Hi, April! Welcome to Susan Finlay Writes blog site. Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer?
Hi, Thanks Susan for letting me join your blog today! It’s an honor. I have a brief writing background. My first book was the only thing I ever wrote of that magnitude. I suppose to start as a writer one must be a reader, so from that viewpoint I have a long career as a reader! I always loved to read from a very young age. I still read a lot and have a giant collection of books. I’m a self-proclaimed book hoarder.
You are working on a non-fiction book, The Altered I—A Holocaust Memoir. It’s based on your father-in-law’s life. Can you tell us about the book? How did you get involved with writing it?
I always wanted to write a book but didn’t know just what I would write about. I had a desire, but not a subject. Then I realized I had a great subject right in the family. My father-in-law is a Holocaust survivor and he spent many years traveling around the world sharing his story with young and old alike. Many people were impressed with his story and always encouraged him to write about it. Needless to say he didn’t until I stepped in and suggested we start the process. The story really became my own and I loved every minute getting it down on paper.
The book is told as a personal narrative. People want to hear him tell it so I really thought that was the best way for it to be written. Nailing the voice was a challenge at first. Sometimes it was so clearly my voice and sometimes so clearly Joe’s. Finally, I found a way to merge them both and I believe I succeeded.
Do you have a publication date yet? Would you share a brief excerpt from the book?
No exact publication date set as of yet, but I heard a rumor that there might be a release November, 2013. Believe me, I am as anxious as anybody for the launch date. I am in the process of planning the book launch event, so that is good news, because it means very shortly I will have a fixed date.
I would be thrilled to share an excerpt. I’m including a link in this interview so your readers can read as much or little as they choose.
Did you do a lot of research for the book? Is there anything surprising that you discovered?
I did a lot of research! Everything Joe told me I fact checked, then checked and re-checked! One example is Joe had told me he had seen the Disney movie “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” as a little boy. My editor came back and told me that he couldn’t have seen that movie because it wasn’t in Poland the year Joe said he had seen it. I went back to Joe and asked him again and he definitely said he had seen it. “How else do I know the song?” he said and started to sing “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho” in Polish. I really believed him, but I didn’t want to leave it at that so I contacted a historian at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. It was confirmed that “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” played in Poland in the 1930s when Joe saw it. I made sure to add that to the footnotes!
Has your father-in-law read any of the book? Is he very involved with it?
He was completely involved with the book at the beginning. We started with recorded interviews which I then transcribed and gave him. I put it together in a manuscript format and gave him that to read as well. We then got together to go over corrections, additions, and clarifications. After that it was up to me! I found an editor and a publisher. All the editing has been done from my extensive research and notes.
Joe has read one of the edited copies, and he really enjoyed it. I know that sounds strange to enjoy a Holocaust story, but that is what he said. He even asked his daughter to read it to him, and they both were very impressed with what we (me and Joe) had accomplished.
Are there any scenes in the book that were painful for you to write, or that made you cry?
Yes, there were many difficult scenes. After a while though I felt like a surgeon and it became a sort of forensic approach. Not to say that there isn’t any emotion. There is plenty of that! One of the most unusual things about Joe is that he is emotionally numb, so I had to convey, in a non-overdramatized way, deep emotions. One of the most touching scenes to me however wasn’t about the Holocaust. It was after the war when Joe had emigrated to America. It involved his first wife – and I don’t want to give anything away – but I broke down and cried. I felt like I knew her, even though I never met her in my life. I felt so much empathy for her it just broke my heart.
Are you planning any other books? If so, what kind?
I am planning more books. I would like to delve into the world of fiction. I have said in the past that I wouldn’t dare write another nonfiction, they are too hard! But, I was approached recently with a terrific true-story and I might not be able to turn it down. In five years time I would really love to have two books published and one on the way to being released. I would like to write a fictionalized account of The Altered I, plus I have a couple of historical novel ideas and one modern fiction on a subject near and dear to my heart – raising a special needs child – plus several other ideas rolling around my brain.
What books or authors have most influenced you in your own writing?
I have always loved the epic novel like Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, or Tai-Pan by James Clavell, or The Winds of War by Herman Wouk. I’m very influenced by big, sweeping stories of another time and place. I love history, I love war stories, and I love fiction, so those are the biggest influencers in my writing.
Do you have a writing routine, a special place where you go to do your writing, or a certain time of day? Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what kind of music?
I find that I am best for any task in the morning. I am in the process of working out a good writing schedule. In addition to writing, I assist my husband with our business and I have other family responsibilities. It’s hard carving out the time and building up the energy to let the creative energy flow! Marketing and learning how to market this book have taken up a lot of my time, but I’m gearing up for some serious writing days ahead!
I really don’t listen to music when I write because I find it too distracting. It’s almost like listening to two (or more) conversations at once. If I do have music playing I prefer classical. I find that genre to be the most inspiring and emotionally uplifting. But usually it is dead quiet, except of course for the voices in my head!
Please list any websites or social media links for yourself or your book. Thanks!
Pre-order link: http://leruepress.com/ (all the way on the right hand side of web site)