Just Another Russian-Argentine-Jewish-Historical-Fantasy-Mashup

When you put out the call to authors who have unique stories to tell, be prepared for the unexpected. This is especially true for historical-fantasy “mashups”. These can be fabulous and inventive (Think Naomi Novik’s Dragon/Napoleonic War series). Of course the line between mashup and car wreck is pretty subjective, so it’s a risky proposition (“It’s Harry Potter set in the Civil War and Hogwarts is in Arkansas…”). Still, the imagination and talent required to pull off such a trick is impressive. Even when it doesn’t work, sometimes the “what if” of it all makes the read worthwhile.

Full disclosure, I haven’t read Mirta Ines Trupp’s “Becoming Malka,” but when it takes the real history of a Russian/Jewish/Argentine family and mixes in time travel and mysticism, that’s some chutzpa/valentia/khrabrost’/nerve right there. I had to talk to her.

Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with “un pie acá, y un pie allá” (with one foot here and one foot there). Mirta’s self-proclaimed life’s career has been raising a family and creating a home, alongside her husband of over thirty years. She returned to the world of the gainfully employed late in life; currently in a position which doesn’t require one iota of dramatic flair – just common sense, organization and attention to detail. Rather than being self-deprecating, Mirta lightheartedly concedes that her paper pushing makes a number of people happy, as that bureaucratic busywork ensures that payroll is met and invoices are processed. Besides being an avid novel reader and a devoted Beatles fan, Mirta most enjoys singing choral music and researching family genealogy.

In a nutshell, what’s the book about?
Thank you for inviting me, Wayne. I am delighted to participate in this interview! “Becoming Malka” is a Historical Fiction/ Fantasy. In pursuit of her master’s degree in Imperial Russian history, we find twenty-four year old Molly Abramovitz heading to Moscow for a week-long seminar. Being methodical and meticulous, she is not one to miss an opportunity for genealogical research and so; she plans a side trip to Ukraine. Molly’s trek to her ancestral home leads to the discovery of a mythical tarot card which transports her to the chaotic year of 1900. She finds herself in her great, great-grandmother’s presence. Surrounded by the history and culture she has studied her entire life- and knowing, full well the fate that awaits her ancestors- Molly is faced with a dilemma of extraordinary proportions.

One reader expressed it best, I think, when she said that “Becoming Malka” on the surface appears to be a “modern-day fairytale, but there are layers of serious subjects to investigate and discuss i.e. Russian history, the debate of Jewish Enlightenment, Kabbalah and Jewish immigration to Argentina.” I would add that the Molly’s introspection- realizing her own strengths and value and how she fits into her familial evolution- speak to various universal themes such as tradition, assimilation, acceptance and personal growth.

You get major points for originality (historical fiction with no Tudors or honorable Confederate soldiers in sight, who knew?)What is it about that time period or story that intrigued you?

The historical mashup “Becoming Malka” is available on Amazon

Ah- great question! I was inspired to write the book I wanted to read! Here I was, an avid fan of Historical Fiction and all things Judaic, but I couldn’t find a fusion of these two worlds. There are a few “mash ups” out there- if you look hard enough- however; I found most of them to be filled with stereotypical characterizations of the Jewish community. When I did find something of merit, the material was intense, heavy reading- “Daniel Deronda” comes to mind, as a good example. There is a wealth of dark Fiction and Nonfiction that speaks to the atrocity of anti-Semitism throughout the ages, but I was inspired to shine the light on a period of time just prior to the Russian Revolution and to bring attention to the heroic steps taken by Baron Maurice Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association.

Rather than being a tragic narrative, I depict an upper, middle class, Jewish community in the 19th century. My favorite reads- my period dramas- speak of the landed gentry, aristocrats and high society; I was inspired to create educated, successful, philanthropic, characters. The Brodskys- the famed Sugar Kings of the South-were a prime example and I based the Abramovitz family on their history. I wanted to present a cultured, well-established family living “Jewishly” in Mother Russia, and conversely, I wanted to write about their emigration to Argentina, as it speaks to the courage of my own ancestors who risked everything for the sake of future generations. I added the fantasy element, with the discovery of a mythical tarot card and some discussion of Jewish mysticism, to add a speculative dimension to the story. Who wouldn’t want to travel back in time to meet their ancestors? I know I would!

Wtihout giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

Wayne! That is a tough question- somewhat akin to asking a mother to choose a favorite child! But, since we are limited here to time and space (no pun intended), I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed writing the scene where Molly finds herself transported to her ancestral home. In “Becoming Malka,” a reoccurring narrative revolves around the concept that “inexplicable” is not the same thing as “unexplainable.” Duvid, a young boy of thirteen, poses an interesting question when he asks, “Why are adults so eager to dismiss things that they cannot explain?” History, I find, is full of extraordinary- miraculous- events. I discovered a quote attributed to Albert Einstein which states, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Quite apropos to my story!

And words to live by. Where can people find you and “Becoming Malka”?

http://facebook.com/mirtainestrupp

https://www.amazon.com/Mirta-Ines-Trupp/e/B00BA1U3SM/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6864345.Mirta_Ines_Trupp

History, Fantasy, Mystery- why can’t you have it all? Barbara Barnett

As I’ve said before, what qualifies as historical fiction is open to debate. For some writers it’s slavish devotion to the facts. For others it’s a setting that opens up room for the thousand “what ifs?” that make a great story. In the case of Barbara Barnett it’s kind of all of the above. Her newest book, The Apothecary’s Curse checks the “all of the above” box.

Barbara Barnett
Barbara Barnett

So Barbara, is a busy, busy girl….

She is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics Magazine, 
(blogcritics.org) an online magazine of pop culture, politics and more, She has published more than 1,000 in-depth interviews with writers, actors and producers, as well as essays and criticism. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras: THE Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. is a critically-acclaimed and quintessential guide to the hit show. She is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA’s HalloWEEM convention (author’s note… Cool. Also, showoff!), where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as “The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture,” “The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes,” “The Hidden History of Science Fiction,” and “Our Passion for Disaster (Movies).” This autumn, she will reprise her MENSA appearance with “The Conan Doyle Conundrum.” She is a member of SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association), and is current president of the Midwest Writers Association.

So give us the Readers Digest version, what’s the book about?

History meets fantasy meets science meets Arthur Conan Doyle.  The Apothecary’s Curse weaves Celtic mythology, the science of genetics, alchemy, life in early Victorian London, and the world of Arthur Conan Doyle into a historical fantasy-mystery, steeped in an apothecary’s cauldron.

The Apothecary’s Curse moves between early Victorian medical society (and the dregs of London’s worst neighborhoods) and a modern North Shore Chicago community, as a gentleman physician an enigmatic apothecary try to prevent a pharmaceutical company from exploiting an ancient book of healing that made them immortal centuries ago.

There’s a lot going on there, and purists might cringe a bit (screw’em). What inspired the story?

History, fantasy, mystery all merge in The Apothecary's Curse.
History, fantasy, mystery all merge in The Apothecary’s Curse.
I’ve always been fascinated by British history, especially where the lines between legend and reality blur. So many of the supernatural ballads of the British Isles seem to have the grain within them of real history, like the story of  Thomas the Rhymer, a real Scottish Laird and confederate of William Wallace who’d been (according to the legend) abducted by the queen of Elfland to be returned with the gift of prophecy and then some. I explored a few “what ifs” with the myth of the man, connecting him with the Tuatha de Danann—again a real people of the 12th Century, who were said to have magical healing powers, so much so that they became to the Irish, Celtic deities.
I brought into the early Victorian era another period that fascinates me; the story of Thomas’s descendent, a brilliant apothecary and the inheritor of Airmid’s (the Celtic goddess of healing) magnificent book. But use of the book, with its powerful medicine, has rendered my poor apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune with curse of immortality.  It is in Victorian London, in the squalid neighborhood of Smithfield Market that my apothecary meets gentleman physician Dr. Simon Bell (a relation of Joseph Bell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s medical mentor), It is here that 19th Century British medicine as practiced by gentleman clashes with the practical, earthier medicine of the brilliant Erceldoune.
Without giving the game away, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

It takes place in Bedlam in 1842. Simon is seeking insight into his own mortality when he learns of a prisoner in the infamous asylum who, like him, seems to be indestructible (at least physically). Arranging to see this prisoner, who has for five years been tortured and has been the subject of medical experimentation by a proto-Mengele figure—a “mad” doctor, Simon discovers that it is Gaelan, who had supposedly been executed five years earlier at Newgate Prison for murder.

The reunion, fraught with tension and bad feelings is a pivotal moment in the novel. (I can’t say more than that without spoilers 🙂 )

Fair enough. Now that we’ve baited the hook, where can people find your work?

The Apothecary’s Curse will be available October 11 at most online and brick and Mortar bookstores. Here are the pre-order and information links. City Lit Books in Logan Square is hosting a launch party of the book on October 20. If readers are interested in receiving an invitation, they can email me at barbara.barnett@barbarabarnett.com

Website: barbarabarnett.com

Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29236424-the-apothecary-s-curse

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Apothecarys-Curse-Barbara-Barnett/dp/1633882330/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1457895155&sr=8-1&keywords=apothecary%27s+curse

Twitter: Twitter.com/B_Barnett

Facebook: Facebook.com/BarbaraBarnettAuthor