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Q+A: Strange Heart Beating author Eli Goldstone

Seb’s beautiful, beloved wife Leda has been killed by a swan. And so begins the premise of Strange Heart Beating, the debut novel from Eli Goldstone. Former prose editor of Cadaverine and current Editorial Manager here at Run Riot, Eli’s novel will be published by Granta on 4th May, and this week, she’s our Guest Editor.

Below, sans spoilers, we discuss how Eli landed on the strange death of Leda to begin a darkly funny, seductive tale. We examine the notions that you’ll never know anyone as fully as you may feel and that there's always something more taking place beneath the surface. We all have stories that may one day need piecing together- at Run Riot, we can’t wait to find out what Leda’s is.

Run Riot: How long have you wanted to write Strange Heart Beating? At which point did you know you’d be writing a novel for this story?

Eli Goldstone: I started writing the novel during my MA, about two years ago.

RR: Why did you choose Latvia as Leda’s home?

EG: I have Latvian ancestry. I went to Latvia and was surprised to find that the landscape I had been (literally) dreaming about existed. The forests, the beaches, even the weather was exactly as I had been envisioning while I wrote.

RR: Where did you write Strange Heart Beating? If in London, what’s it like writing here? Do you need calm and peace? Or do the traffic, endless noise and crowds help, in a way?

EG: I wrote it in lots of places - in bed, in cafes, sometimes in a library. I've never successfully found a single environment that makes writing easier for me. I tend to think more freely and creatively while I am on the move so a lot of the book I wrote while on public transport, or on a plane, where I just typed it into my phone. Noise and chaos can't get in the way of inspiration, and neither can silence encourage it.

RR: It’s a fascinating idea that you can feel like you know someone’s life intimately but never truly know- how did this become the story you wanted to tell?

EG: I have always found it interesting, the extent to which we fool ourselves into thinking that we know the person that we love. In the end, of course, we only belong to ourselves. And that's okay.

RR: What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever learned about someone?

EG: I hate to learn that a new friend is rich, I always find that very disappointing. Or worse still, finding out that someone you're fucking is a Tory. It wouldn't happen to me now. You can acquire the instinct not to fuck Tories.

RR: How did you decide on a swan? Or was that the first thing you decided?

EG: I read a story about an unusual death. A woman being drowned by a swan. It made me think of the myth of Leda and the Swan. Then, the swan kept occurring to me in different ways as I wrote. It became the motif of the book.

RR: What was the hardest part of your writing process for this?

EG: It was all extremely difficult. Writing is fun, but sustaining a project is always laborious. Towards the end, of course, you wonder whether it has all been in vain. Whether the book will just be of no interest to anyone. You start to think about rejection. That was tough. I tried to be pragmatic but it doesn't come easily to me.

RR: What’s been the best day?

EG: The day I received an offer from Granta, I was waiting for a banana cake to come out of the oven. I looked at my phone and had a text from my beautiful agent, Zoe. I cried. I ate the banana cake.

RR: What will you do on Strange Heart Beating’s publishing day?

EG: I will treat it like my wedding day. I'll drink non-stop all day, and my friends and I will stay up very late celebrating.

Strange Heart Beating is published by Granta on 4th May 2017 and is available to pre-order now.

You'll find Eli's website here and you can follow her on Twitter here.  

On 22nd May, Funhouse and PEN Atlas present a series of readings exploring body, borders and place, including Eli Goldstone with her debut, Strange Heart Beating, at The Book Club, Shoreditch, from 19:00. Find out more from the Run Riot listing here.