This week, Alisse Lee Goldenberg, author of Young Adult Fantasy novel The Strings of the Violin, talks to us about her love for fantasy and folklore, and how she fits in time to write around her 17-month-old triplets who have turned her workspace into a toy store.
Name: Alisse Lee Goldenberg
Location and one thing you love about living there: I live in Toronto Canada, and I love how amazingly multi-cultural the city is. Everyone embraces who they are and where they came from.
Author of: The Strings of the Violin
Book is available: Through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indigo.ca
Seventeen-year-old Carrie is lying in her backyard ignoring all the looming responsibilities in her life, when a fox makes a mad dash across the grass in front of her. After she manages to keep her dog from attacking the frightened animal, the fox turns to Carrie and seems to bow in gratitude before he disappears into the bushes. All Carrie knows in that moment is that something has unexpectedly changed in her life.
Carrie has been best friends with Lindsay Smith and Rebecca Campbell for years. During a summer when they should be focused on choosing colleges and career paths, the girls suddenly find themselves swept away on the adventure of their lives. The fox reappears three days later and reveals to Carrie that he is Adom, emissary to the king of Hadariah. With his land of music and magic in peril, Adom has been sent to seek help from Carrie and her friends. In the blink of an eye, the three teenage girls go from living an average suburban life to being the champions of a world where they must contend with giants, witches, and magical beings.
On their quest to save a people from destruction, Carrie, Lindsay, and Rebecca are pitted against Asmodeus, the powerful and cunning king of the dybbuks. Now, only time will tell if the three girls will prevail against Asmodeus and somehow find their way back home.
What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story? When I was a young child, my daily outing was always to the North York Public Library. I would go into the children’s section and just sit and go through mammoth piles of books. I was allowed to take one book home each time we would go, so the selection process for me was always a difficult one. Usually I would end up picking one of the books from the Curious George series, or Amelia Bedilia, but from that early age, I was hooked on reading.
Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way? It is extremely hard for me to pick just one book. I love so many of them. But if I had to choose one based on how I was affected by the story or characters, I would have to choose The Hunter’s Moon by O.R. Melling. This is one book I keep coming back to time and again. For me, it’s the way she writes her heroine Gwen. I just remember identifying with her so completely as a teenager. She is not a genius, she is not superpowered, and yet she finds a way to be the true hero of the story, just by being herself.
What was the seed of inspiration for your latest book? I have always loved fantasy novels, and I remember growing up reading them and never fully being able to fully see myself in the story. I love wizards, and elves, and fairies, and I love to read about them. Yet, I grew up surrounded by an entirely completely different type of fantasy world alongside all of this. My bubbie (grandmother) raised me on stories from her home country of Poland, as well as Jewish mythology. To me, I found tales of dybbuks, and witches, and wise men to be just as magical as the stories I could find on the bookshelves of the stores and libraries, yet none of these stories were available for a young person to go out and read. I decided, especially now as I have children of my own, to write stories for them based on the stories of my grandparents’ childhoods.
Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? I want readers to see the magic in the world around them. I want them to embrace the idea that any person, no matter how brave, smart, or physically strong they are can truly be a hero.
What challenges have you faced in your writing career? Seventeen months ago, I became the mother of triplets. It has been a real challenge juggling writing time and time to be the best parent I can be. I hope I have found a balance. It is all too easy to neglect one for the other. Usually it’s the time to write that winds up falling to the wayside, and I have to keep reminding myself that I need to do that as well.
How do you find time or energy to write being the mother of triplets? When the babies were first born and had just come home from the hospital, my husband and I took care of them on shifts. I took the night shift and stayed up all night with them. Between feeds and changing them, I decided that I would take the time and be productive. Ironically, I found that during this time I was the most productive as a writer, than I had ever been before. No one calls you between the hours of midnight and seven in the morning. Everything on television is crap. It was wonderful! Now, I am back on a normal schedule again, the kids are sleeping through the night, I just have nap times to myself, but I make it work. That and a lot of coffee are what keep me working.
What has been your best moment as a writer? So far, I would say that the best moment for me was to walk into the bookstore, Indigo and see my book up there on the shelf. It filled me with a real sense of accomplishment. I felt that I had truly made it.
Who is your author idol? My author idol is Neil Gaiman. He writes such rich worlds populated by fascinating characters. He is so versatile writing for every age group and in many different mediums.
Do you see yourself in any of your characters? I think I put a bit of myself in most of my characters. It wasn’t intentional, but especially in the friendship between Carrie, Lindsay, and Rebecca, a lot of how they interact with each other, and speak to each other came out of my own friendships. My best friend and I met in junior kindergarten and have now been friends for over twenty-five years. We still act like children around each other to this day.
Why Young Adult fantasy fiction? I wanted to write a book for my children. Right now, they are far too young for this particular story, but the greatest books I’ve read, and the stories that have stuck with me the most came from this particular genre. I wanted to write about what I love and what I know. This genre just felt the most natural for me as a writer.
Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? In many ways, I feel like it has come true, or at least has started to come true. The Strings of the Violin is only the beginning of a larger story that I mean to tell. I am already close to completion on the second book of what will be a series. I am hoping that The Dybbuk’s Mirror will come out in early 2013. From there, who knows? I just know that I do not intend to stop writing any time soon.
What is your personal cure for procrastination? Unfortunately, I don’t have one. This is one of my greatest weaknesses. I am absolutely horrible at not procrastinating.
What does your workspace look like? Right now, my workspace looks like a toy store. It is covered in stuffed animals, dolls, balls, and blankets. I am using the family room couch and a laptop. It is my way of multi-tasking.
Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? Aside from carpal tunnel? I would say that the biggest hazard is losing focus and not making time to write. Getting distracted by everything else is also a problem. It is too easy to turn on the computer and say that this is your writing time, and then just “checking in” on Facebook or emails. Next thing you know, hours have flown past.
Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? When I had first finished The Strings of the Violin, I shopped it around to many different publishers. Every rejection letter I got made me want to give up. It was horrible, but my family encouraged me to keep going. I am so glad I listened.
What do you do when you’re not writing? My husband Brian is the artistic producer of Angelwalk Theatre in Toronto. I am usually the props manager for his musical productions. Also, I love to perform with various community theatre companies around the city.
What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? I’d say that you shouldn’t remain sane as a writer. As someone who loves to read and write in the fantasy genre, let your imagination run wild and free! Take risks, push your boundaries and just go with it.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school? At school, I found my greatest lessons were in the early years. There I was encouraged to write and read as much as possible. My creativity was encouraged and I was told to never ever give up no matter what.
Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? I can’t remember a day when I didn’t want to write. This was always what I wanted to do. I’m just happy I finally decided to just go and do it.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? I would tell anyone who wanted to be a writer to never stop writing, never stop reading and not to fear rejection. Every successful writer can probably tell you about every rejection letter they ever got. I am sure that no one gets chosen the first time around. Just keep persevering.
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