Meet Jacqueline Herz – An Author!

Jacquie, as she likes to be called, is another writer with the same publisher, Black Rose Writing. Her book she and I discussed is in the historical fiction genre, specifically, Jewish History, because it deals with the Holocaust.

Having taught social studies for many years, I am interested in her book. I believe we don’t know enough about the Holocaust. Jacquie’s book is special because her parents and grandparents tell the story through their eyes. They lived it. Yet, this book is fiction.

I would liken Jacquie’s book to my Lives Trilogy and Prequel. The work is fiction, but told using the stories of kids, parents, and families who went through child abduction and exploitation, and in some cases, are still going through it. Fiction told from survivor’s eyes and minds is always powerful. I can only imagine what her parents and grandparents went through. That, in itself, makes this book powerful.

What was it that made you decide you had a story to tell and to become an author?

In a word, the Holocaust. Both sides of my family were lucky enough to get out of Europe and make it to London—my mother’s side from Berlin in 1939 and my father is from Antwerp in 1940. When I began writing this novel, I thought I was writing a story based on my own life. Then, one day, I realized that the story I was telling wasn’t mine alone. And I focused on my parents’ stories as well and concluded that I really couldn’t tell one without the other. It took me a very long time (years) to figure out how best I could combine the stories and make them all mine.

As for becoming an author? It was something I always wanted to do, and then it was something I had to do. When I was eight, my mother left London, where we lived, and went to live in New York. In those days, letter-writing was the only means of affordable communication. So, for as long as I can remember, I have always been writing.

As an author or writer, what sets you apart from others?

I think because I am more concerned with how my characters feel than what they do in the plot. I want to write in a way that paints a picture. Some have accused me of being too descriptive, but I really strive for the reader to visualize the places and internalize how my characters are feeling in the story.

What genre do you write, and why?

My novel, Circumference of Silence, is Jewish historical literary fiction. I try to write with depth of feeling. I am drawn both to reading and to writing stream of consciousness. The writing itself is extremely important to me. I can spend hours on a single paragraph (sometimes even just a sentence) to get it to sound exactly right to my ear. And I especially love to come up with unique ways of showing what I mean.

If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be, and why?

I don’t know if there were only one or two books that had a major impact on me, but I know that on reading Lily Tuck’s The Double Life of Liliane, I felt I had been given permission on some level to explore my writing on a more personal and deeper level. My novel, as is Lily Tuck’s, is considered Autofiction. In the same vein, there was Margaret McMullan’s In My Mother’s House

What authors do you read regularly? Why?

David Grossman, A.B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, Lily Tuck, Jenny Erpenbeck, Deborah Levy, Joan Silber, Nicole Krauss, Daniel Mendelsohn, Margaret Drabble, Rabih Alameddine, Margaret McMullen.

I love the way they write. Their books are usually about subjects or people that require me to think. Nothing any of these authors write about is completely straightforward or simple.

If you were to have dinner with 5 individuals living or dead, who would they be and why?

I think I would have to say both sets of grandparents because I now have questions I would have never thought to ask them when I was younger and they were still alive. I’d have to add my father to this list and for the same reason.

What is your writing routine? When you write, are you a planner/outliner or are you a “pantser”?

I am definitely a “pantser”! At the moment, I don’t really have a routine. I have been way too caught up in the pre- and post-publishing excitement of my first novel, Circumference of Silence, to sit down and concentrate enough to make any real headway on my current WIP—another novel.

When writing, how much do you read? Do you read in or out of your genre?

I read as much as I can. I’m not as interested in a particular genre as much as what a book is about—fiction or non-fiction—and how it might interest or teach me. Above all, I’ll always be caught up in the way a book is written.

What tips would you give to new or even experienced writers?

Stick to it! Take in those critiques, but then, in the end, be sure to listen to yourself. Probably, the hardest thing for a writer (or any artist for that matter) to do is to hold on to that belief in yourself.   

How do you handle a negative critique?

I smile, say thank you, and try my hardest not to become defensive! Most of the time, I find that even if I disagree with the specifics of a negative critique, deep down I know there’s something not quite right with what they’ve read, so I go back over it.

Is there a type of writing/genre that you find difficult to write? Why?

I’m not sure how to answer this. I find writing critical reviews of other books really difficult. They take me a long time to write. Mainly, I think, because I want to be fair and always find the best in someone’s work, even when it’s not exactly to my liking.

How important are the elements of character, setting, and atmosphere to a story, and why?

For me, all these elements make the story. They are all very much the primary focus of my writing. I try to write as three-dimensionally as I can. It’s how I strive to write.

Do you see yourself in any of the characters you create? How/Why?

Yes. My guess is that there’s a part of me—some larger, some smaller—in every one of my characters. I think most of all, it’s in the way a character reacts to a given situation. At first, I think of how I, as me, would react and then I transpose my own feelings onto the character I’ve created.

Is there an unforgettable or memorable character that will not leave your head, either of your own creation or from a book you’ve read?

I can’t think of one in particular. Perhaps, my protagonist, Hannah, in the novel I’m currently working on would fit—mainly, I’d guess, because I don’t have her complete story firmly in my mind yet.

Tell us about your most recent book. How did you come up with the concept?

I knew what I wanted or, rather, needed to tell; I just didn’t know how to do it. Years ago, I attended a week-long writers’ conference. I’d chosen Lore Segal to be my mentor. At that time, I was concentrating more on my parents’ stories. But her comment to me was: You can’t write these stories, they’re not yours to write. Once I got over my initial shock, I began to understand what she was telling me and then accept that she was right. After the conference, I came up with the idea of the mother telling her side of the story in letters to her daughter.

How did you come up with the title?

Years ago, I used to get the weekly Forward Newspaper delivered to my mailbox. One day, as I was skimming through the paper, I came across an article about the Holocaust and how it was still a closed subject and not talked about enough. The author had used the phrase, circumference of silence, to illustrate what he was trying to get across. The circumference of silence surrounding the Holocaust needed to be cracked, broken through, opened up. I loved this as the title because, not only does it refer to the Holocaust, but also how that silence affected those who lived through it and then the generations that came after.

From your book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?

I’m not sure I have a favorite or least favorite character. Rather, there may be sections of the book I prefer over others. I can definitely understand those painters who keep going over their work, never considering it finished.

Author/media contact information:

Facebook: Jacquie Herz

Instagram: @jacquieherz

Twitter: @HerzJacquie

Circumference of Silence Circumference of Silence eBook: Herz, Jacquie: Books

Circumference of Silence by Jacquie Herz, Paperback | Barnes & Noble
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I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did. I also hope you check out her work!

Jacquie Herz, Author

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