Dream of Eli: Van Heerling Author Interview

Dreams of Eli, By Van Heerling

Dreams of Eli, By Van Heerling

In my journey through the Land of Indie, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of meeting Van Heerling. His first novel, Malaika, was a haunting story about a lost man who develops a relationship with a lioness in rural Kenya. Written with a powerful voice reminiscent of Hemingway, the book moved me to tears. When I heard about Van’s blog tour for his new novel, Dreams of Eli, I jumped at the chance to talk shop with him.


Silverberry: What is Dreams of Eli about?


Van Heerling: Dreams of Eli is a tragic historical romance. It takes place during the American Civil war and dates back to 1840. Don’t let the element of the war fool you into believing this is a war story. It is not. This is a love story to the nth degree. I should say this story is not for children.


Silverberry: What does your main character yearn for?


Van Heerling: Peace.


Silverberry: Why did you decide to use first person, present tense in the book, and what affect does this give the story?


Van Heerling: I find that first person, when done right, allows the reader to be nearly in the shoes of the character. For me it is an intimate way to write a story. Third person has its moments, but I find it to be too “detached” at times.


Silverberry: Meticulous research would be needed to evoke the Civil War era. How did you approach that?


Van Heerling: Yes, absolutely. One of the things I did was read a number of letter’s from soliders to their loved ones. What struck me most is how little things have changed despite our modern technology. We are all human and this condition shined through in many of those letters. As far as research, Ken Burns has an incredible Civil War series on the History channel. If anyone is really interested in the war, I would steer them there.


Silverberry: Many writers find common themes and symbols weaving through their oeuvre. With Malaika and Dreams of Eli behind you, what have noticed about the themes running through your work?


Van Heerling: This is an interesting question. I touched on it above. When writing in the first person, one gets to really know the main character. I would have to say that the human condition is a running theme. I don’t mean to do this on purpose, it just happens.


Silverberry: How have you honed the craft?


Van Heerling: I hone my craft by writing. I don’t share my work with anyone until the story is finished. This second point is one I would like to drive home. If you are a writer that is sharing your work with other writers before the story is done, and you have yet to finish anything, perhaps you are sharing too much.


This is going to sound pompous, and a bit arrogant. I really don’t mean for it to be. I don’t go to class. That’s right. I don’t take writing courses at the local junior college, I don’t meet on Wednesday’s with my writing buddies. I definitely DO NOT sign up for writer’s workshops where I learn the formula of storytelling. I am happy for authors that have found value in these outlets, but they are not for me.


That said, I am not alone in this writing thing. I have surrounded myself with a wonderful and trustworthy team. I have two fantastic copy editors one of which doubles as a phenomenal story editor. I do receive ample criticism along the way. Painfully so at times.


Silverberry: What have you found to be the most effective strategies for marketing your books?


Van Heerling: I read about the successes of other indie authors. Basically it boils down to finding readers one at a time. I don’t think there is a magic bullet. Just good honest hard work. I spend a lot of time helping other authors promote their works and they in turn help me. I would recommend reading, “Interviews with Indie Authors: Top Tips from Successful Self-Published Authors.”


Silverberry: What’s ahead for you?


Van Heerling: The dream of becoming a full-time writer is happening January 1, 2013. I am looking forward to 2013.


Thank you very much A. R.

Silverberry: My pleasure. Readers can follow you and purchase your books at the links below.

Purchase Dreams of Eli on Amazon


Purchase Malaika on Amazon


Van’s Website


Van on Facebook


Van on Twitter: @vanheerling


Van Heerling, Bio:

Van lives in Burbank, California with the lingering spirit of Redford—his adopted morbidly obese cat, which was more of a paperweight than a feisty feline, his wife and boy, and their very alive kitty—Abigail.

Van always enjoys hearing from his readers. If you wish to send your comments you may do so at his website.

Van Heerling, Author of Dreams of Eli

Van Heerling, Author of Dreams of Eli



Malaika, by Van Heerling

Malaika, by Van Heerling


  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Excellent interview! Van, I wish you much success with your new release. I, like you, never share my work until it’s finished. For me it’s like playing cards, I like to keep it close to my chest. Peter, I always enjoy reading your blog it’s always interesting!

  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful interview, gents! Van, I’m completely with you on the courses, groups and workshops. Of a highly independent nature, I enjoy doing things my way. After all, they are my stories and it is my writing.

  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    So simple–yet I never really thought of 1st person as getting to know the main character or narrator very well.
    I love that. I know first person is frowned upon to some degree, but personally I love it–reading and writing.
    Thanks for this great interview–both of you.

  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Lovely interview! I can’t wait to read the book! I also love your picture of you and your baby. So sweet! 🙂

  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Hi Emerald. Thank you very much! Yes my boy has come a long way in a year. From one pound ten ounces to nearly fourteen pounds.

  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    What a great interview with two lovely men! Van, I can’t wait to read Dreams of Eli, and I wish you much success. Peter, you are such a gracious host. Great to stop by today! xox

  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Permalink


    I’m with you and Van on that. No one sees my work until I’ve made it as good as I can get it. We’re in good company on this; Newberry Award Winner, Sid Fleischman, said the same thing!

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink


    I was thinking about just this very thing this morning. So many indie bloggers talk about doing things this way or that way (developing characters, handling emotions, etc), but it occurs to me that greatest thing about being indie is that we can stretch the rules in ways that traditionally published authors wouldn’t dare. We don’t have to adhere to the tried and true formulas. We have the opportunity to be the great innovators of our era. We should take advantage of that! The history of the arts bares out that rules continually fall by the wayside.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink


    I know what you mean. First person is so much more intimate. Lately, even when I’m writing a piece in third person, I will write a passage in first person; this is just for my eyes, but I always get so much closer to the character’s thoughts and feelings when I do that. It always deepens my writing when I let the character speak to me directly. The other thing Van does in Dreams of Eli, is he uses the present tense. That also gives a feeling of immediacy.

    Thanks for stopping by!


  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I loved seeing that baby, too, Em!

  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Melissa! Always great to see you. You’ve made so much possible for me. And I met Van through you!

    Looking forward to hosting you, my friend!


  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Micheal, Agreed. I won’t even let my wife read my stuff until it is done. That is how serious I am about it.

  • Posted November 14, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you everyone for stopping by. 🙂

  • Posted November 23, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    I am reading Van’s new book now and it is no less that incredible! I’m a huge fan of this amazing talent!

  • Posted November 25, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Me too, Paul, me too! Thanks so much for stopping by to share. Let us know when you’ve finished it!

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