#Author Diaries is pleased to welcome Wendy Garfinkle, Booktrope author of SERPENT ON A CROSS.
Wendy is a writer who holds degrees from three different universities, including MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. Her debut novel, SERPENT ON A CROSS, which was published October 30, 2012, by Northampton House Press as an eBook, was re-released digitally and in print – with new content – by Booktrope, in August 2014.
She has authored numerous poems, and is currently working on her second novel, the sequel to SOAC, which will be published by Booktrope in Spring 2016, and a new contemporary thriller series. She has served as a copy editor and panel reader for Hippocampus Magazine, and a reader for the James Jones First Novel Fellowship. She works as an Editor and Proofreader for Booktrope, and its Gravity Imprint.
In her day job, Wendy is a crime analyst. Her hobbies include reading, photography, writing and editing, and traveling. She lives in South Florida with her teenage son.
What is your book’s genre/category?
Jewish Medieval Fantasy/Jewish Historical
Please describe what the story/book is about.
Dennah Dubrovnika is a formidable hunter and talented healer. However, she cannot control her own powers, which have suddenly reawakened in the aftermath of her mother’s violent capture by a powerful warlord who destroyed their village in his wake. As she races to free her mother, Dennah is accompanied by Jeth, the man she loves. But she’s increasingly, inexorably drawn to the mysterious Skallan who is allied with her greatest enemy.
Will Dennah be able to gain a measure of control over her magic or will she lose everything and everyone she loves to its raging inferno?
NOW FOR THE JUICY, FUN PART ~ DISCOVERING MORE ABOUT WHAT MAKES YOU, THE AUTHOR TICK.
Please pick 15 random questions from Proust’s Questionnaire and answer.
What is your greatest fear?
That I’ll allow fear of the unknown and low self-confidence to keep me from realizing my potential – as a professional, as a mother, as a friend, as a writer, etcetera.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Procrastination. I’m a big procrastinator. I don’t MEAN to be, it just happens. I usually have the best of intentions with regards to writing and editing. But something ALWAYS happens. Whether I get caught up in reading the newest book by a favorite author, or trying to catch up on all the DVR-D episodes of my favorite shows – and there are a lot of them – or my warm bedcovers refuse to release me… time manages to slip away, and then I’m rushed.
Ironically though, procrastination seems to suit me. I’ve tried completing projects ahead of time; for some reason, it just doesn’t happen. If I’m editing, I end up having trouble with the layout or headers, or some such, which puts me behind schedule anyway. So I usually just throw in the towel and let procrastination have her way. They don’t call me Turtle Editor for nothing, you know.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Disloyalty. If I have a problem with someone, I try to remember that that person – and not the rest of social media – is the FIRST one who needs to hear that I have a problem with him or her, and hope that we can work through it in a manner acceptable to both parties.
I faced this issue recently. Someone I thought was a “friend” pretty much threw me under the bus because he was having trouble facing his own fears and limitations. Apparently, I was one of the major players in this stressful situation, so I guess he decided instead of working through the problem, he needed to make me “pay.” Once I got over being hurt by his blitz attack (a day or two later), I got pissed. Needless to say, we’re not “friends” anymore and I can’t say that I miss the toxicity he brought to my life.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Books. I have loads of them. They’ve all but taken over my bedroom and my half of the office I share with my brother. Even if I don’t have money for groceries or gas, I WILL find a way to buy a book if I want it bad enough. See? I’m obsessed. But it’s an obsession I won’t be seeking a cure for anytime soon. I think it’s the healthiest extravagance to have.
What is your current state of mind?
While I’m writing this, my state of mind is a bit frantic. I’m trying to finish answering 15 questions so I can get this interview back to Jackie so she won’t think I’m a TOTAL slacker.
Other than that, I’m less-stressed than I was a few weeks ago. Further along with my 2nd novel – might actually finish it before Christmas…this year! – have a few more editing and proofreading projects under my belt, and resolved a few personal/family issues. Life is good at the moment.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience. I missed the patience train as a developing fetus. My childhood motto was “But I WANT it (NOW)!” That hasn’t changed much. I try to be more mature these days about my impatience, usually attempting to distract myself with something else – reading, sleeping, playing crossword puzzles – while I wait for other parties involved to catch up. This works really well with my deplorable procrastination trait. I like to think that impatience and procrastination will someday find an easy middle.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Two things. My weight and rosacea. I never had a problem with my weight before I got pregnant. I blame the OB/GYN (a MAN, by the way) who told me to put on more weight. He apparently forgot to tell me HOW to safely do this (time frame, meal plan, etc.) so that it wouldn’t take the rest of my life to lose it again. Just, “you need to gain more weight.” I took that directive and ran with it. I’ve lost some of that weight, and then put it back on. So more than 15 years later, I’ve never been any closer than 25 lbs over to my pre-pregnancy weight. Fortunately, I’m almost 6 feet tall bare-foot, so it’s easier to camouflage most of that extra weight than it would be if I was, say 6 inches shorter.
Rosacea. I’ve had this all of my adult life. When I’m stressed or anxious or depressed (which is about half the time), it shows on my face. I’m almost 42 and I feel like a teenager most days because of my blotchy complexion – NOT good for the self-confidence, which I already struggle with. I’ve tried many different products, and no products at all – both store-bought and homeopathic – to little avail. The thing that works best is little to no makeup; except for special occasions – date night or some such –washing my face at least twice a day with cold water and a mild salicylic face wash, and a monthly or bi-monthly facial/face peel. That’s it. Anything else and I have break-outs of epic proportions – well, epic to me, because, hey, almost 42 here.
What is the quality you most like in a man?
I can only pick ONE quality? Choices, choices. Well, if we’re talking about a platonic relationship with a man, then I’d have to say a great sense of humor. If we’re talking about a romantic relationship, I have a whole page of qualities. One of the most important qualities for a romantic relationship is that he be taller than me – at least 6 feet tall. I’ve tried dating guys who are shorter than me. Makes me feel awkward, and there’s the whole self-confidence issue. For some reason, tall men like itty-bitty women and short men like taller women. I take issue with this – we tall women like to feel “itty-bitty” too (at least, I do)! But a sense of humor coupled with a spirit of adventure rank almost at the top. Must love to have sex. It’s great if he likes to cook, also, because I don’t. Like to cook, that is. I CAN cook, but I prefer not to. He also needs to be a reader. I’m suspicious of men who don’t like to read.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to be able to pound out a full-length manuscript in 2-3 months, and write 2 blog posts a week. Even if that full-length manuscript needs a lot of editing, the meat of it – the work that’s the most challenging for me – would be finished and I wouldn’t be so stressed over the novel I’ve been working on for the past 2 years and NEVER seem to finish. Even though said novel has been completely outlined for the past 2 years, and I know EXACTLY where the story is going. And I wouldn’t agonize so much over whether I’m going to have a fresh post for #MondayBlogs, or if so-and-so is going to “yell” at me because I STILL haven’t finished that blog post I promised her 6 months ago! In addition to Turtle Editor, I’m also Turtle Writer.
Where would you most like to live?
The UK. Specifically, London. I’ve been there 4 times over a 15-year period and every time I go back, I fall in love a little bit more. The first 3 times I was there were for summer study programs through my university. Through that program and those trips, I was able to visit other parts of England, such as Winchester and Salisbury, as well as travel to France (Paris) and Scotland (Edinburgh and Glasgow).
I like to call London my hometown. It would be wonderful if it someday actually DOES become my hometown. Then I could travel all around the UK and other parts of Europe. It would be a dream come true to live and work there.
What is your favorite occupation?
Something that combines my love of writing, editing, history, travel and photography – freelancing for National Geographic comes to mind. Don’t get me wrong, I love my day job as a crime analyst and working in law enforcement, and getting paid by Booktrope to read and edit, help guide authors to polish their stories into something even more fantastic and memorable. But if I could have my dream job? It would be something that combines these loves. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to do that.
What is your most marked characteristic?
My green eyes. I think they’re my best feature; my European heritage coming through. And green is the rarest eye color, which makes them that much more special in my opinion.
Who are your favorite writers?
Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, Laurell K. Hamilton, J.R. Ward, Christine Feehan, Karen Rose, John Gwynne, Robin Owens, Robyn Carr, Alison Weir, Anne Bishop, Richard Montanari, Karin Slaughter, Michelle Sagara, Maggie Anton, Patrick Rothfuss.
In most cases, I’ve read everything or almost everything the above authors have written. In a few cases (Patrick Rothfuss and John Gwynne), I’m counting the days until their newest releases – the series are THAT excellent. I’m not waiting breathlessly, because while I’m fairly certain that John Gwynne’s final book in his The Faithful and The Fallen series will be available within the next 9 months or so, holding my breath while waiting on the release date for the next book in Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles would most likely end in my own demise.
Who are your heroes in real life?
One of my heroes is my mother. She’s ALWAYS there for me, even when we’re miles apart. I’m fortunate to currently live just a few miles from her. She’s been my back-up caregiver since my son’s father and I separated, he moved away, and then we divorced more than 9 years ago. My mom is my sounding board and my role model of a godly, compassionate woman. I’ll never be as good as she is, but it’s nice to have someone to emulate.
Other heroes include my fellow Gravity Imprint peeps. We have some awesome authors who’ve shared some heart-wrenching stories. Their bravery, determination, compassion, and dedication to community humble me daily.
What is your greatest regret?
Letting anxiety and fear of the unknown stop me from taking chances when I was younger, had more energy and no child. Hindsight truly IS 20/20. At my “mature age” of almost 42 years, I make conscious effort not to let this fear continue to rule my life and decisions.
How would you like to die?
I’m not going to die; I am immortal!!
Ahem. Sorry. That’s a different interview. Now what did I do with that answer? Oh, yes…
I would like to die as a very elderly lady, say about age 90 or so, peacefully, in my sleep, after accomplishing everything on my rather lengthy bucket list.
What is your motto?
I have the will and I will find a way.
What motivated you to write the book and what have you learned about yourself from the process?
SERPENT ON A CROSS began life in response to a writing prompt while working toward my MA in Creative Writing degree.
The prompt was: Write a scene from the point of view of a young character in a setting that is uncomfortable, threatening, dangerous, or fearful. Create the sense of conflict with the surroundings through at least three senses. Use elements of weather, time of day, and time of year as well as place.
And Dennah was born. The original 4-page scene that resulted from this prompt was amateurish. The revised and re-revised scene expanded into a 10-page writing sample that made it into my final portfolio for the semester, and while it was a little more advanced than the original, still wasn’t my best work. It began with a “waking up” scene – the kind of beginning my mentor detests, and was quick to tell me so. Since acting auditions in my 20s helped me grow a thick skin, I was able to accept, with humor and humility, his comments; constructive criticism from an experienced author intended to help me grow as a writer and to mold my story into a publishable novel, which eventually became SERPENT ON A CROSS.
Transitioning into my Project/Thesis Semester, I wanted to revise this 10-page piece of fantastic juvenile fluff into a fantasy novel, and so asked my mentor, Dave Poyer, his thoughts. This began a discussion of my ancestral background, and how it could be woven into Dennah’s story. My heritage on my father’s side is Ashkenazi Jewish, my great-grandparents having emigrated from Russian territories (Ukraine and Belarus) during late 19th century pogroms. Thus, the background for Dennah’s story – a young Jewish healer with unknown Elemental powers living in Medieval Eastern Europe on the eve of a pogrom.
Since I planned to set my novel in the real world, during an historical time period, but with fantasy themes of magic, mythology and mysticism, I had to research the historical and realistic pieces of Dennah’s story, language and geography, as well as the mysticism and magic that has been part of Jewish heritage for thousands of years. I also spent a whirlwind 8 days in 2010 traveling through Poland, Ukraine and Russia, in an attempt to get a “feel” for the countries and people that make up the landscape and characters of my books.
Though I’ve had to stumble through most of my discovery, as my father’s family wasn’t very observant, didn’t keep very good family records, and most of them have passed on, I’ve fallen more deeply in love with my rich Jewish heritage and continue my research into this part of my ancestry. I’ve also learned a great deal about herbalism and medieval medicinal practices.
I probably have enough knowledge and references to someday open an apothecary, which will, naturally, be adjoined to my cafe-bookstore full of new, used and rare volumes of the printed word, which I travel the world to procure.
Where can we find your book?
You can follow Wendy Garfinkle around the web:
Thank you, Wendy for chatting and taking the Proust challenge. I wish you continued success with your writing, and immortal life pursuits. You have already completed quite the extensive, and impressive ‘bucket list’ check. Slacker? I hardly think so. Maybe writing a suspense drama for the BBC is in your future, staring a beguiling and bewitching heroine with stricking green eyes…
ABOUT JACQUELINE CIOFFA
Jacqueline Cioffa was an international model for 17 years and celebrity makeup artist. She is a dog lover, crystal collector and Stone Crab enthusiast. Her work has been featured in the anthologies, Brainstorms, Feminine Collective’s Raw & Unfiltered Vol. 1, and numerous literary magazines. Living with manic depression, Jacqueline is an advocate for mental health awareness. She’s a storyteller, observer, essayist, potty mouth and film lover who’s traveled the world.
Her poignant, literary fiction debut, The Vast Landscape, gives new meaning to intense, raw and heartfelt.
Fans of the emotional, soul stirring first novel will not be able to put the exciting sequel, Georgia Pine, down.
“The essence continues because you do. Harrison leaves the door open a crack. I seize the opportunity to revisit my whole, healthy self a bit longer, live in the mystic beach home I adore, dream eyes open. Hope is our greatest asset. To choose hope against the worst possible odds is the true measure of life.” ~ Georgia Pine by Jacqueline Cioffa
Look for her new column, “Bleeding Ink” with Feminine Collective.
The Infamous Proust Questionnaire
In the 1880s, long before he claimed his status as one of the greatest authors of all time, teenage Marcel Proust (July 10, 1871–November 18, 1922) filled out an English-language questionnaire given to him by his friend Antoinette, the daughter of France’s then-president, as part of her “confession album” — a Victorian version of today’s popular personality tests, designed to reveal the answerer’s tastes, aspirations, and sensibility in a series of simple questions. Proust’s original manuscript, titled “by Marcel Proust himself,” wasn’t discovered until 1924, two years after his death. Decades later, the French television host Bernard Pivot, whose work inspired James Lipton’s Inside the Actor’s Studio, saw in the questionnaire an excellent lubricant for his interviews and began administering it to his guests in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1993, Vanity Fair resurrected the tradition and started publishing various public figures’ answers to the Proust Questionnaire on the last page of each issue.