I’ve had people tell me they are between books, looking for something new to read; a new author, a new genre. There are more writers than ever before: More good writers, more not so good writers. The choices of things to read are enormous. The purpose of interviewing a writer is to give you, the reader, a chance to hear from the writer directly, to hear the writer’s own voice.
Fred Amram left a successful career in academia to write fiction and creative nonfiction – to write without footnotes. Now he hopes to become a successful author and inventor.
If you could change one thing about the world what would it be? I’d invent a “respect diversity” pill.
What pet peeve do you have about other people? Self-centeredness. Each person seems to think that the world revolves around him or her.
Is there any occasion when it’s OK to lie? No. However, there are many ways to cast the truth.
What’s the name and focus of your story? “The Reluctant Grown-up” is a memoir story that tells of repeated Gestapo visits to my home during my youth.
Who is the audience for this? Although Jews, already knowledgeable about the Holocaust, tend to read this type of personal story, I’d like my work to appeal to a wider audience as good literature as well as an argument against genocide in all its forms.
Is this part of a series? “The Reluctant Grown-up” is one in a series of stories that, I hope, will become a memoir of life under the Nazis, escape and then adapting to a new language and culture in a new country. Some of the episodes from my early life have been published in Whistling Shade, Prick of the Spindle, Turtle River Press, Jewish Chronicle, The American Jewish World and an anthology of stories by Holocaust Survivors called Marking Humanity.
What surprising things did you learn while writing this article? Often, when re-reading one of my stories, I cry. Apparently there are still unresolved feelings underneath my professional veneer.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing? While I’m not religious, Jewish culture (Yiddishkeit) was always part of my life. It pervades my thinking and writing. I also have the remnants of a Yiddish voice that impacts the rhythm of my prose.
Do you prefer fermented or distilled? When you and I first met in 1969 we both preferred Scotch, Scotch and more Scotch. Now a good glass of wine or two is all this old man can take.
Do you have a special routine you go through before you begin writing?
I often play a simple computer game for about five or ten minutes to clear the outside world from my brain. Then I can focus.
Describe your protagonist physically and emotionally and describe the challenges the protagonist needs to overcome and the motivation for overcoming them.
The protagonist in a memoir is usually the author. In this case the author is an old man looking back and re-examining years as a Jewish youth in Nazi Germany and then coming to America needing to learn a new culture. The impact of the European Holocaust is intensified by the anti-Semitism experienced in New York City.
Describe your antagonist physically and emotionally, and talk about motivation.
The villain is hate experienced in American classrooms and on the streets of New York City. The motivation for any racial or religious hate is self-centeredness. “I’m the center of the universe. My people are the center of the universe. My beliefs are the correct beliefs and others are both wrong and evil.”
Quote a passage from your book that you love. My favorite room in the apartment was Papa’s storage room. Perfectly white walls with perfectly white shelves showed off bolts of fabric in every imaginable color and texture. I loved the colors from pastel pink to glowing red, from aqua to royal blue, from lemon yellow to grass green. Sometimes Papa let me stand on his ladder so that I could feel the different textures: wool and silk, cotton and linen. He explained “quality” by discussing the different weaves. He suggested which fabric would make a fine woman’s skirt, which would make a man’s dress shirt and which should be used as a dish towel.
Elaborate on the meaning of the passage. The colors contrast to the black and gray of the Gestapo uniform. The colors contrast to the stark story. The colors represent the beauty lost in our lives.
Discuss your philosophy of writing. I believe that writers should write. Let ideas, words, images flow from the fingers. Then edit, edit, edit. First one barfs. Then one cleans up. Separate the two.
This story is available free. You can read “The Reluctant Grown-up” at Hippocampus Magazine.
Similarly, you may read some of Fred’s other stories about the Holocaust by visiting his web page.
That’s the interview. Thanks for listening.