“A golf game against God—with the stakes—life and death? What a great concept! But it gets even better as Elliott Goodman plays golf with Leonardo da Vinci, W.C. Fields, John Lennon, and others. This daring book is a miracle, and, I think, quite possibly a classic.”— James Patterson, #1 N.Y. Times bestselling author
Yes! This book is utterly unique. I've never read anything like it. It is very well written and, I believe it would satisfy the most thirsty, literature conoseur.
This is not a book about God. It is about Elliot Goodman who is a good example (E.G.) of humanity except he is a bit unique because he gets the chance to meet God face to face while he's on the operating table after a heart attack.
In college, my golf instructor advised me to stick with tennis. I did. It didn’t matter it was a dream, I took it to heart. Therefore, I was somewhat handicapped while reading this book because I know next to nothing about golf. If you like golf and you historical people (some of your favorites will be here, I'm sure), you'll like this book. Bear in mind, it has no theology... just some earthy life lessons. You'll meet W.C. Fields and Marilyn Monroe... William Shakespeare and Socrates... even Moses and they are sooooo in character! Well...
Moses flashed an avuncular smile, his thick, muscular beard and bulging biceps reminding Elliott of Michelangelo’s impressive statue of him in Rome’s San Pietro in Vincoli church. Except that now, instead of a tablet cradled in his right hand, Moses held a humongous Cleveland Launcher 460 driver and looked very much like he meant business. Chapter 3 excerpt of Match Made In Heaven
...maybe not exactly in character.
Bob Mitchell is a walking miracle. He's lived all over the world, has a B.A. (magna cum laude) MA and PhD; a sports fanatic for 50 years; PLUS he has lived through 3 heart attacks and 3 open heart surgeries, plus 2 angioplasties and 2 defibrillator surgeries. Today, due to the nature of his progressive heart disease, Mitchell lives with only one functioning major coronary artery. Yet his life is full, creative, and productive. He still plays tennis (he was a teaching pro many years ago for a short time) and golf, and he rollerblades daily around his Santa Barbara community. Between 18 holes and rollerblading, he squeezed out some time to answer some question...
Gina: We know you are passionate about sports and a scholar of politics and history, but what about the man, Bob Mitchell? Tell us about Bob Mitchell.
Bob: Well, much of who I am is in the novel. Just a hard-working guy who loves life, loves sports, loves the pursuit of knowledge, and who has had the good fortune to live through five heart surgeries! I'm lucky to be around and especially lucky to be able to do what I adore doing (writing fiction), to have three great kids, and to be living in Santa Barbara, CA, with my wonderful wife, Susan, and my amazing Labradors, Koslo and Mocha.
Gina: I usually ask an author what they learned about God and themselves while writing their book. Since there is quite a bit Elliot Goodman learns about himself, is this what you learned about yourself? What did you learn about God while writing this book? How has that impacted your life since writing Match Made In Heaven?
Bob: A tough question. I'd say that it's not so much what I learned about myself (new), but what I relearned and saw more clearly, just as Elliott, the protagonist, does. The game of golf allows him to re-experience, under intense pressure (after all, his life is stake in this golf match against famous people sent down by God!). He relearns about what is deep inside him, confirms what good he has, learns what he needs to improve. And these life-lessons include qualities like humility, limits, resilience, joy, compassion, integrity, self-reliance, risk, and, of course, heart. Now, as far as learning about God, I'm not sure. I'm not really a religious person. I am a spiritual person, that is for sure, but not in the formally religious sense. I believe that there may well be a higher power somewhere in the universe, but that is virtually unknowable and deeply personal. People often feel the need to lean on or look to something greater than themselves, naturally. In my experience, which has been marked by frequent challenges and bumps just like everyone else's--physical, moral, emotional, etc.--I have personally chosen to rely on my own powers of resiliency and strength to overcome these challenges, failing often, succeeding occasionally. But that's my own take on the universe. I'm very pro-active and always prefer to take matters into my hands when I can. Of course, that's not always possible, and when it isn't, I guess I've had faith in something--perhaps God? In any case, in fate or the way the world works or whatever. It has worked so far, for me at least. The God in my novel is more of a character who is certainly omniscient and who, in his wisdom, allows Elliott Goodman to discover truths about himself and why his life is valuable and worthy of being saved. So I haven't really "learned" anything about God, or anything more than what little I "knew." In the book, God is a concept, as I believe he is in many people's minds. He is how we live life, or should live lives. He is the idea of living the best lives we know how to live. And that's all I know now.
Gina: In a conversation, you said that you didn’t want the reader to be “bogged down with minutiae” about each of the famous characters in your book. How did you choose what lesson would be learned from which character? Is this something that you learned from these people while you were a student of literature, art, music, history, sports and all those other disciplines? Did the lessons impact you like they did Elliot? How differently?
Bob: Each character was chosen with great care. THey all had to be entertaining, fascinating, and significant figures in history. I also had to be able to match their personalities and their personae to the manner of playing golf that I imagined in my head. Also, I had to strike a balance regarding ages, nationalities, professions, and style. And of course they each had to be the vehicle for learning about a different lesson in life. Without being overbearing or heavy-handed. Leonardo for instinct, Lincoln for integrity, Picasso for self-reliance, and so on. Yes, of course, all of this was in my head from my many years of study and teaching, and it all came out when I began to incubate the story. Finally, the lessons impacted me like they did Elliott, because in a sense I AM Elliott!
Gina: My favorite character in your book is Socrates. I love the way you captured his essence. Which is your favorite character? Why?
Bob: I love them all. (This is sort of like Sophie's choice!) But if you FORCE me to choose, it'd be between Freud, Socrates, and Shakespeare. I love Freud because he's so annoying, and if you're annoyed on the golf course, it's nearly impossible to play well! He is totally anal-retentive and has OCD, and that makes him a colorful character. Socrates is fascinating because, as in his dialogues (Chapter 7, starring him, IS in the dialogue form), he somehow succeeds in magically eliciting the right answers from his interlocutors by guiding them with these brilliant questions. And Shakespeare, I love him for two reasons. First, he is totally and utterly human and flawed (that's why his plays are so great!). And second, he (and Elliott) end up speaking the entire chapter in iambic pentameter, which was amazingly fun to write.
Gina: For my writer readers… how hard was it to switch from non-fiction to fiction? Was it easier or harder to get your fiction book published? What critical piece of advice can you give us about getting published?
Bob: 1. Not hard at all. But in my case, there's a reason. I've been reading, studying and teaching literature (fiction, essays, poetry) for much of my adult life. So I know about how it works pretty well. And so, although this was my first novel (I just completed my second the other day), I was very comfortable with the form and the process and the way words work and scenes develop, etc. I'd say, at the risk of seeming immodest, that the book was not that difficult to publish for one reason (besides the fact that I think it's quite well written!). The story is unusual, different...in fact, it's unlike any other story ever told. And that makes it marketable. (Publishing is, after all, a business when you get right down to it.) As far as advice about getting published, it may sound strange, but I am clueless. By that I mean that I can't give any advice to others based on my experience (the only kind of advice I'd ever choose to give) because my experience was so personal and different from what other writers go through. My agent and my publisher at Kensington were on the same page with me form the start, and they understood what the book was trying to do artistically, and also its commercial potential, but that's regarding my book. I can't really speak for the writing of others. At any rate, to be fair, I would say that a lot of patience is required for all this. It's not easy getting an agent, and it's even harder to get a good one, a passionate one who believes in you and your writing. That's the main thing. It also doesn't hurt to have an agent who knows the business and which editors to contact. So I'd say the key to getting published is 1. to come up with a different approach, a different kind of story that separates itself from the majority of other novels and 2. to get a superb agent who loves the book and knows how to shop it. The rest (editor, publisher, marketing, and so on) will fall into place.
Gina: Anything else you’d like to add?
Bob: No, your questions were so great that I have nothing more to say! Thanks!
Gina: Thank you, Bob, for taking the time to answer these questions.
Bob: You're quite welcome.
Considered thoughts from Gina Burgess at 3:29 PM