Julia Heaberlin’s fifth novel publishes today. It’s called We Are All the Same in the Dark (Ballantine Books, 352 pages). You should buy it and read it, because Julia is nearly as good a novelist as she was a boss to me.
Way back in 1999, Julia ran the features department at the Star-Telegram. Eric Celeste worked there at the time. When an opening came up for the travel editor spot, he convinced Julia that I’d be a good hire, even though Julia thought I wasn’t seasoned enough to handle the gig. I told this story four years ago, when Julia was a guest on our podcast, but it’s one of my favorite stories, so I’m going to tell it again.
One of the reasons I took the job was because I wanted to get the hell out of my house. My wife and I had just had our first kid. I was trying to earn a living as a freelancer. I was freaked out about being a father and feeding another mouth and all the stuff that came out of the other end of the infant after it had been fed. So I basically ran away from home. I knew the job wasn’t ideal for me, but I also knew it was 30 miles away.
On my first day, after a quick orientation, I sat in my office and stared at the antiquated computer terminal from which I was to pull wire copy, and I thought about why I’d taken a job that I knew would bore me. I realized that I was just scared of the crapping, crying, nocturnal human who’d recently taken up residence at our rented East Dallas duplex. I figured that running away from something that small was a move I would come to regret.
On my second day, I stopped on the way in to work and bought flowers for Julia. Through tears, I explained to her that I’d made a mistake, that I was sorry, that I figured undoing that mistake as quickly as possible was the best course. I quit.
Julia did not punch me or even make fun of me for crying at work. As I recall, she took the news with equanimity and let me regain my composure before I headed out the door.
So how cool is it that Julia wound up writing stories for D Magazine? Between novels, now and again, we’ve gotten to work together, the snot-nosed quitter now editing his former boss’s prose. Sometimes life is funny.
Which brings me to a story by Julia that we will publish in our September issue. We’re putting it online early, to coincide with the publication of her novel, whose heroine has one eye. Julia’s book research led her to meet an interesting Dallas fellow named Randy Trawnik, who paints some of the world’s best prosthetic eyes. Julia wrote about that research and what she learned in the process of writing her book. While you’re waiting for your copy of the book to arrive, check out “The Man Who Paints Souls.” It is online today.