Sandra: Your new book, Who By Fire, Who By Blood is due
out this fall. What can you tell us about the story?
Jon: Who By Fire, Who By Blood is about a young man who
tries to redeem himself after the death of his father, a
controversial New York judge, and gets drawn into a terrorist
plot in which he mistakenly thinks he will be balancing
the scales of justice. The story is about faith, redemption
and the quest to save oneself by redeeming history, and
the perilous consequences that arise from confusing the
Sandra: In the article with the Boston Globe they said:
Green sees in Papernick's book an idea that flies in the
face of post-Sept. 11 convention -- in which terrorism is
associated solely with Islam and the Muslim world. Green
says it is what his customers are looking for, "someone
who's coming at things in an entirely different way, but
can still tell a damn good story."
Do you think politics contributed to your initial struggle
to see this book published?
Jon: I can't say for sure whether politics contributed to
my initial difficulties in finding a publisher for the book.
Certainly the current manuscript is a lot trimmer, 20,000
words shorter, but I also feel that in a post-September
11 world, many editors may have been afraid to touch a work
of fiction that dealt so directly with terrorism. It's strange,
but right now the best-selling work of fiction dealing with
terrorism was written by an 85-year-old man living on Cape
Cod. It's hard to imagine that such a book could have much
lifeblood flowing through it.
Sandra: This isn’t your first book, and you even had
a favourable review in the New York Times for your short
story collection. What impact has that had on your career?
Jon: My first collection of short stories, The Ascent of
Eli Israel, received great reviews in the New York Times,
and a dozen or so other places, however the book, which
I would describe as a series of political nightmares and
religious comedies set in the aftermath of the death of
former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin only sold a
few thousand copies in hardcover. The book has been taught
in a least a dozen colleges and universities, but I think
the publishing world has decided that people do not like
to read short stories, so that hurts any collection's chances
right out of the box.
As far as impact on my career, the book certainly has not
made me a household name, but I have been able to land teaching
jobs at Brandeis University, Emerson College and even Bar
Ilan University in Israel, in large part because of my collection.
Sandra: You’ve teamed up with Back Pages Books for
the 1001 Book Project. What is the aim of the 1001 Book
Jon: To quote Back Pages owner Alex Green, “we hope
to affect change in the corporate-dominated publishing world
where profit margins have virtually eliminated editors'
ability to take risks on new voices in the literary world.” We
hope to affect a grassroots effort to sell this book, where
ordinary readers become the taste maker, passing the book
off to friends and family, rather than relying on the Oprah
Winfreys of the world to tell us what to read. A number
of people have bought multiple copies and have taken up
the challenge to become a sort of Johnny Appleseed of good
Sandra: How did the idea come about?
Jon: When I found out that the print run for my book was
going to be a relatively modest thousand copies, it came
to me that selling a thousand and one copies, though challenging
would be doable if Alex and I put our heads together and
really made this happen. And a week later, the 1001 Book
Project was up and running.
Sandra: When did you launch the 1001 Book Project?
Jon: The Book Project was launched [I think] May 21.
Sandra: How many preorders are there so far?
Jon: I know that Back Pages has sold over 270 copies with
a number of people pledged to buy more copies imminently.
I'm not certain how many have been sold in Canada, but last
time I checked around 20 had been sold through Exile Editions
Sandra: What advantages are there to bookstores to participate
in special promotions such as this?
Jon: It seems that too many independent bookstores have
ceded responsibility to big-box bookstores, allowing the
chain stores to dictate what people read. Small bookstore
owners certainly have the opportunity to affect (sp?) change
and can only gain from pushing the books that they truly
Sandra: How do you feel about the growing need for authors
to market their work?
Jon: I wish I had known this before my first book came out.
Now I understand that the muse and the marketplace are both
equally important for the writer and we owe it to ourselves
to spend the time getting our work out to our readers. These
days, it seems that publishers only have the budget to put
their resources behind two or three writers per season at
most, so it really has become the writer's responsibility
to make it happen.Sandra: What promotion will you be doing
in Canada to support the release of Who By Fire, Who By
Jon: The book will be launching in Toronto on [strictly
coincidentally] September 11 at the Dora Keogh pub on Broadview.
I am going to be teaching full-time at Emerson College in
Boston this fall, so I won't be able to do as much as I
would like. That's why I’m trying to make things happen
right now. I do imagine I will be coming up to Canada three
or four times in the months following the release of a book,
but have yet to firm up the details.
Sandra: For curious readers who want to know more is there
a place where they can read an excerpt online?
Jon: Go to http://www.jonpapernick.com/ and click on the
cover of the book to read the first chapter. There is another
excerpt available elsewhere on the site, as well as some
of my short stories.
Sandra: How can readers order the book?
Jon: In the United States go to http://www.backpagesbooks.com/who_by_fire.htm
to order a signed, stamped and numbered copy of Who by Fire,
Who by Blood.
In Canada, you can order directly from the publisher Exile
Editions at http://www.exileeditions.com/
Sandra: I understand you’re focusing on trying to
get picked up by an American publisher. What else do you
have in the works?
Jon: You really need to be innovative these days, and when
it seemed that I was not going to find a publisher for the
novel, I teamed up with comic book artist Sandy Jimenez
to adapt the novel into a graphic novel. All of my students
at Emerson College were reading graphic novels and I just
decided that the story was too good to go to waste. We just
completed the first chapter of the graphic novel and hope
to find US publisher who will publish both the novel and
the graphic novel at the same time, something that has never
been done before. We may self publish or post online the
first chapter of the graphic novel to get people excited
about this amazing book. If you're interested in seeing
a few images from the graphic novel version of Who by Fire,
Who by Blood you can find them at my blog http://jonpapernick.blogspot.com/
. I also recently completed a second collection of short
stories entitled There is No Other. A couple of my more
salacious stories are available to read on my website. http://www.jonpapernick.com/
Blurb: "Jon Papernick's Who by Fire, Who
by Blood will draw you in with its increasingly horrifying
plot. But what
will haunt you forever is how Papernick brings you right
up to the border between justice and terror, and then makes
that border disappear. Open this book carefully. You will
close it changed."
--Dara Horn, author of In The Image and The World to Come.
Named by Granta Magazine as one of the best young American
novelists. Winner of the National Jewish Book Award.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Sandra Ruttan’s debut suspense novel, Suspicious Circumstances,
was released in January, 2007. For more information about Sandra visit
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