Tag: Lev Raphael.

Let me first say, I’m honored to have the opportunity to interview such an accomplished author such as you. You’ve published twenty-five books to date in genres such as Mystery, Memoir, Historical Fiction, and Biography. You actively make author appearances and teach at Michigan State University as a guest assistant professor on the subjects of writing, popular literature, and Jewish-America literature. You have dozens of published essays, articles, and stories in an array of publications. I could write a book filled solely with your accolades. So, once again, thank you for taking the time chat with me and share your experiences with those who read this.

Thanks for inviting me!

Out of your twenty-five published books, do you have a favorite? Having looked at your many titles this could prove to be a difficult question. Perhaps tells us about your favorite fiction, and non-fiction books you’ve written.

That’s always a tough question, but I think I’ll stick with just one if that’s okay: no. 19, My Germany is a favorite for many reasons. It combines mystery, memoir and history so it represents my writing and publishing across genres. Then it’s a book that challenged me a lot because I wasn’t sure for a long time how to structure it, and it actually was a number of different books before it found its final form. I also have intense memories of doing research for it in Belgium and Germany.My Germany

Beyond that, it’s put more miles on me than any other books of mine in terms of book tours, including two sponsored by the U.S State Department that took me across Germany. And I even learned German so that I could travel intelligently there and eventually do some of my readings from the German translation—and that was mind-blowing! The book changed me in many ways, both in writing it and afterwards, and I met lots of fascinating people including my German BFF who’s promised she would meet me in any city in Europe when I visit. Last time it was London.

Finally, as the son of Holocaust survivors, I never expected to go to Germany or write a book about it. A long answer, but it’s a layered book. 

Are you working on any new projects? Can you tell us about them?

I have at least half a dozen books in different genres started, which means I’ve got anywhere from a page or a vague outline to as much as 40 pages written, and some involve working through a shelve of research books before I start writing–but I’m taking a break right now because I’m a little burned out. Writing my suspense novel Assault With a Deadly Lie was tough. It’s about police militarization and it demanded something new from me. I’d been writing mysteries with these characters but I had to kick everything up a few notches from “Whodunit?” to “OMG–What the hell is going to happen next?” That demanded lots of planning and writing at a higher pitch. I also had to do new kinds of research about guns and go to a shooting range and go shooting with friends who are well-trained in firearms.Assault with a Deadly Lie

I’d ask if you have any advise for new writers starting out, but see you’ve written whole books on the subject. What’s one insight you’d like to pass on to the next generation of writers?

Be patient with yourself, and that covers a lot of territory. Take the time to learn your craft and learn the business and don’t be overwhelmed by other people’s success or envy or the latest publishing noise. We all have our own paths and some of them are wonkier than others. Learning your craft also means being as well-read as possible in any genre you choose to make your home. When you write, you’re joining a community of writers, and most of them are no longer living—don’t discount writers who aren’t contemporary, they might have a lot to teach you.

Are all your books self-published? Or did you go with traditional publishing houses on some? Would you recommend your method of publishing to others?

Most of my books are traditionally published, ranging from huge presses like Doubleday to boutique presses like Leapfrog. But the choices are wide open for everyone starting out now and there are so many guides to publishing, I think writers need to do research as to what the best plan would be for their specific project—for instance is it a hot enough property and do they have a platform that might interest an agent (in which case try agentquery.com). Every book is different, every writer is different, nothing is predictable.

I read that you have a background in theater. Can you tell us a bit about your experiences?

I double majored in English and Theater in college for a while and it helped me get over some shyness (even though I’m an extrovert). Acting in a wide variety of plays was tremendous preparation for all the hundreds of talks and readings I would end up doing down the road once my work started getting published and recognized. Here’s where patience is part of the arsenal. You can’t do a good reading unless you practice, you’re prepared, you choose your excerpt wisely, and you treat the event as what it is: a performance. Too many authors don’t take readings seriously enough. I love doing readings, and enjoy teaching people in workshops how to do them.

Have you ever been approached to have any of your stories made in to a movie or TV show? Choose one of your fiction books and tell us who you’d cast as the main characters.

The Germay MoneyOh yes. I’ve had my work optioned and had people try to do plays from some of my stories and a movie from one of my books. Luckily nothing happened because the final results would have been, well, disappointing. The German Money is an intimate family drama about the children of a Holocaust survivor arguing once she’s died. Set mostly on the Upper West Side, it would be a perfect indie film and I’d cast Mark Ruffalo as the screwed-up brother, Laura Linney as the cold sister, Jason Isaacs as the older brother escaping his past, Carla Gugino as the woman he left behind, and Olympia Dukakis as the elderly neighbor.

Name a book you’ve read that you found notable. What about it grabbed your interest?

Here are some very recent reads. Midnight’s Furies is about the partition of India into India and Pakistan and gives you a rich history of that terrible, chaotic time, going much deeper than what most of us know. The French Intifada explore the dark history of France’s colonial rule in North fracas and helps explain what’s happening in France today with its Muslim population. Sinclair Lewis’s Kingsblood Royal is from the 1940s but it’s a surprisingly contemporary-feeling portrait of white racism in the north in the story of a man who discovers he’s actually black and his family has hidden this from him. The Blue Hour is an amazing biography of one of my favorite novelists Jean Rhys. All four books told great stories and were very well written—two absolute requirements for me no matter what I read. Oh, I also finally read Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, the only major novel of his I missed back in the day and was surprised at how funny it was, and how beautiful.

Other than writing, do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I’m good at languages, speak French and German, picked up Flemish and Italian when I needed to, and am currently studying Swedish. I’m also taking voice lessons for the first time and my teacher says I have “a nice middle range” for a baritone.

How can readers find out more about you and you work?

Website: http://www.levraphael.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/levraphael

Twitter: @LevRaphael

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Lev-Raphael/e/B000AQ07HK

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/lev-raphael/72/759/ab8

Readers can always contact me via my web site.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. It was a pleasure chatting with.

Katherine Dell

5 Things Nobody Tells You About a Writing Career

Business

 

When I published my first short story in Redbook after winning a prize, I thought my career was set.  I was my MFA program’s star (that year, anyway); I’d made a lot of money for a graduate student through the prize and the magazine; I was getting fan mail and queries from agents.  But even though I’d spent over two years in the program, nobody told me what my career could be like.  When I got my degree I was completely ignorant of key aspects of the writing life, with no idea what was ahead of me.  I learned five key things the hard way.

You need to accept from the start that you have very little control.  You can polish your work as much as you can, read everybody and educate yourself as an author; attend seminars; find a terrific mentor; network like crazy; get a top agent and even land a book contract with a great publisher–but what happens to your book once it’s born will seem completely random at times.

Other books just like it will swamp yours.  Books that are far worse will get great reviews or better sales.  Your book may simply be ignored by reviewers of all kinds for reasons you will never know.  So you have to focus on what you can control: being the best writer you can be; enjoying what you do while you do it, plan it, revise it, and research it.  And then, try to let go and move on to another project.

Writing is a business.  It always was and always will be.  Expect pressure from all sides on you to sell, sell, sell. When I started out, bookmarks and other petty swag were in.  Then I was urged not just to attend conferences but to advertize in conference programs.  Later came building my web site, book trailers establishing a Facebook and Goodreads presence, blogging, tweeting, blog tours.

There’s always something new which is the magic answer to making you successful.  But the competition gets fiercer all the time and you can find that promotion is a rat hole.  It’s important to establish parameters for yourself since you can’t do everything and be everywhere.  Never let promotion be more important than writing itself, and just because something works for someone else is no guarantee it’ll work for you.

The writing life will be lonelier than you can imagine despite all the writers you might meet and hang out with, and they’re not always the easiest people to be around.  Let’s face it, are you?  Ask your significant other.  As paradoxical as it might seem, do not let writing take over your life.  If you haven’t already, start build a life for yourself that has other compelling interests.  Travel.  Learn to play an instrument.  Study a foreign language.  Garden.  Train for a Triathalon.  Get a dog.

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as writing isn’t the be-all and end-all of your existence, because those days (or weeks or months or even years) when things go south you’ll feel you have nothing.  And make sure you have plenty of friends who aren’t writers so that you’re not constantly talking shop.  Normal people can be interesting, too.

Exercise is crucial for people like us who spend so much time sitting hunched over a laptop.  It’s important to break away on a regular basis and walk, swim, jog, lift weights, do Zumba, take Pilates, anything that gets you out of your head and into your body.

There’s nothing like physical activity to give your mind a rest–it’s almost as good as napping!–and surprisingly, you’ll often find that when you might feel stuck, instead of obsessing about it or heading for the fridge, the best thing to do is get out and get physical.  let your subconscious take care of the writing problem and solve it for you while you’re taking care of your body.  You’ll also be breaking the isolation of the writer’s life and may even get some good story ideas along the way.

Be prepared for surprises in your career because they will come.  Good surprises.  Your career will take you places you would never imagine because your imagination is boundless if you have the courage to let it be.  I started out as a short story writer and novelist but one day suddenly had an idea for a psychological study of Edith Wharton, one of my favorite writers. After that came a mystery series which got me my first New York Times Book Review.

And gradually over the years, I’ve published in about a dozen different genres, books I never would have guessed I’d write, including a vampire novella, a memoir about what Germany has meant to me as the son of Holocaust survivors, a historical novel set in The Gilded Age, a children’s book and many more.  Don’t rule anything out, and don’t be a genre snob. One of my favorite authors, Henry James, gave this advice to a young writer: “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.”  It may sound a bit formal to our ears today, but it’s advice that I’ve never forgotten since reading it years before I ever got published.

 

 

Lev Raphael is the author of Writer’s Block is Bunk and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery which you can find at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Check out more of Lev’s work on his blog, Writing Across Genres.

Check out his newest book Assault With a Deadly lie at http://www.levraphael.com/