Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jerome Charyn and BACK TO BATAAN

Author Michael Chabon (The Wonder Boys, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) has called him, "one of the most important writers in American Literature."  Newsday has hailed him as "a contemporary American Balzac."  And the LA Times has described him as "absolutely unique among American writers."

Who is he? He's Jerome Charyn, an incredibly prolific, award-winning author who writes across genres and has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic far.

His latest undertaking is a novel of historical fiction, BACK TO BATAAN, an eBook (re-issued by Tribute Books) for middle grade readers (Grades 7-9): It's 1943 in New York City. Eleven year-old Jack Dalton is depressed and restless following the death of his father at Bataan (in the Philippines) during World War II.  Jack's mother is trying to keep body and soul together by working in a parachute factory and Jack, tossed aside by his girlfriend and left to his own devices, wants to enlist in the army.  When Jack finally runs away, he falls in with a gang of criminals.  This compact YA novel is filled with action, adventure and suspense.  To learn more, link HERE

Jerome Charyn was kind enough to chat about the book and share some of his ideas about the craft of writing.

Kathleen GerardThanks for joining us, Jerome.  You write across a realm of different genres, what excites you about connecting with different audiences? 
Jerome Charyn:  I’m not so sure that these are different audiences, I think we all love stories, whether we’re children or great-grandfathers and when you move from genre to genre you are still telling a story like Scheherazade and the king is always waiting for the next tale.

KGBACK TO BATAAN is a reissue of a print book, now being offered for the first time as an eBook.  Being a published author for nearly 50 years, what's your impression of digital books? 
JC: I think that this is a kind of logical step as we move from the internet into eBooks. Publishing is changing even as we speak. I think there now will be a more complicated dance between the eBook and the printed book, and as we’ve seen recently, successes in eBooks allow the author to move into print.

KGHow much of your own life is embroiled in BACK TO BATAAN? Did you personally experience New York during World War II?
JCI think so much of the source of my writing comes from my childhood, I grew up during the War - so many of the terrors and the magic of certain films have remained with me.  And all of this appears in the character of Jack.

KGIn reading the story behind this book, I understand that your brother was a detective. Did your experiences with him influence the plot of BACK TO BATAAN?
JCNot really, I think all writing is crime writing. And Back to Bataan is a crime novel with a very original twist.

KGIn the book, why did you decide to include a fascination with famous people - Gary Cooper, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc. - as an underurrent?
JCThese people were heroes to me as a child, particularly Eleanor Roosevelt, who was one of the most extraordinary women who ever lived, and of course as a child I fell in love with Gary Cooper’s face and with his very slow drawl, that seemed so exotic to me.

KGJack, the main character of the novel, finds acclaim through his writing, yet he feels guilty for exploiting the lives of other people on the page. How does a writer bridge this gap?
JCYou’re always cannibalizing other people and writers when you start to write, so it’s natural that Jack should be a young cannibal.

KGThe New York Times plays a significant role in this novel. How important is New York Times in your own life and is there any special reason why you decided to make it a form of connection in the life of Jack, the main character?
JCAs a child, I didn’t even know that the Times existed – I grew up in a neighborhood without newspapers and books, so that when I first fell upon the New York Times, I was very very greedy, and wanted to include it in Jack’s middle-class life.

KGYour writing is so precise, yet evocative - how do you work at crafting your unique style of prose?
JCEverything begins and ends with the word, with the music of the sentence and as Tolstoy once said, “I’m always composing.”

KG: What are your thoughts on the recent explosion and popularity of the YA genre?
JC: I think it might very well be that it started with Harry Potter, that young adult writers are trying to tell good stories and adults have moved into that kind of dream.

KGWhat advice would you give to young people who aspire to a literary career?
JC: It’s not worth the money – only write if you’re absolutely in love with it.

Well, there you have it, thoughts from Jerome Charyn, an acclaimed, dedicated writer who has made significant contributions to the literary community.  Reading Between the Lines thanks him for visiting and wishes him much continued success!  

Back to Bataan by Jerome Charyn
Tribute Books, $2.99, eBook, ASIN #B008DYK6C2, 101 pp
Publication Date: June 21, 2012
To order this book via AMAZON link HERE