Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Dorothea Shefer-Vanson and I am 75 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born and brought up in England but now live in Israel.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I have a B.A. in Sociology and Economics from the London School of Economics and an M.A. in Communications from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I have lived in Jerusalem since 1964, and have written about my experiences during the Six-Day War there in my first novel ‘The Balancing Game.’ My parents came to England in 1938 as refugees from Germany, and I have written about my family in Germany in my second book, ‘Time Out of Joint, a Family Tragedy.’ My two other novels, ‘Levi Koenig, a Contemporary King Lear’ and ‘Chasing Dreams and Flies, a Tragicomedy of Life in France,’ are based on my own experience of life to some extent, though with considerable elaboration and embellishment. I am married and have three married children, eight grandchildren, and one grand-dog. For most of my working life I have been a free-lance translator (Hebrew to English) and editor, with occasional forays into free-lance writing for journals of various kinds.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I have just finished editing my latest novel, ‘All Quiet on the Mid-Western Front,’ about an Israeli family spending a year in a Mid-Western town in the USA in 1985 and finding that the American Nazi Party has its headquarters there. In addition, the chief protagonist’s wife has an affair with her art teacher, and he himself finds himself at loggerheads with the head of his department at the university. I am currently waiting for feedback on the ms from my beta readers.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always had the urge to write, was awarded prizes at school for writing, and have various exercise books with my first short stories, which never got published. In 1985, when I spent a year in the USA because my husband was at a university there, I had the freedom to write my first novel (on an ancient typewriter) for the first time. Since then I’ve never stopped writing, and in 2013, I published my first novel on Amazon.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After I published two books.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My experience as a child, the daughter of refugees, growing up in war-time and post-war England, as well as my experience of living in Jerusalem before and during the Six Day War. I felt I had a unique story and wanted to share it with the world.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title of my first book, ‘The Balancing Game,’ is both a game I used to play with my two sisters when we were children and a metaphor for the life of someone who doesn’t quite find her place in the world. The title of my second book, ‘Time Out of Joint,’ is a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the title of my third book. ‘Levi Koenig, a Contemporary King Lear,’ is a play on words of Shakespeare’s play, and my fourth book tries to depict the situation of the main characters.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I try to write in prose that is clean, correct, and intelligent. Of course, I try to adapt dialogue styles to suit the individuals being depicted.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My first book was thinly-disguised autobiography. My other books are more freely adapted but also based on my own personal experience.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I have travelled a fair amount in my life, and have lived in England, France, Israel and the USA at various times for varying periods. I have also visited several other countries, mainly in Europe.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I DID!!!! My first book, which was produced by a company called SBPRA, has a cover which is based on a water-colour painting of mine, but the other three books (and the one that is forthcoming) have covers that are completely my own work (with some Photoshop help from my son), and I am very proud of this.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Each book seeks to convey a different message. My first book is about the effects on a child of maternal deprivation in infancy and growing up in an alien environment, as well as the trauma of pregnancy and childbirth at a time of war. My second book is an attempt to bring to life the relatives whom I never knew. My third book shows the process of deterioration and death and the relations between an elderly person and his children as well as the interaction between the children themselves. My fourth book seeks to depict the folly of people retiring to a country with which they are not at all familiar. My forthcoming book will try to show the psychological effect on a family of moving to another country and culture.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I recently read and enjoyed‘Stalin’s Englishman; the Lives of Guy Burgess’by Andrew Lownie. My favourite writer is Virginia Woolf, who analyzes the human condition in the most sensitive way, using great insight and beautiful language. I don’t dare even try to emulate her style.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My dear husband, Dr. Yigal Shefer.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I am a retired person and now devote as much time as possible to writing and marketing my books. That is the be-all and end-all of my life now. However much I would like it to be my career, the income I receive from my writing activity doesn’t justify calling it a career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would change things in all my books that have been published to date, whether better proofreading and editing, better covers, or more explicit information in the text. But on the whole I think I’m fairly satisfied with my books to date, even though none of them can be called a runaway success.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I’m in two minds about my choice of multiple points-of-view in the narrative, and am waiting with great anticipation to hear what my beta-readers have to say about it.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Rock Hudson and Audrey Hepburn.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Just keep going.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Don’t be discouraged. Believe in yourself.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Simone Weil, ‘My Life’
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not really. As a child I loved reading pretty much anything, especially Enid Blyton’s books. Books have been my great love ever since I first learned to read.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh out loud at good humour (‘Three Men in a Boat,’ by Jerome K. Jerome, for example). I haven’t cried over a book for many years, though I think I did in my younger days.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
George Steiner, for his intelligence and insight.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I paint (watercolours), garden, cook and bake, and am a great lover of classical music. I play the piano occasionally though not very well.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Currently watching ‘The Crown’ and ‘Frankie and Grace’ on Netflix. I also enjoy watching British comedies, such as ‘Keeping Up Appearances,’ ‘Last of the Summer Wine,’ and ‘Yes, Prime Minister.’
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I love pasta of almost all kinds. And of course good chocolate. Favourite colour: blue (matches my eyes). Favourite music: all the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, plus all the great choral works by Bach, Handel, Verdi.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Read and listen to music.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
She tried to do her best.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My books are described and may be bought via my website: www.shefer-vanson.com
My blog, which I generally update weekly, is at: http://fromdorothea.wordpress.com
and is also on Facebook.
All my books are available as paperbacks and ebooks on Amazon.com