My latest novel is entitled Head Games

My Books are available
for purchase at the following websites:

Amazon.ca

Guernicaeditions.com


erika reading

Play Naomi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TEN QUESTIONS WITH ERIKA RUMMEL

November 9, 2009 - Clelia Scala, Website Editor
www.openbooktoronto.com

Erika Rummel answers Open Book's Ten Questions and tells us about her novel, Playing Naomi (Guernica Editions).

Open Book: Toronto:
Tell us about your latest book.

Erika Rummel:
Playing Naomi is set in Los Angeles. Liz is waiting for her big break in Hollywood, when a different offer comes her way: impersonating a reclusive millionaire on a talk show. Naomi Baum cannot bear public appearances, but she is desperate to make contact with another guest on the show – Miro Bogdan, the son she has abandoned as a baby. On the set, Liz attracts the passions meant for Naomi. Miro, an installation artist, harbours a deadly hatred for his mother and is plotting to kill her. Ted Hillman, the host of the show, is fascinated by Naomi and romances her stand-in. Liz gives a convincing performance, but is it a performance, or is Liz beginning to live Naomi’s life? The sinister events of the next day persuade her to go into hiding, but neither Miro nor Ted is willing to let her slip away. When the real Naomi dies of a heart attack, Liz takes over. Playing Naomi has turned into the role of her life.

OBT:
Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

ER:
Not really, but I’d say the book is for anyone asking: Who am I? And for anyone wondering: Have I just been playing roles all my life? And: If I go on like that, will I lose myself and turn into the person I am playing?

We are all required to multitask and to play multiple roles: parent, professional, lover, friend. It’s becoming very difficult to sort out the authentic self. Playing Naomi is a parable of modern life.

OBT:
Describe your ideal writing environment.

ER:
At my desk. In my room. I am a creature of habit, and I like my routine. I start the day writing – if a commitment or a chore prevents me from writing in the morning, I’m unhappy. In the afternoon, I give it another try, but I often end up doing donkey work. Evening is reading or socializing time for me. To write, I have to read: it’s like fertilizing the brain.

OBT:
What was your first publication?

ER:
I published my first short story in Quarry thirty years ago. I was so elated I wanted to frame the cheque (it was about 30 dollars), but I needed the money.

OBT:
Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

ER:
Not recent, but running deep. I came to Canada in 1965 and lived on the Danforth, then an Italian enclave. An older man overheard me speaking German in the street. He shook his fist at me and my friend and said: “Speak English, you bloody wops!” He didn’t know German from Italian, but he knew he hated us because we were different. And so I always put something about xenophobia or intolerance into my pieces. I want to write that ugly experience out of my head and out of the Canadian mind.

OBT:
If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

ER:
I’d tailor the choice to the recipient.

For myself, I’d choose:
Susanna Moodie, Roughing it.
Margaret Atwood, Surfacing.
Mordecai Richler, Barney’s Version.

OBT:
What are you reading right now?

ER:
Benjamin Black (also writing as John Banville), The Lemur. Before that, I reread Mordecai Richler, Cocksure. It’s a wicked satire and gets better with each reading.

OBT:
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

ER:
I don’t know about "best advice." I consider all criticism good advice. I’d love to hear only praise, but criticism is more useful (if you can hack it, that is).

OBT:
What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

ER:
I have no recipe for success. I’ve published some twenty non-fiction books – intellectual history, biography, translation. I thought it would be easy to segue into fiction, but it wasn’t. In academe, if you do substantial original research and put your findings together in a well-structured and well-argued book, you are bound to get them published. There is no such formula for publishing fiction. A good story and word power are necessary, but not sufficient conditions to make it happen. I don’t know the missing ingredient: Marketing skills? A good agent? Friends in the right places? Or just plain dumb luck?

OBT:
What is your next project?

ER:
A historical novel set in 16th century Spain. Title: Alcala Here is my pitch: What happens when a Jewish physician falls in love with the niece of the Regent of Spain? Can the lovers dodge a corrupt, blackmailing priest and outwit the Inquisition?

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