Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Interview with Talia Carner

I recently finished Talia Carner's incredibly moving novel Jerusalem Maiden and so enjoyed it.  I'm excited to share my interview with Ms. Carner about this book and herself.  Please read on -- there's another chance to enter to win a copy of Jerusalem Maiden.

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

The very first time I sat down to write fiction in late 1993, I ended up with a 640-page manuscript. After much revising and honing the craft on this virgin effort, it turned out to be Matryoshka Girl, an unpublished novel (but still good IMHO) set in Russia after the fall of Communism. It deals with valiant Russian women’s struggling for economic independence against the mafia. I have since learned about myself that I don’t think in the short-fiction format but rather in multi-layered, elaborate story lines on large canvases featuring strong female protagonists against powerful, seemingly unbeatable antagonists.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

With my kids grown and emancipated, I resist most of life’s temptations (and sometimes responsibilities) and write, read, edit or research over ten hours each day—sometimes as much as sixteen. I wake up very early, and sit down at my desk. Other than making time almost daily for dance or exercise, I do not take off my computer glasses until dinner time (which, unless my husband prepares or we go out, I just skip.) I return to work after an evening with my husband or friends until well past midnight.

Was Jerusalem Maiden the original title of your book?

Yes. The title presented itself naturally due to the content and the challenge for the protagonist. However, it also fell right in place with the subtle “branding” of my novels. If you notice, Matryoshka Girl (unpublished,) Puppet Child, China Doll, Jerusalem Maiden (and now in-progress, Shadow Bride,) all have a vulnerable subject.

As you were writing Jerusalem Maiden, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

Every twist and turn surprised me. As with my previous novels, I did not outline JERUSALEM MAIDEN, but rather let it flow from its own internal spring. Each scene presented itself as I often just closed my eyes and let my fingers transport the story from somewhere deep inside me. Like in a dream, I visualized the place and heard the characters speak. That said, the research was instrumental in directing the events, as were some casual remarks from acquaintances that, time and again, yanked the novel in new directions.

[PLOT SPOILERS: In researching my family’s history, I learned of a young man who had secretly studied music with a missionary then left Jerusalem to become a conductor in Budapest. My deep-seated reluctance to step inside a Christian church in Jerusalem one day sent Esther there. Esther’s nuptial switch was a complete surprise to me, but checking it with an historian, I learned that it was plausible. A Nobel Laureate cousin who was intrigued by my work asked me about Micrography, and an art historian friend mentioned Chaim Soutine. When Esther took off to Paris, it threw into havoc a lot of material I had written toward a totally different development; I had no choice but to pack a suitcase and follow her to Paris. And then, one day, as I looked up at the St. Sulpice church and saw the unfinished, uncarved stones on the right tower, it hit me. “Oh, my God, Pierre is up there!”]

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

Does answering e-mail and checking my Facebook page count? Dance, exercise, go to theater, watch home movies, clean (I’m somewhat obsessive,) board meetings and activism, the outdoors—beach or hiking in woods, read, keep in touch with a host of girl friends, and spend a lot of time with my family. I also travel overseas a couple of times a year.

Read any good books recently?

I truly enjoyed Joyce Carol Oats’ “My Sister, My Love.” Also, T.C. Boyle’s “The Tortilla Curtain,” (which I think offers a great book group discussion topic.)

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My thanks to Ms. Carner for her time!  Learn more about her and her books at her website or check out her Facebook page.

GIVEAWAY!  I'm thrilled to offer one reader a copy of Jerusalem Maiden.  Just leave a comment with your email address.  Open to US/CA readers, closes 7/1.  For another entry, be sure to comment on my review.


  1. Very nice interview. Now I want to read the unpublished novel as well as Jerusalem Maiden!

    arcookson at yahoodotcom

  2. Nice interview.
    The book sure sounds lovely and I love how the book managed to surprise you as you were writing it

  3. This is a wonderful interview! As i read Talia's answers I became more intrigued about Jerusalem Maiden because of the time and focus Talia put into the book and because of how she described the scenes of the story as being transported from "somewhere deep inside" her and the book flowed from "its own internal spring". Those images are beautiful so I can only imagine the beauty of Talia's writing in this story.

    I also really like her taste in books - Joyce Carol Oates and TC Boyle!
    Thank you Audra and Talia for this interview!

    Please enter me in your giveaay for this terrific book!

  4. I have this book on my wishlist and always enjoy listening to the author's thoughts, ideas and backgrounds :)


  5. Great interview! I hadn't realized that Carner has written other novels. Matryoshka Girl looks interesting; too bad it's not published.

    susanna DOT pyatt AT student DOT rcsnc DOT org

  6. Love the interview! I have heard good things about this book!

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

  7. I just love these interviews, especially what authors have to say about their titles and what surprises them while writing. I would say the same thing...do Facebook and email count???!!! LOL

    Thanks for the giveaway.

    savvyverseandwit at gmail

  8. Thank you for including me. I'm reading lots of nice reviews.
    tiredwkids at live dot com

  9. I really enjoyed this interview.
    I have the book on my TBR pile, so I skipped over the plot spoilers :)

    I'm impressed by the author's discipline of writing up to 16 hours a day.

  10. would enjoy reading this novel...thanks for the opportunity :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  11. i commented on your review :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  12. I'd love to win this one!


  13. I loved that you researched your family history had a role in writing this book. It is incrediably wonderful that you were able to see the tower where your ancestor was. A few years back I was thrilled to see my ancestor's hat (1600's) in a museum. I did not want to leave it. It somehow makes it real instead far away in time. I would love to read 'Jerusalem Maiden'.

  14. I commented on your review. Thank you so much for introducing us to this book.


  15. Lovely interview. I'm awed by the amount of time Ms. Carner devotes to her writing. Obviously, she loves what she does! I've got my fingers crossed that I'm lucky enough to win a copy of her book. Thank you for the interview and the chance to win.

    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  16. I loved the interview. Where the author lets if flow from its own internal spring is beautiful. " I just closed my eyes and let my fingers transport the story from somewhere deep inside me. Like in a dream, I visualized the place and heard the characters speak." Unbelievable! The book has just got to be awesome. I would love to win it.