Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Ami Sands Brodoff

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Ten Questions with Ami Sands Brodoff

Ami Sands Brodoff is an award-winning novelist and short story writer. Her volume of stories, Bloodknots, was short-listed for the Re-Lit Award and an excerpt from her previous novel, Can You See Me? was nominated for The Pushcart Prize. She has contributed to Vogue, Self, Elle, The Globe and Mail and Montreal’s The Gazette. She serves on the executive of the Quebec Writers’ Federation and is active in Montreal’s literary community. Her latest novel, The White Space Between, is published by Second Story Press.

OB:

Tell us about your book, The White Space Between.

ASB:

The White Space Between is the story of a Holocaust survivor and her grown daughter both balancing on the precarious tightrope between remembering and forgetting, a mother-daughter story and love song to Montreal, my adopted home city. The novel centres on Jana Ivanova, a survivor with a generous heart, and her grown daughter Willow, an acclaimed marionette-maker and puppeteer, two complex women who love, but do not really know — or understand — one another. Mother and daughter have built a life on a foundation of secrets. Willow was raised on the beautiful memory books her mother made of her life, jigsaw pieces that don’t quite fit into a whole. In fact, Willow is uncertain who her father is. She is a loner and artist, her marionettes forming the family she’s missed. When Jana and Willow return to Montreal, the secrets can no longer be hidden, as old loves lost are found and new ones discovered. A journey to Prague proves that the memories and secrets we hide and bury are the very pieces that make us — and our loved ones — who we are.

OB:

How did you research your book?

ASB:

I spoke with Holocaust survivors in my neighborhood, on the street, at my gym, and at my children’s schools. I listened to testimonies, read every memoir and history I could get my hands on. I chatted with both survivors and children of survivors to deeply understand the reverberations of the Holocaust in the present. Most importantly, my husband Michael of twenty-one years, shared memories of his beloved mother, Brana and our large extended family, who once thrived in a small, rural town in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains in Czechoslovakia. All but three members of the Hoch family were wiped out — murdered is a more accurate word-- during the Holocaust. The words, the silences, the pieces and the missing pieces, were the foundation for my novel.

OB:

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

ASB:

I wrote the deepest, truest, and most compelling story I was capable of creating. My hope is that The White Space Between will reach a wide readership. Having said that, I think women will connect deeply with the story, Jewish readers may have a particular interest in the novel, but I want to extend beyond a homogenous group and believe the novel’s themes are universal.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

ASB:

Cozy nightgown, fresh pot of coffee, my “room of one’s own” with the windows wide, and the door shut tight.

OB:

What was your first publication?

ASB:

A short story called, “Love Out of Bounds” which was featured in the U.S. journal Triquarterly. The story was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and blossomed into my first novel, Can You See Me?, which centres on a family grappling with schizophrenia. The story and the novel are both based in part on my own painful experience growing up with a much beloved older brother, who had great intellectual and creative gifts, but developed schizophrenia as a young man. However, the story and novel are a complex mesh of truth and fiction, experience transformed into story.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

ASB:

Kafka’s short stories, The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald, The Cranford Chronicles by Elizabeth Gaskell and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (for the 100th?) time. You could say I love the classics!

OB:

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

ASB:

Runaway by Alice Munro, especially the extraordinary trilogy of stories, “Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence,” which possess more power than most novels. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje and Survivors by Chava Rosenfarb.

OB:

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

ASB:

“Go to your (writing) room, no matter how you feel.” These wise words were spoken by one of my teachers and mentors, the novelist Paula Fox. “Write about what you’re afraid of, what embarrasses you, what you can’t stop thinking about, what keeps you up at night.”

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

ASB:

“Your novel moved me and stayed with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters or their story for a long while.”

OB:

What is your next project?

ASB:

A new novel, a brother and sister story. These two are orphans on a quest to find out what really happened to their parents who were travel writers and photographers. The novel is set partly in Malta, where I had a paradisal writing fellowship, and partly in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. This novel also grapples with the contemporary issue of Libyan migrants flooding the tiny island of Malta, as a young Libyan woman lands on the island, barely alive, and is discovered by the brother hiding in his flat. That’s all I’ll say for now. Don’t want to puncture the magic of creation.

The White Space Between
Read more about The White Space Between by Ami Sands Brodoff at the Second Story Press website.

Visit Ami’s website: www.amisandsbrodoff.com
Visit Ami’s blog: www.chez-ami.blogspot.com

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