Above the Universe Below

Today I’m pleased to welcome Elias Barton to Off the Page chatting about About the Universe Below.

Elias Barton has lived on the edge of an active volcano, worked in a Bible factory and is the author of the novel “Above the Universe Below.” He was a semifinalist in both 2011 and 2012 for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. He currently resides in Washington DC where he befriends gargoyles, feeds unicorns and combats two cats who try to smother him in his sleep.

Find the Author: Website

1. Tell a little about yourself, what you do when you’re not writing, what are your aspirations for the future?

I love the visual arts, so I draw, paint and try to keep on the pulse of current art and artists. However, writing is my main passion. I plan on doing it until I breathe my last breath. Even then, I might become a ghost writer in misty bathroom mirrors.

2. When and why did you start writing?

Reading and writing are one of the biggest ways we can understand our world. When I was a kid, many things weren’t allowed, but reading and writing were encouraged… and saved my life.  Books explore and expound on life in ways that plunge us far beneath the surface.  I started writing to make sense of life and explore my own inner-galaxies. I don’t expect I’ll ever fully finish!

3. If you could only read one book over and over again for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

With so many fantastic books out there, that’s a great question. I would have a hard time choosing between something dense with endless characters like Les Miserables and something fantastic like Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

4. Give us some back story about Above the Universe Below, where and when did you write it?

I lived in New York City for a decade in the exact neighborhood that Carder does in the novel. Carder approached me, literally waking me up one morning at 3:79 AM.  He did it again. And again. And again – begging me to tell his story. His strange perspective was really entertaining but tiring at that hour. All the weird worlds, all the strange thoughts, the love, the lust! Finally, I made him a deal: I would write his story, but only if he came to me during waking hours. He kept the bargain. I wrote the book.

5. What inspired your story?

There are many levels to the inspiration but the book is about two things for sure: first, it’s about what isn’t said.  Isn’t that how life often is?  People never actually come right out and say what’s going on in their lives or minds.  Thus, there are things that Carder never tells a soul throughout the entire book.  We as readers are the only ones who get that knowledge. Second, it’s about finding and providing unconditional love. Many of us have broken families. But we can and need to make a family of people who we love and accept.  Those people sometimes end up being those we would least expect to fill the role.

6. What was your favorite part of Above the Universe Below to write?

I almost want to say the night at Haika’s gallery, but I have to say that the various reapings of lives in the other world were by far the most interesting things.  I got to go to bizarre lands where creatures may or may not be real but are definitely crazy.  Getting to meet beasts that don’t exist in our world was one of the most interesting things that has ever happened to me!

7. Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

Two things: A short story about a man who finds himself through a beautiful android.  I’m also about 80% done with my next novel: The Circadian Ladder.  It contains overlapping worlds, mythological beasts and a group of friends trying to figure it all out. Expect dwarves. Expect peculiar technology. Expect blood and metallic hummingbirds.

8. Are you a Pantser or Plotter? Why?

I’m definitely a hybrid of the two.  I usually have an inspirational framework or endpoint pulling me toward it, but I don’t know how things will get there exactly.  I liken my writing process to a Polaroid picture.  When you snap one, at first it’s blurry and hard to recognize the images. But give it time and all will sharpen and become clear.  I’ve hard to learn to trust that will happen.

9. Do you have any tricks to your trade, bottomless coffee, a magic pen, a special muse?

Authors have such crazy methods.  I sometimes choose an object that represents a character (for Above the Universe Below it was various gemstones) and keep that near me when I’m writing.  Coffee can be of help, but I have to stay away from wine when writing – but not afterward!

10. If you could be any fictional character for a day, who would it be and why?

Gosh, aren’t we all fictional? I might choose Rooter, an alien creature from Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card.  Seeing things from an alien’s perspective would be amazing and might help me understand humans better.  Plus, I’d get to see another planet!

An agoraphobic artist in our world but a grim reaper in another, Carder Quevedo hides at home, immersing himself in the paintings which commemorate the strange deaths he’s witnessed. He ventures into public only when necessary, scrambling to his hospital job to extract corneas from deceased donors or darting to the diner to share a meal with Darren, his only friend. That’s Carder’s existence – and he’s content.


Haika changes that. As the bored, beautiful owner of an art gallery – who also happens to be married – she stumbles into Carder in a chance encounter and soon becomes obsessed with his art. As they forge a quirky, electric relationship, Carder is reluctantly pulled into Haika’s social world of wealth, status and the peculiar characters that come with it. Carder is pushed further to the edge when his teenage niece visits, rebelling against her ultra-conservative upbringing. All the while, Carder’s hidden history threatens to ruin his developing chance at normalcy, and on the opening night of his art gallery show, his past finally catches up to his present.

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