Author Interview: Rich Marcello
March 29, 2017
The Beauty of the Fall takes Readers on Intriguing Journey
In Rich Marcello’s new novel, The Beauty of the Fall, Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year- old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.
Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor and advocate, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea.
When Dan returns home with a fully formed vision, he recruits the help of three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change. Guided by Dan’s generative leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?
This captivating, idea-driven novel appeals to readers who are interested in exploring a technology based solution to many of our current social problems, and to readers who are interested in father-son relationships, gender equality, and working through grief.
Rich is a poet, a songwriter and musician, a creative writing teacher, and the author of three novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, and The Beauty of the Fall.
As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet.
For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist and a teacher.
I must admit, even though this review is short, I do love the favorable compare to Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Rich
The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello
I won this in December from a Goodreads.com giveaway and if you read my monthly reading posts you know I started this book back in February. It was difficult to get into the story, but once I did it was wonderful. It reminded me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. While I found of the technology details tedious the insight into Dan’s grief was interesting and poignant. If you are feeling philosophical about life (or want to feel so), I recommend reading this book.
Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss, Olivia Whitmore, fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.
Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. When Dan returns home with a fully formed vision, he recruits the help of three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.
Guided by Dan’s generative leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?
Buy The Beauty of the Fall at Amazon
I received an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team.
This beautifully written novel touches on many subjects that are important at different levels: some, like loss (be it the death of a child, a divorce, the loss of not only a job but also a life-project) can be felt (and there are heart-wrenching moments in the novel) understood and managed at a very personal level, others, like the role of communications technology (who must control it? Should it remain neutral or become involved in the big issues? Should it ally itself with governments or be creatively independent?) or domestic and gender-related violence, although no doubt having a personal component, also seem to require global solutions. This ambitious novel tries to give answers to many of these questions and it does so through a first person narrative interspersed with poetry.
The novel is narrated by Dan Underlight, whom we meet at a particularly difficult time in his life. His son died a couple of years earlier and he feels guilty about it (we learn the details quite late in the novel), he is divorced, and now, the technology company he helped to create, and by extension his business partner and the woman he’d been closer to than almost anybody else for many years, fires him. His job, the only thing that had kept him going, is taken away from him. He has no financial worries. He has a good severance pay, a huge house, two cars, but his life is empty. Through the novel, Dan, who still sees his son, has conversations with him and wants to start a project in his memory, meets many people. Most of them are enablers. He has known Willow, a woman who works helping women victims of domestic violence, and herself a survivor (although she doesn’t talk much about it, at least with Dan) for some time and eventually, their friendship turns into a romantic relationship for a while. He has also been attending therapy with Nessa, a very special therapist (as a psychiatrist I was very curious about her techniques, but working in the NHS in the UK I must admit I’d never even heard of a Buddha board) since his son’s death, and during his peculiar pilgrimage, he gets ideas, encouragement, and a few brushes with reality too.
Much of the rest of the novel is taken up by Dan’s creation of a new company, based on his idea that if people could converse about important subjects and all these conversations could be combined, they would reach agreements and solve important problems. As conversations and true communication in real life amount to more than just verbal exchanges, there are technical problems to be solved, funding, etc. I found this part of the novel engaging at a different level and not having much knowledge on the subject didn’t detract from my interest, although I found it highly idealistic and utopian (not so much the technical part of it, but the faith in the capacity of people to reach consensual agreements and for those to be later enforced), and I also enjoyed the underhand dealings of the woman who had been his friend but seemed somehow to have become his enemy. (I wasn’t sure that her character came across as consistent, but due to the subjective nature of the narration, this might have more to do with Dan’s point of view than with Olivia herself).
Dan makes mistakes and does things that morally don’t fit in with the code he creates for his company, or with the ideals he tries to live by (he is human, after all) and things unravel somewhat as life has a few more surprises for him, but, without wanting to offer any spoilers, let’s say that there are many lessons he has learned along the way.
As I said before, the language is beautiful, and the poems, most of which are supposedly written by Willow, provide also breathing space and moments to stop, think and savour both the action and the writing style.
First of all, let me confess I was very taken by this novel and I couldn’t stop reading it and even debating the points with myself (I live alone, so, that was the best I could do). I was also touched by both the emotions expressed and the language used. As a sensorial reading experience, it’s wonderful.
Now, if I had to put on my analysing cap, and after reading some of the reviews on Goodreads, I thought I should try and summarise the issues some readers have with the novel.
The themes touched are important and most people will feel able to relate to some if not all of them. Regarding the characters and their lifestyle, those might be very far from the usual experience of a lot of readers. Although we have a handful of characters who are not big cheeses in technology companies, those only play a minor part in the book. The rapid expansion of the technology and how it is used in the book is a best case scenario and might give readers some pause. Personally, I could imagine how big companies could save money using such technology, but charitable organisations, schools or libraries, unless very well-funded, in the current financial times when official funding has become very meagre, would have problems being able to afford it all, and that only in theoretically rich countries. (The issue of world expansion is referred to early on in the project but they decide to limit their ambitions for the time being).
Also, the fact that issues to be discussed and championed were decided by a few enlightened individuals (although there is some debate about the matter) could raise issues of paternalism and hint at a view of the world extremely western-centred (something again hinted at in the novel). Evidently, this is a novel and not a socio-political treatise and its emphasis on changing the US laws to enforce legislation protecting equality, women’s rights and defending women against violence brings those matters the attention and focus that’s well-deserved.
For me, the novel, where everything that happens and every character that appears is there to either assist, hinder, or inspire Dan (it is a subjective narrative and one where the main character is desperately searching for meaning) works as a fable or perhaps better a parable, where the feelings and the teachings are more important than the minute details or how we get there. It is not meant to be taken as an instructions manual but it will be inspirational to many who read it.
In summary, although some readers might find it overly didactic (at times it seems to over-elaborate the point and a word to the wise…) and might miss more variety and diversity in the characters, it is a beautifully written book that will make people think and induce debate. This is not a book I’d recommend to readers that like a lot of action and complex plots, but to those who enjoy a personal journey that will ring true with many. It is a touching and engaging read to be savoured by those who enjoy books that challenge our opinions and ideas.
Thanks to the author and to Rosie, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment and CLICK!
4 out of 4 stars
Review by ellieonline03
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The book introduces us to the life of Daniel Underlight. After his divorce and his only son’s death (which he blamed himself for), he threw himself to work. He was in grief and he depended on his job to erase the pain. When his friend and RadioRadio co-founder, Olivia Whitmore, fired him, he thought his life was over. The only one he had to rely on was Willow. She was a poet, a women’s rights campaigner, and Dan’s closest friend. With her help, Dan found meaning in life again. He decided to visit the headquarters of the Fortune 500 companies across America. His visits and experiences helped him shape his start-up idea.
Dan recruited three former associates and started ConversationWorks. The company enabled real-time conversations of people in a virtual conference room. People could talk about solving substantial problems in the world. In a way, the company helped foster social change on a global scale. ConversationWorks, or CW, garnered initial successes after its launch. Yet, it also attracted enemies, with Olivia in the lead.
The Beauty of the Fall was an insightful and intellectual read. Dan’s team often talked about the possible benefits and drawbacks of their actions. Additionally, the poems in the book were heart-warming. Willow was a poet and she was the source of most of the poems in the book. Dan used those poems as inspiration and guidance when making critical decisions. The author put together an awesome set of characters.
Maggie, Charles, Zia, and Willow were the perfect set of friends for someone like Dan. They had varied perspectives when it comes to deciding what’s best for CW. They argue and voice out their concerns. In the end, they based their final decisions on the code of conduct that Dan made for the company. Plus, they never forget to listen to their employees. They were busy executives, but they care about their employees and consumers. They’re not difficult to love at all.
There are also profound lessons that readers could glean from the book. Anything I say here might spoil it for the readers. Instead, I will share my favorite line in the book: “Everything is emerging exactly as it needs to.” While Dan did not understand this at first, he learned what it meant as the story progressed.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Beauty of the Fall. There were no grammatical or typographical errors so it did not disrupt my reading. There was moderation in the flow of the story: there were time skips, but it was minimal. Be warned though that some form of self-harming is present in the book. It was not graphic, but some readers may find it a bit disturbing.
With all these things in consideration, I give The Beauty of the Fall 4 out of 4 stars. This is for readers who love an intellectual read with profound life lessons and a host of inspiring characters.
The Beauty of the Fall
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The Amazon Editorial page is shaping up nicely for The Beauty of the Fall. You can check it our here:
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From the very first paragraph, Rich Marcello drew me into his book with a command of the language that I liken to a poet’s. Passages like this one, “He put his head down, tried to rekindle the wildfire he helped birth years ago, tried to daydream down a riven path.” and this one, “Don’t look down, the pinpricks have spouted and are covering the new carpet in blood.” provided me with ample proof early on that Marcello was a real deal literary composer, a master of the language, and a wordsmith with soulful depths.
But beautiful language alone can’t make a reader keep reading. Original characters with powerful character arcs and a compelling story to keep all the characters growing is fundamental. No problem there, either. From Dan to his counselor to Willow to his son, stronger characterization is front and center. I know Dan–he reminds me of the author Richard Bach. I know Willow, too, this wild child, compassionate, changer of the world woman who is always strong, always courageous even when her heart is broken. These characters kept me reading.
Then we arrive at the story. Characters and language need movement, need story, setting, pace, tension. Marcello has these covered, too. Set in New England, the vivid colors of the seasons remain clear in my brain long after I finished the book. Authors who take the time to divide their books into parts and give them names always receive a grateful nod from me. I like to know the structure of a story before I begin reading, and I like rolling back to the Table of Contents to remind myself what’s next in this journey. The Beauty of the Fall’s Table of Contents is especially brilliant; titles like “So it Spins,” “Build from the Sky Down,” “Spectacles, and Halos and Code” promised each chapter would carry its own mini-story and all the mini-stories would merge to form a powerful narrative.
Themes of forgiveness, trust, simplicity, honor, technology as healer, and non-violence echo through the pages of The Beauty of the Fall and held me captive until the end. If I had to name a gripe, it would be that the last chapter was unnecessary. The story should have ended with “The Good-bye Return,” but I can understand why, for closure’s sake, Marcello included “In the Coming.”
The Beauty of the Fall will appeal to readers who love a compelling, well-written story with elements of literary fiction, technology fiction, and romantic fiction. Marcello doesn’t write the type of literary fiction that prizes language over story. He writes the type that uses beautifully soulful language to real unique characters living compelling bittersweet lives. – The Hungry Monster Book Review
Ten-year-old Zackery Underlight is dead. His father Dan however, is just learning to live again. There is a certain haunting lyricism to this remarkable book about a father coming to grips with the death of his only son – a death he feels he caused. There’s also a tortured search for self-renewal and forgiveness that extends far beyond the natural grieving of a parent for his child . . . These carefully paced reveals of a deeply conflicted character – coupled with a fascinating glimpse into how high-tech start-ups are born – make this one of the year’s best works of literary fiction . . . Its rich depth, satisfying substance, and willingness to examine key social issues such as global warming and battered women, force the reader to confront the truly inconvenient truths all around us while remaining invested in the story’s key players . . . This is a rare read, and one to be savored, especially now, when seeking respite from the current worries of an uncertain national – and international – future. It’s good tonic for the soul; a restorative tale of perseverance against all odds . . . Five-plus stars to Beauty of the Fall. From start to finish, it never disappoints. – Don Sloan, The Midwest Book Review
That kind of spectacular writing, interspersed with actual poetry, business vignettes drawn from life, and development of a deeply flawed, complex, and charismatic main character made this one of the best books I’ve read this year. For anyone with a technology background, The Beauty of the Fall is a must read. For everyone else, it’s a present right now, even as fall’s beauty heads to winter. – Barb Taub for Rosie’s Book Review Team
The level of detail Marcello puts into the descriptions of the business and its establishment is astounding, hinting at countless hours of research to get it right. Even better, for a topic that could very easily be dull, he manages to keep it engaging throughout.
It’s not just the technical stuff that Marcello can turn into something great, his dialogue is, for the most part, realistic and engaging, and he often treats the reader to beautiful imagery and a great turn of phrase.
The Suits are black, genderless, and fill the elevator. As they slowly unload, walk toward my office, they scan everything– the flash-frozen employees watching their entrance, the desks filled with proprietary info, the cappuccino maker that would never make its way into one of their government offices. Maggie, who is standing next to me, who I insisted attend this meeting despite her strong objections, turns ashen, and a fidget subjugates her hand.
There’s plenty more to the book than just the new business — and how it plans to change the world. The reader is thrown into Dan’s life as he struggles to find and keep a meaningful relationship, as he fails to cope with his son’s death and as he looks for answers in all the wrong places. – Striking13.com
In an Oyster Shell – This was an emotionally raw, well-poised, literary fiction that was unique with a fullness that is richly fulfilling.
The Pearls –The narrative was raw, poignant and provocative. This was a primarily character-driven story. With well-developed characters, that worked in favor to the story.
The main character was flawed and compromised a lot in the story. Yet, he had a moral backbone that exceeded every questionable choice he made. The author put the character through some detrimental circumstances that were intense. The character understandably broke but always rebounded with a resiliency that kept the reader turning page after page.
Realistic contemporary components with pop culture references were interlaced with well-composed believable fiction. It gives the reader a wide point of reference that makes the prose pleasingly palatable. -Writingpearls.com
”Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.” –Mark Spencer, Faulkner Award winner and author of Ghostwalking
”Rich Marcello’s The Beauty of the Fall takes the reader on two intriguing journeys: the exciting coffee-fueled rise of a high-tech start-up and the emotional near-collapse of the man behind the revolutionary company, his personal journey through grief and healing.” –Jessamyn Hope, author of Safekeeping
”Rich Marcello’s third novel, The Beauty of the Fall, intermixes poetry and prose fluidly throughout the manuscript, and in fact, incorporates poetry as one of its major themes. As a practicing poet, I was swept away by the lyrical language, the characters, and the unexpected twists and turns in the plot. Overall, a great and inspiring read!” –Rebecca Givens Rolland, author of The Wreck of Birds
Rich Marcello, author of “The Beauty of the Fall”, has invited you to get to know him a little bit better. Find out a bit about him as he answers just a few questions, and make sure to follow him on social media!
Have there been any authors who have influenced your work? If so, who?
I love the work of Milan Kundera, Don Delillo, Alice Walker, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Adam Haslett, to name a few.
Out of all the characters you’ve written, who is your favorite? Why?
Dan Underlight, in The Beauty of the Fall, is my favorite because he’s so complex. As a writer, I’m trying to go deeper and deeper into the soul of each of my characters, and so I focus a lot of my effort on their inner lives. In TBOTF, I spent most of my time on Dan. I wrote him over and over until I understood his grief at some deep non-verbal level. That’s when he came into focus.
Are there any types of scenes you find more difficult to write? Which ones and why.
When I started writing, it was more difficult for me to write female characters well, especially when the scene was from their POV. But I’ve spent a lot of time working to improve my craft in that area, and now, I’m really proud of the female characters in my novels. I’m particularly fond of Willow in TBOTF and Paige Plant in The Big Wide Calm.
What would you say the most rewarding part of being an author is?
The most rewarding part of being an author is when a reader writes me or tells me that one of my novels or characters resonated in some way that made a positive difference in her life. My hope is that my novels, in some small way, connect folks more to themselves and the world, and so, when it happens, it truly is rewarding.
What advice do you have for authors just starting out in their journey?
To write your first draft of each scene quickly so you fully capture the intended emotion. After that, edit over and over again until the scene is fully realized. In my fiction class, I like to tell students to rewrite a scene five times before they workshop it. That seems to work pretty well.
Do you have a writing ritual? If so, please explain.
I write seven days a week first thing in the morning for about five hours. I’m a big believer in going from one kind of dream time ( sleeping) to another ( writing fiction). I seem to do my best work this way.
Was being an author something you always wanted to do?
I’ve been writing all of my adult life, but only full-time for the last six years. In college, I had a chance to be mentored by a novelist in residence, but I was broke and needed to make money for a time. So when I graduated, I did. Throughout those years, I kept writing––mostly songs and poetry––but I always knew I would come back to writing novels. Hopefully, I’ll get ten or so of them out into the world before I’m done.
If you could have a conversation with any one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I’ll pick two. I’d love to talk with John Lennon about music and the current state of the world, and I’d like to talk with Dalai Lama about love and kindness.
Would you care to provide an excerpt from one of your books as a sample of your work?
Read more at this link: https://sandraely770.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/445/
“One may ride upon a tiger’s back but it is fatal to dismount.”—Ernest Bramah
Ride the tiger. That’s what we used to call working for a technology startup. It was a little like a gambling addiction. Objectively we knew the odds were against us. But we weren’t objective. We gave up sleep and personal lives (and occasionally basic hygiene) to stay on that tiger’s back. Our employee number—who was hired first, who had the best stock options, the most first-name access to the c’founders—was mentally tattooed across our brain, and haunted our dreams of the holy grail, the IPO.
I know, I know… and I have the (worthless) stock options to prove it. I know other serial-startup veterans who have papered their bathrooms with their old options. But like any gambler, we also knew the next Next Thing could be the one. And now and then, it even worked. Sort of. I never became a software millionaire, not even close. But I did get the occasional nice payout that bought a car or kitchen remodel.
Read more on the website…..