Hello, Readers!–I thought you might like to see a recent interview I did with Book Marketing Buzz Blog, in anticipation of the launch of my book, A Castle in Brooklyn, on January 1, 2023. Here I discuss my motivation as a writer, along with the message of my novel. Thanks for taking the time to read!–Shirley
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Friday, December 16, 2022
Interview With Historical Fiction Author Shirley Russak
1. What motivated you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and turning it into this book? My family always inspires my writing. My parents were Holocaust survivors who came to America, specifically Brooklyn, New York, seeking to rebuild their lives with a family of their own. Jacob typifies all those who come to this country hoping that their dreams will be fulfilled. For him, the dream is to build a home which he envisions as a castle.
- What is it about and who is it for? The book is about a man, Jacob, and his friend, Zalman, who having suffered many losses and brutality from the Nazis, journey to America in search of a better life. Jacob, with the help of his good friend and his new wife, Esther, begins building the home that he has always dreamed of. That dream of a home and family is fulfilled, but then tragedy occurs—a tragedy which threatens Jacob and Zalman’s friendship and even his marriage. My book is for anyone who yearns for a better life, whether a newly arrived immigrant or someone seeking a new beginning. It is also for anyone who knows and appreciates the love of friends and family. I believe that just about anyone can relate to Jacob’s story.
- What takeaways will the reader be left with after reading it? There are several. First, there is the power of dreams, and understanding that no matter how bleak things may appear, our dreams can be realized with work, patience, and persistence. Second is the importance of family and friends. These bonds provide the strength and encouragement to fulfill our desires and should not be lightly discarded. Jacob, Zalman, and Esther exemplify these qualities.
- How did you decide on your book’s title and cover design? Deciding on the title was an effort, but with the help of my editors and close friends, I think we have found the perfect one. Jacob is the central figure in the novel, but so is the home which symbolizes the culmination of his dream. The notion of a castle in Brooklyn, the place where I was born and grew up, is ironic, but a fitting one. I must credit Carmen Johnson, my editor, and the artists at Little A with this beautiful cover. The female depicted suggests Esther, and her clothes evoke the time period. We do not see her entire face, an idea left to the reader and one which motivates us to read the novel.
- What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers? Keep writing! My son, a successful screenplay writer, would tell me this each time I felt despondent over searching for a home for my work. Even if you are not yet published, you are still a writer and the act of writing and completing a manuscript is always cause for hope. Never give up and be open to criticism and revision.
- What trends in the book world do you see — and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? I am happy to see multiculturalism being embraced as a topic. My book represents one aspect of this idea in Jacob and Zalman, as Jews who flee Europe in search of a better life in America. Riku, a Japanese American who was imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp as a child, represents another facet. I see more memoirs too being published, which is a good thing, as the individuals portrayed can be role models; readers often relate to these stories. I also see more books being made available through various modes, in paperback, hardcover, Kindle and audio format.
- What challenges did you overcome to write this book? There are always challenges when it comes to writing. I work fulltime as a college professor, so I had to carve out spaces of time to write. Sometimes that meant getting up early to sit at my desk or even in the middle of the night when I would be struck with a new idea. Emotionally, writing this novel was difficult at times, especially writing about the scene in the barn during the Holocaust, and later when a pivotal tragedy occurs. Revision is also a challenge, but a necessary one. Both my agent, Eve Attermann at William Morris, and Carmen Johnson with her team were instrumental in getting this book to reach its potential.
- How would you describe your writing style? Unlike that of mysteries or suspense novels, my style is character-based. I try to create characters who are well-rounded, non-stereotypical. Stream of consciousness also figures in my work. I hope to create rich descriptions which evoke realistic scenes. I hope that my readers will see aspects of people they know and stories they can relate to.
- If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours? If people want to lose themselves in a story with recognizable characters who pursue their dreams despite seemingly insurmountable odds, then they should read my novel. If they want to be moved and inspired, or simply are looking for a good read, then I hope they will choose A Castle in Brooklyn.