successful. I've also have a forthcoming podcast interview on the Write Now Podcast with Sarah Werner. My hope is that the interviews, reviews, and book signings just become a regular part of the monthly goings-on.

6. What's next for you?

I'm currently working on a short story collection. After that, I want to pick up where I left off with a novel-in-progress about a rock band that gains fame through infamy. It's about half done, but these stories need to be written first.

7. What's yr age, college major and where, and age now?

I'm 32 years old. I have a degree in English and Anthropology from the University of South Dakota.

I've been married about 5 months now. We hope to have children in our future. My wife and I also hope to find reason to move to other parts of the country, though there are perks to living here in Iowa, close to both of our families. I'd like to immerse myself in a literary community again. This may entail moving to a city with a more robust "literary scene" or pursing a MFA in Creative Writing. For now I'm content to write at a local Sioux City cafe and enjoy the company of my tri-state friends and family.

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