Home Book news Pearl Abraham, an interview about Romance

Pearl Abraham, an interview about Romance

by Louisa Klein

And here’s an interesting interview with international best selling author Pearl Abraham.o know more about this amazing author, just visit her website: http://pearlabraham.com/
1) Do you read romance novels? What is your opinion about this genre both as a writer and as a reader?
If you consider Jane Austen’s work romances, then yes: I read her in my teens and now teach her. I often kick off “Women in Literature,” a class I teach, with Pride and Prejudice, but of course Austen is interesting because she didn’t so much choose between the classical epic (the objective, realist tradition) and romance (subjective experience, mystery, fantasy) that 18c literary quarrel, but rather found a way to balance both genres and gave us the modern novel. Henry James talked about the need for mystery and fantasy in the novel as a way to quicken the mind; this is probably why there are elements of romance in most novels. I certainly thought of Portrait of a Lady as a romance when I read it at eighteen. As a young reader, I didn’t distinguish between canonical and non. Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter seemed to me a romance.
2) Is there a romance author you prefer? If not, who is your role model in the literary world?

I wonder whether romance novels are a phase, in other words, one reads them at a certain age, as needed, then not. When I was promoting my first novel, The Romance Reader, young women talked to me about how closely their experiences mirrored Rachel’s, the book’s protagonist, for whom romance novels serve in emancipatory ways. These were young women from disparate cultures and religions: When I was on a radio show in Miami FL, Hispanic girls called in; in Cincinnati, Mormon girls came up to talk to me. More recently, I did a piece on Aayan Hirsi Ali’s work (The Caged Virgin, Infidel), and she describes learning about love, about the possibility of making her own choices in love and marriage, from romance novels, and they turned out to be some of the same ones I’d grown up with: The Brontes, Austen, Victoria Holt, Barbara Cartland. What we all had in common, Hirsi Ali and I, the Mormon and Hispanic girls, was a patriarchal religion that limited what we could become.
To answer your question: I don’t think of myself as having role models. There are novels I consider masterpieces, and I return to them again and again. Nabokov’s Pale Fire continues to delight.
3) Please, tell us about your last book and, if you can, about your future projects.
All my novels, taken together, are about the act of becoming, about individuals in confrontation with the institution. I’ve been writing about what you might call “subjective “ revolutions, the uprising of the individual against the state, community, or family. American Taliban, my recent novel, follows a young surfer/skateboarder on a distinctly American spiritual journey that begins with Transcendentalism and counter-cultural impulses, enters into world mysticism, and since this journey takes place in the 21st century, finds its destination in Islam. I am now extending my investigation to subjective uprisings against fate itself, what I might finally call God’s system and I am doing it within the form of the short story.
4) How was your writing journey? Was it difficult to find an agent and get published?
Looking back now, I understand that I avoided disheartening early rejection by not submitting my work anywhere. I worked hard, but I didn’t waste energy trying to publish work that wasn’t yet fully realized. And then, when I did finally have something to show, I was fortunate to have teachers who were willing to recommend my work to agents, and that’s how I found my first editor. It was a long process, and I had a lot to learn about all of it. Of course these days so much is changing, I have to keep learning, and I don’t know where it will all end. I might say that I’ve become more independent as a writer, I no longer rely on agents and editors the way I once did, I question agents and editors more, and I think that’s probably a good thing though they may not like it.
5) What’s your opinion about this Ebook revolution? Would you consider the indie route?

The e-book develops a different kind of reader, and it’s not a close reader, which is to say that our capacity for longer, more complex structures is diminishing. This means that the experimental novel that stretches the form is even less viable than it has been, its only audience is a specialist, necessarily small one. But then, you might ask, how many lay people read Virginia Woolf or Nabokov? For a literature class, yes, but few readers go to these writers for pleasure.
On the other hand, the e-book makes publication cheap, and this means that even books that aren’t expected to have much of an audience can be made available. Which is to say, the e-book revolution might work both against and for the literary novel.

6) Nowadays many publishers expect their authors to use social media a lot to promote their books. Many authors, on the other hand, would prefer to write only, without being distracted by digital trivialities: what are your thoughts?

It all promises to work itself through as another example of the survival of the fittest. Agents and publishers want to represent and publish authors that already have a following, or have the capacity to get one. The writers who are good at getting out there and grabbing attention, with thousands of followers and friends, thousands of tweets and updates, etc, will continue to publish and be read. I want to say that it’s still in the end the work that matters, and I do believe that—I like to look in the mirror without shame—but I can no longer say, at least not with a straight face, that the best writing wins.
Info about the author:
 Pearl Abraham is the author of ‘The Romance Reader’ (1995), ‘Giving Up America’ (1998), ‘The Seventh Beggar’ (2005), and most recently, ‘American Taliban’ (2010). ‘The Romance Reader’, an international bestseller, was nominated for the UK’s Orange Award, a finalist for the Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” Award, a Literary Guild featured book, Library Journal’s Best Book of 1995, Contra Costa Times First Selection, San Antonio’s Times “brilliant, brilliant” pick, and more. It was translated into Dutch, Italian, German, Japanese, Norwegian, and Hungarian. ‘The Seventh Beggar’ was a finalist for the 2006 Koret International Award in Fiction, but perhaps its greatest honor came from Harold Bloom who called it “a miracle of sympathetic imagination,” and excerpted it in his own book, Jesus and Yahweh. American Taliban was nominated for 2010 fiction awards. “Hasidic Noir,” a short story published in Brooklyn Noir, won the 2005 Shamus Award for Best Short Story about a private eye. Abraham’s op-eds, essays, and stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Michigan Quarterly, Epoch, WAMC (NPR) and elsewhere. Abraham is also the editor of the Dutch anthology Een sterke vrouw, wie zal haar vinden? (Not the Image of an Ideal: Jewish Heroines in Literature) (Meulenhoff, 2000). She has taught in the MFA Writing Programs at Sarah Lawrence College and The University of Houston, and is currently assistant professor of Literature and Creative Writing at Western New England College, in Western Massachusetts. This June, she will teach Craft of Fiction at New York University. She lives in NYC and Columbia County, NY.
To buy her latest book, ‘American Taliban’, simply click on the cover below: 


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1 comment

Suko February 2, 2012 - 4:47 pm

Wonderful interview! The author looks at multiple sides of issues, and her answers are thoughtful.

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