Interview with novelist Sheldon Greene

My special guest today
is author Sheldon Greene. We’re chatting about his new literary, historical,
magical realism novel The Seed Apple.



Welcome, Sheldon.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am an
executive in Oak Creek Energy, a wind energy development company, and serve on the
board of the Great Lakes Energy Institute. As a lawyer, I have a background of
high impact public interest litigation in health care, labor law, land policy,
and immigration. I have published six novels:
Lost and Found, (Random House), Burnt Umber (Leap Frog) Prodigal Sons
(Book Surge), Pursuit of Happiness (Create Space), After the Parch (Strategic
Publishing),
and The Seed Apple
(KinurPub)
. I live in Berkeley CA.
Please tell us a little bit about your
current release.
The Seed Apple grew out of a visit to Palenque, a Mayan site in the
Yucatan. A cross, elaborately ornamented in a bas relief, led me to speculate
on voyagers who crossed the Atlantic before Columbus and left a cultural foot
print. Legend has it that Solomon’s sailors went beyond the Mediterranean and
Irish Christian missionaries found the New World. This led me to speculate on
Jewish builders helping to construct the Pre-Hispanic temples, whose descendants
left the imploding Mayan Empire and settled an oasis in a fictional Palm
Springs, preserving elements of their culture and religion.
The narrator of my first novel, Lost & Found (Random House), Mendel
Traig, encounters the Binyan family, on a holiday. He is befriended by the
patriarch, is exposed to their library and archive, including the narrative of
the journey north. He also witnesses a generational conflict. A controversial tower,
over an earlier tower, over a sacred site, is being constructed to communicate
with the American nuclear submarine fleet. The son and heir to the family
property opposes it, as does his girl friend, the daughter of a rival land-
owner. Mendel falls for Sarah Cavanaugh, the engineer who is responsible for
the innovative design. I drew from Jewish mystical sources to create a belief
structure that might have evolved from a family that preserved their cultural
heritage for over two thousand years isolated from their main stream. The Cold
War is grist for the generational clash.
What inspired you to write this book?
The Seed Apple is one of a quartet, two of which have been written but not
yet published. The third, Tamar, is
narrated by a woman, Tamar Binyan, who takes over the leadership of the family during
a difficult time. She must preserve the land, deal with conflicting post Civil
War American land grants, American settlers, a railroad, the U.S. Army, her
impulsive and rebellious husband, and an American lawyer. Beyond Canyon Springs
the book exposes the reader to late Nineteenth Century California, Los Angeles
and San Francisco. It draws from A History of American Land Policy which I
wrote and which was published by the University of California.



What exciting story are you working
on next?
The fourth book, Waiting for the Messiah, is again
narrated by Mendel Traig. An old folks home is converted to a school for
wayward youth. The remaining geriatric residents are enlisted as mentors. A
Russian Refusnik educator takes the job as principal. He shakes up the
community and changes the lives of the young and the old in positive if
controversial ways. The story is a modern-day retelling of the Passion of
Christ.



When did you first consider yourself
a writer?
I wrote my first
novel, never published, while on an extended stay in Israel, on a two-year
break from my law career. I got back on the career track but never stopped
writing.



Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what
do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don’t have a
routine. I have a seamless life and fit it in when it feels right. Most of the
time I met a few times a month with Mary Mackey, novelist and poet. We read to
each other and critiqued each other’s fresh work.
My novels grow from
the seed of an idea. Once the characters are realized in the context of the
plot and the story, they take on a life of their own. I become the media for
them. It’s a fascinating experience. The novels are quite different from one
another.
In Lost and Found, a holocaust survivor recounts
stories about the people in a small town in Pennsylvania.
Burnt Umber,
ties together the lives and art of two real 20th century artists.
The novel spans the century, including Two Great Wars, travels from Munich to
Paris and ends in Berkeley during the Viet Nam era. It explores the themes of
creativity and narcissism, and the empowerment of women. In
Prodigal Sons, a Jewish Partisan returns to post-
war Munich to take revenge but his life takes an unexpected turn. Pursuit of Happiness, the fourth novel,
is set in the American Revolution.
Joshua Rutledge, a Quaker
and a member of the Rebellion’s first spy organization, the Committee of
Correspondence, is sent to the Caribbean to retrieve a desperately needed
French arms shipment.
After the Parch is 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.
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. It 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. I wrote one
sequence of Lost & Found as an
homage to the Polish novelist Bruno Schulz who died in the Holocaust. All but After
the Parch 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
. The hero of After the Parch
is a modern day Candide.



As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?
As a child I had more
than one career objective; archeology, surgery, psychology, newspaper
publisher.
Links:
Thanks for being here today, Sheldon.

One thought on “Interview with novelist Sheldon Greene

  1. terry says:

    Excellent interview. I have read all these books by Sheldon Greene and enjoyed them. They are intelligent, well-written, and always have some weaving together of history in new ways.

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