Friday, November 6, 2020

Barry Eisenberg Interview - Primal Calling

Photo Content from Barry Eisenberg 

Barry Eisenberg is an associate professor of health care management in the School for Graduate Studies at the State University of New York Empire State College, a health care management consultant and a former hospital administrator. He and his wife, Amy, live in New Jersey. They have three grown children and one grandson. Primal Calling is his first novel.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Three of the most important things I learned in school have come at three different life stages. I had two very adoring older siblings, although their doting proved both a blessing and a curse – a blessing because they showered me with love and attention, yet a curse because upon beginning kindergarten, I was confronted with the stark reality that the world did not revolve around me. I had to learn to wait my turn and to share with other kids. It was a humbling experience, albeit a very important one. Another important learning experience came about when, at 21, I began graduate school. There, my eyes were opened to a world of different philosophies, perspectives, and ways of thinking. Assumptions that had developed in my relatively conventional upbringing were tested in ways I could not have imagined. The third thing I learned, and indeed, am still learning, is not as student but as professor. My graduate students, all health care professionals, are some of the most inspiring people I have ever known. They are tested daily as the lives of others are in literally in their hands.

Tell us your latest news

I published my first novel! My writing to date has been in non-fiction, focusing on trends in health care and higher education. I loved the experience of writing the novel and am immersed in the writing of my next one.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I have always loved writing and feel motivated by so many people and experiences. Having worked in health care for the entirety of my professional career, I have always been taken by the quiet, yet unrelenting, courage of those who must dig deep as they cope with serious illness. My thinking about life and, thus, my writing is shaped by those kinds of stories. My wife and children all write, and I learn much from them about how to frame emotions and motives. I am fortunate to have wonderful friends and colleagues whose prolific and varied writing styles help me to appreciate the beauty and power of the written word. It would be a daunting task to list the influences of the many journalists, authors, and playwrights whose works I read regularly. I cannot imagine life with the opinion writers of The New York Times, past and present, like David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, Frank Bruni, Paul Krugman, and Michelle Goldberg to name a few whose opinions frequently mesh with my own, and those like Bret Stephens and Ross Douthat, who help me understand different points of view. Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin are historians I greatly respect. If I were to list the novelists who have inspired me, the list would be endless. But, top of mind, I recently read a novel by Kate Quinn and was awed by her ability to create a visual context that felt so visceral. I hope that I can incorporate the things I have learned from all of these authors into the lives of my characters.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The most rewarding experience has been the positive reaction to the book, and particularly the heartening comments about how emotionally satisfying the story has been to readers.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
While Primal Calling is a mystery and tale of international intrigue, at its core it is about a young man’s journey of self-discovery and a family’s pursuit to reconcile love and trust. I hope that readers will relate to the decisions made by the characters and would love for readers to think about how they would react if they were faced with similar situations.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?

My sweet dog, Dolan, turns into Cujo when our neighbors walk their dogs past our house. His barking sometimes becomes uncontrollable. Seconds later, after they walk past, Dolan returns to his sweet, lovable self, and I am left trying to recapture my thoughts which have scattered about in the air.

What part of Jack did you enjoy writing the most?
Jack, the central character, suddenly faced a monumental, life-altering, set of circumstances. He had to dig deep to find the courage to persevere. He was an ordinary young man facing an extraordinary discovery about his family. The part of Jack that I found most enjoyable to write, but also the most challenging, was finding the balance between his self-doubt and his principled nature. Assigning him too much of either would render him, respectively, either immobilized or inauthentic. Of course, it is up to the reader to determine if I was successful, but as I deliberated while writing those sections, I found that I learned a lot about myself.

Can you tell us when you started PRIMAL CALLING, how that came about?
I had heard the tail-end of a story on my car radio about a young man looking for the father he had never met. Over the next few days, I kept imagining the journey he must have traveled and thought I’d write a short story about it. The more I wrote, the more immersed I became, and almost before I knew it, Primal Calling, the novel, was born.

What chapter was the most memorable to write and why?
That’s a hard question to answer because there were moments of closure for some of the characters and others about whom, to this day, I find myself wanting to learn more. Without giving anything away, however, I would say that the most memorable chapter to write is the one in which Jack faces his captors, as I wasn’t exactly sure how things would unfold until I actually finished writing it.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Not to shamelessly cross promote within my family, but my son, Jesse, recently released When You Finish Saving the World, a book on Audible. It is told through the voices of three people during three different decades: current day, a father learning how to bond with his newborn son; fifteen years later, the son as a rebellious teen; the early 2000s, post 9/11, their wife and mother, respectively, as a young college student. Like Jack, the son, Ziggy, is searching for his parents. The difference is, Ziggy has grown up with both of his parents but has become emotionally disconnected from them. His journey is also one of self-discovery, but in a very different context. I would like them to meet because, while they have very different personas, their values, goals, and desires are so similar, and I would be curious to see how they discover that.

What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
When I was in seventh grade, our science teacher said that if an atom was the size of a strawberry, it would weigh 75 tons. Not exactly a ridiculous fact at all, if indeed it is one, but I distinctly recall the astonishment I experienced when I heard it. Most of my fellow students were intimidated by this teacher, thinking of him as dry and tyrannical, not a good combination of traits. After hearing this scientific tidbit, our expressions of disbelief must have surprised him since, for what was most likely the first time, we were all ears, totally attentive, eager to hear more of what he had to say.

  • Take some things more seriously
  • Be a better friend
  • Be more aware of the world
  • Be more engaged with politics and the environment
  • Be more sensitive to people of less privilege
  • Withdraw from Calculus on day one, rather than enduring the torture of an entire week
  • Recognize that my teachers had a lot to offer and listen more carefully
  • Be less intimidated
  • Understand how much I could learn from my grandparents
  • Appreciate and acknowledge how hard my parents worked to make my life better
  • Take some things less seriously
Best date you've ever had?
First date with my wife. We were supposed to go to an improv club in NYC but could not find the address (this was before the era of smartphones and GPS!) So, we just walked all over the city, talking non-stop about anything and everything, getting to know each other. We had our first kiss on the corner of southeast corner of 53rd Street and 8th Avenue.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
In 2011, I lost both of my siblings within four months of each other. I would go back to before that time to make sure to tell them how much I love and value them. I do believe they knew, but I wish I could have been explicit about that and had more time, more experiences, more shared memories in the making.

Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around.
After my father, George, passed away I asked my mother if I could have his wallet. Since his passing, I have kept his driver’s license in my wallet next to my own. I guess there is some symbolism there, that our “identities” are side by side. I strive to be like him, to embody the kind, generous, and compassionate man he was. It is comforting to always have a part of him in my back pocket – literally and figuratively.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
Pilot a plane. Piloting a plane.

Who has had the most influence in your life?
I am so fortunate in that I’ve had many positive influences in my life. I have had wonderful and loyal friends and brilliant colleagues, and have crossed paths with a tremendous array of people who have touched me in some way, helping me to gain some insight or feeling about the world that allowed me to grow. But in terms of the most enduring and profound influence, I have been blessed with a wonderful family. My grandparents helped me to understand the importance of being humble. From my parents, I learned what it means to be embraced with unconditional love and from my children, I learned what it is to impart unconditional love. And, my wife, Amy, is a life partner through which all life challenges are made manageable and all life’s joys that much sweeter.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
A few years ago, my aunt Doris, at age 105, came to live with us. She actually thrived and had newfound meaning in her life, until her weakened body could no longer keep up with her strong will to live. She passed away just two weeks shy of her 107th birthday. I wrote an account of our experience with Doris for The New York Times, what it meant to her and what it meant to us. The response was overwhelming. So many people wrote to me, sharing their own stories of managing life with an elderly relative. Some discussed their anxieties and challenges, some were painful to read, but most were uplifting. The response continues to buoy me both as a writer and a human being.

While rummaging through the attic, high school senior, Jack Davies, is surprised to find his never-before-seen birth certificate, revealing a startling bit of information that changes his life. The story his mother told about his birth, he discovers, is revealed to be a lie, shattering long-held beliefs and the trust he had for her. Jack becomes obsessed with discovering the truth, leading him down a dangerous path. Faced with unanswered questions and confounding obstacles at every turn, Jack finds himself deeply enmeshed in an intricate world of national security and international intrigue. Relationships are tested as his every move is tracked by a group of mysterious people. Who are they? Whose side are they on? Who can he trust? And, most importantly, who will he ultimately become?

You can purchase Primal Calling at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you BARRY EISENBERG for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Primal Calling by Barry Eisenberg.


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