Tonight, I have an awesome interview with Nicole Dweck, the author of The Debt of Tamar! I loved this book, you can see my five-star review here–>REVIEW. Enjoy the interview!
Hi Nicole, happy to have you on Oh, for the Hook of a Blog! Your book was amazing and I was in tears by the end. I love the kind of literature that intertwines faiths and cultures and which includes how our history shapes our fates or lives today. I have an affinity to Middle Easter works as well. Congratulations on your release! How has your debut novel, The Debt of Tamar, been received for you?
Nicole: Erin! Thank you so much for all your encouraging words. As a writer, it means so much to know that my book was meaningful to you. The book has been very well-received and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I think that there is definitely a certain “type” of reader that this book appeals to. I find that readers interested in Middle East Fiction, or more culturally oriented fiction, tend to really enjoy this book. That’s not to say that readers of other genres won’t enjoy it. I recently received an email from a woman who swears she ONLY reads Sci-fi, telling me that she loved it!
Erin: I agree that it’s great to hear that your writing touches someone else too. I am so happy that your book is getting good reviews, because it deserves it. I think anyone can enjoy it! I’d love some strong coffee and to sit down to continue our discussion. Can I offer you your choice of drink? What is your favorite?
Nicole: Half coffee half milk would be great! I’m a latte lady.
Erin: I’m going to ask you just a few questions since I know you are busy on your tour. Let get started! Where did your inspiration come from for The Debt of Tamar?
Nicole: While studying Middle East history in college, I came across so many people who believed that the current religious/social rift between Judaism and Islam was “normal.” There was this assumption that these two religions have always been at odds, and will always be at odds, as though the cultural tension was some kind of natural phenomenon. I found that idea so disheartening! I sought to illuminate a time period in history that no only shattered those assumptions, but proved quite the opposite to be true. What I’m referring to, of course, is the time period depicted in my book, when thousands of refugees were welcomed in and rescued by Ottoman rulers of the day. I hoped that by illuminating this event in history, people would revisit their assumptions and open their minds to the idea of a peaceful future for all peoples of the world, regardless of race or religion.
Erin: It wasn’t until after I read the book, and visited your website, that I realized that some of the characters in your historical fantasy were based on real people!! That made it even more exciting for me! Can you talk about how you chose, researched, and utilized them to write your novel?
Nicole: One of my main historical characters, Dona Antonia Nissim, was inspired by the real life heroin, Dona Gracia Nasi. As a descendant of Inquisition refugees, it was hard for me not to be drawn to this woman! I often wondered, were my ancestors some of those directly affected by her actions?
A widow at 28 and one of the wealthiest women in the world, she used her tremendous fortune to assist persecuted refugees in finding a safe haven beyond Iberia. She could have easily remarried and embraced a lifestyle of comfort and leisure among European nobility, but she never forgot those persecuted around her and risked her life to ensure their safety by operating a sophisticated underground escape route. A true humanitarian and a woman ahead of her time, it’s difficult not to be inspired by her courage and fortitude.
Erin: The sights, sounds, and locations in your book jumped off the page and surrounded my senses, offering a visual and impactful experience. Have you traveled to any of the places within your book and how did you research in order to bring this through so clearly?
Nicole: Absolutely. In fact, I have traveled to almost every region in the book except for Portugal (and I do hope to get there soon.) While visiting the locations that would serve as the book’s various settings, I also tried to immerse myself in native literature to get a sense of the “communal mood” that only an “insider” could ever truly detect. For example, while in Istanbul, I read as much Orhan Pamuk as I could get my hands on. In Israel, I plunged into the beautiful prose of Amos Oz to help me put what I was seeing and sensing into some kind of regional and communal framework. When writing about war-time France, I read diaries of Jewish residents and other locals that had lived in Paris to get a sense of what life was like as the events of the day were unfolding.
I wanted to really comprehend all that I was experiencing from the inside out, rather than the other way around, if that makes sense.
Erin: You had so many layers and character stories layering each other. What was your process to construct it this way and how did you keep it all straight?!
Nicole: When I began writing this story, I knew that it would begin in 16th Century Iberia and end in modern day Manhattan. I had no idea what would come in between but I began with a starting point and an end point. In fact, the first two chapters I ever wrote were the very first, and the very last. This gave me some sort of framework with which to work. From there, I let my imagination run wild and really didn’t restrain myself too much. As for the multiple storylines, it really wasn’t all that hard to keep track of the characters or their stories. I was “hanging out” with these “people” as much as my own friends or family members, so I knew them intimately, making it hard to forget even the slightest detail of their personal journeys.
Erin: Do you have more books in process or that you are considering writing?
Nicole: Definitely. As soon as my little one is in school and I have some free time at home, I plan to get to work on a sequel. There are several characters in the book that I feel deserve a book of their own!
Erin: Yes, I agree, I’d love to revisit some of your characters. About the time thing….well, I said that same thing up until my now 6 year old went to school along with my other two. I think I am more busy now than then! But you’ll find the balance….though my book is slow in getting done. Someone always needs cookies, or help with a project, or….just about anything you could think of!
Erin: I notice you also have a Journalism degree like myself, so I always like to ask this question of all the journalists turned novelists I encounter. How does being a journalist help in writing fiction? Was the transition difficult, what made it challenging?
Nicole: I think initially, it was difficult switching out of “reporter” mode and allowing myself the freedom to find my own artistic style. That being said, the training that comes along with being a journalist was incredibly helpful in terms of knowing how to go about researching and fact checking, which are really important when writing historical fiction.
Erin: Completely agree.
Erin: And now a fun question, if you could travel anywhere in the world within the next five years, where would it be and why?
Nicole: I have been dreaming of visiting the ancient ruins of Petra in Jordan. Dating back as far as the 4th century BCE, this UNESCO World Heritage spot is #1 on my list. This is one of those instances where pictures speak louder than words…. (http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/petra-jordan-photos/)
Erin: I think we have a lot in common!! I’ve wanted to go here ever since I saw the print edition about it!! We’d love to take my two oldest kids back to Egypt to see their roots and go here and Turkey as well. Yet, wish the economic and political climate were different to be able to do so.
Erin: Where can readers and writers connect with you?
Nicole: I can be contacted through my website, http://www.nicoledweck.com or through Goodreads. I love hearing from readers and respond to every email I receive.
Erin: Where should readers purchase or look for The Debt of Tamar?
Nicole: The Debt of Tamar is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, Smashwords, and the Itunes store. For readers in India, it is also available through Flipkart and Amazon India.
Erin: It was my pleasure to have you here, Nicole. We seem to have much in common. I wish you much future success and please stop back by anytime. I look forward to your future work! Thank you!
Nicole: Loved chatting with you, Erin. I hope to reconnect and talk books with you again soon. Thank you!
Publication Date: February 4, 2013
Devon House Press
During the second half of the 16th century, a wealthy widow by the name of Doña Antonia Nissim is arrested and charged with being a secret Jew. The punishment? Death by burning. Enter Suleiman the Magnificent, an Ottoman “Schindler,” and the most celebrated sultan in all of Turkish history. With the help of the Sultan, the widow and her children manage their escape to Istanbul. Life is seemingly idyllic for the family in their new home, that is, until the Sultan’s son meets and falls in love with Tamar, Doña Antonia’s beautiful and free-spirited granddaughter. A quiet love affair ensues until one day, the girl vanishes.
Over four centuries later, thirty-two year old Selim Osman, a playboy prince with a thriving real estate empire, is suddenly diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. Abandoning the mother of his unborn child, he vanishes from Istanbul without an explanation. In a Manhattan hospital, he meets Hannah, a talented artist and the daughter of a French Holocaust survivor. As their story intertwines with that of their ancestors, readers are taken back to Nazi-occupied Paris, and to a sea-side village in the Holy Land where a world of secrets is illuminated.
Theirs is a love that has been dormant for centuries, spanning continents, generations, oceans, and religions. Bound by a debt that has lingered through time, they must right the wrongs of the past if they’re ever to break the shackles of their future.
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Author Nicole Dweck, Biography~
As a descendant of Sephardic (Spanish) refugees who escaped the Inquisition and settled on Ottoman territory, Dweck has always been interested in Sephardic history and the plight of refugees during the Spanish Inquisition. The Debt of Tamar, her debut novel, was a two-time finalist in the UK’s Cinnamon Press Novel Award Competition. It has also received an honorable award mention in the category of Mainstream/Literary Fiction from Writers Digest and was the highest rated book for two weeks running on the Harper Collin’s “Authonomy” website. It has claimed a #1 Bestseller spot in the Amazon Kindle Middle East Fiction category, a #1 Bestseller spot in Amazon Kindle Jewish Fiction category, and has been included as one of the “Hot 100″ Kindle bestsellers in the category of Historical Fiction.
Dweck holds a BA in Journalism and a Masters Degree in Global Studies with a focus on Middle East Affairs (NYU) . Her non-fiction articles have appeared in several magazines and newspapers including The New York Observer and Haute Living Magazine.
She lives in New York City with her husband and son.
Link to Tour Page: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thedebtoftamartour
Tour Hashtag: #DebtofTamarVirtualTour