Monday, 29 October 2012

Interview with Ronald Fischman

Today we're chatting with author Ronald Fischman about his novel, 3 Through History.

Welcome, Ronald. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was a technology writer in my first act, but I gave that up to try my voice at opera. I secured a day job as a cantor and got credentials in that, but at the same time as my full-time congregation lost money and didn't renew my contract, I got a major sinus infection. I became a teacher, a divorcee, a poet, and now a novelist.

How long have you been writing?

I didn't feel that I could do creative writing while I was married, because my wife fancied herself the writer, although she only wrote for work. After the separation, I started writing poetry. So I've been writing seriously for about five years.

Tell us about 3 Through History. What's the story about?

3 Through History starts in the aftermath of a short love triangle that resolves with Rafi, the much better man, losing, but remaining closely bonded with both Dimitri and Frida. Rafi turns into the glue holding the victors together, even while hoping that he is making himself a clear, viable alternative should the storms of new love separate the couple.  That premise might make an interesting novella, but the three characters have compelling back stories.

Dimitri, a child conceived in the Soviet Union and born in Philadelphia, can get whatever he wants for the asking: women, music gigs, students, even careersTo escape the pressures of his immigrant parents, he take the first plane out of high school to Israel for an accompanist gig.

Rafi, a child of the Kibbutz, is a talented conductor with a commanding voice, so he is chosen to conduct the rehearsals for The Dybbuk, where he befriends Dimitri. Tired of being thought of as a freier,  a “free lunch,” Rafi yo-yos between Israel and the US. Ever the idealist, Rafi finds that the fall of the Soviet Union crushes something in his spirit.

Frida, a stunner who grew up in the shadow of the Volcan la Malinche in Puebla, Mexico, is the girl who has it all - including the hole created when her mother abandoned her when she was eight. Precocious, she finishes two undergraduate degrees and creates her own theater company while getting pregnant, married, divorced, and with a baby to care for 24/7. A turn of luck, and her business acumen, sends her on a meteoric rise through the Mexican business world. But the hole in her soul remains unfilled. She cannot drink enough beer to fill it.

Ruined, Frida heads off to the US under a student visa. If she cannot find what she is looking for, she will drink herself to death out of view of her son. She posts an online personal, to which both Dimitri and Rafi respond. Who gets the girl? Whose job is it to help Anna fill the hole that abandonment left in her life?

9/11 takes center stage in the story when Dimitri's brother-in-law is trapped in the subway just short of the stricken towers. A thoracic surgeon and soon-to-be-dad, Arnie makes plans to go to Afghanistan and set up field hospitals. Dimitri moves in to his brother-in-law's and sister's mansion, and is treated to many reports from the front.

What I tried to do with this novel is to tell the history of the world I know since I was old enough to be aware of it. If I did a good job, readers will finish the book informed, entertained, and engaged.

What inspired you to write this story?

I lived through this love triangle; sadly for me, my role was that of the Rafi character. Of course, the characters are fictionalized,  but Frida is modeled after an exceptional, but troubled, Mexican empresariaand I speak the languages that Rafi speaks (although I was never in Israel and Rafi was born there). The inspiration for Dimitri's character is furthest away  from my creation, but I know a lot about Soviet immigrants, so I used that knowledge to explore that culture in depth.

Do you have a critique group, beta readers, or do you self edit?

I have a critique group, but it meets monthly, so I self-edit a lot. I have some help from my Facebook colleagues. Shout-out to Tara Birch and Aad de Gids, who have been steady editors for me.

Are you a planner or a panster?

Pantser, mostly. It's not all “seat-of-the-pants” work, though. I sat down after writing the love triangle and the first chapter or two for each character and wrote out character arcs for each, especially in order to create a deep friendship between Dimitri and Rafi that would survive the love triangle.

What's the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest part for me is writing something awful for a character I really like. When Frida hits her absolute bottom, a point that I don't believe that I would have survived, it took me three days to do anything during my writing time beside answering email.

What do you absolutely need to have nearby when writing?

Tragically, I lost one dear cat to a traffic accident. The other has taken to curling at my feet while I write.  That's why I write barefoot, so Serena can curl against my skin.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

If I had a super power, it would be character morphing. I'd like to see what it is to be a Dimitri (or famously in the men's advice world, a David DeAngelo, Vin DiCarlo, or Bobby Bradshaw).  It would be nice to be smooth enough that a woman who would really think I'm amazing would get to know me. It would be profitable to know how to just “be” a salesman for my day job, so I could fund my writing life.

What's the weirdest thing you've googled?

Floccinaucinihilipilification.” It's the longest non-chemical word in English. It means, “To render worthless by decree.” My son says that what my ex did to me was “floccinaucinihilipiliVILIfication.”

Quick writing test! Use these words in a sentence: stethoscope, caterpillar, and hangover.

Will wriggled frantically in the pediatric emergency room at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Like all juveniles, he could not sit still, but this room was sanitary white, with no toys that Will could crawl on, play with, or exchange germs with. Not to mention that he came to the ER with a puking head-banging, whining five-year-old. Jenny, nicknamed “Curious Georgie” by her mom, couldn't do a thing to avoid the natural draw of the forbidden, and this trait landed her here.

At the Crawfords' house, the boys and girls of Jenny's kindergarten class were due for a party tomorrow, a Sunday. Yesterday, Ms Crawford noticed a small cluster of black ants on Jenny's right sock, uniform white under black oxfords.  None on the left. Hmmm. She stepped in something.

“I was in the tomatoes, and I stepped on something.”

“What was it, honey?”

“It looked like a squash hill.”

Yep. Anthill. Break out the beer. The Crawfords were out of Bud Ice. But twenty kids were on their way, and a few million ants were crawling in wait. Ms. Crawford poured some of an Ommegang raspberry limbic, leaving sixteen of twenty ounces in the bottle for her to consume later. Adding a little Borax, Ms. Crawford erased the vision of a swarm of ants in the homes of each of the guests at the party. In the meantime, Jenny got to set out the trap.

Will was crawling on a tomato vine when Jenny came back with the Ommegang. Stretching on his back few legs, Will reached for a cherry tomato vine just as Jenny's silky, golden hair tousled in a strong gust. The hair slid under the hair-thin lags. And Will was lifted up into the air and into a different world. Quickly, the little caterpillar calculated the options. He could try something no caterpillar had the legs to do, and jump off. He could wait for the next object that the little girl brushed against, and get off there. Finally, he chose to bury himself in Jenny's flowing locks, hoping that she would visit the garden again before Will became too hungry.
Instead, here they were in a sterile room, and Will was on a sick little girl. How could Jenny know that the Ommegang, that tasted so berry-sweet, with bubbles exploding with flavor on her youthful tongue, would cause her head to spin, and then her temples to pound?

The Crawfords were called into the inner offices. The nurse started examining her. It came time to read Jenny's blood pressure. The stethoscope brushed across Jenny's hair, and swept Will along with it.

“Jenny, did you eat or drink anything strange yesterday?” the nurse asked.

“Well, no, … maybe,” Jenny stammered.

“What's 'maybe,' honey?” Ms. Crawford probed.

“You left me a bottle of juice. It tasted funny, but I liked it.”

“A bottle of juice? What did it taste like, doll?” asked Mom.

“It was bubbly, and sweet, and tasted like berries,, and…”

“Oh!” Ms. Crawford exclaimed. “I was wondering where that went - I thought that I drank that and forgot. 
It was a special kind of adult drink called Lambic. It has alcohol in it.”

“Oh, “ Jenny responded blankly.

“Nurse Joy, could she have a, a HANGOVER?”

“I think we have a diagnosis. Jenny, just drink lots and lots of water, and you can take some Tylenol.”

Will wriggled with all his might on the stethoscope. Out of the corner of her eye, Nurse Joy caught the motion.

“How did this get here?” Nurse Joy was about to turn Will into ooze when Jenny rescued him.

“He must have come on me, when I was playing in the garden. Can I take him back, Mom? He didn't do anything. “

Jenny reached her finger out to Will. Knowing that there wasn't a leaf in sight in this office, Will accepted the offer. “You must be homesick,” Jenny told the little caterpillar.

“And hungry,” thought Will.

That's one long ass sentence! ;) Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...

prospecting for my sales job, or farming in my urban farm. I have six kinds of tomatoes - hence the story above.

Here's the part where you thank the people supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

I'm early in the process of getting my book out there. Shout-out to Nina Amir, who is still waiting for me to hire her for professional marketing, but who has been super-generous with her time. I mentioned my writers' groups, and to Livia Ellis, who did my first ever author interview. And to Patricia Macias, who is the driving force in the cross-promotion group “Spreading the Love.”

And finally, where can we find you and your book online?
You can buy it now as an ebook at You can read it a chapter at a time at my author page,, or on my blog, Hurry, though, because if I get a publisher, I'll have to take the book down from these sites.

1 comment:

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Wow, Ronald. You've had a very interesting past! Thanks for sharing.

I like how you are a sort of pantser, writing just enough to get to know your story and characters and then developing character arcs. Your method is similar to mine. Works!