Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Salon: Author Shelly Reuben Visits

Here we are at another Sunday Salon with March just about over. It seems to me March has been more of a monster than a lion or lamb with all the crazy mixed up weather we’ve been experiencing throughout the country.
Settle back, relax, and make sure you favorite cup is filled to the brim with your most enjoyable beverage. Today I’d like to introduce you to Shelly Reuben, a ‘new-to-me’ author that I recently meet. Shelly had been scheduled to visit with us on Friday, but unfortunately my computer has been in the shop since Monday and only returned home late Friday afternoon (long story for a later post).
Shelly normally writes crime fiction, but has taken a bit of a side trip with her latest release, The Man With The Glass Heart, a fable. Shelly has graciously answered some questions for me about her latest book and her writing in general. But first, here a synopsis of The Man With The Glass Heart:

    Not since The Little Prince fell in love with a rose has a book captured the magic of a world where love longs for what it cannot have, recovers what it has lost, and the unimaginable flutters with luminescent wings out of crystal caves. 
    Panache, an exuberant road gypsy, is our guide to this world. With a sense of both mystery and wonderment, she introduces us to Benjamin Pencil, The Man With The Glass Heart
    “The first time I saw him, he was standing tall, straight, and handsome beside his wheelbarrow, with its enormous silver-spoked wheels gleaming like wet spider webs in the sun. Inside the wheelbarrow was a cushiony pillow of thick, luxurious blue velvet, and on that pillow, outshining both the silver wheels and the sun, was Benjamin’s glass heart.”
    Panache is on her way to the mountains. Benjamin has no use for mountains. But their paths cross, their lives intertwine, and Benjamin follows her up to where hills are smothered in poppies and a man can reach out and write his name in the sky.
    As they travel, they first encounter the beautiful but predatory Woman with the Breeding, a collector of hearts who tries to add Benjamin’s exquisite heart to her pitiable hoard. Next, they meet the Man who Laughs. Envious and malicious, he lives only to create fear and to kill dreams. 
    Unpredictably and often, by a stream or in the forest, Panache also bumps into her iconoclastic, unreliable, utterly irresistible father. Papa plays his saxophone with the same wild abandon with which he lives his life, and cautions Panache that if the mountains are in a man, he will go there…and that mountains are in the man with the glass heart.
    It is in those mountains that they meet the melodious laughing bird. Melody, with her irresistible song and aquamarine eyes, lures Benjamin to an Arabian Nights world of vast grottos and underground streams where hypnotizing creatures dance, sing, and party late into the night.
    At what peril does Benjamin Pencil follow the melodious laughing bird? To what end? Can a real heart be broken? Is a shattered heart the end of all love? Or can it be a new beginning?
Mason - Since you are primarily a crime novelist, why write this book? What made this story so compelling to you that you had to tell it?

I wrote this book at an age when just about everything that could happen to a person had already happened to me. I had been in love. Been dumped. Had jobs. Lost jobs. Had dreams. Lost dreams. Loved people who died. Been hurt. Survived. And, miraculously, I had come through it all with my joy intact. I wanted to fictionalize an affirmation of the exquisite value of being alive, taking risks, and allowing oneself to love.  

Over the years, this book has gone through many, many incarnations. The first draft was completed before I had even started to write crime novels. As a teenager, my hero was O. Henry, and my goal was to write short stories. But by the time I came of age, all of the magazines that published short stories were gone. The Man With The Glass Heart was born during my evolution from short story writer to novelist.  

Mason - With the book’s release, as you look back what was the biggest surprise that occurred in writing the story?

Two biggest surprises. The first was that men like my book and seem to identify both with Benjamin Pencil, the man with the glass heart, and Panache, the road gypsy.

THE MAN WITH THE GLASS HEART - Cover - FinalThe second was reader reaction to the fable genre. Several said that they don’t like fables, but that they loved The Man With The Glass Heart. When I responded that Benjamin, Panache, and all the people who populate my book seem very real to me and not at all like fantasy creatures, I am inevitably greeted with the response, “Oh. Right. I felt that way about them, too.”

Mason - Do you just jump right into a story or do you plan and outline?

Every once in a while, a story-idea comes to a writer, more or less full grown – like adult Athena popping out of Zeus’s head, without all the messy complications of childhood. The Man With The Glass Heart was like that. A magic experience where I held the pencil, let my hand do the work, and let my brain go along for the ride.

As to my crime novels, I always know how a book is going to end before I begin to write it. I generally write a plot description in paragraph form. As I work my way through the book, I scribble a “Don’t Forget” list of things that I want to include and loose ends that I want to tie up.

Mason - Who is your favorite character in the book?

That’s easy. Papa! Here is an excerpt from the book where Panache describes seeing her father after a short absence:

Trees began to rustle. Branches broke. Rocks rolled.  The earth trembled. And the entire commotion, I recognized happily, was being punctuated by vociferous oaths. Then Papa himself, as if in response to thunderous applause, erupted from behind a curtain of foliage in a glorious and sweaty explosion of rage.
    He thrust his saxophone under his arm, jammed his fists into his hips, glared at me, and bellowed “So?” 
    I jammed my fists into my hips, glared into gleaming black eyes beneath mangled, bushy eyebrows, and sang out happily, “So, what?”
    He threw back his head and laughed. “Darling Daughter of My Heart!”
    I threw back my head and laughed. “Miserable, unpredictable, unexplainable, unreliable, iconoclastic Papa!”
    He threw open his arms. “Come!” he shouted.
    And so, as though we had not seen each other in years instead of months, we lunged across the clearing into each other’s arms.
Mason - What was the very first book you remember that deeply affected your life and really loving, and why?

I don’t think that there was any one book. It was more the idea of books. When I was growing up, most adults were members of book clubs, so the variety and quantity of them on our bookshelves were wonderful! No book was ever off limits, and I could just pick anything that struck my fancy.

The fictional character who influenced me most, both as a writer and as a human being, is Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand. I keep this quote from the play about him on my desk:

To Sing, to laugh, to dream,
To walk in my own way and be alone,
Free, with an eye to see things as they are,
A voice that means manhood – to cock my hat
Where I choose – At a word, a Yes, a No,
To fight – or write.  To travel any road
Under the sun, under the stars, nor doubt
If fame or fortune lie beyond the bourne –
Never to make a line I have not heard
In my own heart; yet, with all modesty
To say: “My soul, be satisfied with flowers,
With fruit, with weeds, even; but gather them
In the one garden you may call your own.”

Mason - Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that lead you to writing?

I was seventeen years old, all of my friend were picking colleges and deciding on careers, and I suddenly realized that I would have to DO something. All I had ever really wanted to do, though, was read. It dawned on me that if I became a writer, I could spend the rest of my life reading. So…I became a writer!

Mason - Did you design or have input into the beautiful cover of your book?

I am so pleased that you like the cover, because I am in love with it. Yes. I had huge input in the design. Here is how the cover came about.

For several years now, I have been writing short stories (the wheel goes round!) for The Forensic Examiner. Brandon Alms is the designer who does the wonderful artwork for my stories. After my third or fourth story was published, I said to Brandon wistfully, “I would love it if one day, you could design a book cover for me.”

Time passed, and … voilà. That is exactly what happened. Brandon came up with the original concept of the wheelbarrow and the glass heart with the mountains in the background, and we worked together to fine-tune it, making the heart larger. Changing the wheel. Deleting a waterfall. And so on. Toward the end of the process, everything was almost … almost perfect, but the cover seemed to lack a fairytale “feel,” so I said to Brandon, “Make it purple.”

As soon as he did that, the magic happened, and The Man With The Glass Heart had a permanent address!
Happily, when Blackstone Audio Books produces the audio version of my book later this year, they will use this same artwork for their book cover as well.

Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?

In the near future: More short stories. Another fable. Another novel. After that … who knows? All I can guarantee is more words, words, word. I love to write!!!

Shelly, thank you so much for visiting today and answering these questions. I enjoyed learning how the book cover came about. It’s quite lovely and catches your eye quickly.

Now, let me tell you a bit about Shelly. Her books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. She is the author of Julian Solo, and five arson-themed novels including: Origin and Cause, Spent Matches, Weeping, Tabula Rasa, and The Skirt Man. Her new book, The Man With The Glass Heart, is her first fable, which she wrote “for no reason that I can think of, other than an uncontrollable burst of romanticism.”   

Shelly also writes a monthly column, “Tilting at Windmills,” for The Evening Sun, which is reprinted in HuntingtonNews.Net. Come Home. Love, Dad, a memoir about her remarkable father, Sam Reuben, was serialized in both of these publications. She also regularly contributes short stories to The Forensic Examiner.  

Other than writing, she leads a life of adventure as an IAAI Certified Fire Investigator, and has private detective licenses in New York State, New Jersey, and Illinois. For more on Shelly and her writing, visit her website at
Thanks so much for stopping by today. A special thanks to the delightful author/blogger Margot Kinberg for introducing Shelly to me. Do you have a favorite fable from your childhood?


  1. Shelly, thank you again for visiting today and giving us a look at how The Man With Glass Heart came to be. Wishing you much success.

  2. Mason - Thanks for hosting Shelly.

    Shelly- Thanks for sharing your experiences. I love it that you chose to use a fable to capture the message you wanted to send. Fables are so creative! I wish you success!

    1. Margot, thanks for stopping by and thanks so much for introducing me to Shelly.

  3. Dear Mason and Margot ~

    I am so grateful to you both for allowing me to tell your readers about The Man With The Glass Heart. I feel like I have to Fairy God Bloggers out there, making the world safe for writers.

    Happy reading! Happy Writing. And a thousand thanks.

    Shelly Reuben

  4. Dear Mason and Margot ~

    I am grateful to you both for allowing me to tell your readers about The Man With The Glass Heart. I feel like I have two Fairy God Bloggers out there, making the world safe for writers.

    Happy reading! Happy Writing. And a thousand thanks.

    Shelly Reuben

    P.S. Sorry about the typo in the first version!

    1. Shelly, I'm delighted to share your book with visitors to Thoughts in Progress. Your book is such a fun read.

  5. What an intriguing interview! Thanks for introducing this author and her magical new book.

    Thanks for visiting my blog!

    1. Laurel-Rain, I think you'll enjoy this fascinating book. I always enjoy stopping by your blog. You feature some very interesting books yourself.

  6. Love the cover too - and the premise and voice are very appealing! Good luck with it! :)

    1. Jemi, the cover is amazing isn't it. It leads you to ask so many questions, you just have to start reading.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.