Award-winning author wraps up book festival
Sunday, Nov. 19, 10:30 am, Ohef Sholom Temple
Catching up with author Neville Frankel is like chatting with a favorite professor. He’s knowledgeable and kind and excited to share both his research tactics and his excitement about his newest novel, On the Sickle’s Edge. Frankel will speak at Ohef Sholom Temple as part of the Simon Family JCC’s Lee & Bernard Jaffe* Family Jewish Book Festival.
Jewish News: What is the first book that inspired you to write?
Neville Frankel: I don’t think one can ever pinpoint the book or event that inspires one to write. But here’s a series of events that certainly contributed to the direction my life has taken. When I was 12, I read The Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart. I remember it as a dark, terrifying, deeply upsetting book—but it was my first encounter with a personal experience of the Holocaust, and I was deeply touched by the experience in a way that has remained with me for over 50 years. As an adult, I came across E. L. Doctorow’s comment that the historian tells you what happened, but the writer of historical fiction tells you what it felt like to be there. I realized that the reading of this book has compelled me to tell people how it felt to be there.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Like most activities, it energizes when it goes well, and exhausts when it doesn’t.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
NF: If I tried to be original I would fail miserably, and I have no idea what any particular reader wants. So trying to deliver to readers what I think they want would be guesswork at best. I am fortunate in that when I write, my relationship is with my characters, and I write their stories as they tell me to.
If you could tell your younger writing- self anything, what would it be?
Read more novels, spend every day writing, ignore what’s fashionable and popular. Find your own voice and be true to it. Most importantly, prepare yourself to earn a living so that you don’t have to depend upon writing to put food on the table.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It’s easy to get trapped in the rabbit-holes of history and lose the thread of the particular story I’m writing. So I do as much research as is necessary to make the story believable, whether that’s reading, talking to people, or searching on the internet. Then I stop.
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
Not really. But so far, I find it most interesting to write in the first person, and there is a spiritual component to telling a story from inside a character’s head. I find myself thinking about and experiencing things in a way that would be foreign to me.
Free and open to the community. RSVP (required) at SimonFamilyJCC.org/bookfestival. Brunch sponsored by Sharon and Bill Nusbaum, included. This Lee and Bernard Jaffe* Family Jewish Book Festival event is sponsored by Lawrence Steingold. RSVP to SimonFamilyJCC.org/bookfestival.
*of blessed memory
– Erin Doughtery