The nice thing about shifting from writing a screenplay to writing a novel is the freedom that comes with it in terms of what you have to say/tell. You’re no longer struggling to keep it under 120 pages, the guideline offered to most new screenwriters (“Unless you’re Aaron Sorkin, most agents or production house readers will turn to the back page first. If the number is higher than 120, they probably won’t even open it.”) You can take as long as you want to tell your story, as long as it continues to engage the reader. The other freeing element in novel writing is the ability to delve more deeply into the lives of your characters, thus giving more depth and context to them and their actions.
I’m asked every now and then about the genesis of The Devil’s Breath: was it a screenplay first or a novel? How did you get the core ideas? What made you think you could come up with a fresh take on a subject like the Holocaust?
These days, authors have a variety of options for being published. Between my business book, The Ultimate Startup Guide, and my two novels (Left for Alive and The Devil’s Breath) I’ve either explored or participated in most of the options. Hopefully my experiences will be of benefit to those of you facing the decision of being published.
But what is “Never again”? A warning? A guideline for governance? I believe it was intended as a promise, with two different proponents and two different audiences. The first group was the diaspora Jews and Israelis, with the promise that never again would they go quietly and without resistance to their deaths, singly or as a people. The second group was the post-Holocaust world, shamed by its inactions during the 30s as Hitler rose to power and began his systematic destruction of the Jews. It was a well-intentioned promise that the First World would never again look on as an entire population is targeted, discriminated against, rounded up, and ultimately murdered.
When I was eight, my parents took us to Dachau, the original Nazi concentration camp. We saw the photos of the liberated prisoners, toured the barracks where they slept, four to a bed. Stood in the gas chamber. The horrors hit home in a manner that surprised me, even to this day. (Just recently I took my two daughters back to Dachau. I was stunned to find how much I’d remembered—in detail—from that visit.)
“Are you really that dark, and if so, why don’t friends like me know that about you?” This might be a better conversation for my therapist, but it’s a good question. I could come up with a witty answer based on the old writer’s maxim: Write what you know, but I really don’t think that applies in my case.
I like to read. A lot. My mom got me going early and it just went from there. In my early reading days I lived in Europe and we did a lot of traveling. True story: we were going to visit the Vatican so she gave me The Agony and the Ecstasy (600+ pages) to read. I devoured it and loved it. I was 8.
Today, as we grapple with the lessons of January 6 and begin to assess the actions and governing philosophies of the past administration, for historians the the similarities between Nazi Germany and America during the Trump era and its aftermath are too striking to be...
“Psychopath. Sociopath. Narcissist. All of these terms have been loosely applied to Hitler ever since he burst on the world stage. And in the past six years they’ve been applied to candidate and president Trump.”
Part of the Nieman program was a writers’ workshop, for those journalists who ‘had a novel in them’. But unlike other groups or workshops, this one had a guest speaker every week. And it was a roster that only the Niemans could attract. One week was John Irving, reading from his newest work. Then John Updike. Then Rupert Murdoch (pre-Fox). My favorite was Noam Chomsky, the world’s most renowned linguist and political activist.
Left For Alive
Two brothers and their ex-con cohorts are investigated at every turn by press and police. Their violent mysteries start to unravel, until a final revelation gives one brother a new life while ending the life of the other.