Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Writers Wednesday

If you read or write historical fiction, you're in for a treat. Author Antonio Elmaleh shares a bit of his experience in creating his carefully researched  and well crafted post-Civil War  novel, THE ONES THEY LEFT BEHIND.

Native New Yorker, Elmaleh, who began his career in film, started researching and writing his novel in 1999 and saw his work published in 2014.

The Ones They Left Behind is inspired by the true story of  Gilbert Bates, a civil war veteran who carried the American Flag  from Vicksburg to Washington D.C. in 1868 as a symbol of unity. The novel is told through the eyes of the fictional veteran Harriman Hickenlooper, and addresses not just the experience of a single man, but shines a light on the wounds of the past that continue to resonate into the present and the ongoing need for healing.   

What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing?
I enjoyed rewriting more than writing. I am very observant. I listen well.
How does your career as a writer influence other areas of your life and vice-versa?
It teaches me patience and hones my ear for the way people talk, act and feel. My love of history informs me as a writer of historical fiction.
What do you do when you're not writing?
Read, stay connected to family and friends, travel.

Briefly, what is your book about?
It's about a man learning to forgive himself and others, and find a reason to live and love after suffering excruciating loss.
What led you to write the book?
Seeing that a great divide rends our country from wounds of the Civil War to this day and wanting to tell a story of hope and reconciliation that is as pertinent today as it was 160 years ago.

What would you like readers to take from it?
To believe that one man can make a difference and to remember that our truest selves will always love and care for one another.
What are your current and future projects?
I am writing another book and continue to finance start-up sustainable energy and sustainable living companies.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?
I write every first draft longhand on yellow legal pads. I write 2-4 hours a day, but no particular time of day. I read about my subject and travel to where the story takes place. I rewrite intensively and edit myself mercilessly. I go for three words instead of six.
What challenges did you face researching material and balancing fact with fiction?
Answer: First, there were no live people to interview, so finding the voices of characters came from within me. Second, I focused my research so I stayed on point and did not stray into tangential or superfluous material. Third, knowing when to move from fact into finding the spirit and implication of those facts on my characters.
What books and authors have influenced your writing and how?
Elmore Leonard's "10 Rules of Writing" (hint: it's about ten pages long) and Steven King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft" stand at the top of the list.
Writers of influence: Ernest Hemingway, Elmore Leonard, Steven King, Stephen Ambrose, Alan Furst, Joseph Conrad
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it it?
No, there are just some times when I don't write, but I am always researching through reading and travel, which is part of writing.
Talk about revising and /or suggestions for upcoming writers.
Rewriting is like film editing, the realized finished work is in that process, so learn to trust it and beware of quick fixes and magic bullets. Learn to give space on the page. Like in music, often silence and pauses are more dramatic and powerful than loud noise. Big hint: Learn to trust your reader's own imagination. Giving them less provokes them to fill in details, which deepens their identification with the characters and their journeys.
What's one additional piece of advice about writing or publishing you'd like to pass on to readers and writers?
Be gentle on yourself when you work. You are building an entire world for someone else, do it with patience and care, but no judgment. The inner critic loves to hamper and second-guess what you've done, but that critic isn't doing the work, it's just being supercritical. Consider each day's work one step and don't lose sight of the fact that writing, like life, is a process of single steps.
Anything else you'd like readers to know about you and/or your book?
I'm grateful to have the chance to connect with you and hope you enjoy my book, which is inspired by a true story.

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