My guest today is Margie Church, AKA Churchlady, author of romance/thriller novels with “SASS.” She tells me that stands for Suspense, Angst, Seductive Sizzle. Margie is a married mom of two children, and a Minnesota native. He writing career began early when she published in “McCall’s Magazine” in the sixth grade. Margie describes her professions as a mother and author whose guilty pleasures are great beer, real vanilla ice cream, and lobster. I couldn’t agree more with that list! Read More
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MA: I am pleased to have visit with me today, Australian author Diana Hockley. Diana lives in a southeast Queensland country town, surrounded by her husband, Andrew, two 19 year old cats and four pet rats. She is a dedicated reader, community volunteer, and presenter of a weekly classical program on community radio. She and her husband once owned and operated the famous Mouse Circus which travelled and performed for ten years throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales. Now that the circus is sold, she is the mouse judge for the Queensland Fancy Rat and Mouse club shows!
Diana and Andrew also bred Scottish Highland cattle. Prior to 1995, her last occupation was medical transcriptionist specializing in Radiology at a major Brisbane hospital.
They have three adult children and three grandchildren.
Diana has had articles and short stories accepted and published in a variety of magazines, among them, Mezzo Magazine USA, Honestly Woman (Australia) the Highlander, Austin Times and Austin UK, Australian Women’s Weekly, It’s A Rats World, Solaris UK, Literary Journal of University of Michigan USA, Foliate Oak, children’s website Billabong. She was awarded Scenic Rim Art Festival prizes for poetry and fiction. Since that time she has published two crime novels, The Naked Room and The Celibate Mouse.
Now, that’s one of the most diverse – and interesting – backgrounds I’ve ever seen. How did you go from the circus to novels?
DH: I wrote a novel in 1971 which was rejected but deemed “worthy of merit.” After this, I didn’t write anything more until I attended university when I was in my 30s. Raising children was a fulltime occupation for a widow, so I didn’t write anything more until 2005, by which time I was living on a small farm in rural Australia, married again and on my own a great deal in the show season. I started off with articles about our animals – always a rich source of amusement for city magazines, then ventured some short stories and had some success there as well. It was a short step to novel writing after that.
MA: Did your professional career inspire your writing? Are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?
No, my professional life – from which I retired in 1993 – didn’t inspire my writing, but I think some of my characters couldn’t help being heavily disguised as some people I know!
MA: I won’t ask which of them resemble rats! Tell us about your stories.
DH: My debut novel, The Naked Room, fits into the crime genre, the idea for which came to me one night when I was in the studio at the radio station. What would happen if the pianist didn’t turn up for the big concert? There would have to be a very good reason why not. So I set about creating one!
MA: How did you develop your protagonist?
DH: I allowed Ally Carpenter’s character to develop in response to her abduction and the personalities of her kidnappers. I once read that you have to listen to your characters, rather than trying to force them to do what you want (within reason of course) so that is what I tried to do and it seems to have worked.
MA: Is there a hero in addition to a heroine in your story?
DH: It’s hard to say who is the hero in The Naked Room. Is it her boyfriend who takes it upon himself to investigate the crime? Is it her father who holds himself together and works on the ransom money? Or are they both the hero? My heroine’s strength is that she refuses to give in. My hero’s strengths are neither of them are about to give up searching for Ally Carpenter.
MA: I understand you have more than one antagonist in the book. Tell us about them.
DH: Oh yes, there are three bad guys and one bad woman in this – but they too have an agenda other than money.
MA: Any real life experiences that flowed over into your stories?
DH: No, not really. I psyched myself into standing behind each character, listening to them speaking and the reaction of those around them – like reading a newspaper over someone’s shoulder. And I am sure they got a bit cranky with me sometimes (chuckling).
MA: So who migrates over from The Naked Room to your other novels?
DH: I have taken the main female detective from The Naked Room and given her the starring role in The Celibate Mouse. In this novel, the reader finds out what is happening to three of the protagonists from The Naked Room. For After Ariel, my next story, I have taken one of the characters from The Naked Room and made her the character. We find out what is going on with some of the Naked Room characters who were not in Celibate Mouse (some have moved on, it’s two years later) and Susan Prescott turns up again, now an Inspector. I don’t want to over-use the same characters beyond giving continuity to the series.
MA: Any last thoughts?
DH: It’s said that you should always write what you know, so my novels will always be set in small towns/rural/Australian city/UK or Wales and they will feature people whose lifestyles I understand and whose point of view I can put across. My stories will never feature high finance, spies or sophisticated political themes because I have no knowledge of these genres. I do know, however, how people keep secrets!
I tend to write my main characters in first POV and the rest in third, with the exception of The Naked Room which is very different, darker and more violent than The Celibate Mouse.
MA: Thanks, Diana! Please visit Diana Hockley’s website for more information about her writing: http://www.dianahockley.webs.com. Read More
MA: I am pleased to welcome to my blog today, Dr. Louis P. Solomon. Louis founded Life Echoes, a Family Legacy Book Publishing Service. In addition he founded Pearl River Publishing (PRP), a publishing house. He spent most of his career in the military-industrial community in government and industry. He continues to be a consultant on business, technical, and financial issues. He is technically trained with a PhD from UCLA in Engineering in 1965.
Louis has written several books including five novels: The Third Legacy, Gotcha!, Unknown Connections, Library of the Sands, and Instrument of Vengeance, and several nonfiction books: Transparent Oceans: Defeat of the Soviet Submarine Force, Teleworking—A Complete Guide for Managers and Teleworkers and the Solomon Haggadah.
You have a fascinating background, especially in the technical realm. Please tell us more.
LS: I have substantial academic technical training. I have had a varied career, covering multiple disciplines, both in government and in the private sector. I received a PhD in Engineering from UCLA in 1965, specializing in Fluid Mechanics, Applied Mathematics, and Electromagnetic Theory.
Prior to entering government service I was one of three founders of a very successful consulting firm, Planning Systems Incorporated (PSI) which grew from three to over 400 people located in several states. PSI primarily supported the United States Navy (USN) during the Cold War. After ten years with PSI I went to work for the Department of the Navy for nine years as a member of the Senior Executive Service (SES). As the Associate Director of Naval Ocean Research and Development Activity (NORDA) for Program Management I was responsible for the Long Range Acoustic Propagation Project (LRAPP).
Subsequently I worked with the DoD National Security Education Program (NSEP) in placing within the federal government over 3,000 NSEP award recipients (graduate and undergraduates in all academic fields) who lived and studied throughout the world and learned less commonly taught languages and cultures. I also served as a subject matter expert in developing The Language Corps for the Department of Defense (DoD) as a national entity to support government agencies in times of national emergencies.
In addition to PSI, I am a founder and chief executive of several firms: LPS Collaborative Group, (a very unusual technical and management consulting firm), Pearl River Publishing (a book publishing firm) and Life Echoes, (a Family Legacy Book Publishing Service). In addition, I sporadically write a blog: The Wisdom of Solomon, which focuses on subjects which are of interest to me.
MA: I can understand the technical writing you’ve done, but how did you end up writing novels?
LS: In a single sentence: My Mother made me.
I wrote many technical reports and refereed technical papers. I eventually lost interest in discussing and writing about detailed technical issues. That is work for people beginning their careers.
I had no interest in writing fiction until my Mother came to me one day and told me that she had a fiction story she wanted me to write, based upon an actual event. Being a dutiful son, I said that I would write the story and promptly did nothing. But she was a tough old lady, and nagged me about it, regularly. I continued to put her off. But I was then invited, as part of a family outing to celebrate the 80th birthday of my mother-in-law, to go on an ocean voyage for a week. I find cruise ships the height of boredom, but as a son-in-law, I was obliged to accept the invitation with good graces. I then realized this was a heaven sent opportunity. I took my Mac Power Book laptop, and spent every day from 0600 to 1800 in the ship’s library. It was a nice little quiet room, which was never visited by another single soul during the entire trip. I wrote all day long, and by the time the cruise was over, I had completed the first draft of the book. My Mother loved it, and I found it a very interesting tale. This story, The Third Legacy, was edited by Linda Jenkins, who has edited not only all my books, but used to edit all my technical documents and refereed journal articles which I wrote while I was associated with NORDA. She is a superb editor, and I always accept follow her suggestions about making changes to the documents I entrust in her editorial care.
MA: Did your professional career inspire your writing? Are any of your characters based upon real-life people with whom you’ve interacted?
LS: My professional career did not inspire my writing. It had an effect on how I write my novels, just as my technical training influenced how I write. I focus on relatively complex stories, which fit together in order and sequence. All parts of my stories hang together. The problem that I have is that I do not focus on the characters of my books. I like them all, and would associate with them in real life, if they, in fact existed. But I don’t emphasize the emotional part of my novels, nor the character interactions. To me the story is one that I tell, in detail, in what I would characterize as a somewhat laconic voice. This is, I believe, the major drawback to all my novels. If I continue to write novels, and I probably will, I will be searching for someone who is very good at constructing characters who are lovable, hate able, etc. My coauthor will probably be sought as a budding playwright.
All my characters are based, to a greater and lesser degree on people I know, or knew. The skills and capabilities of my characters are based upon real people. However, I should add that I do not pay much attention to the human characteristics of real or imaginary people. They are what they are, and that is how I deal with people in real life. I like them, or do not; and friendships develop or not. I assume they think the same about me, but this may be an inaccurate assessment. I have many long term, close friends, in many fields and areas of endeavor, but I never think about them purely in an emotional way. They are wonderful in that sense that they have great enjoyment to me, but I never analyze them.
MA: Tell us more about your novels.
LS: I have already mentioned my first novel: The Third Legacy. This novel, written at my Mother’s request and prodding, was based upon the historical fact that Hermann Goering, Reich Marshall of the Third Reich, was sentenced to death for War Crimes at the Nuremburg War Crimes Trial at the end of World War II. He died a few hours before he was to be hung. How he died, and who helped him was never discovered or explained. This single event allowed me to develop a tale which explained all the facts, and hopefully was interesting as a novel.
The second novel, Gotcha! was based upon the Enron scandal and the terrible effects on the people who worked for Enron. The entire story of the Enron scandal was part of a Pulitzer Prize article from several Washington Post writers. I was infuriated by the way Enron executives handled themselves and decided that I could write a story which would have the characters, originally part of a fictional corporation who underwent the same series of events that Enron encountered. Once I had the idea of wrecking vengeance, the story was easy to develop.
The third novel, Unknown Connections was a little different. I have just finished a nonfiction book: Transparent Oceans: The Defeat of the Soviet Submarine Force. This book was written for a very select professional group of people who were familiar with the issues of naval submarine warfare during the Cold War. But several people suggested that I take the same information and create fictional characters and retell the story as part of a novel, using the same information. I did, and Unknown Connections is the result.
The fourth novel, Library of the Sands, is based upon the factual event of the destruction of the library at Alexandria in the 7th Century by the invading Arab armies. The library was itself about 1,000 years old at that time. It was the largest and most complete library in the Western Hemisphere with collections dating back 1,000 years from many sources. The librarians had a long and wonderful history in developing and protecting the collection. It was, and remains, my contention that the men and women of the 7th Century were emotionally no different than the men and women of the 21st Century; but the technology is different. If I were the Chief Librarian of the Alexandria Library at the time would I let my collection be destroyed by the invading armies? Absolutely not. So, how would I protect the collection which was in my care and my responsibility? The novel, Library of the Sands, is in fact, devoted to telling the imaginary story about how this was actually accomplished.
The most recent novel, Instrument of Vengeance, is due to my enjoyment of the assassin which was told about in the series of novels by Lawrence Block. I enjoyed them, and then, as is my habit, I asked myself how someone becomes an assassin, and how can a business which offers assassination as a service, exist in the modern world? How do you find clients? How do you stay free and not get caught by the law enforcement services? After thinking about it for a little while, and with the technical background I have, it was easy to solve the problem. So, I wrote a novel about how it could be done. All the technical details are correct, and plausible.
MA: How would you characterize the antagonists in your stories?
LS: My bad guys are really not people, but events and organizations.
MA: Will you keep writing fiction, or are you going to concentrate more on your technical writing?
LS: I will continue to write novels as ideas and events appeal to me. I can’t predict what they will be, or when they will occur. But my current focus on my firm, Life Echoes, I expect will have me encounter some interesting historical events and stories which I will use as a basis for a new novel, or series of novels.
MA: Thanks very much, Louis, for being my guest-blogger today. I encourage my readers to learn more about Louis Solomon by visiting his many websites:
www.tumblr.com/tumblelog/louispsolomon Read More
MA: Folks, help me welcome today’s guest-blogger, Sylvia Ramsey. Growing up in a rural area of Missouri and being the child of a father born in 1898, she feels that her interpretation of life spans several generations. This influence can be recognized in both her poetry and her short stories. She has experienced life at many levels. One of her most prized possessions is a personal letter that was written to her by Rosemary A. Thurber giving her permission to adapt her father’s short story “The Last Clock” to be used for Readers Theatre.
Sylvia is presently a Communications professor and the Academic Resource Center Coordinator at GMC Community College in Martinez, GA. She describes herself as a determined scrapper who will wrench all the very best from life that she is capable of conquering. Her philosophy of life is reflected in her poems. “Armor For Survival” and “A Tired Vagabond.” More about the author can be found on her website or on the authors den website. http://www.authorsden.com/sylvialramsey1.
Her novel, An Underground Jewell, was a labor of love. She explains, “The ideas for stories all come from my life experiences and knowledge I have gained along the way. The book, An Underground Jewell, spawned from a short story that was written about a Christmas Eve in the distant future when life on earth had changed drastically. That story was written in 1989.
Where did the idea for the novel come from?
SR: The idea to create a novel originated because I let imagination loose to wonder about the possibilities of this story. I first began by creating a character who would write the story, and the reason why she wrote it. At that point, I began to develop other characters and a plot. I finally began writing the book. At one point, I had to stop writing because my husband became very ill, and I became his caregiver. At the same time, I was diagnosed with T3 bladder cancer. To add to the delay, my computer crashed and I had to start over. I was lucky that I had part of it printed out. After my husband died, I began writing again. Finally, 20 years later, it was finished and published. “ An Underground Jewell and my other two books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.
MA: How did you develop the character of your protagonist?
SR: Elizabeth Jewell is a very unusual woman in many ways. My best friend says that she is me, but I think her character has the traits of both my mother and paternal grandmother. Both of these ladies were strong and independent. I do not think either one of them would have left their future up to fate, because they never did. Elizabeth is like them, she sees a threat and does what she needs to do to help clear herself of the accusation. I can see where my friend would identify with me because I share some of the same traits. I wanted her to be unique in her world, and have enough foresight to see things around her that others may not see. She is intelligent enough to know that she needed help to clear herself, and because of her connections, she knew who to ask to help. There are several heroes in the novel, and there are many mysteries to solve other than clearing Elizabeth’s name. Some are solved along the way, and others are not revealed until the end. I have had people remark that I have revealed the outcome in my description, but they are only getting privy to the story on the surface, because it is much more complex than that.
MA: So who is your antagonist in the story?
SR: The “bad guys” are members of a group who have aspirations to control the society of the Western world. They have managed to infiltrate various agencies of our government to do so. Their underlying motive is control. They have an excellent understand of how language influences thinking and perceptual reality, so they have launched a long-term scheme to achieve their goal to control the people’s perception of reality.
MA: When did you start writing?
SR: I began writing when I was nine years old. I was the reporter for our 4-H club, and a new reporter at the local paper took me under his wing. He encouraged me to write feature article in addition to community news. By the age of twelve- years-old, I was getting bylines and a small paycheck each month. I have been writing something ever since. I do not remember thinking, “I want to be a writer”. It was just a part of who I am, and what I do.
I am always writing something, but not as a “profession”. I do a lot of writing at the college, blogging, and on my Facebook page. Currently, I am doing a blog series on Living with Bladder Cancer for the Healthy Women website. I am a sixteen-year bladder cancer survivor, and even though it is ranked fifth in prevalence over all, ranked fourth in males and as prevalent as cervical cancer but deadlier in women, it is very underserved. There is little awareness in the public sector, and even the medical community as a whole is basically under educated. I have a new blog that I just launched, Thoughtful Reflections, on which I hope to feature a variety of people in the field related to the publishing world.
MA: What type of professional writing do you do?
SR: In the everyday world at my “job”, I write lesson plans, reports and various types of writing that is done within the field of higher education. I have had research articles published in professional journals. In the mass media area, I have written news and feature articles for newspapers and magazines. In the creative realm, my love is poetry. Over one hundred of my poems have been published in literary journals. In 2004, my first book of poetry, Pulse Points of a Woman’s World, was published; in 2009 my first novel, An Underground Jewell, and in December of 2110, my first children’s book, Merchild Land was published.
MA: What projects are you working on now or plan for the future?
SR: There is a novel in the works that is a fantasy titled the Dark Crystals of Miradirth, and a collection of short stories titled, Squirrel Tales. I have several web pages, a blog (Thoughtful Reflections – http://wwwthouhtfulreflections.blogspot.com/), and a Facebook page called Ramsey’s Sacrificial Metaphor. I hope to do many more articles on bladder cancer as well as a collection of survivor stories. As far as An Underground Jewell is concerned, I have thought about doing another book that features the main character, but right now, I have other stories to tell.
MA: Sylvia, thanks very much for blogging with me today. I want my readers to know a few things about Sylvia, some of which she’s mentioned in passing, above. Sylvia is a 16-year survivor of bladder cancer, and looks at the experience as another learning peak in life. She is very much aware that even though this is the fifth most common cancer in the United States, it is very much underserved. She serves as the Vice-President of the American Bladder Cancer Society because she knows how important to provide support to those who have experienced this cancer, and how important it is to create more awareness around the world. That is why all of her royalties go to the American Bladder Cancer Society, www.bladdercancersupport.org. In March of this year, she sent them checks for close to $600 from her book sales. Her books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
10 Book Signing Essentials
When I began to have my own book signings, I found it fortunate in that the larger stores, Border’s Books and B. Dalton, provided not only tables but white cloth covers as well. Not till a little later did I realize that this did not hold true for all stores. I began to make a list of essentials a writer needs in order to present themselves in a professional manner.
1) Even larger stores sometimes have no table cloths. Carry your own. One store had an ample sized table but the cloth only covered the top. I prefer to tuck my travel bag of promotional materials under the table when possible for an easy grab when I need them. Therefore, my larger cloth was thrown over what the store provided, hung all the way down in front, and I was able to keep my bag out of site.
2) Carry a letter-sized plastic picture frame with your photo and book cover for display on your table. Sometimes, but seldom, stores will have their own stand-up table sign already made. I found these to be lacking. In addition to my photo and book cover, I also include a brief Bio of two to three small paragraphs. It’s amazing how many perspective buyers like to read about the author. It seems to draw them closer emotionally. They feel they know you and didn’t have to spend time asking you about yourself. Instead, they ask about your book.
Something extra I do is put a full-sized book cover photo on the back side of the clear plastic frame as well. The book cover can then be seen from various directions.
3) Have another stand to place your book in an upright position. Books lying flat on the table top can only present their edges to viewers. You want your cover showing in all its magnificence.
4) The major book stores have their own signs made and hanging on the front of the table cover, in addition to other areas in the store. However, for those shops that do not have posters, hopefully, you will have had some made. If your book signing is in your area, take some posters to the store to have those hung at least a week prior to your arrival.
5) Postcards. You can mail postcards to friends and even store and business owners in the area where your book signing will take place. When I run out of bookmarks, I use these cards instead.
6) Bookmarks. I often run out of bookmarks because people want to take one as a reminder to buy the book later. It’s unfortunate that they don’t buy it right away, but if a bookmark helps them remember, give it freely. This has worked for me. Too, at your table, every book should have a bookmark stuck into it.
7) Business cards. Though I’m not intending to show favoritism, I use vistaprint.com for all my cards. Wherever you prefer to buy them, Kinko’s maybe, make sure to have enough. Try to put your book cover on the card. If that’s not possible, make it something related to writing or to your Web site. Have these on your tabletop too.
8) Brochures. If you have a Web site and books to sell, you might consider having some brochures made – or make them yourself. Make them professional looking and not looking like a Xerox copy of a Xerox copy. If a signing is in your area, pass them out to people you meet in your daily routine of shopping and such. Ask local stores to display a few. If in a town outside your locale, arrive early and hand out some brochures to people in the area. This works well in malls. Have some of these on your table top. People will pick up anything to learn more. That means they spend more time at your table.
9) Flyers. Store managers are grateful for any help you can offer. Ask them if they would like some flyers to display around the store. Your flyers should be professional in appearance and not something you threw together and printed out on a bad printer. No Xerox copies as mentioned in #8 above.
10) Many other items can be given away to those who purchase your books. This is a simple way of saying thank you and building rapport with a reader who potentially will look for your next book. Too, one good item is pens or pencils with the book’s title, or your Web site URL. For promoting my Egyptian suspense novel, The Ka, I purchased huge quantities of tiny hand carved Egyptian scarabs in real colored stones. I allowed those who bought books to sort through the bin to find two that would match, possible to make earrings or whatever. Giving out little inexpensive extra items produces an aura of fun too.
Any or all of the above items serve to enhance your professional appearance and express to the store managers and prospective book buyers your sincerity, intention and commitment to your craft.
In today’s economy, when people cannot afford little luxuries, even one or two of these items will serve you well. Stand up at your table and get a lively conversation going with those who come to see you. It’s amazing what a smile can do.
Designing Book Covers
Do you visualize your book cover before you finish writing your opus? Maybe you wait till you finish and then decide what goes on the cover. Either way, several points to consider when designing a book cover can either promote your book or cause it to be overlook on the shelves, even online.
Your book cover must catch attention. It must also give a clue as to what the story may be about. The points listed are what convince a viewer to pick up the book and see what it’s about. But so much more goes into that cover.
1. Does your genre have the power to draw readers back to your next book? Many people read only one genre. They may read one book by you, but will your next cover entice them to pick up your next book? Too, many readers follow their favorite authors. If you are a new author breaking into a genre, does your cover have the power to entice a viewer to pick up your book?
2. The above point goes along with who your intended audience may be. Romance and mysteries are the best selling genres. If you write romance or mysteries, for example, then your covers are totally different. Where romance might show and man and woman in a love embrace, a mystery might have a pistol and spots of blood on the cover. That certainly wouldn’t work in reverse.
3. In addition to the art on the cover, you must plan the fonts you may use. The size and style of the lettering in the title and other verbiage also needs to be apropos to the genre. Also, the script on any cover needs proper placement. You certainly wouldn’t place any lettering over a crucial portion of the cover art, like a person’s face. Where you place the lettering can enhance the overall feel and promise of the story.
4. Color is vitally important when considering how to bring out the best of your story through the front of the book. All covers must offer their own eye-appeal.
While I use romance and mysteries in these comparisons, the same tips apply to books in any genre, including nonfiction.
Each one of these suggestions is vital if you are to create a cover that is eye-catching and can be the beginning or continuation of building your brand. The covers of your books should not only attract new readers but bring previous readers back to you time and again.
Please visit Mary Deal’s website for more wonderful articles like this one: Write Any Genre. Read More
MA: Today I am delighted to welcome Charles S. Weinblatt as my guest author. Charles was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1952. He is a retired University of Toledo administrator. He is the author of Jacob’s Courage and Job Seeking Skills for Students. His biography appears in the Marquis Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education. Charles was a frequent Toledo television news guest, providing business, economic and labor-management insight. He received the 2004 Douglas Frasier Swift Award and he was awarded a certificate of achievement by Chrysler Corporation.
Charles, welcome! Please tell me a little bit about your professional or personal background, and what you did before writing professionally.
CW: I was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1952; raised the only child in a middle-class home. My father was a pioneering Toledo (OH) psychiatrist, starting his practice in 1932. He was well known in the professional community. He was also a football star at The University of Toledo in the 1920s and again at Michigan, while in medical school. Tremendously intelligent and gentle, he was the perfect role model. My book is dedicated to my dad, who gave me all of the tools to become a good person. It is also dedicated to the six million lost souls murdered by The Third Reich. They are gone, but will never be forgotten.
I am a graduate of The University of Toledo, with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. My post-university career spanned 31 years; the first 15 years devoted to psychiatric and vocational rehabilitation counseling, followed by 16 years at The University of Toledo. During my last nine years at the University, I created and led The Division of Organization Development. My division helped businesses improve their performance. We generated consulting opportunities for faculty and earned considerable revenue for the University.
My biography appears in the Marquis Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Education. I continue to live in Ohio with my wife, who is a retired special education teacher. We have two adult children.
MA: So what brought you to writing fiction?
CW: I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. As a child, I wrote short stories and even some poetry. After college, my focus turned to family and career. Writing was pushed away for a while. Yet, the interest never departed and I was happy to return to it in earnest in retirement.
I had to retire at age 51 due to disability. Since I retired at a fairly young age, I decided that I should remain as mentally productive as possible. I decided to pursue writing. I had already been published for non-fiction in 1986, for a textbook called Job Seeking Skills for Students (Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company). After my University career, I turned to fiction. Three years later, my Holocaust novel, Jacob’s Courage, (Mazo Publishers), was published.
I made no conscious decision to write novels. Perhaps, as Mozart once described for his composition, the words were already within me. With Jacob’s Courage, I sometimes felt as though I was taking dictation.
I had known as a young adult that members of my maternal extended family were Holocaust victims. Only after I retired did those thoughts rise to the surface in a way that I could harness. I could not tell the story of my lost ancestors in any other format than a novel. No member of my current family knew enough about our lost relatives to write a memoir or a non-fictional account. No amount of research could produce an explanation for their disappearance into the darkness of Nazi-occupied Russia. Like millions of other innocent Europeans, they disappeared, without a trace. Perhaps they were shot and bulldozed into a trench, as at Babi-Yar, or maybe they were gassed in a death camp, such as Auschwitz, or possibly they perished from starvation, forced labor or the ubiquitous disease that existed in Nazi concentration camps. So, it was to be a fictional account.
I committed myself to creating a story of young lovers who became trapped within the horror and brutality of the Holocaust, as I imagined happened to countless young Jews, although not necessarily my ancestors. My hope was also that this story would be inspirational, perhaps as holocaust education for young people. Nowhere else today is it more important to teach about the Holocaust than with our children and grandchildren. A novel is a good choice for Holocaust education. Rather than dry historical accounts that go in one ear and out the other, a coming-of-age love story can engage youthful minds in a way that non-fiction does not. In the words of writer and philosopher George Santayana, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
I was also able to ground portions of the novel in fact, based upon my 100-year-old mother’s memories. As a child in Russia, she witnessed the brutality and terror of pogroms against her Jewish relatives. And, while these experiences occurred before the Holocaust, they provided significant grounding for important character development. She will soon be 101 years old, yet she can recall with perfect clarity the terror of Russian anti-Semitism.
MA: Please tell my readers about Jacob’s Courage.
CW: Jacob’s Courage chronicles the dazzling beauty of passionate love and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are brutally murdered. This is a tender coming of age story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. The historical novel presents scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. Follow lovers Jacob and Rachael from their comfortable Salzburg homes to a decrepit ghetto, from there to a prison camp where they became man and wife. Revel in their excitement as they escape and join the local partisans, fighting their Nazi tormentors. Finally ride the crowded, fetid train to the terror of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Stung by the death of loved-ones, enslaved and starved, they have nothing to count on but faith, love and courage. From desperate despair, to unforgettable moments of chaste beauty, Jacob’s Courage examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality.
MA: How did you develop your protagonists’ characters…I understand you have two?
CW: The primary protagonist is Jacob, a 17-year old Austrian. He’s a very normal young man, eyeing the transition from secondary school to university. Jacob has some of my unique character weaknesses. It was important that my protagonists appear as normal young people, just like anyone else. The secondary protagonist is Jacob’s true love Rachael. Rachael is everything a young man would want; she is beautiful, bright, charming, deeply in love and fiercely loyal. Together, the young lovers are confronted with the most horrifying experience imaginable. To survive, they have only themselves to count on. They were not heroic individuals until they reached the precipice of destruction. I imagine that each of us wishes that we would become heroic under such circumstances.
MA: What are their strengths and weaknesses?
CW: Jacob Silverman is a very normal 17-year old. His thoughts focus upon three things: attending university, becoming a physician and, most of all, his precious love Rachael Goldberg. The young lovers had everything to look forward to, until Germany invaded Austria.
One night, in a terrifying nightmare, more real than life itself, Jacob finds himself older, emaciated and weak, in a large brick building with a roaring fire. He soon realizes that men wearing striped pajamas are burning the bodies of dead naked women and girls. Jacob awoke with acrid smoke in his lungs and a premonition that he would play a role in saving his people, who had been almost completely destroyed.
Sleeping inside of this normal boy was a future leader of men in combat. Yet, to reach that critical point in his life, Jacob would face starvation, sickness, brutality, forced labor and the death of his loved ones. He would need to find uncommon strength of body and spirit; and he would require good fortune, including the ability to play virtuoso violin.
MA: I imagine that with your subject matter, you had plenty of possible antagonists to develop.
CW: With Nazi Germany, it’s not difficult to create a credible antagonist. I created one particularly vicious antagonist, a commandant at Theresienstadt called Strobel. In that concentration camp, Strobel gained complete control over Rachael. This evil man followed her around the camp and made it his business to know everything about her. The result was very ugly.
In reality, the typical Holocaust survivor resided in several different ghettos and camps. Incarcerated Jews (and tens of thousands of others) became a source of free slave labor for The German Armed forces and for German industrialists. They were moved from place to place, as their slave labor could best assist the Third Reich. In addition, concentration camp commandants were often transferred. So, it would have been unusual for the typical prisoner and commandant to have been together very long. But, there were certainly many colorful commandants, guards and kapos at each camp.
MA: Did any of your family’s real-life experiences factor in to the plot at all?
CW: Certainly my fears and desires as a teenager became part of Jacob’s personality. He was brighter than me and far better behaved. Yet, I felt comfortable with his character development. I was far more worried about developing Rachael’s character. It’s a challenge writing a major character about someone of a different gender. Nevertheless, I believe that teenagers, especially young lovers, have some very common personality characteristics. My challenge was more in portraying how those characters changed and developed when faced with the most terrifying experiences imaginable. Holocaust survivors were not the same people that they were when the Holocaust began. No human could absorb the unrelenting daily terror, the death and murder of loved ones, the physical abuse, brutal forced labor and years of starvation and sickness, without it changing their personality. The lucky ones remained sane – and even that is arguable. My characters also had to change, yet without losing the better parts of their psyche. Without passionate love, they likely could not have managed it.
MA: So, what’s in your future writing plans?
CW: I recently completed a children’s book and I’m almost done with a science fiction novel. I’m thinking about writing another Holocaust book, or possibly a sequel to Jacob’s Courage. One thing I will try to avoid in the future is a book as long as Jacob’s Courage. At 524 pages, it was a serious investment in time. Yet, I could not have covered the final seven years of the Holocaust with less material. In fact, at my publisher’s urging, I removed some parts of the manuscript. My science fiction novel will come in at about 200 pages, a much more rapid commitment to reading. Whichever way I turn, I will always be writing something.
MA: You sound like you keep very busy with your writing! Will we see Jacob or Rachael again in a follow-on to Jacob’s Courage?
CW: Because Jacob and Rachael became heroic figures in my Holocaust novel, there is a natural pilot for a sequel. And, because they had to wait a long time in a displaced persons camp, there would be an increased likelihood that they would have immigrated to the Holy Land. They also had simultaneous dreams about being in a place that they later learned was Palestine. With Jacob’s leadership and combat experience, he would be a natural for an officer position in Israel’s nascent armed forces. Rachael would also have a natural role to play in the start of the Jewish nation. So, stay tuned.
MA: I will! Is there anything else you would like to add?
CW: Writing is a talent. Some people are born writers. The rest of us envy them. Still, writing is a skill that can be cultivated. If you think that you might have the ability to be a successful writer, maybe you do. Take writing courses at your local college or university. Participate in continuing education courses. Read books about how to develop your writing skills and take on-line courses. While it’s true that the vast majority of us will never become a renowned author, it feels pretty good to cash a royalty check. It could happen for you. Never give up!
And for those of you who could care less about earning money from it, just enjoy! It feels great to create stories about unknown people in unforeseen circumstances. Whether anyone reads it or not, it will always be your unique creation. For us, writing is not a matter of dollars and sense. It’s a matter of love.
MA: Thanks, Charles. I encourage all my readers to visit Charles’s blog: Jacob’s Courage Read More
I am pleased to introduce today’s guest-blogger, Stacy Juba. Stacy is the author of the mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today. She is a freelance writer and former daily newspaper reporter with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit, including three New England Press Association awards and the American Cancer Society New England Chapter’s Sword of Hope Media Award. Her young adult novel Face-Off was published under her maiden name, Stacy Drumtra, when she was 18 years old. Read More
Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome my guest-blogger for today, Linda M. Faulkner. Linda is a transplant from New England to Montana, which is the setting of her mystery novel, Second Time Around. In addition to writing fiction, she also pens a column, Business Sense, in The Weekender, a monthly entertainment newspaper (Orlando, FL) and articles for both regional and national magazines such as Three Rivers Lifestyle and Rough Notes. A tremendous body of Linda’s work appears in the insurance industry, where she has developed, written, and instructed numerous continuing education workshops and seminars. Visit Linda’s web site at: http://www.lindamfaulkner.com. Read More
I’d like to welcome my guest-blogger, Larry Brooks, to the Child Finder Trilogy blog. Larry is a novelist, screenwriter and writing instructor. He has published six critically-acclaimed thrillers, one of which was a USA Today bestseller and another named to Publishers Weekly “Best Books of 2004″ list after a starred review. In addition to leading writing workshops, he runs an instructional writing website, www.storyfix.com. Read More