IndieView with Shirley Reva Vernick, author of Ripped Away

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I consume history all the time because I love it. I’m talking books, podcasts, articles, blogs, and more. I learned about the Ripper-inspired anti-Semitism by going down one of my many rabbit holes of historical inquiry. 

Shirley Reva Vernick – 11 October 2021

The Back Flap

Ignored yet again by his crush, Abe Pearlman wanders into Fortunes and Futures for a little diversion. The fortune teller reveals that Abe may be able to save someone’s life. But before he can ask any questions, he’s swept to the slums of Victorian London, where he finds that his crush, Mitzy Singer, has also been banished.

Abe and Mitzy soon discover that they’ve been plunked down in the middle of the Jack the Ripper spree. To get back home, they’ll have to work together to figure out how the fortune teller’s prophecy is connected to one of history’s most notorious criminal cases. They’ll also have to survive the outpouring of hate toward Jewish refugees that the Ripper murders triggered.

Ripped Away is based on real historical events, including the Ripper crimes, the inquests, and the accusations against immigrants.

About the book

What is the book about?

This novel for younger readers is based on the real experiences of Jewish immigrants to London during the Jack the Ripper spree, when xenophobia ran high. My purposes in writing Ripped Away are to illuminate this episode in history, to inspire readers to contemplate possible responses to intolerance, and, of course, to create a compelling time-travel adventure.

When did you start writing the book?

I first put finger to keyboard during the summer of 2019.

How long did it take you to write it?

About 18 months.

Where did you get the idea from?

I consume history all the time because I love it. I’m talking books, podcasts, articles, blogs, and more. I learned about the Ripper-inspired anti-Semitism by going down one of my many rabbit holes of historical inquiry.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

I did wrestle with point of view. I wrote my first draft as straight historical fiction—in the third-person perspective of a boy growing up in Victorian London. Something wasn’t right though. This POV didn’t feel immediate enough, intimate enough. So I rewrote the book in the first-person POV of that same character. It was an improvement, but I still wasn’t satisfied. Eventually, I understood that the book wanted a narrator with a modern voice and contemporary sensibilities, because that’s how the tale would best resonate with readers. So I re-wrote it again, and that’s how Ripped Away became a time-travel fantasy.

What came easily?

The main characters’ voices! I heard them, understood them, when the story idea was just beginning to percolate in my mind. Indeed, whenever I’m writing, the protagonist’s voice–which is my window to his or her essence—is usually the first thing that arrives.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

The main characters are fully fictitious. The Ripper, his victims, and supporting legal figures are borrowed from history.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I’d say my two biggest influences are Kurt Vonnegut and Neil Gaiman. Their work is so good that every time I read or reread it, I’m inspired to raise my own bar. In addition, these authors showed me that fantasy and whimsy are not mutually exclusive to writing about important, emotional, urgent topics. In fact, the magical elements can enhance the real-world ideas, whether by contrast or complementarity.

Do you have a target reader?

Yes and no. I like to think my book can be enjoyed by people of all ages, genders, localities, etc. But as I wrote, I did picture readers ages 11 to 15.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

Not a formal process. More a philosophy of “butt in chair.” Almost every day, I sit at my laptop for two to nine hours of writing or editing. No minimum word count. Just a commitment to being there.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

I’m a pantser. I’ve tried making outlines, but my characters always made me veer from it, sometimes dramatically. So instead of outlining, I create the main characters, the setting, and the central conflict, and then I let the characters duke it out on the page.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I edit as I go. It helps me proceed confidently with the next scene, chapter, or section. This isn’t to say that I make everything “perfect” before I move forward. But I do make sure there are no plot holes, lost time periods, unexplained character shifts, etc.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

I do. Don’t ask me why, but what works for me is to match my music to the weather. I write seated next to a picture window, and somehow it energizes me to bring a bit of the outdoors inside. Also, instrumental music only. Lyrics distract me to the point of singing along.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

No.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

I like the indie spirit, and I’ve had wonderful working relationships with indie houses in the past.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

My publisher did it, and I must say, I love it!

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

I do have a plan, a list of targeted activities, but I expect the plan to evolve over time.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

My advice to any newbie is to polish and revise extensively before you submit to any agent or publisher. Get feedback from a few trusted readers. Believe in yourself. Don’t think of rejections as insults; they’re just part of the crooked line straight to your best editorial home.

About You

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small town in northern New York State, right on the Canadian border.

Where do you live now?

Western Massachusetts.

What would you like readers to know about you?

My first professional publication was a pun in Reader’s Digest: “Is a belly dancer a waist of energy?” I was a junior in high school.

Also, I can write backwards in cursive.

What are you working on now?

A middle-grade novel set in the U.S. and Japan during WWII and based on a true story.

End of Interview:

Get your copy of Ripped Away from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

The post IndieView with Shirley Reva Vernick, author of Ripped Away first appeared on The IndieView.

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