Dr. Jeri Fink is an author, Family Therapist, and journalist, with over 19 books and hundreds of articles to her name. She writes adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction, and has appeared on television, radio, book events, seminars, workshops, and the internet. Dr. Fink’s work has been praised by community leaders, educators, reviewers, and critics around the country.
To find out more about Dr. Fink http://www.drjerifink.com
On Trees Cry For Rain
Q: Can you tell us why you wrote your book?
Years ago, I read about a group of people in New Mexico who followed traditional Jewish customs in their Catholic community – lighting candles on Friday night, refusing to eat pork and playing Christmas games with a four-sided spinning top. Local historians traced their ancestry back to Secret Jews who had fled the Spanish Inquisition. I was haunted by their experiences. What was it like to live a double life – going to church with your neighbors while secretly practicing Judaism – a crime punishable by death? How did it feel to risk everything for religious beliefs? What happens when people keep dangerous secrets – live schizoid existences that span generations? Lastly, what would they look like today? It took me four years of research, travel, interviews and writing to answer those questions.
Q: Which part of the book was the hardest to write?
The hardest part of the book was finding my “voice.” It took many rewrites until I figured out how to negotiate the structure that would highlight my characters and time shifts. Since I juxtapose the 15th century with the present, it involved a lot of “craft” to work out the particulars.
Q: Does your book have an underlying message that readers should know about?
There are many underlying messages. I wrote the book to be a “good read” on the surface, with many layers beneath for those readers interested in metaphor. Perhaps most significant is using “time” as a character – a living, flexible construct that moves fluidly within its own context. Time impacts on all the characters’ behavior, such as the need to correct wrongs committed in the past.
Q: Do you remember when the writing bug hit?
I was eight years old and it was very late – long past my bedtime. Instead of sleeping, I aimed a flashlight on my notebook so I could write a new story. Then it hit me.
I was put on this planet to write.
I’ve done a lot of things since that moment. But I always knew what I was meant to do. That has never changed. I’m here to write.
Q: What’s the most frustrating thing about becoming a published author and what’s the most rewarding?
There’s no question about what frustrates me the most – the business! I have no problem organizing three hundred pages into logical parts, but setting up a marketing program is daunting. Contracts, publicity, promotion, and scheduling make me dizzy. While I store endless historical facts, psychological profiles and stories – using them when needed – I have trouble keeping track of who owns which rights.
I learned a long time ago that seeing my words in print – watching people read them – is incredibly exciting. However, the best part is the means, not the end. In other words, the most rewarding aspect of writing is the actual work, lost in my characters and their stories. Many people are amazed when I confess that I enjoy the edits and rewrites as well – I feel like an artist “painting” in words instead of oil.
Q: Do you have a writing tip you’d like to share?
Never stop reading, writing, learning, thinking and doing. It’s all part of the final book. If you worry about writer’s block, you’ll get it. Each pause in the narration leaves time to reflect, review what has happened and visualize where it’s headed. With that said, when I’m working on a novel I write every day – even if it’s only a few sentences – to maintain the flow consciously and subconsciously – so the story is ingrained in my daily life.
On Family and Home:
Q: Would you like to tell us about your home life? Where you live? Family? Pets?
I live on Long Island, in the suburbs of New York City. I take every opportunity to jump on the Long Island Railroad to hang out in Manhattan. My favorite form of entertainment is theater, and my favorite form of theater is Shakespeare. I never miss Shakespeare-in-the-Park during the summer. The performances are magical! Before or after theater is dinner in some of the best restaurants in the world. Nothing beats Korean BBQ at Kang Suh, dumplings from Nom Wah Tea Parlor, a sizzling ribeye from Del Frisco, “street” food from Spice Market or Belgian Chocolate from Leonidas. And that’s just the tip of the palette.
I have two dogs who are trained therapy Labradoodles (a mix of Labrador Retriever and Poodle). Gizmo (100 pounds) and Coco (30 pounds) have been featured in most of my children’s books. They always “join” me when I’m writing. Gizmo is a gentle giant; Coco is a silly, hyperactive “kid.” They’re like me in canine form.
Ricky, my husband, is both patient and supportive – used to me disappearing into the canyons of my home office. My children are scattered – living as close as one mile and as far as another state. We’re a close family though, and are always there for each other. We take turns having family dinners, where everyone is expected to bring their signature dish. Once a year, we open our house for a December Holiday Brunch – for 70-80 people – complete with bagels and a lot of laughing.
Q: Where’s your favorite place to write at home?
I write in two places – my home office and at my kitchen table (usually with a takeout order of sushi). Sometimes I travel with my laptop or carry hard copies for editing.
Q: What do you do to get away from it all?
Travel. I can’t get enough of it! My goal is to visit all seven continents on the planet. Right now, I’m only missing one – Australia. I’ve traveled all over the U.S. and the world. My favorite places are Sedona, Arizona; Manhattan, Israel and Antarctica. I recently discovered expedition travel (see the articles on my website at www.drjerifink.com or scribd.com), and can’t get enough of it. I’ve been on two expeditions – Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands, which are literally, worlds apart. I’m now planning my next expedition. Any suggestions?
Q: Were you the kind of child who always had a book in her/his hand?
I read everything I could get my hands on (actually I still do, although time makes me more discriminating). I remember stumbling home from the library, arms filled with so many books I could hardly see around them. I loved animal stories, particularly about horses, and some of the modern classics by Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner, and Michener. Mark Twain was one of my earliest muses. I cried with Anne Frank and Pearl S. Buck, and read every word Kurt Vonnegut wrote. Sometimes I would read a book and “cast it” with famous actors and actresses. These days, I make sure to read books written by some of my favorite contemporary authors, like Greg Iles, Naomi Regan, Jodi Picault, Harlan Coben, Nelson DeMille . . . the list goes on as long as authors are writing good books! My favorite journalist is Marge Mendel. Her work is awesome!
Q: Can you remember your favorite book?
No – there were way too many. When I was very young, I fell in love with Laura Ingalls Wilder, never forgetting the world she made so real. I went through phases – historical fiction, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, biography – nothing was beyond my reach. In High School I was selected to join a group of students who studied the history curriculum through independent research under the guidance of a mentor. They wouldn’t let me choose fiction, so I studied biographies instead. I still remember those facts – and several people, like Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt, who reverberate in my imagination.
Q: Do you remember writing stories when you were a child?
By the time I was eight years old I had stacks of notebooks filled with stories. When I was in fifth grade, my teacher put photos on the board, and told us to write stories about them. I loved it! I filled pages and pages, telling stories. He got very angry and told me that I would fail if my story ran longer than two sides of a single paper. That was when I learned to write fast endings, squeezed into very tiny letters. I’ll never forget Mr. Tufel. It felt like writer abuse.
On Book Promotion:
Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promoting your book?
I got help from family members! Then I established a presence online – building my website at drjerifink.com and setting up pages on Face Book, Twitter, Authors Den, Amazon, Scribd.com, You Tube . . . it’s a long list. When that was set, I signed up for a two-month Virtual Book Tour with Pump Up Your Book.
Q: Are you familiar with the social networks and do you actively participate?
Promotion is all about being familiar with the social networks – whether you like it or not. I make sure I have an active, constantly updated presence.
Q: How do you think book promotion has changed over the years?
Book promotion used to be something provided by the publisher. Now, if you’re not Stephen King or James Patterson, book promotion is the responsibility of the author. Ironically, authors tend not to be good when it comes to promotion, marketing, and publicity. But we have no choice. It’s part of the package.
On Other Fun Stuff:
Q: If you had one wish, what would that be?
To continue writing novels.
Q: If you could be anywhere in the world other than where you are right now, where would that place be?
Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona. It’s in the middle of Boynton Canyon, in red rock country – once a sacred place for the Indians. The experience is breathtaking – the trails plunge me into a world without words, that takes my imagination way beyond my own human limits.
Q: Your book has just been awarded a Pulitzer. Who would you thank?
My friends, my family, but most of all, Ricky, my husband – and all the beautiful places and people on this planet that gave me insight into the meaning of life.