Today I’ve invited Beverly Magid, author of Where Do I Go, an historical novel set around the turn of the twentieth century in New York to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her new novel.
Welcome Beverly. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel.
BM: WHERE DO I GO is the story of Leah Peretz and her two young sons immigrating to the Lower East Side of New York in 1908. They have survived a pogrom in Russia, aimed at killing Jews in their small village, which killed Leah’s husband Morris. They come to America to live with Leah’s brothers, but life is precarious and poor, not the golden dream they had hoped for. Leah is confronted with horrific working conditions, pitted against the bosses and faced with her son Benny running errands for the local mobster.
How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?
BM: The times and the place are accurate. Leah and the other characters are total fiction.
What research did you do for this book?
BM: I piled many books on my shelf about the times of the early 1900’s as well as conditions in those garment sweat shops. But to create a real world for my characters, I had to research what they wore, what they ate, read, and saw around them. How Central Park looked to them, the houses on Fifth Avenue, their trip to Coney Island. That came from photos, books and articles written about that time.
Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?
BM: In this book I did bring in real people for one of the scenes later in the novel. I very carefully quoted the people named and wrote accurate details about their participation in the meeting they attended.
In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?
BM: As I said in the answer before, research is necessary to create any fictional world you are writing about, especially if it is in a different time. You need to consider the weather, the light, the smells, the surroundings, what did they cook, how did they dress, what limitations does their poverty bring them, religious background. The more specific the details, the more your reader is drawn into the environment and believes in your characters and their journey.
There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?
BM: My protagonists have all been female, but some of my favorite characters have been male. In SOWN IN TEARS, I loved writing about the Russian captain, in FLYING OUT OF BROOKLYN, Bobby, the wounded World War 2 soldier is a favorite. And in WHERE DO I GO, I loved writing the character of 10 year old Benny, Leah’s son. Getting into the minds of the other gender is a wonderful adventure. I hope the readers will have the same adventure I did.
Thanks for answering my questions, Beverly. The world Leah lives in sounds fascinating and I look forward to reading about her life.
About Beverly Magid: She was a journalist and public relations exec in the entertainment industry before writing her novels. A New Yorker at heart, she’s a long-time resident of Los Angeles. A political junkie, an advocate for the victims of war atrocities as well as animal cruelty, she believes strongly that caring for the vulnerable shows the real values of a person and a country.