Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Interview with Lev Raphael, author of ROSEDALE IN LOVE

Today's featured Historical Novel Society Conference speaker is Lev Raphael, author of twenty-four books, among them ROSEDALE IN LOVE: A GILDED AGE NOVEL. The son of Holocaust survivors, Lev has published countless articles, stories and essays in a wide range of Jewish publications and has keynoted three international Holocaust conferences. He has been resident book reviewer for two NPR stations in Michigan and had his own public radio talk show. He currently blogs about books and culture for The Huffington Post. His novel ROSEDALE IN LOVE re-imagines Edith Wharton's HOUSE OF MIRTH from the viewpoint of one of Lily Barton's despised suitors. You can learn more about Lev Raphael and his work at his website. At the HNS Conference, Lev will share the wealth of his public-speaking experience in the Saturday morning session "How to do a Killer Reading."

1. What got you first interested in historical fiction? 

I've loved reading history since elementary school, especially books that had genealogies and maps about the ebb and flow of battles and kingdoms. Maybe also because I'm also a child of history myself in this way: both my parents were Holocaust survivors and I would never have been born had war not uprooted them from their homes and brought them together in a displaced persons camp.  Books about W.W. II and set during the war have fascinated me for a long time and eventually I will write my own.

2. How do you find the people and topics of your books? 

They always find me.  My mind is like an airport: planes are always circling, waiting to land (though there aren't long lines at Security and I can always keep my shoes on). I wish I had a clone to help me write. Or that I could type faster. 

3. Do you follow a specific writing and/or research process? 

Every book has its own genesis, demands, rhythm, pleasures and challenges.  If I tried imposing a system, it wouldn't feel natural; I let the book shape how I work on it. For instance, I've only done one page of my next novel, but I'm heading to Belgium next month to do site research before I write one more word. This time, I know being there is essential so I can soak up atmosphere, take photos and notes. 

4. For you, what is the line between fiction and fact? 

That's actually not a problem I worry about since I'm not writing journalism, though I have reviewed forThe Washington Post and many other newspapers, magazines, and NPR stations. 

5. Do you have an anecdote about a reading or fan interaction you'd like to share? 

I've read at the Library of Congress and lots of fascinating locations in my career, but nothing beat being invited to read from my Edith Wharton-inspired novel Rosedale in Love at a Wharton conference in Florence last summer.  It was a huge honor, and the venue for my reading was an amazing small Gothic church. Plus, I had a week in Florence. I felt blessed. 

6. Where do you feel historical fiction is headed as a genre? 

It's only going to get more and more popular as the interest in literary fiction continues to wane and genre fiction readers multiply.

7.  Is there an era/area that is your favorite to write about? How about to read?

I've written about the Gilded Age and am going to write about the Middle Ages, but I read anything that tells a good story in engaging prose.  Those first few pages are crucial to me: if I'm not hooked, I'll move on even if the book is getting praised by the whole world. That's probably a result of my years of reviewing. Before that, I'd slog through to the end even if I didn't like a book, but life is too short. 

8. What book was the most fun for you to write? 

Every one of my 24 books has been a joy to write, but that's because I'm not one of those writers who complain about how hard our lives are or how hard it is to find inspiration.  I even love revisions.  Picking a favorite, though, is easy: Rosedale in Love, because it rewrote Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth and I grew up in New York surrounded by The Gilded Age. My local public library was a Stanford White building. 

9. Can you tell us about your latest publication? 

My latest book is actually a guide for writers at all levels of their career: Writer's Block is Bunk. It looks at the realities of the writing life and offers advice most people don't get. 

10. Do you have a most interesting question or crazy anecdote related to your writing you would like to share? 

A character in my Nick Hoffman mystery series has a cabin in northern Michigan and even friends have asked me if they can borrow it, or even rent it!

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