Christmas Awards 2011

Friday, 25 June 2010

An Interview with Elle Druskin

Tell us a little about yourself

Hello everyone, my name is Elle Druskin and I currently live in Israel. I am American born and educated, lived in Australia, and traveled to many places around the world. As a child, I read about all sorts of places that seemed exotic to me, and I distinctly recall telling my Mom and Dad, "One day, I am going to go there." At the time, it must have seemed a typical kid's remark without a chance of coming true; travel wasn't as common in those years, but I did it. I have traveled all over Europe many times, been to China, Thailand, Singapore, India (went to a terrific Bollywood type wedding there!) and I am richer for all those experiences.

What do you write?

I have mostly written contemporary romance and some time travel. Honestly, To Catch A Cop—I thought I was writing a romance. I wrote it to figure out how to write a book since I didn’t have a clue. When I asked my critical readers to have a look, all of whom are published authors or editors, one told me it was a bit unconventional, but a romance which was fine with me. Another one told me she thought it was a cute mystery. I never saw that but didn't much care as long as she liked it. She did. The third reader thought it had some elements of a thriller. In the end, I didn't know what I wrote but I had a great time doing it and the process taught me important lessons.

Why do you write?

Good question. I have always loved writing. Anyone who has known me since childhood would be likely to say that I was always a writer. I learned some basic journalism skills in school and I loved being known as a "writer" during those years. I think I am a storyteller. There are some great storytellers in my family.

I have published a lot of scholarly work; academic writing is a different skill and technique, but it's still writing and you learn from that process. I have a PhD which effectively means I spent a few years researching something that had not been done before, wrote a book that 3 people read and received a degree. I chose to write mine with narrative elements, weaving oral history and interviews with the archival information to create a picture and come to some conclusion. You can see some connection with the fiction process there.

As for fiction, I like "meeting" characters. They are in my head and I need to get them out and share them with anyone else who might be interested. I find them aggravating, entertaining, charming, lovable and loathsome. By that I mean, all characters in a book, not only the protagonists who are usually likeable if not downright charming, are in that place in my head, including the stinkers. You need conflict for a book so there have to be some stinkers. I do like characters that evolve and are resilient. Chaos can be running riot around them but they get on with it no matter what. I like that. Not all of them can be, but I am fond of that particular sort of character whether a man or a woman.

The characters in To Catch A Cop are like a long-running television series in my head. I flick the dial, watch and listen. Sometimes the picture is not clear, or the sound, and I have to fiddle or wait but it does come through eventually. I don't tell them what to do and I might not even like what they do sometimes, but I don’t force them to do anything, that doesn't work. They decide what to do and I have to let them get on with it and interpret them in words. That might not make sense but that is how it works.

The same applies to Outback Hero, an upcoming book due out in August 2010. The background was obvious to me from all those years in Australia. I sat back and waited for the "program" to start. In between allowing it to take shape, I shlepped my kids (that's the voice of Lindy Kellerman from To Catch A Cop coming through—oops!) around to country towns, country music festivals, rodeos and so forth to get a feel for the Outback and its culture. Met a few rodeo cowboys, and rodeo clowns, who were a bit suspicious of this woman asking all kinds of questions until I explained it was for a book. They were terrific, answered everything, answered emails and stayed in touch during the writing because each one was firmly convinced he was "the hero." Nice blokes and very generous with thoughts and time.

What are you writing now?

I am working on a few things. A relatively short contemporary that I hope is humorous, finishing off (I hope) a mainstream romance, another Lindy Kellerman, (To Catch A Whatever this time, I am very fond of Lindy and Co.) and two mainstream works. They are coming in bits and pieces and I write as they come to me. They both have historical elements which require rigorous research bearing in mind that the history is the background, not the story which is about people and relationships. Both have romantic elements within the overall work. I like the idea of tackling a very complex piece of work. It's a challenge and a stretch and opens the door to many possibilities. A romance is basically a courtship story and I have always enjoyed that genre but being a lover of history, and having a PhD makes me reasonably confident that I have the necessary research skills to undertake the digging and hunting for information involved in such a complex work and utilize it skillfully. Hope so, anyway. The history should not overtake the story but provide elements that weave a tapestry together with the characters. If chosen well, the history will provide some elements of conflict since that is essential to a novel.

In the final analysis, writing is not easy but if you choose to do it, it can be very rewarding.

What kind of clothes do you like to wear?

That might depend when and where. I think I look best in dresses, not skirts. I am fairly tall and dresses give me a nice line in my view. I do wear pants, jeans, leggings and that sort of thing. I also like wearing men's shirts over a camisole. And on occasion, I get "dressed up" which is always fun, but if I am sitting around at home, especially on a day off (what's that?) and a chilly, rainy day, I enjoy sitting around in a flannel robe, quite cozy and not bothering to get dressed.

Are you in love? Have you ever been?

Not with anyone right now, but yes, I had a sublime experience years ago of being deeply, totally and completely in love. It was the stuff of novels because you can't believe such a love could really exist and there are no words to totally describe that extraordinary experience.

Do you have a dream lover – and what does he or she look like?
I don't know that I do, or if I would share that! It is more what a person is about than what he looks like. That's as much as I am willing to say at this point.

What kind of comfort food do you like best?

Ah well, I'm a sucker for pasta. I shouldn't eat it because I inflate like a helium balloon from wheat, but I love it. For a snack, nothing beats popcorn, but same thing, blow up from the darned stuff so I have to be careful.

What makes you laugh? Cry?

Everything makes me laugh. I laugh at myself harder than anyone else. I have no idea why, I start out all the time thinking things are going to be normal. Nothing will go wrong and somehow, invariably it does, bordering on the insane at times. The ATM eats my money; not the card, the money. I smacked myself in the face with my own surfboard and ended up looking like Rocky Balboa after ten rounds with Hulk Hogan. I set my coat on fire. Actually, I didn't. I was talking with some colleagues and one said, "Um, have you noticed you're on fire? Looked down and my pocket is scorched and slowly burning. Put out the fire and had to toss the coat. Most annoying since it was new. I have absolutely no idea how that happened. And those are just a few things, the list is endless. For years, I used to play a game with my friends called, "Can You Top This?" and you had to tell the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you. I always won. But the saving grace is that I laugh, it’s much better than crying when these things happen, unless you laugh so hard that you cry at the same time.

As for crying emotionally, sure, I do that. From happiness and sadness. I cried when my kids were born and that was pure joy. I cry in sadness, like everyone. At funerals, saying good-bye to people that I probably will not see again. Some books, movies. I cried for I don't know how long when I lost the man that I was so deeply in love with that I mentioned earlier. Lost, because he died and we never got the chance to build our lives together the way we hoped, dreamed, and planned. I still cry over that sometimes. I was telling a childhood friend about him and to my mortification, I started to cry even though this was years in the past and he told me, "Crying is good for the soul." He was right and we shouldn't apologize for tears, as long as they are not a daily habit.

What do you do to amuse yourself when not working?

I go to several dance classes. Not that I am a great dancer, on the contrary. I do it for several reasons. As a child, I wanted desperately to dance and never got the chance which is a shame because it is good grounding for many things so I am fulfilling that wish. Second, I like music and movement and we all need exercise. I hate the gym, it bores me to pieces but dancing is another story. You have to concentrate on what you are learning, so your mind empties of any stress or aggravation and I think that is mentally healthy. You meet some interesting people along the way which is always a good thing. I meet people everywhere because I talk to people and I am comfortable with just about anyone and far too curious for my own good. Everybody has a story and I like to hear them.

I have to be honest; I have not picked up my guitar in months although I like music. I love the beach—you are either a beach person or you aren't. I like going to movies, concerts, museums--things like that although rarely get much free time to do those things. I still enjoy cooking if I don't have to do it too often other than the daily meals. I studied photography years ago and while I don't run around with a camera other than the usual digital that everyone has, I still enjoy photography exhibitions. If I had the time, I have a huge list of things I would still like to do; beef up my French which is not as good as it was, learn Gaelic—don’t' ask me why. I have tried and it's impossible without a teacher, such a challenging language. Take some cooking courses, decorating courses, learn to play the piano. Work on an archeological dig. That's a genuine possibility in Israel so maybe that one is going to happen. Oh, and I decided to take up surfing last summer. Mostly fell off the board but I will be back for more this year since I have comprehensive health insurance . That's only a partial list of things!

What is it in a man or woman that turns you on? The clean version please!

The ability to listen, a trait which is quite rare in my view. By that, I don't mean a pretense, or daydreaming and nodding in a conversation, but active listening to what is being said, and maybe what is not being said. A sense of humor helps but not laughing at other people unless they are laughing too. I wouldn't consider laughing at other people funny at all unless they were part of it. Manners. I am so grateful when a man opens a door, helps me with a coat, holds a chair for me to be seated. They speak of thoughtfulness and that is important. There are other things, sure, physical things, but the inner core of someone is important.

What do you hate about life?

Not enough time! It's the commodity of our lives and there never seems to be enough of it to do all the things we need to do, want to do and hope to do.

What do you hope to achieve in life and when will you know that you have been a success?

Good one. Success is measured in many ways, but ultimately, I would like to look back without regrets. That’s probably impossible. I know we have them, but I’d rather not dwell on them and focus on what we have managed to achieve whatever that is; raising kids, traveling, writing a book because you wanted to, learned a new skill that was a challenge. I would like to be financially secure (wouldn't we all, and it's getting tougher in many ways recently), be a good family member—mother, sister, daughter, etc. and seen that way by others, develop more loving relationships in whatever way you want to take that and lots of other things too. Success? When you meet a challenge and overcome adversity in some way, it is always a success whether personal or professional, large or small. Lots of small successes are important; they don't all have to be huge. I believe very much in taking chances and risks, you might get bruised along the way but better to take them than sit on the sidelines. Whether they lead to a "success" or not might be immaterial. It might be enough of a success to be willing to take chances.
In the context of writing, I would like to write a complex novel with many elements. Write it well, craft it with precision and touch the heart and mind of the reader. Wow! Better get going on that one, it could take a long time.

What are you going to write next?

See above!

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