Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Barbara Bamberger Scott is talking with Glenn Reschke, author of Something Went Cold.
FQ: What single piece of advice would you give to a person preparing to read your work regarding your unusual take on the afterlife?
RESCHKE: An interesting question. I would say, “Enjoy the ride.” 😊 My faith and its tenets obviously influence my writing of the story, The Afterlife of Adolf Hitler. However, I have read a few books that detail after-death experiences including Life Everlasting and Dr. George G. Ritchie’s book, Return from Tomorrow. In Ritchie’s book, he chronicled where he “died” and was given a tour of the afterlife by what a voice told him was “The Son of God.” Some of the things he experienced, I incorporated into the story. The same with people’s accounts as chronicled in Life Everlasting. I’m not obliquely or overtly evangelizing my worldview, philosophy, and/or religion. I was simply seeking to write an engaging, unique story that went beyond the normal day-to-day experiences. As Shakespeare wrote, “The story’s the thing...” I believe he was right.
FQ: Do you have a favorite historical character, either positive or negative, among the ones you depict here?
RESCHKE: I’m a baseball fan and as such, it was fun writing about a fictional universe where a cryogenically frozen Ted Williams is brought back to life. It was cathartic in a way to write about his second chance at life so that he could undo mistakes and correct some character flaws. I think that attitude is something we all think about from time to time.
I enjoyed writing the Hitler story, too. However, for absolute clarity, I loathe Hitler and the things he did. I’m not a Nazi sympathizer. I simply thought it would be a fun story to write. And I thought it would be very unique as well. I like watching documentaries and after watching one on Hitler that ended with his death, it occurred to me that the story is really just beginning for him – that his mortal death was not the end. Obviously, an afterlife is not something many believe in. I get it – and I respect people’s differing opinions. But in a world of fiction, anything goes, so I explored that to my heart’s content. But, again, I was simply seeking to write a story that was unique, engaging, and thought-provoking – but most of all enjoyable to read. I believe I succeeded judging from some of the feedback, both personal and professional, that I’ve received.
FQ: Does positing and writing about oppression and revenge give you a sense of inner satisfaction that you wish to impart to your readers?
RESCHKE: No. Fundamentally, I wasn’t trying to grind an axe regarding thoughts on oppression and revenge. I just wanted to tell a compelling story that jolted the reader. Writers should seek to write unique stories, shouldn’t they? There’s no fun in writing stories that have been told repeatedly. One of the best short stories I’ve ever read was Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado. It’s short, impactful, and leaves the reader with a jolt, a shock. It’s also a revenge story. Those are the kind of stories I like – not revenge stories per se – but stories that give the reader an experience out of the ordinary. Each of my stories was meant to be a The Twilight Zone type of story in that each story is unique and has its own plot, characters, theme, and eventual payoff. That was my goal and hope when I wrote the stories contained within Something Went Cold.
FQ: Do you anticipate writing becoming your primary profession?
RESCHKE: No, I don’t. Not that it wouldn’t be great if that happened. I do believe I have as much talent as other published writers I’ve read – and certainly Hollywood writers. I’m not trying to be vain or arrogant here; I’m honestly trying to be objective. Most writers don’t write something that’s truly compelling, where the reader becomes invested emotionally. Very few movies and television shows meet that criterion. And that explains why Hollywood steals ideas, options books, and rehashes old stories. There is a dearth of compelling stories that move the watcher or reader. It may be prideful, but I feel like I can identify and write a good, compelling story. Still, as it’s so competitive out there, I doubt I’d ever have writing become my primary profession. I’m simply being realistic.
FQ: Your stories, focusing on a world in which science and religion are both visible, but through an etheric screen, express essential hope. Is that part of your wider understanding/belief system?
RESCHKE: Yes. There’s an old Arabian proverb about hope: “He who has health has hope. And he who has hope has everything.” I do believe in the eventual exaltation of man, but it will probably only come after a lot of suffering. I believe in both science and spirituality. And I believe in the potential of humankind. So, yes, I do have an undercurrent of hope that threads its way through, in particular, the stories “The Afterlife of Adolf Hitler” and “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived.”
FQ: What writer or creative exemplar influenced you most in the composition of this series?
RESCHKE: My book, Something Went Cold, was never meant to be a series but a collection of unique short stories.
To directly answer the question, honestly...no one. I didn’t try to emulate anyone. I do admire great writers, but there’s a difference between trying to model or imitate a writer and admiring them. I’m trying to have my own voice. Among my favorite writers are Truman Capote, Michael Crichton, Dan Brown, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and Isaac Asimov. That said, and again, though, I don’t try to imitate anyone.
I wrote stories that I thought I’d like reading. I didn’t worry about length either. I wanted stories that were full figured without worrying about an arbitrary word limit. I wanted the story to carry the day and take its own course, if you will. As mentioned, stories like Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado are what I like: stories that are written well, have a main character that has a clear motivation, and an emotional payoff of some kind that gets the reader thinking. I think people enjoy those kinds of stories. Asimov’s The Bicentennial Man is another such story.
FQ: You must surely have a favorite character in Something Went Cold, someone you identify closely with – who would that be?
RESCHKE: Actor Spencer Tracy once said he put Spencer Tracy into every acting role he ever had. There is something of me in every character I wrote in Something Went Cold – with the exception of Hitler. He was a monster, a murderer, and a deceiver. I’m none of those things. I wrote that story because I thought it would be a compelling and jolting ride.
I was bullied in school but not to the extent the character King Billy was. So, yes, I can identify with the despair and pain that character felt. I can also identify with the frustration the character Burke Norman felt, too. And the unresolved pain and disappointment that Ted Williams felt – yeah, I can identify with that too.
The young girl in “#MeToo” is someone I closely identify with maybe more than any other character in the book. I let my imagination run wild with that story but to be absolutely clear, she is a fictional character from bow to stern. It’s a figment of my imagination from beginning to end. The grief, pain, and wounds that character felt I could definitely identify with as I had lousy biological parents, too. I deliberately left her unnamed so people could identify with her. In our culture it’s come out as to how predatory many Hollywood powerbrokers are not to mention scores of politicians. The #MeToo movement was long overdue and I tried to tap into that zeitgeist deliberately by crafting a unique story where, perhaps for once, a woman gets some revenge.
I will say this: I can most definitely identify with the vengeful feelings the girl had. (Not that I’ve ever done anything remotely like what I have her doing in the story.) The deceased management consultant Stephen R. Covey once wrote, “Unexpressed feelings never die, they’re simply buried alive.” I was trying to tap into that kind of emotional thread with the #MeToo story as many feel a desire for justice upon those who hurt them so gratuitously. The truth is, in this world, many wicked people get away with their crimes ALL...THE...TIME. So, in the story, I wanted that to not be the case, and I thought that would make for some compelling drama.
FQ: Do you have plans for more writing of a similar nature?
RESCHKE: Yes and no. I have lots of ideas for short stories and a goodly number of ideas for novels. Currently I’m starting work on my first novel and I’ve just finished my first non-fiction book. So, I have plenty of ideas to keep me busy for the next 20-30 years.
As mentioned earlier, my fundamental linchpin or touchstone that I start from is to write unique stories that are fun to read, that are an experience.