Books Magazine

An Interview with the Author of "Jacob's Courage" - Charles S. Weinblatt

By Novelreads @NovelReads

Charles S. Weinblatt has been traditionally published twice and has self-published twice. He also recently completed a thrilling science fiction novel. His first published book was non-fiction, a how-to book for job seekers (Job Seeking Skills for Students, 1987, Kendall-Hunt Publishing). His second published book was his debut novel (Jacob’s Courage: A Holocaust Love Story, 2007, Mazo Publishers).Jacob's Courage is a tender love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria. This gripping novel explores the dazzling beauty of young love, powerful faith and enduring bravery in a lurid world where the innocent are murdered.  Portions of the book are based upon pogroms visited upon Mr. Weinblatt’s 102-year-old mother and her family in Russia.  It is a commanding coming-of-age love story. You can read some reviews and see the video trailer at Mr. Weinblatt’s Website for Jacob’s Courage: http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/. Reviews include Jewish Book World and the Association of Jewish Libraries. It has been required reading for secondary students. 
Jacob’s Courage is distributed and available globally in print and as an e-book, as well as from Mr. Weinblatt’s publisher, Mazo Publishers. It should also be noted that Jacob’s Courage is ranked #5 at Amazon under “products tagged Holocaust for popularity.” The novel resides in many Holocaust museums in Europe, Australia, and The United States, including Yad Vashem and the USHMM.  In addition to those honors, two film companies have expressed an interest in the movie rights. Mr. Weinblatt graciously agreed to let me ask him some questions about writing and self-publishing, and a few more personal questions. I believe you’ll find his answers informative and thought-provoking. I know I did!   Sofia: What genre do you generally write and what drew you to this genre? Mr: Weinblatt: I primarily write fiction, especially science fiction. It’s my favorite genre. I also love historical fiction, and to a lesser extent, horror fiction. With fiction, characters can be any flavor, all personalities, good vs. evil, etc.  Most of the best books I’ve read have been this type of fiction. I cut my literary teeth on James Michener and Herman Wouk. Later, in my teens, I ravenously consumed Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Since my earliest memories, I’ve loved Edgar Allen Poe. Translated, Isaac Asimov, HG Wells, HP Lovecraft, Rod Serling, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert. Sofia: Do you have a favorite fictitious character?Mr. Weinblatt: I do not have a “favorite” fictitious character. However, I created one in my novel Jacob’s Courage. My protagonist was a seventeen year-old student with two things on his mind – medical school and his true love, Rachael Goldman. Young Jacob Silverman had lived a very rewarding life before Nazi Germany invaded Austria. His father was a well-respected local physician. Jacob planned to follow in his father’s footsteps. At first, the Nazi cause required Jews to be second-rate citizens. But those Jews were soon pushed into a decrepit ghetto and from there to a concentration camp called Theresienstadt. There, Jacob and Rachael were secretly married. They helped to create escape tunnels at Theresienstadt (this is documented history) and after their escape, they joined the local partisans to fight back against Nazi injustice. My protagonists, Jacob and Rachael, were both state of the art human beings. They were bright, kind, considerate, loving family and community members. They were then victims of intolerance and prejudice at the hands of their Nazi captors. Rachael was raped by the Nazi concentration camp commandant and she became pregnant. Yet they did not lower themselves to that of the Nazi. In this event, I created normal characters who exhibited extraordinary heroism when forced into such inconceivable circumstances.Sofia: I’ve always been drawn to ordinary characters in extraordinary circumstances, and Jacob and Rachael certainly fall into that category. Creating compelling characters aside, how much time did you have to devote to research for Jacob’s courage?Mr. Weinblatt: When I began writing Jacob’s Courage, in 2004, I assumed that two to three months of research would prepare me for writing about the Holocaust. I could not have been more wrong. As it turned out, I was still conducting research three years later, when the novel was all but completed. I think that a good fiction writer, especially for historical fiction, needs to know everything about the characters’ situation in extreme detail. As I continued to write Jacob’s Courage, I wanted the reader to see the accurate street names for each ghetto and concentration camp. I wanted the reader to see the real names of Nazi leaders and German Army officers. I wanted the camp commandant’s name in each concentration camp to be accurate. I even used the accurate names of Czech partisans. The more I wrote, the more I researched. The more I researched, the more I wanted every name, every city, town and street to be real. I even wanted to be accurate about the food the characters consumed. I noted that Polish farmers were given thousands of metric tons of human ash to bury by Nazis at Auschwitz. I understood what it felt like to be inside of one of the massive crematoria at Birkenau, the furnace thundering, flames appearing above the huge smokestack, and human ash ubiquitous throughout the scene. It was the least that I could do to preserve the memory of my ancestors who perished in those places. Sofia: An admirable endeavor, Mr. Weinblatt. I’d like to ask you what made you decide to try self-publishing? Mr. Weinblatt: I self-published two books and in both cases I did it to test a new market. After devoting more than three years of daily research and writing for my Holocaust novel, my mind was pressed to its limits. I required a distraction; something plain, simple and fun as a break, to ease my way back from the cauldron of the Holocaust. To accomplish that, I wrote a children’s book, called, “Runaway Ducks.” You might call this “horror fiction lite,” for kids. It’s the story of two duck brothers. The (slightly) older brother becomes bored with life at the pond. He decides to take his little brother on a trip into the dark, dangerous forest beyond the pond just for thrills. The duck brothers encounter a ferocious feral cat, another family of ducks that would not help them, a deep, dark cave in which a huge bear was sleeping, a dangerous hailstorm and finally a major highway that they must cross to reach safety. It was a delight to write this children’s book and it took my mind away from genocide.I also wrote a non-fiction book at the same time called, “Book Marketing 101.” (Available on Smashwords and Amazon )Having created two traditionally published books, I soon realized that the author cannot assume that his or her publisher will handle all facets of marketing and promotion. Of course self-published authors must rely upon themselves for ISBN, editing, graphic design, printing, distribution, reviews and marketing.  Even trade-published authors must create web site landing pages with useful analytics. The author must manage compelling web sites, blogs, a video trailer, teaser ad, catalog marketing, e-mail and fax blasts, press releases, book tours and signings, public speaking, social media distribution, media appearances and interviews, representation at key international book fairs and conferences, newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television spots and via advanced social network marketing (Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Ziggs, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Multiply, etc).  The author should write published articles to promote the book, enhancing an already-established author platform. All of this is covered in my book, “Book Marketing 101.”Sofia: Do you read eBooks or do you prefer “regular” books?Mr. Weinblatt: I don’t have an e-reader. But I have a smart-phone and my laptop has Kindle software. I prefer the look and feel of a paper copy in my hands. Reading a long book on a computer can be a pain. But, I’ve done it several times and it is not as uncomfortable as it might seem. I see the industry increasingly changing along these lines. Readers today are swinging towards reading e-books on a tablet, e-reader, computer or smart-phone. That is why I will never again publish only on paper. Nor would I only want to only e-publish. The astute author (agent/publisher) will want to garner sales from all aspects of the market.  My e-book royalties far exceed my paperback royalties, which is certainly a sign of the times.Sofia: How important do you think a book titles and covers are? And did you have a say in yours? Mr. Weinblatt: My daughter is a professional art director. She has designed several successful book covers. I asked my publisher for Jacob’s Courage if my daughter could design the cover and they agreed. That cover (see below right), says everything about the book. While we should not make decisions about a book based solely upon its cover, the cover still represents a critical marketing opportunity. In an age when readers can scan hundreds of books in an hour, covers can have a major impact. I know that in the case of Jacob’s Courage, many readers have confided that the cover was a perfect example for the context of the novel. To a similar extent, the book title is also important. It will convey to the reader the deepest and most persuasive potential of the book.  Sofia: How do you deal with rejection from publisher/agents? Mr. Weinblatt: Rejection has never been a problem for me. I hope that my ego is strong enough to accept that most publishers and literary agents will reject my proposals. In fact, I try to use rejection as a tool by asking those who rejected my story to give me other names and possibilities. We should be able to learn from rejection, rather than become agitated or offended. Authors who cannot handle rejection should get out of the business. It is part and parcel of being an author. If you cannot learn from rejection, then you have failed in the effort. Leave your ego at the door as a writer.  Sofia: How does it make you feel when you hand your work over to an editor once you’ve completed a manuscript? Mr. Weinblatt: It is both a feeling of relief and a feeling of trepidation. When I write, I revise my writing several times before I’m willing to submit it to an editor. Even then, I know that errors remain in punctuation, spelling, grammar and conceptualization. I am a talented writer. But I am not a talented speller. Nor is my use of punctuation and grammar excellent. Perhaps most importantly, I recognize that my books contain errors in context, metaphor, conceptualization and purpose. In other words, I need a talented editor and not just for typos. I believe that my forte is descriptive writing. I also believe that I need assistance with dialog. Few writers are perfect. I certainly am not. So when I hand over a manuscript to an editor, I am grateful, hopeful and wishful for a good result.Sofia: Do you enter competitions? Mr. Weinblatt: If I was a young promising writer, I would have entered many competitions. Authors, especially fiction authors, need to build a vibrant and powerful author platform. This platform constitutes the bulk of all positive links, connections, achievements, successfully published books, media appearances, Internet and TV interviews, book store signings, book tours, international conventions and every other form of author success. A non-fiction author can be a proven successful topic leader. But a fiction author must prove his or her mettle. The platform is the fabric of your mettle. If you’re not a non-fiction subject matter expert, but instead a fiction author with few prior successful books, then platform building is essentially your job.Sofia: Do you have time to write every day? Mr. Weinblatt: I was forced to retire from my university director position at age 51 because of disability. I have had degenerative disc disease virtually my entire life. At age 17, my first disc herniated. In my thirties I had four failed spine surgeries. I continued my career as long as I could physically sit, stand and do justice to my position, my clients and my staff. Having retired at age 51, I wanted to keep my mind active. Although I am chained to a couch, horizontal for 90% of my life, my mind is free to roam and to create. So, yes, I have time to write every day. Some days the writing flows better than other days. Then, I use my time for research. Although I had to retire from a successful career in higher education, I can still research and write. For that I remain grateful.Sofia: That is a positive attitude indeed. Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? Mr.Weinblatt: I have honestly never had what is called, “writer’s block.” I can’t comment on something I’ve not experienced. That being said, I have had days when my pain was so horrific that I was unable to write effectively. On those days, I have turned to research and it has worked out well.Sofia: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?Mr. Weinblatt: I plot my stories, but only in outline format. I have achieved the most success when I have a goal in mind for each chapter. At the same time, I value the opportunity when my writing simply flows on its own. When I’m on a roll with a chapter, I don’t want to stop. I suspect that this a common trait of most authors, particularly with fiction.  Sofia: What do you enjoy most about writing? Mr. Weinblatt: As a happily-retired author, I can write anything that I desire about any subject without fear of rejection. In fact, the vast majority of my writing has never come close to public scrutiny. I keep it close at hand. There is nothing that I dislike about writing – except deadlines. Meanwhile, I love all forms of writing, especially the novel .Being disabled, I find writing to be a constructive and successful catharsis. On some days when I am in particularly severe pain, writing takes my mind far away from the discomfort. So you could say that what I like best about writing is that it distracts me from my chronic severe pain. That readers have found my writing exciting and rewarding is icing on the cake.  Sofia: What advice would you give aspiring writers? Mr. Weinblatt: Very, very few of us are a naturally talented author. We each have our unique strengths and weaknesses. My best recommendation would be to take a year or two and do nothing but strengthen your talent. Take writing courses at your local college or university. Find a talented and giving mentor. Learn everything that you can from books, blogs and web sites. Read winning authors to understand the value of their talent and expression. Then, and only then, cast off on your own and write about what you love. This is very critical. Many of us later in life must write about that which we do not love for remuneration. But once you have had the chance to cut your teeth on topics that excite you, you will never want to turn back.Sofia: What are you working on at the moment? Mr. Weinblatt: I just completed a thrilling science fiction novel of 70K words called Lost & Found (temporary title).Lost & Found encompasses all that we desire from science fiction. The story is heart-pounding with thrills unimagined.  It includes aliens, monsters, spaceships, planetary war and powerful love.  We find a race murdering another race simply because they had been taught to do so for generations. Within both groups lies a hidden, yet pervasive desire for peace and solidarity. They simply required a catalyst; someone credible to lead them. Our protagonist astronaut from Earth becomes this hero. The novel is grounded in current scientific fact that blends smoothly into probable future science and technology. A thrilling adventure into another solar system, this tale explores amazing life with two advanced races, a riveting air battle, horrific monsters, survival, romance and a finally a gripping journey home.Science fiction is arguably my most favorite genre. I felt compelled to write my debut novel about the Holocaust, to honor my lost relatives and in respect to the six million innocent Jewish men, women and children who were murdered because of their faith. That being done, I am now free to write about whatever topic I prefer.Sofia: What do you do when you’re not writing?Mr. Weinblatt: I research or write about seven hours each day. The rest of my time is spent reading, writing book reviews (I’m a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books), listening to and collecting classical music and gardening. I’m also an aficionado of team sports and movies and an amateur ornithologist. Sofia: What do you think the future holds for you as a writer?  Mr. Weinblatt: My career was devoted to counseling and higher education administration. In those 30 years, I was traditionally published only once, for non-fiction. In retirement, I’ve turned to writing, to keep my mind active while my body is unable to be active. Since then, this hobby has delivered four books, with one traditionally published. The advantage is that I can write about things of interest. Unlike a journalist committed to the goals of an editor, newspaper or magazine, I commit only to projects that pique my interest. For example, I am a contributing journalist for The Examiner. But I only write articles about topics of interest.  I am free to write novels, novellas and short stories about ideas that enter my mind, without being beholden to achieving monetary recompense or intellectual recognition. In other words, I write when I wish, about topics that I desire. Even the books that I review for The New York Journal of Books are selected based upon interest.Sofia: Thank you so much for your time, excellent insights, and advice, Mr. Weinblatt. Let’s finish off with a couple of frivolous questions – If you could invite anyone from any era for a cup of coffee in your living room, who would you choose? Mr. Weinblatt: Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, James Michener, John F. Kennedy, Wolfgang Mozart, Edgar Allen Poe and Mohandas Ghandi. Sofia: Do you have a favorite quote? Mr. Weinblatt: I am impressed with many philosophers. In contemporary context, I enjoy the words of writer and philosopher George Santayana, who said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” You can visit Charles S. Weinblatt's Wikipedia page and his Website. He also keeps a blog on writing and publishing. And you will find him on Facebook and Goodreads. In addition, please take a look at his New York Journal of Books Reviewer Page.    

You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

Magazines