Interview with Uvi Poznansky, Author of A Rise to Power

PoznanskyTwistedEveryone, please welcome Uvi Poznansky. I greatly enjoyed her short story collection, Twisted, and invited her onto Dab of Darkness for tea and chat. Today we talk about cover art, the ebook world, and the importance of reaching out to readers.

Also, check out the last question and answer for an ongoing ebook giveaway of historical fiction books by several authors, including Uvi.

Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?
Nothing is mundane, when I figure out how to convey to you the sensations my character feels, so you may smell, see, and taste what she does, and feel the emotions flowing through her. Should literature edit out cussing? Hell no!
To illustrate that, here is an excerpt from Twisted:
And I hope that somewhere, in her heart of hearts she feels for me when I say, “Look: when I was a little girl I ran up a hill from my house; and across the valley I spotted a pillar of salt. I couldn’t resist coming closer. I stood at her feet, looked up and met the eyes, the empty eyes of Lot’s Wife. And right there and then, seeing the trail of bitter tears running down her neck, I promised myself: I will never let that happen to me!” 
She shrugs.
And so I forge ahead. “The elders, all they know is how to brush their long, silvery beard, twirl the tip of it between their fragile thumb and forefinger, and once in a while, draw a cryptic glyph here, and another one there. Pricks! All they do is jot down men’s lives, men’s stories, men’s trials and victories in a scroll that no one but them can read. They have rolls and rolls of papyrus in their fancy library. Fuck them!”
“Gladly,” she winks.
PoznanskyApartFromLoveWith the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone? 
The classification to genres is only one method available to you to discern the subject of a book. This method can be rigid. I trust that you use it in combination with reading the book description, and taking a peek at the first few pages, which gives you a true taste of the writing style.
I strive to stretch the envelope of what I create. In my literary work I write in different genres, which enriches my thinking: My novel Apart From Love is literary fiction; Rise to Power is historical fiction; Home is poetry; Twisted is dark fantasy; and A Favorite Son is biblical fiction. 
In writing all of them, I often break the confines of the particular genre, because life as we know it–and my art, which mirrors it–constantly changes from one genre to the next. One moment it is humorous; the next, it is erotic; then, it might be a tragedy.
In art, I use different mediums, which enriches my designs: I sculpt (in bronze, clay, and paper), draw (in charcoal, ink, and pencils), paint (in watercolor and oils), and create animations. 
I love to be lured outside of my comfort zone, and I hope you do too. 
PoznanskyRiseToPowerIn my experience, some of the best fiction is based on facts and history. How do you build your research into your fictional works?
It is essential, I believe, to anchor fiction in the real setting of the plot. You can do it in a myriad  of ways: visit the place, read about it, and look at art and photographs that depict it. 
For example, in my new novel Rise to Power, David describe the Valley of Elah, where he will soon face his enemy. I have visited this place when I was a child, and at the time it surprised me that the valley is so shallow and well, boring. I imagined that perhaps it used to have dramatically sloped walls, as befits the scene of an iconic battle. I told myself that perhaps over the generations dust has settled over it and covered the rocky slopes, hiding the drama. 
Before writing the scene, I also looked at a lot of paintings in the history of art. Then I set it all aside, and wrote the scene from imagination:
There, with their backs to me, they are: three silhouettes, drawn sharply against the gray, gloomy landscape. The horsemen in the center is the one I am watching with keen interest. He is tall, formidable, and cloaked. A ray of morning light reaches hesitantly for his crown, sets it afire, and then pulls back.
Ahead of him, the valley opens like a fresh cut. Thin, muddy streams are washing over its rocks, oozing in and out of its cracks, and bleeding into its soil. Layers upon layers of moist, fleshy earth are pouring from one end to another, then halting on a slant, about to slip off. And from down below, somewhere under the heavy mist that hides the bottom of the valley from sight, stir some unexpected sounds. 
I wish I could ignore them. For a moment I am tempted to stick my fingers in my ears—but to do so I would have to let go of my lyre. Let go I cannot, because its strings may tremble in the air. My music may betray me, I mean, it may betray the place of my hideout. 
So I go on cowering, trying to imagine silence—only to be startled once more: in place of the first birdsongs of the day, there rise the shrieks of vultures.
KachelPoznanskyHomeIn this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging? 
Unlike many authors I find it thrilling to reach out to my readers and listeners. I engage with my readers daily using various channels of social networking, and see it as my mission to let you know about my characters, who are real to me, and to bring them to life in your mind. My blog is at the heart of my campaign, and every day I post a little something there for you, about the creation process, the ideas that inspire me, and the cross-pollination between my art and writing. 
The most challenging aspect of my work is finding the balance between creating and reaching out to my listeners and readers. Time is dear, and I often wish I could be cloned so my clones could do some of my work. But if that would happen, each one of my clones would complain that she should be cloned, so that her clones could do some of her work…
PoznanskyAFavoriteSonAs a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors? 
Observing. Like Yogi Berra says, you can see a lot just by looking.
Care to tell us about your cover art, as you are also an artist as well as an author?
A few months ago, a pile of bones captured my fascination. Scattered across my desk, they were ashen, rather small, and of fanciful shapes. I was unable to identify the animals whose remains these were, nor could I name their skeletal parts. Which left me free to mine—out of these crumbling, fragile relics—an entirely new presence. Coming to life on brown paper with a few strokes of white, red, and brown pencils, there she was: my Bone Princess. 
Set upon a patch of scorching desert sand, she casts a one-eyed look at you, which masks how vulnerable she really is. Her soft flesh is shielded—and in places, nearly crushed—by her armor of bones. She is damaged: no arms, no legs, yet she accepts her pain with pride, and with regal grace. Inside and out, she carries a sense of morbidity. 
As all creations, she became an independent spirit. As such, she made me wonder what had happened to her. I imagined her turning to me, with the elegant, elongated lines of her neck, to tell me her story. This was how my novella, the first story in my book Twisted—I Am What I Am—came to be. 
PoznanskyJessAndWiggleFinally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?
I would like to invite you to my facebook event, A Time to Remember. A select group of authors has joined forces with me. We bring you amazing historical fiction stories. Let us whisk you away to a different time and place. Come listen to our stories. You may win one of the ebooks!
And in a few weeks from now, I will announce a new facebook event in honor of Mother’s Day, where you can win our audiobooks. To keep up to date, simply follow my blog or like my facebook author page.
Places to Find Uvi Poznansky
Uvi Poznansky’s Books

Dab of Darkness Expands

For-Review books and a book won from a blogger's giveaway.
For-Review books and a book won from a blogger’s giveaway.

2012 ended on an exceedingly good note for Dab of Darkness, which got mentioned on a SF Signal podcast (Episode 170). Thank you everyone who had a hand in that, especially Lady Dark Cargo and Little Red Reviewer.

Since 2010, I have been writing for Dark Cargo, and once I started up my review blog, I kept writing for Dark Cargo because I love the atmosphere, the dialogue, the other contributors. Truly, it feels like a second bloggy home. With the success of Dab of Darkness over the past several months, I have decided to expand beyond my reviews and read alongs. I intend to start doing author interviews, bookish commentary, and other whimsical posts at my discretion. Of course, you’ll still be able to find me over at Dark Cargo on Tuesdays, but I highly recommend you visit DC for the great stuff by the other wonderful writers throughout the week.

For Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Scifi Month, I will have a guest post on Brian Stableford up on January 10th. I am sure I will remind you all. Andrea will have great posts about vintage (in this case pre-1979) science fiction going up all month long, so don’t hesitate to stop by over there .

Several nonfiction books from Granma.
Several nonfiction books from Granma.

For 2013, I hope to participate in several reading events (see this previous post for info on upcoming reading events), but I also hope to add more historical fiction to my reading calendar. Truly, I find it difficult to say which of the three genres (Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Historical Fiction) are my favorite as I value them all highly. Throw in several series I would like to finish, several SFF series I would like to start, a handful of rereads, a little poetry, and some nonfiction, and you’ll have a TBR mountain that you’ll never see me dig out of. Haha!

I have several Neal Asher & Shraon Kay Penn books, given to me by a good friend.

Over the past several months, I have also taken in several For-Review books, all of which I am excited about, of course. So I plan to get that pile down to a much smaller list before accepting further review books. Additionally, the bookish blogging community is so very generous with their book contests and giveaways; I have won several books over the past year and yet have only read a small percentage of them. That will change. Once again, I am excited about all those books and have nefarious plans for them that involve heavy, sleepy cats and a good cup of tea.

Finally, what follows is a partial, random list of my bookish hopes and dreams for 2013. What books are on your 2013 Hope-To-Finish List?

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (a reread)

Ian Tregillis’s 3rd book will be out this year (Bitter Seeds was awesome)

The Red Wall series by Brian Jacques

Diana Gabaldon’s The Outlander series

Some nonfiction by William Shatner

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling (reread)

NK Jemisin (I’m a few books behind)

Jasper Forde (I keep hearing his stuff is amazing)

Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough

Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut (nonfiction)

Oedipus the King

The Host by Stephanie Meyer (I’m not sure about this one, but willing to give it a try)

I’m 2 books behind on Alan Bradley’s Flavia deLuce mysteries

The Stand by Stephen King (I have never read King, ever)

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Why I Read It: The Estella Society was hosting a read along.

Where I Got It: The Library

Who I Recommend This To: Ghost-story lovers who like a slow build up with lots of nuance.

Narrator: Simon Vance

Publisher: Books on Tape (2009)

Length: 13 CDs

I enjoyed this book from the beginning because of Simon Vance’s voice, a narrator I have been enthralled by on several books. I became captivated by the story because of Sarah Waters‘ nuanced take on a gothic-style ghost story. In fact, if I did not know from the beginning this was a ghost story, this tale would have been a historical fiction in my mental categorization for nearly all of the book.

The story follows Mrs. Ayres and her two grown children Caroline and Roderick through the eyes of our story narrator Dr. Faraday. Each of the main characters has some loss and some deep-seated longing and those two things drives the flaws in them. Set in post-WWII Britain, Hundreds Hall has gotten quite dilapidated. The Aryes can’t admit to themselves or their peers what financial conundrums keeping the place is putting them in. So they struggle on with a part-time cleaning lady and a slip of a girl servant, with Roderick making house repairs and Caroline helping out with the cooking. They both milk the cows.

Dr. Faraday comes from working-man stock and through perseverance on his part and great sacrifice by his parents completed medical school to become a country doctor. In many ways, he straddles the two main classes of society – the working, uneducated poor and the landed nobility. The tale starts off with him as a small child sneaking peaks at a magnificent party at Hundreds Hall while his mother performs her function as a servant. The bulk of the story takes place later in life (Dr. Faraday is in his 40s) and due to his roots and his education he finds that he is welcome few places as anything more than a doctor.

This book kept me riveted during my commute and on days when I didn’t commute, I often thought of reasons to run a few errands just so I would have time and opportunity for this book. I truly enjoyed the slow buildup of the mystery; were all the unfortunate and abnormal incidents at Hundreds Hall due to some paranormal force or aberrant human behavior? This book kept me guessing to nearly the end. I also liked how there was some ambivalency to the ending, leaving it up to the reader to decide one way or the other. In short, this book made me think, and we all know I like a good think.

Simon Vance, as always, was a welcome voice on my ears. His word pronunciation is clear and his pacing excellent. I love how he imbues the written word with an undercurrent of emotion. Once again, The Little Stranger was a quality performance.

What I Liked: Easily read as a historical fiction or ghost story; the portrayal of the class differences was deeply interesting to me; none of these characters are superb heroes or supermodels – they are all flawed in some way; the reader had to pay attention and think throughout the book to make a decision about the ending.

What I Disliked: At a certain point, Roderick has to go off for medical treatment and we as the readers see very little of him afterwards – I think I would have liked a bit more of his presence in the book.

Read Along Part I

Read Along Part II

Not only was this book part of a read along, I also read it as part of Stainless Steel Droppings’ R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event (and I would dual categorize this book as Gothic and Supernatural). It’s not too late for you to play along, so check out Stainless Steel Droppings for details.

Girl Reading by Katie Ward

Why I Read It: A few book bloggers I follow recommended it.

Where I Got It: The Library

Who I Recommend This To: If you want a bit of fictionalized art history in bite-sized pieces, check this out.

Publisher: Scribner (2012)

Length: 337 pages

Each chapter within this book is it’s own contained story, starting with an art piece created in 1333 in Italy going forward to a 2008 photograph and concluding with a completely fictional chapter set in 2060. As the title implies, each art piece captures an image of a female reading. I found I enjoyed Katie Ward‘s earliest chapters the most in this book, yet once we left the distant past to times that encompassed technology that I was familiar with, my attention drifted a bit. The final chapter, a futuristic piece, kind of tied the book together.

The earlier chapters gave me pleasure in living the times, people, morals, and atmosphere of those who created the art featured. I loved traveling from Italy, England, Netherlands. The imagery from each chapter stayed with me clearer than individual characters. I don’t know why, but this book lacked punctuation designating who and when someone was talking, so the people in each chapter blurred together for me. Once I stopped rereading multiple paragraphs to keep track of who was speaking when, the book picked up.

What I Liked: The atmosphere for each chapter was distinct; the whole concept of moving through time via art pieces of the literate female.

What I Disliked: Lack of punctuation made it difficult to keep characters distinct; sentence fragments were sometimes too vague for me to figure out and by the end of the book, I was not interested in taking the time to muddle through them.

The Thrall’s Tale by Judith Lindberg

Why I Read It: Love Norse historical fictions.

Where I Got It:

Who I Recommend This To: Norse aficionados, archaeologists, historians.

Narrator: Virginia Leishman

Publisher: Penguin Audio (2006)

Length:  ~19 hours

This historical fiction follows the lives of three Viking, or Norse, women in and around 985 AD. in Greenland. Thorbjorg is an aged Seeress, a rune reader, and speaker for Odin. I took greatly to her sense of practicality. Katla (loved this name) is a thrall, or slave, to a Viking lord. Her mother was taken from Ireland in a raid, pregnant. Her red-headed daughter (Katla) was born into servitude and hasn’t known anything else. As she grows, she blossoms into a beauty like her mother. She repeatedly dodges the advances of the Lord’s son, until one day his aggression takes a violent turn. Katla is left scarred and pregnant. Thorbjorg mends her physical injuries and takes her away with to her distant homestead to live and work in peace with her household. Katla develops a deep loathing for the baby growing in her womb and repeatedly wishes it would die. Nevertheless, the daughter is born and raised as the foster-daughter of Thorbjorg, learning much of her skill in healing and rune lore. Bibrau, however, seems to be twisted over the years by her mother’s disgusted hate for her. Due to her lack of speech and her mystique as servant to the Seeress, other kids name her Changeling and worse. Throughout this book, I got the sense that the author Judith Lindberg put a great amount of research into the time and place.

I really wanted to like this novel. However, there was no real joy or poignant turning points in character or plot. There was no one character I found myself cheering for. Katla is damaged but then goes on to hate and damage psychologically her own daughter. Thorbjorg notes the growing malevolency in Bibrau and tries to wrench it out of her with utter strictness, which included locking her in a cold dank shed naked for 3 days. Eventually, after knowing little kindness over a lifetime, Bibrau puts her hand to a series of evil deeds. While I found this novel interesting, it did not strike a cord as other anti-heroic novels had (Wuthering Heights, Brave New World).

The narrator Virginia Leishman really put herself into this book in emotional expression. She also pronounced character and place names with accuracy. The story is told in first person, switching between the three women. I sometimes had trouble distinguishing by voice alone which character was talking.

What I Liked: The characters and place names; the detail in rune lore; seeing Viking culture from a woman’s point of view; the interesting clash between Norse religion and Christianity; held true to life (no one wins all at the end).

What I Disliked: Overall, a depressing novel; held true to life (no one wins all at the end).

Emperor: The Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden

Picabuche with my book.

Why I Read It: For fun.

Where I Got It: Own it.

Whom I Recommend This To: Roman history buffs and action-seekers.

Publisher: HarperCollins (2003)

Length: 624 pages

Series: Emperor Book 1

I love this section of history, and not just for all the dramatized literature, TV, and movies the life of Julius Caesar has inspired. So it would be hard for me to not enjoy a historical fiction based on this man’s life. The Gates of Rome does not disappoint. Conn Iggulden captured the early life of one of histories most studied characters. In this book we follow Julius as a young boy on his family’s country estate up to his early 20s and the beginning of his military career. As a boy, his childhood friend Marcus and he meet together many trials and tribulations. Tubruk, the estate manager, tries to keep them out of trouble, but it is hard work when they are constantly getting into scraps with the neighboring farm kids. Julius’s mother has suffered from some mental malady since giving birth to him and spends much of her time sequestered away. Julius’s father spends most of his time at Rome politicking. Tubruk has his hands full indeed.

As the boys age, the start their combat training under the tutelage of an ex-gladiator, Renius. He is tough, mean, unsympathetic. The boys had plenty of opportunities to die by his hand. After a slave uprising, both boys, now young men, go to live with Julius’s uncle Marius, a mover and a shaker of Rome. He has an unsettled on-going dispute with another Consul of Rome, Sulla. The two detest one another. As Julius comes of age in the world of politics and intrigue, Marcus and Renius join a legion that spends quality time in the far reaches of the Empire fighting to expand the borders.

This book was more than I expected. So much of Julius Caesar’s life is on record that this story could have had a very textbook feel to it. However, that was not the case. We saw how the boys grew to men as real people and not as some dry historical figures attached to statistics, dates, and places. I am eager to begin the second in the series.

What I Liked: That double boxing match with Julius and Marcus pitted against older, more experienced soldiers; Julius’s roof-top antics in the name of love; Marcus’s fight with one of the blue natives; Sulla’s character (in a bad way).

What I Disliked:  The love interest in Alexandria seemed a little forced; all the women are love interests or mentally deranged.