Interview with Sharon Hart-Green, Author of Come Back for Me: A Novel

We’re please today to be talking with Sharon Hart-Green about her debut novel, Come Back for Me.

Please describe what your book is about.

Artur Mandelkorn is a young Hungarian Holocaust survivor whose desperate quest to find his sister takes him to post-war Israel. Intersecting Artur’s tale is that of Suzy Kohn, a Toronto teenager whose seemingly tranquil life is shattered when her uncle’s sudden death tears her family apart, leading her into a troubled relationship with a charismatic musician. Their stories eventually come together in Israel following the Six-Day War, where love and understanding become the threads that bind the two narratives together.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel.

I saw it set in the hollows of his eyes: he was a man whose past had died. Along with everyone else who was part of it.

What do you want people to know about your book?

COME BACK FOR ME is a panoramic novel that crosses continents and spans several decades. Plot-driven and rich in characterization, it’s been described as a book that’s hard to put down.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

A lot! I learned that by listening carefully to suggestions from outside readers and editing partners, I can become a better writer.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

The first draft of my novel was started about seven years ago. However, that draft was totally different from the finished novel I have in my hands today. It took three or four substantive revisions (and a major structural change) before I finished the novel.

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

On a good writing day, the process of creating something out of nothing is truly magical. But (alas) those days are few and far between. Most of the time, I write and delete, write and delete. As a rule, I do not enjoy plotting in advance, but prefer that my characters take me with them to places unknown and unplanned. To me that element of surprise is the best part of writing!

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I have always been intrigued by the fact that there are individuals who have endured unspeakable horrors in their lives, yet have managed to go on and lead productive lives. Many novels have been written about those who have been psychologically destroyed by tragedy. I wanted to write about individuals who seem to be able to transcend their own suffering. What is their secret?

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

My best thinking often takes place when I least expect it: in the shower, in the car during a traffic jam, or just before falling asleep at night. I suppose it must have something to do with letting one’s thoughts run free. Creativity is a strange brew of opposites: hard work and letting oneself be free to do nothing but daydream.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you.

Before I pursued an academic career, I was involved in theatre and acted in several plays when I was still a teenager. In fact, I was in a play in Toronto with Gilda Radner. Her kindness to me (someone much younger and less experienced) is something I will never forget.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Write a little bit every day, even if you despise what you put down on the page. You can always edit it!

What’s next?

I’m working on a novel about a young man with mystical inclinations who is searching for love.

What writer influenced you the most?

I think that the writer Isaac Bashevis Singer had the greatest influence on me. To me, his novels and short stories possess that rare combination of compelling storytelling, inventive prose, and deep insight into the human condition. Although he has set the bar extremely high, it is something I strive to achieve in my own writing.
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COME BACK FOR ME: A NOVEL

Loss, trauma, memory, and, above all, the ties of family are the elements that weave together this panoramic story. Artur Mandelkorn is a young Hungarian Holocaust survivor on a desperate quest to find his beloved sister, Manya. Intersecting Artur’s tale is that of Suzy Kohn, a Toronto teenager whose seemingly tranquil life is shattered by her uncle’s sudden death. Their stories come together in Israel following the Six-Day War, as the narrative travels through time and place to bring us, ultimately, to the connections between generations. Like SARAH’S KEY, Sharon Hart-Green’s debut novel COME BACK FOR ME deals evocatively with the scars left by tragedy and the possibilities for healing.

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