I’ve Got Questions for Janet Goldberg

Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.

The Proprietor’s Song by Janet Goldberg
  • What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?

A literary novel published by Regal House, The Proprietor’s Song will be released on July 4, 2023.

  • In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?

The Proprietor’s Song is about grief and recovery, about the iconic California landscape—the Sierra Nevada and Death Valley—where the novel is set.

  • What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?

The Proprietor’s Song is literary fiction written partly in an epistolary style, including brief newspaper articles, song lyrics, a complete poem by the wonderful poet James Wright, and more.

  • What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?

Beautiful. Eerie. I think these words are also apt descriptors of the setting—California’s Sierra Nevada and Death Valley.

Stephanie Cowell, author of The Boy in the Rain, also wrote this:

“Janet Goldberg writes so powerfully of loss and grief. We follow the crooked paths of people left stumbling behind those who have gone on (a son, a sister) until we recognize our own intimate irresolvable journey in theirs. The author manages to say the unsayable. A truly original and effervescent writer.”

  • What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]

Though The Proprietor’s Song isn’t part of the horror genre, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula come to mind because they’re written in an epistolary style. Incidentally, two of the characters in my novel, Grace and Elwood Fisher, discuss Dracula over dinner when Grace happens to spot a provocative painting in the bar that reminds her of the Stoker novel.

  • Why this book? Why now?

That’s complicated and painful. I can’t say I set out to write a novel as I’m far more comfortable in short form—poetry or short story. Some years before I started the novel, or what I assumed would be just another short story, my younger sister died suddenly, and then while I was working on the novel my nephew (my sister’s son) was murdered in his English class in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre. So I suppose there’s no mystery as to why I ended up writing a novel about grief.

  • Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?

I’ve taught for about thirty years, and no doubt that’s been rewarding, but now I feel fortunate to be the fiction editor for Deep Wild, a literary journal that publishes writing about the wilderness, a passion of mine. It’s been a privilege working with and learning from other talented short story writers, helping them hone their stories, and seeing their stories in print!

  • What do you want readers to take away from the book?

Just how gut-wrenching and life-changing loss and uncertainty can be, that grieving is a life-long task. You basically have to relearn how to breathe, how to live again.  

I also hope The Proprietor’s Song inspires a road trip to the Eastern Sierras and Death Valley.  Though I grew up in the Northeast and the Midwest, I do consider California home and never tire of its varied, unexpected beauty.

  • What food and/or music do you associate with the book?

There’s some of both in the novel, but the food probably figures more largely since the main characters do an awful lot of driving/traveling! Grace and Elwood Fisher, while retracing their missing son’s tracks in Death Valley, stay in the same park motel their son stayed before he’d disappeared and eat at various restaurants there and on the road trip back home. Grace, hypercritical, often complains about the food, while her more pragmatic husband Elwood tempers that. In a way, their differences over food mirror their attitudes around the far more important issue of how to cope with the very real possibility that they’ll never see their missing son again.  

  • What book(s) are you reading currently?

A Living Remedy: A Memoir, by Nicole Chung
Battleborn, by Claire Vaye Watkins
Don’t Think, Dear: On Loving and Leaving Ballet, by Alice Robb

Janet Goldberg

Learn more about Janet on her website.

Buy the book from the publisher (Regal House Publishing), Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or Bookshop.org.

About the author

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