Durangoan Ed Lehner has a lot on his plate.
The retired professor is a luthier, poet, does work as an instrument repairman for the Be Frank Foundation and is a self-proclaimed “kind of a hack” musician.
He’s also released his second novel, “The Awakening of Russell Henderson,” which he’ll discuss and sign copies of Saturday at White Rabbit Books & Curiosities.
Lehner said he started writing short stories about five years ago. Before that, he was all about poetry.
“I started writing poetry back in the ’70s, probably when I was in college,” Lehner said. “I was a late bloomer; I graduated when I was 37 and got my BA. Then I went to graduate school at age 40 for graphic design. I ended up teaching at Iowa State University. I kept writing poetry, but I used a lot of poetry just in typographic designs. And I just kept on writing because it just kind of cleared my head.”
Lehner said he never planned to write a book, much less two. But fate had something else in store for him.
“I had never written prose until about five years ago, and I said, ‘OK, I’m just going to try this and see what happens,’” he said. “I came down with pneumonia, and so I started writing this little poem and thought, ‘No, this will be a short story.’ The more I got into it, I just kept on going, and 100,000 words later ...”
“The Awakening of Russell Henderson” is the story of newly divorced Chicago investment banker Russell Henderson. He decides to take off on a road trip West, and along the way, he begins to discover who he really is.
Lehner said he and his wife did a lot of traveling in the West for 20 years. Many of the things in the book are places they have visited, and a lot of what happens are experiences Lehner has had. However, he said, the characters are total fiction.
“It was a fun book to write because I just love writing about the places we’ve been. As always, my characters took on their own life,” he said. “Once I start developing these people, I just think, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s just this fantasy world.’ You just develop your own fantasy world. I was an only child, I grew up on a farm out in eastern Iowa, so I grew up by myself with my own imagination. And I just made things up.”