Image: Courtesy of David de Wolf
Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I was born in the Netherlands and studied Dutch Language and then the History of Art at the University of Nijmegen. I graduated with a Master of Arts and wrote my thesis on the architecture of the Italian Renaissance. I have worked as journalist, a tour guide in Italy, and, since 1995, as an independent communications manager.
When my wife was pregnant with our youngest and we began to prepare for the brit mila, I started to dive deeper into Judaism and became more observant. Since it was very hard to live a modern orthodox life in Europe, we made aliyah in 2011. We now live in Tel Mond, about 20 kilometres north of Tel Aviv.
What inspired you to become an author?
I have always written, but nothing serious or significant. I always wanted to take the next step and one day my wife said to me – in a friendly way – you are a dilettante. Stop talking about writing and just do it: a writer writes! I published my first literary novel, Solace of Stone, in 2013. It is a contemporary story about love and individual choices. Once we made aliya, my greatest inspiration was the culture shock of leaving cold Europe and coming to Israel, a land with unlimited possibilities for spiritual growth. I cannot get over the sheer wonder, every day, of living in this amazing place with all its challenging contrasts.
Where and when do you write? Do you have a writing routine?
Most of the actual writing I do behind my desk, in whatever hours there are available. But designing plots, inventing scenes, and imagining all kinds of storylines I like to do at my favourite spot – Cafe Hillel on Yafo Street in Jerusalem. It’s the perfect place. I can sit there for hours, writing and imagining, using only pen and paper.
How long does it take you to finish a novel?
Ephraim’s Bones took me seven years, of which I spent two just doing research. If you write historical fiction, you can’t make things up. You have to know exactly what you are writing about. Were there trains? Were the gaslights on all night? Could you just travel from one place to another in 1854 Germany? To breathe life into the story, you have to use details, to zoom in.
Of course I wanted to incorporate real people in the story, which is delicate. I’ll give you an example. I found out that in Frankfurt, the philosopher Schopenhauer lived just around the corner from Rabbi S.R. Hirsch. But to allow the two of them to perform in my story, I had to do more homework than that. Besides reading the works of Rabbi Hirsch, I tried to dive into personal documents and all kinds of testimonies about him so that I could describe him as truthfully as possible.
Which authors can we find in your library?
So many. I once said that I would be so happy if I could write prose with the flow of Singer, the style of Nabokov, the scope of Proust, the dialogues of Mamet, and the imagination of Kafka. Four of them are Jewish, by the way. But the author who stands out for me is Tolstoy for the way he gets into the skin of all his characters, breathes life into them, and intertwines their storylines as components with which to build a house of unmatched literature. He is my greatest inspiration.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Writing is more than the act of putting sentences on paper. It’s observing, noticing, thinking, seeing things, contemplating. If you are stuck, don’t stare at the blank paper. Go to a museum, take a stroll, or just lie down on your couch and think. And then write, even if it’s not that good. You can always kill your darlings. But then it gets serious: you have to go over every sentence, rewrite, and edit. That takes a lot of time and commitment. It’s hard work.
Where can our readers purchase your books?
Both Solace of Stone and Ephraim’s Bones are on Amazon and all the major online bookshops, like Book Depository, Smashwords, and Barnes and Nobles. Ephraim’s Bones is also available in some bookstores, and you can ask any bookstore that doesn’t have it to order it for you.
On which Social Media channels can our readers connect with you?
Image: Courtesy of David de Wolf