Archive for the ‘The Holocaust’ Category

A board-certified internist, Dr. Allen Malnak served as chief of medicine at Fort Sill, OK, and was medical director of a number of organizations, including the Emergency Department of Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital. During his long medical career in the Chicago area, he was also a clinical investigator in liver disease as well as an assistant clinical professor at the Stritch School of Medicine, and a practicing internist. Following retirement, he and his wife Patricia moved to Bonita Springs, Florida. His interest in the Holocaust was sparked by the fact that all the men, women and children of his father’s large Lithuanian family were sent to a death camp by the Nazis and murdered.

Thanks for this interview and congratulations on the release of your suspense thriller, Hitler’s Silver Box. What compelled you to write this story?

When my father came to America in 1906 at age 16, he had only one distant relative in this country. He left behind in Kovno, Lithuania a large family, including his parents, eight brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. They ranged in age from the elderly to babies. 

Dad died of natural causes during the Second World War and immediately following the war, my late brother Lewis and I began to try to track down our father’s European family. I was just 16 when the war ended. We wrote letters to everyone we could think of and after about a year received a detailed reply from the International Red Cross. Nazi records as well as witness reports indicated that all members of dad’s family had been murdered either in or near Kovno or after transfer to a death camp. Every man, woman and child! 

So, one entire side of my family was destroyed by the Nazis. Of course, I became interested in the Holocaust and began reading articles about it even during my high school and college years. During my internship at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital, I read a short book, Doctors of Infamy, which covered many horrendous medical experiments performed on concentration camp prisoners by Nazi physicians. The book was so disturbing that after reading it, I tossed it into a garbage can. My next book on the subject was Elie Weisel’s NIGHT.  I then became occupied with my professional career as well as with my growing family for many years. When I reached the age of forty, I decided I owed it to my dead family members to engage in a real study of that terrible time. I then spent perhaps two or three years of my limited free time reading every book I could find on the Holocaust. 

Years later, I retired from the practice and teaching of internal medicine, and my wife and I moved to Bonita Springs Florida. I noticed in the Naples Daily News an article describing a course in writing fiction being held at the Naples Philharmonic. The teacher was Hollis Alpert a well known novelist, biographer, short story editor as well as a movie critic. 

I took classes with Hollis for a couple of years. He would give us assignments, often listing several subjects that we should use as the basis of a short story. He would critique each story and at the next weekly session read some of them to the class. 

One topic I picked was titled “A Silver Box.” For some reason, I decided to write it about a concentration camp prisoner at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp who was forced by a Nazi colonel to make a silver box which would be a present for Adolph Hitler. 

After reading the story in class, afterwards, Hollis suggested that this story could be expanded into a novel, and that started the process that eventually lead to Hitler’s Silver Box—A Novel

What parts of the novel are actual historical facts? 

While Hitler’s Silver Box—A Novel is a work of fiction, it’s loosely based on the fact that during the Second World War, Nazi scientists worked up to the war’s end on a multitude of secret weapons on which Hitler pinned his hopes for a last ditch victory. 

These weapon systems ranged from very long range rockets that could be fired from underground bases to alternative physics, robotic warriors, new energy sources, radical germ warfare and of course, nuclear weapons. 

In the novel, the facts were modified to suggest that many objects which were later called UFOs were also developed by Nazi scientists in concealed locations, and various secret laboratories were set up around the world including in areas of both Arctic and Antarctic wastes where explorers had never trekked. 

What was your writing process like while working on this novel? Did you have a disciplined schedule? 

Because of various acute and chronic illnesses, I could not keep to a writing schedule. I followed the mantra of “write—rewrite—get it right.” Unlike many expert suggestions, I constantly re-edited my previous work, then edited it again and again.

From conception to typing ‘The End,’ how long did it take you?

About ten years.

The story takes the reader from Chicago to Paris to the Czech Republic. Did you travel to Europe as part of the research?

I have visited many countries in Europe and Paris is my favorite city in the world. I had many plans to visit the Czech Republic, but like Max in the book, health problems kept canceling the plans.

What was the hardest part of writing Hitler’s Silver Box?

Dialogue and careful descriptions were difficult crafts to understand and learn, but the hardest part was describing the conditions that Max went through in the concentration camp using the “particular” silver, the provenance of which nearly drove him and me mad. The dramatic ER scenes were easier because they were based on my personal experiences. Since like Bruce in the novel, I also have claustrophobia in tunnels, writing that scene caused me some discomfort.

What’s in the horizon for Allen Malnak?

If my health holds up, I just might write a sequel to Hitler’s Silver Box. If the Spielberg types come sniffin; around to make the novel into a movie, well I just might be forced to interview Charlize Theron to see if she’s “hot” enough to play Sari.

Any last words to my readers?

The incidents that pushed me to finish Hitler’s Silver Box were linked to the website of one of our local newspapers. Two anonymous neo-Nazis constantly spewed their racist, ant-Semitic slurs, bragging about their continued worship of Adolph Hitler and the murderous Waffen SS, while denying every aspect of the Holocaust.

I’ll close with a quote from a novelist, Jerry Ahern, who reviewed my book for “Gun World Magazine.”  

“Future generations have serious responsibilities, chief among these not to repeat past mistakes. Sadly, these days, there are still those who, out of ignorance or foul intentions, somehow revere the scourge that was National Socialism. That’s why, it’s good for the rest of us to get reminded from time to time, at least, how truly despicable the Nazis were.”

Read more about the author and Hitler’s Silver Box:  



Website: www.hitlerssilverbox.com

Purchase from Amazon.

This article originally appeared in Blogcritics.

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Please welcome Louise Voss, co-author of the suspense novel, Killing Cupid. I hope you’ll enjoy the interview, but first, here’s a little about Louise in her own words…

I started writing as a hobby while living and working in the music business in New York in 1995. After a few years of rejections, my first book was bought at auction by Transworld/Black Swan. To Be Someone was published in 2000, the first novel to come with its own CD soundtrack (on Virgin Records). Three more novels followed, as well as two co-written thrillers with Mark Edwards. The first of these, Killing Cupid, was optioned by the BBC for a two-part drama and is about to optioned again by a BAFTA-winning producer for a feature film. Killing Cupid has recently been published on Amazon Kindle, shortly to be followed by Catch Your Death.

I live in South West London with my daughter and our psychotic flatulent rescue cat.

About the book:

A frightened woman turns the tables on her stalker – with devastating results.

A fast-paced, funny and original psychological thriller with more twists and turns than a bucketful of snakes.

When Alex Parkinson joins a creative writing class, he realizes immediately that he and his tutor, Siobhan McGowan, are meant to be together. Alex will do anything to be with her…Like buying her designer clothes and lingerie…with her own credit card. Like breaking into her house and reading her diary. Like threatening her ex-boyfriend – and watching his love rival plummet from a rooftop. Like creeping around her house and hiding in the wardrobe, waiting until she comes home…

But when Alex is finally scared off and seeks solace elsewhere, Siobhan decides to take revenge. How dare he lose interest in her? He picked the wrong woman to stalk then just back off!

As their lives begin to unravel and the past closes in, Alex and Siobhan embark on a collision course that threatens to destroy both themselves and everyone around them…’

KILLING CUPID is now available on iBooks!


When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I never thought about becoming an author until I took a writing class whilst living in NYC in 1996 (just because I wanted to do something creative – it could easily have been painting or photography instead) in which we had to work with the same character all semester. I ended up with several short pieces of writing which I realized I could expand into chapters and hang a plot line onto – and bingo, I had the makings of a novel. I was hooked!

Do you have another job besides writing?

I used to be a full-time writer (had four novels published) but things, ahem, didn’t go quite to plan, and now I have another job, organizing concerts in the music department of a university in south-west London. It’s fun, but doesn’t leave me enough time to write! I’m really hoping that this Kindle venture, ie. my second bite at the cherry, is successful enough for me to go back to being a full-time novelist!

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

Mark (Edwards, my co-author) and I decided that we should put our writing/critiquing friendship to good use, and co-write a novel. We came up with the stalker-becomes-the-stalked premise, he thought of the title (‘Killing Cupid’) and we decided to write a chapter each, me as the female lead, him as the male. He then promptly moved to Japan, so we would write our chapter in turn, email it to the other for editing and comments, and continue that way. We didn’t write an outline, we just had a vague idea of where it should go, and took it from there. It was a breeze to write; so much fun.

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

Eurgh, bad reviews are horrible! Luckily I’ve only had a couple, but it’s true what they say – you do remember them better than the good ones. I think the recent hoo-ha about the Kindle author who behaved appallingly badly, kicking off about a mediocre review only to find her offensive and bitter retorts going global, is a salutory lesson to everyone… Let it go! Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and as long as the majority of reviews are positive, you must be doing something right!

How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?

It was much easier when my daughter was a baby, because I could write during her naps. And then, for years, I wrote when she went to bed, from about 7.30pm. It’s got more difficult now that she’s 13 and we tend to hit the hay at about the same time. By the time I’ve come in from work and we’ve done the homework/dinner routine, I’m too worn out to write, so it is now mostly relegated to weekends and holidays. But I think that’s also because I don’t have a new work-in-progress – at the moment I’m working on getting my old novels up on Amazon Kindle. Once I get stuck into something new, I’m sure I’ll make the time. And yes, I would loosely plan a writing session in advance, ie. have in mind a specific scene I want to get down.

What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?

I am a huge fan of critique groups. I am lucky enough to have been in a brilliantly supportive one for the past ten years. We’ve all become good friends – and have all been published, too. I think anyone with any self-esteem or intelligence would (hopefully) pretty soon realize that they were in the wrong group, if they were feeling crushed or not given critiques in a constructive way.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Here’s a link to my co-author Mark’s excellent blog:
One to the book on Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/gXGez2
And one to Amazon US: http://amzn.to/eGhcPx

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

As I said, I’m planning to get all four of my past novels up on Amazon Kindle as soon as I can – I love the idea of them having a whole new lease of life! Plus, Mark and I are currently in the process of e-publishing our other co-written thriller: Catch Your Death, set around a research centre into the common cold, featuring rogue scientists, ruthless killers, and a woman who is out to find the truth about what happened to her first love…

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I recently had the opportunity to read Mathias B. Freese’s The i Tetralogy. You 41rg7zxwvsl_sl500_aa240_may read my review of this book at Today.com.

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When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

Since I was a child I’ve always enjoyed reading. I rarely went anywhere without a book and I spent every free minute reading. I still carry a book with me wherever I go. My handbag must be big enough to hold a paperback as well as the rest of my ‘necessities’. If I get a spare minute my nose will be buried in the book. But, despite having a very active imagination, being an avid reader and enjoying essay writing at school, I never considered becoming a writer. I enjoyed reading others’ stories but didn’t have the desire to create my own.

I was in my thirties before I got the urge to write and it occurred to me that I might be able to do so. Then, for several years after the idea first occurred to me, I yearned to write but didn’t put pen to paper. I was busy with too many other activities. Finally, I was galvanised into action, in the spring of 1998, when I heard an advertisement for a Belfast radio station’s Annual Short Story writing contest. I decided to enter it. There was only one weekend left to submit my entry before the contest deadline so I got started immediately. I didn’t win but my story, The Contest, was short listed and read on air. That success encouraged me to continue writing. I wrote sporadically and without any clear purpose until 2002 when I enrolled in the Writers Bureau correspondence course. Having assignments to complete focussed me and helped me decide what I wanted to write. Now I fit in course assignments between my other writing. One day I may find time to actually finish the course!

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

‘Hitler and Mars Bars’ is the story of a German boy growing up in war-torn Germany and post war rural Ireland. Set against the backdrop of Operation Shamrock, a little known Irish Red Cross initiative which aided German children after World War II, my novel explores a previously hidden slice of Irish and German history.

Erich, growing up in Germany’s embattled Ruhr area during World War II, knows only war and deprivation. His mother disappears after a heavy bombing raid, leaving him responsible for his younger brother, Hans. After the war the Red Cross transports the boys to Ireland, with hundreds of other

German children, to recuperate from the devastating conditions in their homeland. During the next few years Erich moves around Ireland, through a string of foster families, experiencing indifference, brutality, love and acceptance in varying measures. Plucky and resilient, Erich confronts every challenge he meets.

Although my novel is fiction, it was inspired by the real events of the Operation Shamrock initiative. Several years ago I met a man who, as a child, had been brought to Ireland as part of the initiative and he told me his story. It was the first time I had heard of Operation Shamrock and his experiences piqued my interest. I wanted to find out more and I read any material I could find on the subject. I also watched an Irish television documentary about the German children’s experiences. There is very little written about the project so I searched for people who might remember it. I contacted people in communities that had hosted the children. I spoke to former evacuees, their foster families, their classmates, their neighbours and members of the clergy. Once I had collected all this information I wrote a non-fiction article for an Irish magazine, Ireland’s Own, about the experiences of one child who participated in the project. When the article was completed, I thought that was the end of it. I had satisfied my curiosity and put my new knowledge to use in my writing. I didn’t intend to do anything else with my research. But, after the article was printed, I still had images and impressions of the people and places swirling around in my mind. I couldn’t forget their stories. Brian D’Arcy, BBC broadcaster and journalist, when he reviewed my book, realised that the human stories were what moved me and captured my imagination. He wrote, in his review, that the book was ‘beautifully written with a strong human story running through it.’ Family members suggested that the information I’d uncovered could be moulded into a good novel. Initially I didn’t want to pursue it but, unable to forget the anecdotes and stories I’d heard, the idea grew on me until I had to create a fictional story that would bring their world to life.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Yes, there was a lot of research involved in writing this book. Although the book is set only sixty years ago, during the ten year period from the last few months of World War II to the mid-1950s, it was before I was born. So I have no memories of the era. I did a lot of background reading about the period in Germany and Ireland. They were very different countries – Germany a battle scarred, industrialised nation and Ireland a quiet, mostly rural place. I read general histories and also biographies. I asked people who had lived through the era to tell me what it was like. I needed to understand their values and goals as well as the practicalities of their lives. There were lots of details about life in Ireland to check, such as when electricity was installed in rural homes and when television broadcasts began, to avoid anachronisms creeping in.

As I’ve already mentioned, I did as much research as possible about Operation Shamrock. I spoke to people in communities that hosted the children – the former evacuees, their foster families, their neighbours, their classmates and the local clergy. I contacted the Red Cross for details about the initiative. I did background research about the region where the German portions of the book are set. The City Archives in Hattingen, Germany were very helpful. I wasn’t able to go to Germany to do my research but the archivist provided me with general information about the area and also the Children’s Home where the opening chapter is set. He sent period photos so I could see for myself what the area looked like. He also put me in contact with the company that owns the Children’s Home and they provided further information about the building.

In Ireland I did background research about several towns and villages, learning about the schools and churches where scenes in the story are set. I relied on history books for basic facts but I also contacted the organisations directly to add details. I visited each area where the story is set so I would have an overall impression of it as I was writing.

I had to familiarise myself with farming methods for the era as well as other aspects of daily life. Ireland and Germany, during that period, were two completely foreign worlds to me. Though it involved lots of work, I found the research fascinating and sometimes I had to pull myself away from it to write.

Describe your working environment.

I would love to lounge in a comfortable armchair with music blaring from the stereo (preferably classic rock or bluegrass) while I write but I’d never manage to put a single word on the page. So I have to reserve those activities for my leisure time. Instead, I write sitting at my computer in the spare room. Although I’m mostly self-taught, I’m at the stage where I type faster than I can handwrite (and much more legibly…) so it’s easier to get my ideas onto the computer screen. I print a hard copy to edit my work. Then I retire to the sofa to make the changes and corrections.

My ‘office’ is the spare bedroom. The computer is set up in one corner of the room and there is an old sofa against the opposite wall. So I don’t have far to go between writing and editing. There’s also a cd player and I play classic rock and folk ballads, turned down low. I can’t concentrate if the music is above a murmur; I would just hum along. My bookshelves are against the wall behind me so it’s a short walk when I need to refer to reference material. The window is beside the sofa and there’s a lovely view of rolling hills and fields. Hares, pheasants and foxes sometimes wander past. It’s just as well that I can’t see the view from my chair at the computer, without leaning over and craning my neck, or I would never be able to concentrate. I guess it’s fortunate that most of my writing time is after dark or I might never get any work done.

Do you work non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

I edit as I write. I stop several times during each writing session and read what I’ve written, making changes and corrections as I go. I start each new session by editing the last couple pages that I wrote the day before. If I’m not satisfied with my previous work, I find it hard to move on until I get it sorted out. I guess I’m a perfectionist. So I sometimes have to force myself to just forget about any phrase or paragraph that is niggling me and move on or I’d never complete the first draft.

When it comes to writing are you an early bird or a night owl?

Although I’m an early riser, I’m more of a night person when it comes to writing. I’m usually busy with chores in the mornings before I leave for the office and don’t get a chance to write. Once it gets dark outside I can draw inside myself and conjure up the images I need to create my fictional world. I guess that’s just as well since most of my free time is in the evenings. I try to write for a couple hours most evenings after the household and farm chores are completed. I don’t stay up very late writing, though, as we have a small house and I would disturb other family members. It’s often a juggling act to balance my family and writing life.

What type of book promotion seems to work best for you?

‘Hitler and Mars Bars’ has been released for just over 6 months now so I’m still finding out what works best. But I know that personal recommendations are important. Nothing can beat them. Positive reviews and comments from others in the writing world and the media are vital for my marketing efforts. So, before I undertook any promotional activities, I sought reviewers. I received favourable reviews from many regional newspapers as well as a Belfast daily paper, The News Letter, and the BBC broadcaster and journalist, Brian D’Arcy. I quote from them in my publicity material; their comments have been very beneficial to my marketing campaign.

Since I’m doing the marketing myself, I have to approach it in manageable segments. I’ve been promoting my book in ever widening circles. Initially I concentrated on the counties of Ireland where most of the book is set. Now I’m widening the circle to include the rest of Ireland. I sent press releases to the media, especially the newspapers, to encourage them to write articles about the book. As soon as they printed articles I contacted bookshops and libraries in the area to offer the book for sale. The media coverage is crucial to arouse interest. Many people won’t buy a book if they haven’t heard of it. Even if they see it sitting on the shelf and it seems appealing, it won’t tempt them unless they are already familiar with it.

The internet is also very important to my promotion efforts. It gives me the opportunity to publicise the book to a much broader audience around the world than I would have direct access to. So I have a website, a blog and I am always willing to visit other sites to talk about ‘Hitler and Mars Bars’. And because the material stays on the internet indefinitely the entries on these sites will continue to publicise the book for me.

So I have found that a combination of targeting specific markets where the book is particularly relevant and also trying to reach the broader reading public is a good strategy for me.

What is(are) your favourite book(s)/author(s)? Why?

Writers who capture the humanity of their characters have the greatest impact on me. Some of these authors and books include Maeve Binchy’s ‘Light A Penny Candle’, Adriana Trigiani’s ‘Big Stone Gap’, Jodi Picoult’s ‘Plain Truth’ and Diana Gabaldon’s ‘Outlander’ series. These authors create believable characters who I would like to meet in real life. The townspeople of Big Stone Gap in Trigiani’s books as well as Claire and Jamie in Gabaldon’s work are all people I feel that I know. I enjoy reading these stories because they bring the characters to life. They inspire me to aim for this in my own writing.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

I have both. Readers can learn more about my work; read excerpts and reviews; and order copies of ‘Hitler and Mars Bars’ on my website at www.geocities.com/dianne_ascroft. They can read my musings on writing and life as well as get details about my Virtual Book Tour on my blog, ‘Ascroft, eh?’ at www.dianneascroft.wordpress.com. The Book Tour continues until December 24. I hope your readers will drop by both sites and have a look around.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

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A teacher, writer and psychotherapist, Mathias B. Freese is the author of two books, The i Tetralogy and Down to a Sunless Sea. His fiction has appeared on numerous prestigious publications. His short story, "Herbie," was listed in The Best American Short Stories of 1974 along with the works of I.B. Singer, Joyce Carol Oates and Norman Mailer. Readers may read my review of Down to a Sunless Sea on my blog, The Dark Phantom Review. In this insightful, fascinating interview, Freese talks about his writing and the force behind it.

It's nice to have you here today, Mathias. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

Teacher, writer and psychotherapist, I have written for forty years. Struggled for years to shed being a teacher and to regain my humanity, I have succeeded. Underestimated my self and my intelligence — benign neglect by parents and all that sob story — I have worked real hard on deconditioning myself – read Krishnamurti – so that, combined with being a therapist, has helped me to see. I am a stranger in a strange land. I thrive in that wintry landscape.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

I suppose there are those who do that. I bumped into writing by my first effort, a poem, published in the high school yearbook, gutted by an English teacher who grossly misread it. Editors! What I suggest to people who ask about writing is that they purchase Mazola oil, go into the woods, and self-anoint themselves. It works.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I read because I was an introspective child, an observer. Early books were romantic such as Harold Lamb’s take on Robin Hood and Jewish Legends. The books mottled my mind, romanticized me, a la Don Quixote, a false reading of the real world. I read junk, good junk and superior junk. The key to this interview, dear reader, is to realize, as you do, if over 40, that we are the last to know ourselves. And the aggravating thing is, if we meet a good person or a gifted shrink, that others may grasp ourselves better than we do. And what is to be made of that?

Tell us a bit about Down to a Sunless Sea. 

In my middle age, frustrated, depressed, I wrote to understand who I was. I am an autodidact with all the defects of that. Stories were more therapy for my self than fodder for the reader. I never was really concerned about the reader. That has helped me serendipitously to this day. It is my assumption, given credence over the years, that I write for me, not you, in the expectation that you will pick up on it. And people do. In short, I made a pact with myself. I’d publish my book of short stories if all of them were published, as a testament to my craft. It took more than twenty years for that to happen, although not all stories were published. I’m constructed in this way, for the long haul, impatient in the present, patient for the years to come, although I now near my end, boo hoo.

The stories in Down to a Sunless Sea deal with the “deviant and damaged,” well, not exactly. They are epiphanies.I write about a cousin who had cerebral palsy and died driving a cab because he couldn’t handle the wheel with skill; about my daughter who had CFIDS; a macabre story about Juan Peron who had his hands cut off in his crypt –yummy – in fact, a story appeared in the Times about that and I was intrigued. And bingo! In 1974 Martha Foley listed me in The Best American Short Stories of 1974 for “Herbie.” I was listed with I.B. Singer, Joyce Carol Oates and dear Norman Mailer. I only recognized Mailer. I was so new at it.

I was now anointed as a writer. Curiously, the story is continually misread; perhaps I was too subtle. It is the mother in the story who is the real shark, killer and manipulator. Many readers omit her toxicity in their reviews. The i Tetralogy, a historical fiction, on the Holocaust is forever my most significant work and it has garnered remarkable reviews around the world. It is a sleeper and it is contaminated, for I take no prisoners and many of us are into denial about the Holocaust itself. In Down to a Sunless Sea, the story about Juan Peron has a parallel theme about Jews in Argentina, again overlooked in reviews; and “Alabaster” is a story about a Holocaust survivor, an unsweetened, non- sanitized look, I hope. Unconsciously I was writing about the Jewish experience, all preparation for my Tetralogy novel later on in life.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of –consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

To write an outline is to maim my efforts. I write intuitively, from the gut, with passion. I write and write, knowing that it is in revision that I prune the pear tree. What is most emblematic of how I work is in the effort to write about Nazis in the Tetralogy. I sunk into my self. I dwelt east of Eden. I learned that the species is by default a murderous one. So, it came to pass that I wrote Nazi poetry; I pushed myself, I considered that and I did it. I count so very much on the unconscious that it is my belief that all conscious writing is like the penmanship teacher in primary school holding your hand to help you make that cursive letter “p.”

What will the reader learn after reading your book?

We really don’t learn much from books except other people’s smarts. Again, I do not write for you. I write for me and for my understanding. I write without expectations of any readership, but I have a world of expectations for myself. What type of writer are you – the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes? I make no such distinctions. I am. I do not write a certain amount of words each day, having heard that conditional piece of advice for years. Who said so? Why? Did Tolstoy learn that when he took his MFA in Leningrad? I don’t read necessarily to deconstruct the artifice of a novelist. Read Hemingway too much and you’ll end up as a declarative sentence, noun and verb forever glued together. Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along? I leave anality for the last. I channel my unconscious, let it flow and then I cut back as necessary. I believe that I am a dugout on the vast Amazon River. I go with it.

Do you have any favorite authors or books?

I have read a great deal of Krishnamurti. His message is in my own work – the awakening of intelligence. However, Nikos Kazantzakis has always moved me, The Last Temptation of Christ, St. Francis and Report to Greco probably the greatest confessional since St. Augustine. He wrote a sequel in two volumes, in verse, to the Odyssey and by all accounts equaled Homer. I read him because when he writes about grapes I can taste the dew on their skins.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Marguerite Young, author, said that we should put the kitchen sink into our writings. To wit, in “Mortise and Tenon,” in the short story collection, I give information about Gustav Klimt, citing a few paintings that the characters see in the museum. It enriches the story, I believe.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

As you have gathered, I go my own way – should I go your way? Publishers fled from the The i Tetralogy. I don’t need someone else — it does help, I am human — to tell me this book is masterful; they ran away because of resistance and denial. America’s great contribution to the world besides Dick Cheney is marketing. I self-publish, draw inspiration from Thoreau, who only published 75 copies of Walden. When you die and I die, does it really matter who published us, except that our efforts are published – the rest is vanity.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

It is www.mathiasbfreese.com. Under "Pages" I have short essays or “factions,” published and unpublished, so you can get a sense of my interests – an essay for PMA discussing that the artist is never poor, to wit. I have links to reviews and interviews with me, especially David Herrle (www.subtletea.com), who does a terrific job. Parenthetically, Herrle did a 25 page literary analysis of The I Tetralogy which reflects as much upon his brilliance as it does upon my book. He was the first to state that the Tetralogy was a major literary effort, perhaps a work of art as well. The blog contains short essays as I go along in life and an ongoing memoir.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

I am into rewriting Sojourner, a historical fiction about a Chinese who ventures to California during the Gold Rush. It is a philosophical quest that he is on. I wrote it about the age of 40, revealing my existential discontent, a need to find purpose and intention in this world. All the while I taught, I wrote, and I went back to school to become a psychotherapist which again was a latent need to understand my self. I practiced as a therapist and felt purposeful. The other book is Gruffworld; the first chapter,“Covenant,” is on my website, published in a major magazine. It combines the analytic insights I metabolized as a writer and therapist and reflects my readings of Krishnamurti, especially dealing with the awakening of intelligence. It takes place in an apocalyptic world as a creature comes into self-awareness.

In your collection, you use various writing styles for the different stories. Was this a conscious decision? It also offers readers a dark glimpse into the troubled mind of the characters. What’s in the mind of the author?

I’d like to answer both questions in one amalgam. I always write in order to make sense of my life and situation, and “making sense” is both the writer’s goal and his ultimate folly After four decades I can say that I have made some headway in my craft, but existentially it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. I write to “soothe” myself and the terror of existence itself. We face two questions: life and death, and they are fierce deities, insatiable, terrific adversaries, I must add. To make sense is to give order, to be rational. “I did this because of that.” Oh, yeah.

After the Holocaust, all is farce. The species is shattered. And if I make sense, at all, it is only for me. The surprise of all my writing is that I don’t take it too seriously. I kiss no ass. I am compelled to write but the folly is in feeling that it does good. It all is in my patrimony, given to my children. I don’t care about readers per se other than the fun it provides when reviewed well or a gracious comment proffered about the book. I am greedy about life while I have it, not greedy about my books, except as an extension of whom I am and that gets awfully murky.

Short stories were written to express emotional states, and often the style was not a conscious choice. I was learning, I’m self taught, I was experimenting. I never went for a MFA (Argh!). I never took a course except one which I quickly left, the lecturer needed to be adored. I was rejected so many times that I developed a defense: arrogance, which, inn effect, said – your loss! Obviously I have been proven right. Even that haughty feeling doesn’t last.

Thank you for your insightful, thoughtful answers, Mathias.

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