Today, Helene Wrecker, Author of The Golem and the Jinni, has joined us for an interview! I loved it! Two immigrants find their way to America and try to make their way in life and with people completely alien to them. You can read my review here!
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Helene – welcome to My Shelf Confessions – don’t be scared this won’t hurt but a little.
My loins are girded! Let’s do it.
The Golem and the Jinni has received rave reviews everywhere I’ve looked. So tell me – just how frequently do you read reviews of your book?
At first I read the reviews pretty religiously. I know there are authors who don’t read their reviews, and they must have a lot more willpower than I do. But frankly, I don’t want to ignore my reviews, especially if what they have to say is constructive. I’ve read a number of negative comments from reviewers that I absolutely agree with. In a way it feels like the workshop process again, just with a very delayed response. But there have been reviews that were more amusedly dismissive than anything else, or that seemed to disagree with or misconstrue the point of what I was trying to do. Those were the ones that irked me, much more than the critical ones that I felt were ultimately right.
If I’m in a really perverse mood, I’ll go to Amazon or Goodreads and read the one- and two-star reviews. Not out of self-flagellation or anything — more to remind myself that there’s a huge diversity of opinion out there, and no one book is for everyone. God knows there are times when I feel like the lone one-star voice, when everyone else is praising a book and I have no idea why.
Can you give us a twitter pitch for The Golem and the Jinni in 140 characters or less?
In 1899, a female golem & male jinni arrive separately in NYC. Both struggle to hide their true natures. One night, they meet.
How about a short character description on Chava and Ahmad? We’ll use me as an example – I know I know I’m not a character…but I can dream.
Tabitha: Battles the evil voices in her head, cackles madly at random moments, devourer of chocolate and attention deficit crafter. Would rather sit at home and read then go to the party.
Now you go! Please feel free to give us any other key characters as well!
Chava: Cautious and unsure of herself, but curious and eager to learn. Is baffled by those around her, but longs to fit in. Fears the dangerous aspects of her own nature, and wonders how long she can hide them. Is desperate to tell someone her secret, but doesn’t really know it.
Ahmad: Fiery (literally!), impetuous, arrogant, and changeable. On a constant search for the next distraction: something new to discover, someone new to seduce. Now bound to human form, he longs for his former freedom — and is occasionally a nice guy despite himself.
Personally I feel golems and jinnis? (genies? bah spelling and where is my personal editor) – anywhooo – I don’t find them as often in the SFF fiction that I read. Quite frankly that is what prompted me to pick up your book that you were featuring two species that I haven’t read about a million times before. Kudos and cookies to you my gal!
So how did that make things either more challenging or easier for you and what sort of research did you do for those species / mythological creatures?
I think it made it easier in some ways and harder in others. It meant I was a little more free to create my own versions, without having to fight as many preconceptions. But it gave me less of an established model to work with. I had to go back to the original sources, the old stories of the medieval Golem of Prague and the jinni tales from the Thousand and One Nights, and so on. I spent a lot of time on academic databases, looking for articles in folklore journals. I’ve come across a number of sources since then that I really wish I’d had when I started writing.
I see you live in San Francisco – I live in Sacramento. I am in constant torment that we don’t get as many author events and cool shows, and well pretty much just everything happens in the city. What are some of your favorite things to do around the city?
I actually live out in the ‘burbs, in a town called Pleasanton that’s about an hour away from the city. So I don’t get into San Francisco all that often, certainly less often than I’d like. (Especially since my daughter was born, what with early bedtimes and all.) But I absolutely love going to the Ferry Terminal on a Saturday morning in late summer, when the Farmer’s Market is at its height. I could spend all day there, and most of my money too. Another great thing to do is to walk the length of Columbus Ave. through North Beach (the Little Italy of San Francisco). Start at City Lights Bookstore, of course, and maybe take in a reading, especially if it’s being held in Jack Kerouac Alley around the corner. If you’re in a drinking mood, grab a glass of something red at Cafe Zoetrope across the street. (It’s owned by the Coppolas, and features their wines. You can also buy issues of their excellent literary journal there.) Then walk up Columbus Avenue, stopping at whatever bakery or coffee shop looks interesting, until you get to Washington Square Park. There’s usually something interesting going on in the park, an art show or a concert. In summer they play films at night. And my favorite North Beach restaurant, Piazza Pellegrini, is right across the street.
Ok soo – I always wonder as a writer you must have a pretty active, vivid…err just downright insane imagination. Dreams can be nutso and I usually find people wander into my dreams if I’m pretty focused on them. Have you ever written any of your dreams into your work? Or how about someone made you angry and you used them for….inspiration? Dish dish!
Oh, I’ve definitely used annoying people for inspiration, but usually no one I actually know — more like the mean lady who said something snarky to me at the supermarket, that sort of thing. I don’t think I’ve ever written my dreams into my work. My dreams tend to be either totally nonsensical, or the classic “I forgot to study for the Spanish exam plus I’m naked” stress dream. I’m not a huge fan of dream sequences, to be honest. They’re far too hard to pull off. Usually they end up either totally random and bizarre, in which case what’s the point, or they hit the nail far too squarely on the head. But every once in a while I read a dream sequence that gets it just right, and I come away completely awed.
Reading and book choices can be so painful for me sometimes – because it is all about trying to find that book to fit my mood and how I want to feel right then. Do you think The Golem and the Jinni has a certain mood?
Oh, good question! I’m really not sure. Maybe if you’re in a mood for an adventure tale, or a grown-up fairytale. I’ve had a lot of readers tell me it’s a very visual reading experience, that they could see it all happening. So maybe if you’re in the mood for something cinematic? One of the best compliments I ever got came after a reading, when a listener told me it made her want to be wrapped up in blankets in front of a campfire, with a cup of hot cocoa. If that’s what you dig, I’d say try the audio version; the reader, George Guidall, gives an amazing performance.
Please share with us your favorite quote from the book – I always love finding quotes from books and I’m of course curious to know what parts or lines are an author’s favorite!
My absolute favorite line is from the very end, so I won’t give it away. But here’s one of my top faves:
“And the Jinni replied that of all the creatures he’d ever encountered, be they made of flesh or fire, none was quite as exasperating as a human.”
Finally, we are all about confessions here, the juicier or more embarrassing the better. Hey I gotta get my chuckles somehow right? Ok don’t tell anyone but I really do practice a mad cackle from time to time and like to creep my husband out with it. So do you have a tasty confession for us? – It doesn’t have to be book related.
Oh, lordy! Um… Well, I shared this on Twitter already, so I can say it here too. One of the bits I cut from the book was a sex scene, and it was terrible. TERRIBLE. I worked on it for a week, trying to turn it into something less than completely awful. Finally I sent it to my editor, and we agreed that it just shouldn’t exist in the first place. It was too much detail, and it read like something from a more traditional romance, which didn’t fit with the rest of the book. So out it went. I still have it somewhere in a file, though. I should read it whenever I’m feeling a little too pleased with myself.
Thank you so much for being a sport and joining us today. *tucks away that little piece of your soul she stole during the interrogation*
Thank you, Tabitha! I had a lot of fun answering these. *waves goodbye to piece of soul*
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.
Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.
The Golem and the Jinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.