I wanted to be a newspaper reporter, probably the result of watching too many episodes of superman on TV in the afternoons. I didn't want to be "cub reporter" Jimmy Olsen, mind you. I wanted to be Clark Kent!
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I go to the movies, normally with my cinema-fanatic son, preferably to see new Sci Fi, Action/Adventure or indie releases. I also watch my home team, The Ravens, battle it out -- but sometimes that's anything but relaxing. And, of course, I read.
What are your current projects?
Well, in addtion to launching/marketing The Last Way Station, I'm finishing up an expansion of my novella, The Reform Artists, into a novel, scheduled for rerelease in January 2012. Then, when I'm not doing marketing consulting work, I'll be researching and writing a sci-fi trilogy, set on earth and spanning several hundred years of human history.
Are your works based on someone you know or events in your life?
In some cases, I'd say the books have been "inspired" either by individuals in my life, my life events or both. For instance, The Last Way Station was inspired both by my Jewish background and by my knowledge of Hiter and Holocaust deniers. The Reform Artists was inspired by my own experiences relating to divorce. But in other cases, such as the sci-fi trilogy I'm working on, the characters and situations are completely unrelated to real-life. However, in that instance, the idea for the book came from musing about very specific scientific interests.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes. I find it difficult to separate the writer from the editor in me. If I could, I'd sedate the 'editor' so I could write my drafts with reckless abandon. Then, I'd slip a micky to the writer and let the editor have at it. Unfortunately, these two opposing forces seem locked in perpetual combat when I busy myself at the computer keyboard.
Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?
I want to do more sci fi and in longer format. (I really like the idea of trilogies, rather than endless serials.) But even here my trilogies seem to share the multi-generational structure of the Foundation trilogy, rather than the more commercial single-generational format. Beyond that, I want to continue to refine my craft and build my audience.
How long have you been writing?
Since I was in second grade. That's when I started writing poems. Short rhyming ones like, The Car Wash: "We go into the car wash/And watch the water spout/But we don't see it very long/Because the car comes out!" I still like that one a lot, and it was one of my first.
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
If we're talking about writing in a "technical" sense, the most important elements are to use active construction, i.e., "the dog bit the man" vs. passive construction, "the man was bitten." I owe my appreciation for active construction to my professors at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. They also taught me not to "back into" sentences. I came there believing introductory clauses made sentences flow smoothly. Now, I know careful construction is what creates smooth, exciting prose. Almost every sentence I crafted as a high school senior used an introductory clause. After a year of training at Medill, reading a paragraph of such sentences left me feeling "sea sick."
One of my favorite passages is the dream sequence in which Hitler meets his grandmother, Maria Schicklgruber, for the first time. Here's a segment:
What a hideous state she had fallen into, Hitler thought. He looked but could find no trace of the young woman she once had been, a woman comely enough to have inspired the advances of a teen-aged boy. He felt embarrassed about confronting this aged visage with questions about such an indelicate and ancient matter. But he could not let the opportunity pass.
Over tea, in her dreary parlor, he began to press the issue. “Oma,” he began. “I heard some disturbing talk about you today and not for the first time.”
“What?” she said, rattling her teacup, “someone has been speaking ill of me? Who would dare! I have done nothing to be ashamed of." She arched her back and fiercely shook her head from side to side. "I’m an old woman. I mind my own business. I bother no one!”
“No, Oma,” Hitler said in an attempt to soothe her. “This is not about anything recent. It’s ancient history, really.”
“Then, why would anyone be dredging it up now?” she glared.
“I suppose, because people like to gossip,” Hitler said, “and because, if true, this story still has relevance for the family ... even today.”
Slowly a look of recognition, and resentment, grew in her eyes. She pulled away, cocked her head to one side and pointed an accusing finger at her grandson. "I know what this is about!" she said, in a voice suddenly small and mean. She squinted and began to quiver as a line of white spittle appeared on her lower lip. Then, she leaned forward just enough for Adolph to get a whiff of her sickly sweet breath and she poked him in the chest. "It's about Frankenberger, isn't it? You heard some talk, and now you're worried that you may have Jew blood in you, aren't you? You’re no better than your father!"
The sudden attack surprised Hitler. "No, I never −"
"Then, you think your granny's a whore, boy?"
"No. Of course not!"
"Do you believe Frankenberger's son took advantage of me? Raped me for his pleasure?"
"I don't know what to think,” he said. “But to hear people talk about it, you either were a victim, a liar, a whore or a very shrewd woman who tricked the Jew out of a lot of money!" There, he had said it.
His grandmother stared at him for a moment, sizing him up. "What do you think I was, boy?" she finally asked.
Who designed the covers?
I did. I created the artwork and the design for "The Last Way Station," and I selected and applied artwork purchased from others for the cover design of "The Reform Artists." This is an area I hope to turn over to others in the future.
Is there a message in your novelette that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. There are many messages embedded in "The Last Way station." But I prefer that readers discover those messages for themselves through the reading process.
What books have most influenced your life?
That's a tough question, which, I assume, also makes it a good one. As far as writing a book like "The Last Way Station" goes, I would have to say Elie Wiesel's books "Night" and "Dawn." I also found "The Last of the Just" by Andre Schwarz-Bart and "House of Ashes" by Oscar Pinkus particularly moving.
What are you reading now?
Well, I just finished reading the advanced proof of a friend of mine's debut novel about the ad business, but it's "classified." I'm not at liberty to talk about it. At least, not yet.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Sue, I know you may find this hard to believe, but I really don't have a single, favorite author. I will tell you this, however. When it comes to epic-length novels, three writers stand out for me: Tolstoy, Clavel and DeMille. All three of them have incredible story-telling skills. These guys are the cathedral builders, in fiction. Yet I like each of them for different reasons. I like Tolstoy for the breadth and complexity of his plotting and his brilliant writing skills; Clavel for similar technical abilities and his great gift to absorb and relate a deep understanding, and appreciation for, foreign cultures. DeMille scores high in his technical, story crafting and writing abilities as well as for his irreverent sense of humor (See, "The Gold Coast.") But DeMille primarily is an entertainer. His books seem to lack the philosophical scaffolding, and depth of messaging, that one might expect from a writer with his natural talents.
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Interview by Sue Owen
This is part one of a series of interviews for my blog tour through Indie Writers Unite. Look for the Support Indie Authors logo for further submissions. Please support these authors, check out their blogs and purchase their books. They are the best of the best. /Sue Owen.