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The Book Smuggler’s Den had a fantastic author interview submission from Eric D. Goodman and Sally Whitney. Eric and Sally were first published together in the 2007 anthology, New Lines from the Old Line State: An Anthology of Maryland Writers. Sally’s second novel, When Enemies Offend Thee, was released by Pen-L Publishing in March 2020, and Eric’s fifth book, The Color of Jadeite, was published by Loyola’s Apprentice House Press October 2020. Both are interested in the other’s work, so they wanted to get together and talk about their new novels, writing processes, and what comes next.
“I made so many promotion mistakes with my first book, the award-winning novel This Is the Place! Even with a background in publicity, marketing, and journalism. Not least of which were these two nearly universally false assumptions: Your publisher will assign you a publicist and all your book’s promotion will be taken care of. And, once an author realizes that she must take her book’s promotion in hand, a publicist is essential and one book publicist is about as good as the other.”
“My personal experience doesn’t make its way directly into my fiction but rather provides a background for family drama. I am sensitive to the effect of one’s actions on the fabric of family dynamics. We are products both of our families and of the society at large. Understanding, embracing, and eventually healing from the aftermath of our families of origin is an integral part of maturation and finding one’s place within the family and in society.”
“The Blue Island is theatrical, cinematic, the way “Ascent to the Gallows,” is a kind of movie. I was glad the folks I asked to read it for blurbs caught on to that. Not that I’m attached to readers seeing the same way I do, but The Blue Island is a quadruple-feature. I’ve always wanted to make films, studied film in college, thought and dreamed in technicolor. So, among the other books, The Blue Island comes most specifically from the desire to make a movie….”
“The most challenging part of composing in the sonnet form for me is to keep the rhymes from sounding hackneyed. There are certain groups of words that lend themselves to rhyme (groups like true, due, you, or see, be, free, for example) and others which might be more difficult (such as rules, jewels, fools). Because many of these words are easy to rhyme (and probably even more so when they are not) I usually find myself writing a little list on the side of the paper with rhymes that might work. Then I try to fit them into what might make sense with what I am trying to say. I just don’t want it to sound like something that has been said or heard before. Even if the words I am rhyming are commonly used rhyming words I want it to sound like it has been rhymed by me for the first time.”
“I’ve loved creative writing, ever since primary school, so the idea of writing a book was always in the back of my mind. Then I thought, in three years I’ll be celebrating my 40th, so I better get on and do it! Life is always busy, whatever is happening, so waiting for the best time to write, is like waiting forever!”
“I write about topics that many are afraid to tackle. For example, I released a book of short poems on death to help others grieve better. My play, In the Silence of Words, deals with issues like depression and suicide. Everyone has experienced or will experience challenging or terrible things in their lives. But not everyone is ready and willing to talk about them in a positive way. Without the heavy depression I went through for ten years, I would not be the person I am today. I am grateful for what it has taught me.”
“I invest all of my writing with my own deep, emotional content. I sincerely believe in the words that I write and the power that they can have to inspire or motivate people. It’s why I have adopted themes of inspiration and romanticism in all of my poetry because they are the things that mean the most to me and what I want to share most with the readers of the world.”
“I write about whatever interests me, and I’m curious about a lot of things. I also try to write about things other people are curious about, which opens up a world of topics. I began in nonfiction, as a journalist, and most of what I write is nonfiction.
Writing in different styles is something that developed over time. When I decided to write my memoir, I wanted to get away from a journalistic, magazine-y style and adopt a more lyrical, literary nonfiction style. It took a lot of study, practice, and trial and error to begin to write differently.”
“I began writing poetry about twelve years ago, though I was then taking a course in writing short stories. My first poem about a snowstorm was accepted by a small digest. The success of it and seeing my name in print got me hooked on poetry, though I hope vanity was not the only motivator at the time. Soon a mystery won second place at the Toasted Cheese Literary Journal. But doing poetry became and remained the dominant genre for me.”
“I think for some readers, the social and environmental circumstances in a number of the stories will feel like a warning about the near future, but for other readers these might reflect the past or the present. The typical survivalist apocalypse genre is fundamentally reactionary: it’s a fantasy about indulging brutality and individualism, and placing the worst things imaginable just ahead of us so bright and loud that nobody can bring up that settler colonialism and genocide and slavery and war crimes have been happening, are still happening, all along. Some of the characters in my stories joke with each other about preparing for the eventual end of the world (or subsume themselves in nostalgia for an irretrievable past) as a way of putting off dealing with the problems right in front of them.”
“I had a very privileged upbringing in New York City, one of the most diverse places in the world, and yet, because of my background, I was constantly being told that the literature I loved didn’t belong to me—that I needed to be British or European, and preferably male, to be able to read and understand a poet like Keats. Many years later, as an academic, I still hear that message: people don’t expect someone with a name like mine to have things to say about poems written two hundred years ago by white men. Keats’s Odes grew out of my experience of being an outsider to the English literary canon—which, it turns out, Keats also was. His family was working-class, he didn’t attend university, and, as his critics never tired of pointing out, he couldn’t read Greek. Keats and I have a certain kinship that way, but it’s lopsided; his poetry will always know less about me than I know about it. The book doesn’t try to overcome that dynamic, but uses it to see Keats in a new, more contemporary light, in a way that makes him accessible to people, like me, who’ve been told they won’t get it or shouldn’t want to.”
“As an advertising copywriter, I have always loved playing with words. And I suppose the idea of writing a story in book form was something I always quite fancied having a go at. But I guess the impetus really took hold when I had children and would read them stories. My first attempt was an experiment to see what happened if I just sat down and started writing. But I’m not one of those kind of writers that can write by the seat of my pants. After 15,000 words I just didn’t know where to take the thing and I dried up. My daughter read my unfinished manuscript and nagged me to finish it since she had enjoyed reading what I had penned. I did try several times to revisit the story I had begun but could never resolve it to my satisfaction, so put it to one side and resorted to thinking of another completely different story for my daughter. And the idea for my first book came to me gradually while the advertising agency I was working for was going through a bizarre worldwide merger that would take the best part of a year to come to fruition. During this time work dried up and I had time to think of a story, and this time I would write a very detailed synopsis. The idea of a young boy’s affinity with birds was quite probably triggered by my son’s remarkable ability to brilliantly mimic seagulls, and from this random trigger, I created a storyline for my first book, Sleeping with the Blackbirds.”
Growing up, all I knew was that in 1956 my grandparents went back to Germany and that not long after they returned to Tel Aviv my grandfather died. Only in my late thirties, when I asked my mom about hereditary diseases in our family, I found out that my grandfather took his own life. She told me that five months after returning from that trip, my grandfather jumped from a building in Tel Aviv. Then, after my mother died in 1992, I found a box with letters that my grandparents had sent my mom from that trip, and I was hoping that these letters would explain why my grandfather did it, so I had the letters translated, and went to Germany to retrace their journey. On a visit to the city of Hamm (in Westphalia), where my grandfather had his law office until 1933, I was handed a thick folder that opened my eyes to the legal battle my mom initiated to prove that those who had forced her father out of his profession as a lawyer were responsible for his death.
“When you get into the world and you just go. You just take off running and flying and sailing the stars. There’s nothing like that other than maybe sledding down a massive mountain you climbed yourself or camping alone in the wild or full immersion in a culture and language you’ve never known. It’s not unlike culture shock — invigorating, intoxicating, real. Mostly just real. Tolkien taught us that. I think when we’re making something, we’re testifying to the truest nature of ourselves and reality: that we’re created beings. Anyone that doubts that hasn’t thought through the contingent state of affairs in which we find ourselves. Gravity, for instance, or super strings vibrating in the tenth dimension or even the multiverse — none of these things contain the cause of their own ontology. And interacting with your own characters is a way to get perspective on that.”
“I’m a firm believer in speaking your truth. If you have a burning desire in your soul to write and don’t know where to begin, look inward. Nobody has lived your life, your way. Even if you are writing fiction, your mind is a one of a kind. Putting your own spin on a creative tale will be different from any other, particularly if you draw from your own life experiences. Don’t suffer over every word. If I reach a point where 2 words pop into my mind and I can’t decide, I put a slash in between them and choose my preference during the edit. If I still can’t decide, I’ll let whoever does the final edit pick their favorite. Editors appreciate the gesture.”
“I feel that you certainly have to have an understanding of what you are writing, and you do that by immersing yourself in the scene, the emotion, the character, the memory you are trying to describe. I don’t feel you can describe something or show the reader why they should care about what you’re talking about if you don’t believe in what you’re writing. I don’t feel you can detach from your subject and simultaneously convince your readers to care.”
“For me, writing helps me work through what I am thinking and feeling. It clarifies what feels all jumbled up inside – like rolling a desperately tangled skein of yarn before you can keep crocheting. It takes work, patience, and time. Sometimes you come out the other end with something you were expecting, a belief that holds true. And sometimes, your whole world perspective shifts. But then, that is the magic of books. Is it not?”
Local author Amber Byers talks about her newest book and more!
“I think girls and students need to know this, that it is more inspiring for them than is a victim narrative, and that to ignore the accomplished and highly educated women of past times is another form of misogyny, part of our general ignorance of history.”
“There is always present the contemplation of the divine and what it might mean for those of us who live within the sphere of the created world. And then there is erotic love, or sex, which is the eternal subject around which the world revolves. In many respects, not much has changed in the past four hundred years.”
“I was inspired by the birth of my first child. The story had always been up there, in the attic of my mind so to speak, but after she was born, I started to write feverishly. Initially, that meant a lot of outlines, character notes, and ramblings in notebooks. After a year, I read through then carefully, and translated the story into a cohesive structure. The only way I could do that was via my typewriter.”
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