Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Eva Wiseman

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Ten Questions with Eva Wiseman

Award-winning Tundra author, Eva Wiseman, talks about her latest book Puppet.

OBT:

Tell us about your book, Puppet.

EW:

In 1882, a servant girl named Esther Solymosi disappeared from the village of Tiszaeszlarin, Hungary. Several Jewish men in the village were accused by the corrupt authorities of “blood libel,” of killing Esther for ritual purposes. “Blood libel” is the ancient lie that Jews kill Christian children to drain their blood to make matzo for Passover.

Among the accused is a thirteen year old Jewish boy called Morris Scharf. He is physically and emotionally abused by the authorities and becomes the star victim for the prosecution at the trial that follows in 1883. Morris testifies against his fellow Jews, including his own father.

Julie Vamosi, a friend of the murdered girl, works in the jail where Morris is imprisoned. Julie has a tough life. She is badly treated by her alcoholic father and is separated from her baby sister. She gets to know Morris and the two young people become friends. Julie must use her own instincts and memories of her dead mother to help her sort out the truth from lies and good from evil.

OBT:

Puppet is based on an actual Hungarian court case that took place in 1883. How did you research your book?

EW:

I had a difficult time getting information. I started off by having my 96 year old father tell me the story of Morris Scharf. I also searched through scholarly publications to become familiar with the facts of the case. I asked friends to bring me back from Hungary the book that Karl Eotvos, the defence lawyer, had written about the trial but I couldn’t read it for it was written in old Hungarian style and I have difficulty reading even modern Hungarian. (I was only nine years old when my family left Hungary.) It took a lot of perseverance on my part to read the court transcripts from the Egyetertes, a daily Hungarian newspaper at the time of the trial.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote Puppet?

EW:

I hoped that the book would appeal to young adults and even adult readers. I want everybody to read my books.

OBT:

Which books made a great impression on you when you were a child?

EW:

I was a true romantic while I was growing up. I must have read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte a dozen times. I also loved Daddy- Long- Legs by Jean Webster.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

EW:

My ideal is a cottage by a lake with no telephone or interruptions – just me and my muse for company. My reality is the kitchen table for the first draft always written by hand and my crowded office and computer for subsequent drafts.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

EW:

A Place Not Home. It was published in 1996.

OBT:

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

EW:

Anne of Green Gables
Mary of Mile 18
A Place Not Home

OBT:

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

EW:

When I wrote A Place Not Home, Kathy Lowinger, who has edited all of my books, told me – “Show, don’t tell!” I’ve followed her advice ever since.

OBT:

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

EW:

In my second book, My Canary Yellow Star, my chief protagonist suffered a lot of hardships. Whenever her situation became unbearable, she would dissociate herself from her painful reality and feel as if the events that were actually happening to her were occurring in a movie she was watching. When I speak at schools, I always ask the kids to critique the book we’re discussing. I’ll never forget when a grade six boy put up his hand and said: “Mrs. Wiseman, you know that movie bit in the book – it’s good but you do it too much!” Whenever I want to become “artistic” in my writing, I remember his comment.

OBT:

What is your next project?

EW:

I don’t like to talk about future projects for I am superstitious enough to fear that talking about my ideas will dissipate them. However, I will say that I am going further back in history and the setting won’t be Hungary.

For more information about Eva Wiseman’s Puppet, please visit the Tundra Books website at www.tundrabooks.com.

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