Diana: Today I am happy to host Gila Green, author of the novel, King of the Class, published by Now or Never Publishing (www.nonpublishing.com) and is located in Vancouver.
Tell us please, how and why you decided to write King of the Class, a novel that is a wonderful mix of science fiction and a downright realistic portrayal of the tensions in Israel today.
Gila: There are two answers to this question. Initially, I wanted to write about how misunderstood kids can be destroyed in the Israeli school system. This is not to single out Israel, I happen to live in Israel, and have no doubt similar things happen all over the world. I chose kidnapping to represent the destruction of a child by what is often the case in reality, other parents trying to protect their own no matter who gets sacrificed.
This idea is based on the Jewish idea that embarrassing someone in public is a symbolic murder, the red rising to a person’s cheeks reminiscent of spilled blood. In terms of the setting, what compelled me to write was after an incident in which a young girl was spat on by extremists hit the international news.
About a month later, a local resident, Natalie Moshiach, was doing her job (hanging lottery posters) in the early afternoon when a group of extremists (shall we just keep calling them extremists? That seems inadequate, but that’s the language the media has given us.) The extremists demanded she leave the area, pelted her car with rocks, smashed her windows, punctured her tires. She had rocks and bleach thrown at her and they spat in her face. This happened about three blocks from my home, although it’s a different neighborhood, it’s an easy 15 minute walk.
I could not sleep for days after I internalized that a Jewish woman had her life threatened by Jewish men in a Jewish state while she was going about her normal day’s activities. Worse in some ways were some of the comments I heard around me: I heard she was wearing such and such as if her manner of dress —real or imagined–could ever justify having bleach thrown at her, her car windows smashed and so on. I assume you read about this incident, too, so I won’t go into detail. I was deeply disturbed and decided it would be immoral to remain silent.
But another blog post or article seemed a flimsy response that would mostly result in preaching to the choir. I wanted something broader and longer lasting. I decided to give them what they (both sides at their extremes) seemed to be asking for and I took the on-the-ground-violence around me to its logical dystopian conclusion. I purposely moved the location in the future in an imagined community so no one could get off the hook. No reader would be able to say, well over there they are crazy, it has nothing to do with me.
Diana: I love your writing style—for example, the way you wrote about someone realizing that “everything is as temporary as it is forever… A small act we perform thoughtlessly today, a careless word uttered can affect generations…” Please share a few of your favorite writing tools and suggestions.
Gila: First of all, thank you. Second, my writing tools include reading. Reading is key to good writing.
I use Jewish thought as a tool. This is a whole subject in and of itself, but to give you an example, Jewish thought can be very helpful with character development. Because it focuses a lot on our deepest motivations, instincts, desires (how human beings are wired), I use it to make my characters more three-dimensional. In the case of King of the Class, in my initial drafts the couple, Mr. and Mrs. Geisler, who kidnap Netsach, were too cartoonish. I delved into my weekly lectures to help me clarify their personalities, to help both me and the reader understand their motivations and make them human. I must have succeeded on some level because I have even had a few readers tell me that Mrs. Geisler was their favorite character, the one they most related to. This surprised and delighted me as it took several drafts.
To widen this, I’d say to any writer: Take some sort of learning class every week if you can. This can be parenting, gardening, cooking, computers to widen your knowledge base. This also gets you out and writers often spend too much time isolated. A third writing tool is to write every day. There’s no such thing in real life as waiting for inspiration.
Diana: My blog is about living—and writing—your best chapter each day. How do you set up your schedule to write?
Gila: Well, my five kids range from six to fifteen years old–
Diana: No way! I raised six kids and had such a hard time clearing my head long enough to concentrate on writing.
Gila: I hear you about having a clear head, but for me, it’s been the opposite at times (not all the time such as in the summer when they are really home a lot. In the summer, I edit much more than I write). But some of my most commented-on stories I’ve produced typing one-handed while nursing.
In short, it depends on the time of year, but in general I work out a schedule: chapter one by x date, chapter two by Y. I give myself leeway for holidays, but I stick to my schedule just like any work deadline.
Diana: And as a segue from the last question, is there something you do each day to make this your best chapter?
Gila: I strongly believe in this, not only as a writer, but as a mother. Weak roots cause the entire tree to suffer. I walk daily for 40 minutes and attend two toning classes a week.
Thank you, Gila!
A friend asked me the other day about publishing houses doing publicity and marketing for writers. The answer is that most authors have to do it themselves, whether they’re published by traditional publishing houses or self-published. So, Gila is also kind enough to share her “Ten things I’ve learned four months after publishing my first novel King of the Class” from her website.
- Target freelancers for reviews. I spent hours emailing publications I felt shared my target audience. Hands-down most of them ignored me or sent me polite ‘no’ emails. When I discovered the freelancers who sell regularly to these publications, I had far more success. Find them by clicking on contributors’ names.
- Only no means no. Perseverance works. No answer does not mean no. Once in a while I’d get an email: “Good for you for not giving up. I was so busy with X, but now I’d be happy to read your book”.
- Everybody knows somebody. At first I only asked some friends for contacts in the media industry. I learned to ask everyone. Do not pre-judge. You need reviews, so ask everyone about their friends in the media industry.
- Expect nothing. I was wrong to assume some people would happily forward emails, post on Facebook and generally help spread the word about King of the Class. Meanwhile strangers I met online and others I barely knew went the extra mile (thank you again!) for me. Assumptions will only cause needless disappointment.
- You can’t do it all well and simultaneously. I received many well-meaning tips to use every social media, hire a publicist, you get the idea. Try new things, but ultimately do what you are good at and what you enjoy and not all at once.
- Don’t forget to write. Writers write. Turning yourself into a full-time marketer is OK temporarily (set a real deadline), but don’t lose your identity or risk your health to sell one more book.
- Update all previous posts. The links are already there. Don’t waste them. If you’re a writer who has previously published articles and blog posts, email those editors. Every one I contacted was happy to update old posts with my book link, even posts that were years old.
- Fortune favors the bold. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘how can I possibly ask them’. You have no idea what any publication takes into consideration when they are approached. Try them. I did and received a few pleasant surprises.
- It can be hard to internalize that your control is limited. The only recipe for success is to enjoy what you’re doing, regardless of the outcome. See it as an adventure and lower your expectations.
- Use Linked-In. I read the contacts of my contacts until my eyes were falling out of their sockets. Yes, it’s tedious. I limited it to ten hours. When I found someone who might potentially give me a review, I asked my contact for an introduction and met with success. Thank you again, Gila! Readers can purchase her book on amazon here.