I got to know about 'Who By Fire' when I read a review of it on Ramya's Bookshelf. The book caught my attention immediately and I read up a lot more reviews of it on the network of book blogs that I regularly follow. There was something about this book that seemed quite interesting to me at the very first go and made me want to read it. I am still eagerly looking to get a copy of it.
I have always wanted to get to know the author better before I read the book. I personally feel, knowing the author and the thoughts that went behind writing the book gives you a totally different perspective when you read it... Incidentally I got in touch with Diana Spechler, the author of 'Who By Fire' and she was very kind enough to spare some time to answer all my questions. Thanks again Diana!!
(Photos from author's website)
Here's an excerpt of the interview that I wanted to share with all you readers. I hope this helps you to get to know her better, get some tips on writing, and may be even make u want to grab this book! :)
Me: What inspired you to write your first book, Who By Fire? How did you get the idea for the story and the characters? Is it drawn from any experiences of someone you know? If so, how much of the book is realistic?
DS: It’s made up, but I have spent a lot of time in Israel, so I was able to draw on those experiences. I wrote a story about the characters from Who By Fire when I was a grad student. When I graduated, I returned to the story and fleshed it out into a novel. It took four and a half years
Me: After reading multiple reviews and the excerpt of your book, I am very eager to know what made you choose the title “Who By Fire” and also how did you come up with the cover page?
DS: The title comes from a Jewish prayer that includes a litany of ways a person might die: “…who by fire, who by water,” etc. I love that prayer. It’s so haunting. As for the cover, my publisher sent me four choices. The one I picked was by far my favorite.
Me:The story of “Who By Fire” does seem like something that can have a huge impact on the readers. The multiple reviews of the book on the internet and book blogs bear testimony to this fact. Is there any specific message in your novel that you want the readers to grasp?
DS:I’m not looking to send a message. I do hope people like the book and want to read more of my work. If I could inject a subliminal message into the pages, it would be, “You love Diana Spechler’s writing.”
Me: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book, Who By Fire?’
DS: I can’t even think about that. Okay, obviously I think about it. I try not to look at the book too often. If I do, I find things I’d like to change. I spent so much time rewriting (writing is mostly rewriting), so looking at Who By Fire and thinking of ways to change it became a habit I have yet to break.
Me: Based on the reviews and feedback that you have received for your book, do you feel you have been able to influence and connect well with the readers?
DS: I am overjoyed that people like the book. Before it came out, I had nightmares about bad reviews. Then the reviews were glowing, almost across the board. It was mind-blowing. It was like being in high school and finding out that every hot guy in my class had a crush on me. Which never happened. I’m just saying.
Me: What was the hardest part of writing Who By Fire? Did you face any significant challenges?
DS: Plot! It took me forever to come up with a plot! Plot always comes last for me. Characters come first.
Me: When and why did you begin writing? Did you always dream of becoming a writer someday or did it just happen in the due course of life?
DS: Becoming a writer isn’t one of those things that “just happens.” It takes a lot of work and self-discipline. But I never wanted to do anything else. Writing was always the thing I loved best. I’ve been doing it since I could pick up a pencil. So in a way, becoming a writer was natural, but mostly, it was grueling. If you want to be a writer—like really be a writer—you have to thicken your skin and understand that you are going to face a ton of rejection
Me: Being a writer yourself, I am curious to know what kind of books/authors have influenced the most in your life and, why?
DS: It’s hard to say and it changes all the time, but a few authors that I know impacted me were Joy Williams, Raymond Carver, and J.D. Salinger. When I discovered those writers, I recognized a simplicity (which is actually far from simple to craft) that I wanted to emulate. I studied their fiction carefully to figure out how they did what they did. Of course, you can study someone’s writing forever and never quite figure it out. There’s no formula.
Me: Have you read Indian Fiction? If yes, what are your thoughts on it? If not, is there any specific reason that you haven’t felt like reading it till now? Who is your favorite Indian author?
DS: India has produced many great fiction writers. My favorite is probably Jhumpa Lahiri.
Me: There is a lot of fresh talent emerging these days, with a new book on shelves every couple of weeks. Are there any new authors that have caught your interest?
DS: I am partial to contemporary fiction. I love Curtis Sittenfeld, Rebecca Curtis, Katherine Taylor, and Aryn Kyle, to name a few.
Me: Are you working on your next book already? What should your readers expect from you?
DS: Yes. I’m writing a novel set at a weight-loss camp for children in the mountains of North Carolina.
Me: Every writer at some point experiences a ‘writer’s block’. Have you ever been through that phase? If so, how did you overcome it?
DS: Writer’s block is a real thing. It’s awful. Like blue balls. From what I hear. I like to read good fiction to pull myself out of it. But it doesn’t always work. One time, I had writer’s block for almost a year. I was going through a lot of life changes and I just couldn’t concentrate. I mean, I wrote, but I wrote very little of substance, and I was constantly frustrated.
Me: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers who are planning to pick a copy of this book (including me :-)) ?
DS: Get in touch and let me know what you think!
Me: I wish to be a writer someday. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? Do you feel it is a skill that can be acquired or is it that some people are just gifted with the talent?
DS: I think you have to have talent, but that’s just the first step. A lot of people have talent. The ones who take it to the next level are the ones who are willing to do the work.
Me: What other things in life interest you? What do you usually like to do when you're not writing?
DS: I love the people in my life. I spend a lot of time with my friends. I also love Bikram yoga. And of course, I love to read.
Me: Who critics your writing?
DS: I have a few friends who are also professional writers who read my work for me. I don't know what I would do without them. They help me so much, and they have saved me a lot of embarrassment!
Me: What was the best piece of advice you've received with respect to writing?
DS: Write every day.