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Hugh Rosen Author of Silent Battlefields Interviewed

 Author: Hugh Rosen

 ISBN: 0595347738

The  following interview was conducted by:  NORM GOLDMAN:  Editor of Bookpleasures. CLICK TO VIEW  Norm Goldman's Reviews  

To read Norm's Review of Silent Battlefields CLICK HERE     

Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of the book reviewing and author interviewing site, Bookpleasures.com is honored to have as our guest, Hugh Rosen, professor emeritus at Drexel University and author of his first work of fiction, Silent Battlefields.


Good day Hugh and thanks for agreeing to participate in our interview.

Norm:

Hugh,  please tell our readers a little bit about your personal and professional background.

Hugh:

Hello. It’s my pleasure to participate in the interview. I am a
seventy-five-year-old gay man living in Philadelphia, PA with my two cats,
Bandit and The Kid. After serving in the army for three years I majored in
English at a Jesuit college under the G.I. Bill of Rights. Professionally, I
have a doctorate in clinical social work from Columbia University. I worked for
twenty-nine years as a faculty member at a local health care university, now a
part of Drexel University.. Throughout most of that time I also conducted a
small private practice of psychotherapy. During the last five years of my career
I was Chair of the Department of Mental Health Sciences, which housed five
degree-granting programs from bachelors to doctoral levels. I also served for
the last ten years of my employment as Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. As a
professor I had published six academic non-fiction books. Upon retiring in 1999
at sixty-eight I returned to school as a student and received an M.A. at Temple
University’s creative writing program in the English Department. In July of 2005
I had my first novel, Silent Battlefields, published by iUniverse, a
print-on-demand publisher.


Norm:

How did you get the inspiration for authoring Silent Battlefields? Why do you feel that this was an important book for you to write and for all of us to read at this time?

Hugh

The seed of the novel came from my having a friend who is the adult child of Holocaust survivors. I knew of few works of fiction that focused on the effects of the Holocaust on the second generation. From that grew a complex plot. The narrative includes a family that has a former Hitler Youth and Nazi soldier as father of a young adult child. I think the novel is important because it deals with a theme of genocide and its aftermath that is current even in today’s world. Also, the characters confront existential crises and are forced to make moral choices, subjects that are universal and timeless. Lastly, the multi-perspectival account manifested in the story, I am hoping, will enlarge the reader’s view of humanity and the complexity of life.

Norm:

How much real-life do you put into your fiction? Is there much “you” in there?

Hugh:

That’s an especially interesting question to me. The story is not autobiographical, despite such stereotyping of first novels. I know of no relatives who were subject to the horrors of the Holocaust. Although I had a broad conceptualization in mind of what I intended to write from the beginning, the story as it stands actually emerged throughout the writing of it. In truth, I didn’t even know how it would end until the two main characters, Eva and Selig, met to discuss their futures and to me they seemed to make their own decisions. Yet, when I read the novel once it was completed, I did recognize many episodes that had been a part of my real life, although not directly connected to the Holocaust. Also, I am “in” the novel to the extent that it reflects many concerns of mine, which, however, I do not think are idiosyncratic to me.

Norm:

What has your experience been like with self publishing? Do you recommend it over traditional publishers?

Hugh:

The first part of the question is easy to answer, but the second part is a difficult one to respond to. The experience went very well. I found the staff of iUniverse to be very author friendly and available when needed. I would hesitate to make a generalized statement about recommendations regarding self-publishing or print-on-demand. It largely depends on where you are in your life and what you’re goals are. I had my previous six books published by traditional publishers. My personal reason for turning to print-on-demand for the novel was that I valued the autonomy over the material it offered and because I wanted to heighten the chances that I would still be alive when it came out. Unfortunately there is a stigma attached to this route, which makes it difficult to get reviews in print and the book in brick-and-mortar bookstores. My advice to a young person starting a writing career, frankly, would be to go the traditional route until the tide turns. Whichever way one goes, however, the author should be prepared to do a great deal of the publicizing of his or her own work, unless your name is Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, or the like.

Norm:

What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your book? How did you overcome these challenges?

Hugh:

Well, for one thing, I found that I was breaking some of the rules that standard books on writing novels put forth. I got around this by adopting the meta-rule of first knowing the rules before breaking them and having good reasons when doing so. I felt confidant that when I broke a rule it was for the overall good of the novel and that it fit organically into the plot. I told myself that the final outcome is what mattered most. Of course, I realize that not everyone will agree with me either in general or in particular regarding Silent Battlefields. It was a matter of being willing to take some risks. Another challenge is that I put the book on hold for a year when I started volunteer teaching of English as a second language to adult immigrants. I feared that I might never finish the book. However, the pull to get back to it was irresistible and I returned to writing it with more zeal than ever.

Norm:

How did you create Eva and Selig in your book? Did you have a difficult time fleshing them out? How did you find your way into the other various characters?

Hugh:

I did do handwritten sketches of each of the several main characters before typing the novel on Microsoft Word. In fact, I put in pieces of the characters’ backgrounds that I knew would not even enter the final outcome, but this gave me a rounded picture of who I was working with. The initial creation of Selig and Eva, when they were young, was easy, as things just seemed to fall into place as I wrote the first few chapters. Later, I had to reconsider what they had become as grown ups decades later. As for fleshing them out, I think that imagination was the prime mover that helped me along. Of course, there were several drafts of the book and eventually my right brain took over some of the work that had been done by my left brain, hopefully contributing some refinement to the end product. As for Mathew and Thomas, the former was the seed of the story from the outset and the latter was a natural outcome of Selig getting married to Frieda. The evolving relationship between Mathew and Thomas just seem to come forth naturally as the book progressed. There are ancillary characters that appear in some important episodes. They were not planned in advance, but just seemed to pop up when the time was right.

Norm:

You include some very detailed dialogues in the book between the various characters. Where did that dialogue come from?


Hugh:

Beats me! There were times when I felt as though the dialogue was being channeled through me onto the page. Certainly none of it was prepared in advance. It was just like conversations in real life when one thing leads to another, but can’t be predicted beforehand. I know it’s a cliché to say that the characters seemed to take on a life of their own, but that’s how it felt to me.

Norm:

Can you explain some of your research techniques, and how you found sources for your book?

Hugh:

Yes, I read many books from different categories. For example, I read the memoirs of real Holocaust survivors, books by historians, interviews with adult children of former Nazis, books about the Hitler Youth movement, and books by psychotherapists who had experience treating Holocaust survivors and their second-generation adult children. I also used the Internet liberally and garnered a good deal of information that way. It was not difficult to find information, as there exists so many books of the sort identified and the Internet contains a treasure trove of information. The fact is that much of what I read and reviewed was never introduced into the novel, but it provided me with the background to move forward. Of course, some very factual information was definitely used to describe the historical background and the death camp, Treblinka.

Norm:

What do you hope readers will take away after reading Silent Battlefields?

Hugh

Well, I’m a great believer in the premise that we humans are meaning-making creatures. Each reader will make his or her own meaning out of the reading experience, I suspect. However, I hope that reading Silent Battlefields will enlarge the reader’s perspective on the resolving of ethical dilemmas and the complexities of life’s realities. Perhaps she or he will also be confronted with some provocative thinking, raising such significant questions as: “What would I have done in that situation?” “What sacrifices would I have been willing to make under those circumstances?” and “What risks would I have been willing to have made when confronted with the same conditions?” We all know what we would like to have done, but one can only speculate without being existentially grounded in the actual situation.

Norm:

Are you conscious of any particular influences on your writing?

Hugh:

I’ve read widely throughout my life and I imagine that much of what I encountered in those reading experiences found its way into my writing unconsciously. Yet I can’t say that I am conscious of any specific influences. I had had many experiences in my life by the time I reached my seventies and I have always been a reflective type of person, so I assume that, again, on an unconscious level many of those experiences and reflections upon them have had an influence.

Norm:

I read where you returned to University at the age of 68 to pursue a MA in creative writing. How did the creative writing courses help you in writing your first novel?

Hugh

The workshops constituted the central part of the creative writing courses, although there were also many regular English literature courses, as well. In the workshops I had the opportunity to receive feedback from my fellow classmates and sharpen my own powers of critiquing by offering feedback to them. I started the novel while in the program and submitted several of the early chapters to the group. Some of the critiques were very helpful both in content and giving me an idea of other people’s reaction to the story and my writing. Often the feedback collectively would run the gamut of many diverse opinions, so I learned that while it pays to listen to what others have to say, in the final analysis, the author must still make his or her own judgment about what to write. I should add that I had one-on-one regular tutorials with a professor who mentored me in the writing process. She was very outspoken in her comments, but always offered them in a constructive manner. My tutor was the foremost influence upon me in learning how to write fiction, creatively, I hope.

Norm:

How do you want the world to remember Hugh Rosen when you leave us? (Not that you are going anywhere soon!)

Hugh:

It’s hard to answer this question without escaping at least some narcissism, but at the risk of seeming immodest, I’ll take a stab at it. I’d like to be remembered as a man of integrity and compassion, who has had a positive influence on the lives of many people: clients, students, colleagues, family, and friends. Also as one who followed his motto, which is, “As long as you’re living, live as if you’re alive.” Oh, I’d also like to be thought of as a good fiction writer.

Norm:

What is next for Hugh Rosen and is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

Hugh

I have a well-conceived plot with interesting characters for a novel, which I plan to start writing in the very near future. It is titled, Justin’s Quest. No, nothing further to add except to thank you for provoking further reflection on my part by your thoughtful and stimulating questions.

Thanks again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.







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