Today, I welcome author Karen Levy to my blog. Her debut novel, My Father’s Garden, a memoir, was released in 2013.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am an Israeli-American writer who loves a well-told story, whether it’s in print or on the screen. My first book, My Father’s Gardens, was published in 2013 and I have enjoyed sharing it in various venues ever since.
Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Jerusalem, Israel and after many years of traveling between my two countries (I am a dual-citizen), I realized that you can call more than one place home. Yet the more Americanized I become, the more comfortable I am in the United States.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always loved language and the almost magical power it has to transform and inspire. I didn’t know what I wanted to write until I needed to figure out who I was and where I belonged, and writing has always helped me find order in chaos. Writing about my two worlds did just that. I also know what it is like not to have the power of words since English is not my first language. So finding my voice was crucial for me.
How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?
This first book, My Father’s Gardens, is a memoir, so everything I share in it is personal. I don’t know how to express myself in any way other than by being completely open and honest about my experiences. Audiences deserve, and hopefully appreciate authenticity. Of course this makes writing fiction a bit tricky, since I tend to bring myself into the picture more than I intended originally.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
I have started my next book and once again, it takes place on two shores, starting in the United States and traveling to the Middle-East. The protagonist finds herself wondering about her purpose in life now that her children are older and need her less and less. While in this dark mood she finds herself thinking about her past and about one particular friend she has not thought about since the uprising that tore them apart. The friend is Arab while the protagonist is Israeli. She will eventually discover that those closest to her have kept a secret for years, a discovery that will cause her to question who it is we can trust in a world full of betrayal.
Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I spend part of my time teaching English at Sacramento State University, trying to convince students that language is a powerful tool that can help them navigate the world. When I’m not grading student essays I read my favorite authors for inspiration and keep plugging away at my own manuscript. I should, but don’t have a schedule for my own writing. When I get an idea, I sit down and write.
What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
The best thing is succeeding in taking those great ideas you think you have and effectively capturing them in words that impact readers. I love when someone has read my book and tells me that they could relate, or that it moved them. Of course, not everyone was pleased with what I shared. My own mother has not spoken to me since the memoir’s publication. The worst part about writing is self-doubt. Writing a full length novel is a daunting task and since I am so used to writing non-fiction, I question my decision to attempt fiction quite frequently.
If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?
One of my favorite authors is Julia Alvarez, a Dominican-American writer whose lyrical language and story-telling abilities astound me. I wrote to her years ago, just to thank her for the incredible books she has created, and surprisingly, she wrote back. I would love to continue our “conversation” in person, so I could learn more about this art of writing. The other writer I enjoy is Ann Patchett. She also weaves intricate stories that feel so real. I would love to learn from her as well.
My Father’s Gardens is the story of a young girl who comes of age in two languages, and on two shores, between warring parents and rules that change depending on the landscape and the proximity of her mother. Struggling to find her voice and her place in the world as a result of her frequent travels between her native Israel and the United States, she feels that she must choose a place to call home. As her scenery alternates between warm Mediterranean and snow capped mountains, loud-mouthed Israelis and polite Americans, so do her loyalties: Is she more Israeli or American? How will she know when she has arrived? And while she chooses she is slowly transplanting bits of her father’s gardens on foreign soil.
About the Author
Karen Levy is an Israeli-American writer whose memoir, My Father’s Gardens, candidly shares her search for belonging and her coming of age between the shores of two worlds. Her work appears in journals such as, Welter, So To Speak, The Blue Moon, The Meadow, Davis Life Magazine, Jet Setter Magazine, among others. My Father’s Gardens was a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee.
You can purchase My Father’s Gardens on Amazon.