Interview with Elle Newmark

Last month I reviewed Elle Newmark’s book, The Book of Unholy Mischief.  She was kind enough to answer some interview questions via email.  Thank you goes to Tracee Gleichner from Pump Up Your Book Promotion for arranging the interview.

Amber: Your story is inspiring partly because it’s unique. You took a gamble on yourself and it paid off. It’s not usual to self-publish your novel, throw a virtual book launch party and walk away with an agent. To what do you owe your success?

Elle: Perseverance. Anyone who is lucky enough to find a passion in life should never never give it up. It might mean laboring for nothing but love—and I did for many years—but passion is the thing that gives live meaning.

Also, thinking out of the box. It’s true that I gambled on my novel by self-publishing, but if I don’t believe in myself, why should anyone else? Of course, I wrote four books before I self-published, and I felt I had found my literary voice. But I went through four agents unable to sell my work. That’s why I stepped away from traditional methods. When I invited 400 agents to a virtual book launch party, it started a buzz because it was a fresh approach. Many people looked a the website just to see what the heck it was.

Naturally, having a book with good reviews didn’t hurt. 

 

Amber: When your book was self-published it was originally titled Bones of the Dead and now it’s titled The Book of Unholy Mischief. Did anything else change?

Elle:Yes. I have the privilege of working with a wonderful and talented editor, Emily Bestler. With her direction, I tweaked characters and added scenes. It’s the same story, but better.

 

Amber: You lived in Germany for a while. Do you think Germany may end up as a setting for a future novel?

Elle:I have no plans for a book in Germany but nothing’s impossible. I loved living in Germany, and it’s certainly a setting to consider. However, right now I’m working on my next book, which is set in India. I spent last March in India, researching, and am in the process of organizing about 800 pages of notes for the final draft. I like rich exotic settings and complicated histories. It’s a challenge with a very satisfying pay off. 

 

Amber: The Book of Unholy Mischief had quite a book launch in Italy. What other fun experiences have come about because of your book?

Elle:The book launch in Venice was far beyond anything I ever dreamed. My Italian publisher had a Venetian chef recreate one of the dinners in my book and gave a lavish dinner party in a private palazzo. If that can happen, anything can happen.

Since The Book of Unholy Mischief was published, my life has changed. Instead of sitting alone in a room and writing for decades—literally—it’s been a nonstop whirlwind that has turned leisurely writing into a luxury. I now live in a world of deadlines, but it’s exciting.

Last year I went to New York to meet my agent, editor and publisher. It was a dream come true, everyone was simply lovely, and my feet didn’t touch the ground once while I was there.

In January I went on a national book tour. Meeting people in bookstores who were actually buying my book simply stunned me. Then came the month in India, the first research trip I’ve taken for a book that I already know will be published. It’s all quite astonishing. 

 

Amber: You recently held a fiction workshop at Lake Como in Italy. How do you feel it went?

Elle: It was fabulous! We had 5 great teachers and 12 very talented students. We had classes in a beautiful 200 year old villa, where I stayed with the teachers. The students stayed in a charming hotel on the Lake.

Students arrived at the villa every day around 10 a.m., broke for lunch and worked until about 4. To my surprise, they were so enthusiastic and the teachers were so generous that they usually came back to the villa in the evening for read and critiques that lasted into the wee hours.

By the end of the week, people felt quite bonded; at the farewell dinner on the lake we closed the restaurant and then hung around chatting. No one seemed to want to leave. It was a marvelous experience, and I hope to make it an annual event.

One student, Carol Nuckols, has posted pictures from the workshop on Facebook, and I will be putting more on my website.

 

Amber: Are you working on a new book?

Elle: My India book is a tale of two love stories, 100 years apart, both set against war in India. An American woman in 1947 India finds old letters hidden in her rented colonial bungalow. The letters hint at Victorian scandal in Anglo/India. Intrigued, she begins a search to uncover the story of the Victorian women who lived in the same house 100 years earlier. Struggling with her strained marriage to a Jewish veteran of WWII, she is looking for answers. Her quest takes her though Indian bazaars and the dying British Raj.

The two tales of love and war eventually dovetail. They echo universal themes against a backdrop of Himalayan peaks and curry scented air. The research has been utterly fascinating.

 

Amber: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Elle: Only that I am profoundly grateful to be a writer. Getting website mail from readers who enjoyed my book and were kind enough to take the time to let me know, well, it’s all I ever hoped for. And I truly believe my refusal to quit was the key. If one thing doesn’t work, try something else. But never, never, never give up.

Visit me at www.ellenewmark.com

The Book of Unholy Mischief by Elle Newmark

The Book of Unholy Mischief

In 1498 Venice, Luciano is caught stealing a pomegranate in the market by the doge’s chef.  Chef Ferrero brings the homeless boy to the kitchen to begin life as his apprentice.  Luciano is provided with room and board in return for emptying and refilling the cistern and running the prepared food from the kitchen to the maids.  He may be promoted to vegetable cook by working hard and listening to Chef Ferrero.

Living on the streets, he had only his friend Marco to advise him.  Chef Ferrero becomes Luciano’s new teacher.  The loyalty Luciano feels towards them sometimes conflict with each other. 

All over Venice conversations are taking place about the New World and about a mysterious book.  The doge believes it will contain a cure his syphilis.  Luciano believes it holds the key to a love potion and will make Francesca fall in love with him.  Marco wants the book to get the reward and live as a rich man.  When Luciano and Marco begin to suspect Chef Ferrero knows the book’s location they are at odds on what actions to take next.

Elle Newmark first self-published the novel under the title of Bones of the Dead after her agent stopped submitting it.  Spurred on by a low sales rank on Amazon and Carrie Bradshaw’s book release party on an episode of Sex and the City, Newmark held a virtual book launch party.  Newmark intended to create a sales spike.  She got more than that –  a day before the virtual book launch she had offers from multiple agents to represent her.  Within a few weeks she had an auction for the book and had a two book deal with Simon and Schuster. 

Retitled The Book of Unholy Mischief it’s been released in multiple languages.  Newmark is hard at work on her next novel.  The Book of Unholy Mischief is ultimately about a boy becoming a man by making some hard decisions and recognizing those crossroads.  Naturally, the setting invites all sorts of descriptions about wonderful meals and food preparation.  At times I had to stop reading in order to have an unsatisfying snack to quell my hunger pangs.  Newmark’s novel tells Luciano’s story with a sweet, wistful tone I haven’t found in a book for a long time.

Elle Newmark’s web site has a book discussion guide and some terrific blog posts.  She may even be available via conference call to attend your book club discussion.  You can find it at http://www.ellenewmark.com/.