It's 2075. California is nothing like we know it. The USA has broken up and California has become an independent refuge dominated by a single omnipotent corporation. Eighteen-year-old Bran, a shepherd, is given a mission to traverse the California republic in ten days, in order to save his rural community from forfeiting its land. On the way, he teams up with a seventeen-year-old girl who has the skills and prowess of a warrior, an eleven-year-old wild boy with uncanny survival skills, and a wandering musician with a secret revolutionary agenda. After the Parch is a fast-paced, vivid, dystopian fantasy with a chilling resemblance to the way we are, and a vision of what we might become. It's a well-crafted story and the plot flows naturally from one crisis to another, with three-dimensional characters right up to the taut and positive climax.
About the Author
Sheldon Greene has been called "a born storyteller" by the Los Angeles Times for his book Lost and Found (Random House). This is his fifth novel. "I felt the need to describe our country as what it might become if we continue on the current trajectory." He is a lawyer and an executive in a wind energy development company, and has a background of high impact public interest litigation in health care, labor law, land policy, and immigration. He also sings in the Oakland Symphony Chorus and serves on several boards.
1. Tell us something about yourself.
It’s the only one that is set in the future, 2075, in California Republic, after the break-up of the United States and after a long drought. The novel is much simpler than the others. It’s linear, and takes place over just ten days. A shepherd, think of Candide, must travel the length of California to save his rural commune. On the way he encounters, a tricky magician, a runaway girl, a wild boy, and an itinerant musician with a secret agenda. He learns something about reliance on strangers and trust.
I start with an idea, maybe the seed of a story, and let it grow. For example the idea for, Burnt Umber came from noticing a sculpture in an Italian Restaurant. When I have a story, I expand it into an outline, develop bios of characters, and do a lot of research related to time and place. Then I start to write and let the characters interact and engage. It’s kind of mystical given that once the characters are alive in my head they do much of the work. They sometimes even take unpredictable turns. The settings, landscapes, interiors, incidental characters simply appear all out of the imagination. Then when the work is done, I revise and revise again until I am satisfied with it.
I enjoy the conceptualization, and the writing. I find revision tedious, but necessary. And I hate punctuation.
No. I write when the spirit moves me and stop when I feel that I’ve done enough or have nothing more to get on paper.
Yes. The process of characters, events, places, blossoming in the imagination. Sometimes it feels as if they are coming from somewhere else. But of course it’s my imagination wandering the pathways of my brain.10. Do you reference other novels or themes?
Sometimes. Prodigal Sons is a broad re-telling of the German myth, the Wagner Opera, Gotterdammerung, Twilight of the Gods. The story relates to the theme of the novel, the end of ideology. Unfortunately ideology still plays a big role in world affairs but now it’s more cast in the clothing of theology. I wrote one sequence of Lost & Found as an homage to the Polish novelist Bruno Schulz who died in the Holocaust. All but the most recent novels have some Jewish Cultural dimension. Pursuit of Happiness describes the community of former Spanish Jews who settled in the Caribbean after the Inquisition, La Nation. And as mentioned, the hero of After the Parch is a modern day Candide.
Yes, when appropriate. Prodigal Sons, for example deals with factual events at several levels; Jewish Partisans during WW II, the illegal immigration to Palestine, the Israeli War of Independence, Munich after the War, a clandestine Neo-Nazi organization hoarding gold, Nazi art theft, and a handful of Israelis who went back to Europe to kill Nazis. All topics were well researched and described accurately in the fictional context.
I have three unpublished manuscripts, which I will revise and ultimately market. Two are sequels to Lost and Found, with the same narrator. Then there’s the first novel I wrote. When these three are published I will see what if anything comes next.
Don’t do it unless you really enjoy it and love it. If you do, write for yourself only. If other people get to read and enjoy it, that’s icing on the cake. If one or two people feel that reading your work made a difference in their lives, you’ve succeeded. If you can’t help yourself, just go for it.
Thank you for the interview Sheldon!