Growing up in New York in the late 1960’s, Audrey Birnbaum assumed that watching Holocaust documentaries was a perfectly normal family activity. On her first day of elementary school, Audrey sat in the cafeteria, unwrapped her liverwurst sandwich, and excitedly told her new classmates about her public television proclivities. Her Brady Bunch-watching peers had never heard of PBS, but they had heard of PB&J (and they weren’t too keen on liverwurst either). They made it abundantly clear: Audrey’s childhood was, in fact, not normal at all.
We will never know whether it was schoolyard bullying or watching tragic Shoah documentaries that was responsible for Audrey’s acute sensitivity to others; but that empathy may have helped pave the way for her choice of medicine as a career. Audrey chose to specialize in Pediatric Gastroenterology – for who needed more help than children; and where could anyone feel more suffering than in one’s gut? Day in and day out, she watched intricate family dynamics play out in the context of fragile health. Audrey listened to each patient’s story until she could retell it with clarity and give it meaning. Through witnessing and recording these tender dramas, the seeds of writing had been planted.
In the summer of 1941, eleven-year-old Wolf is coming of age amidst the rubble and antisemitism of war-torn Nazi Berlin. Destitute and facing imminent deportation, he must leave behind his ill sister and travel with his family across a continent entrenched in war. With nothing in hand but expired visas to the US, Wolf and his family must figure out how to sneak aboard the Spanish freighter the Navemar, a ship that will gain its reputation as the “Hell Ship of Death.” But this is only the beginning of Wolf’s saga.
“American Wolf: From Nazi Refugee to American Spy is a heart stopping true story full of last-minute rescues, near-death encounters, and survival against untold odds. It is also a story about coming of age, family dysfunction and national identity, and is a resounding testament to the triumph of the human spirit.
Using the extensive, detailed notes compiled by her father, author Audrey Birnbaum retells in memoir style a poignant and vivid account of Wolf’s childhood in Berlin, his riveting escape from Nazi Germany, and the continued challenges he faced even as he reached freedom.
[00:00:00] Stephen: today on Discovered Wordsmith, I have Audrey. Audrey, how are you doing this morning? I’m great,
[00:00:06] Audrey: Steven. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:00:08] Stephen: It is great to have you on and I’m excited to hear about this book but before we talk about your writing and your book, let’s find out a little bit about you.
[00:00:15] So tell us some of the things you like to do and where you live outside of writing.
[00:00:20] Audrey: Stephen, I live in Westchester, New York, and I have not always been a writer. This is pretty new to me. I actually. I want to say I was a doctor, but I think I’m allowed to say I still am a doctor, but I don’t
[00:00:34] Stephen: think you ever stopped being a doctor.
[00:00:37] It’s one of those
[00:00:37] Audrey: professionals that I want to hold on to that title a little bit, though. I don’t walk around like I didn’t put MD on my book because I thought that was, I don’t know. Ex I do. I’m a pediatric gastroenterologist.
[00:00:52] Stephen: Wow. That’s a mouthful. That’s a lot.
[00:00:53] Audrey: It’s a mouthful. It’s people will have trouble saying it.
[00:00:57] I usually say kids from here to here . But [00:01:00] people are, they’re good with that. Yeah. I
[00:01:02] Stephen: study kid farts,
[00:01:04] Audrey: yeah,
[00:01:05] Stephen: probably what the answer the kids would like, . . I’m sorry. Go on. Tell us more about you.
[00:01:10] Audrey: Yeah so that’s that’s so I stopped working in 2020 and right before the pandemic.
[00:01:16] Not that I knew it was coming. I’m, not psychic, but that happened and
[00:01:20] Stephen: just so happens your next book is a conspiracy theory book about,
[00:01:26] Audrey: bUt that gave me, a lot of time to do. This, I think I had planned to do some other things and, other hobbies. Actually, I do sing. I’m in a couple of courses because I can’t decide which one I like better.
[00:01:38] I have a pop acapella group and a more classical choral group and I like them both. And then I was planning to do, I don’t know, ballroom dancing at a long list. And then, pandemic. Said no to those things. And so that allowed me an opportunity to really focus [00:02:00] on the writing of this book, which I did obsessively and compulsively.
[00:02:07] Stephen: So doctors don’t usually leave much time for much outside of work life. It’s very hectic, busy, stressful life. But it’s also, I hear rewarding usually good pay and all that. So why would you want to stop doing that and just look into writing and make writing more a part of your life?
[00:02:30] Audrey: Oh, writing is so profitable. Don’t you think? I’m not, we’re not,
[00:02:36] Stephen: yes, it can be.
[00:02:37] Audrey: Yes. No, I’m not doing this for that reason. I would say that, it really started in 2018. So going back a couple years, I had 2018 was a bad year. For me it was it started I think with I had a case of identity theft that was like the beginning of a bad year.
[00:02:57] Oh geez, geez. I did not, you know that it happens. [00:03:00] It’s, but then I had a ski injury in Colorado. I
[00:03:05] Stephen: wasn’t really you or the other person
[00:03:08] Audrey: that’s really me. I was doing an aerial acrobatic move. Not, I’m not on purpose though. And and I broke a leg very. Very badly and I came back to New York and had to be carried up to my house by the fire department so that’s how bad it was and I And then a week later my father died and so it was like, you know like a bad series of events and then I had to write a eulogy while I was on narcotics, which was probably a good thing.
[00:03:46] And I knew my father had this experience of being, in the Holocaust and that was going to be a big part of his the story I had to tell, but I, it had been so long since he told us these stories that I really didn’t [00:04:00] remember the details. And I had to. tRy to figure out what to write and what to tell about him.
[00:04:06] And I remembered that he had written down his life story years ago, maybe 13, 15 years before. When he retired, he typed out his life memories. And it was somewhere in my attic, somewhere. I got on my ass, and I… Hall myself backwards up my attic stairs and found the dusty copy of this thing that he had typed and started to go through it and found what he needed for the eulogy and we put that away and then I was off my feet for two months and not at work.
[00:04:44] And it’s the first time in my life I had ever not worked. I’ve literally been working since I was 11. Not in the home life. I’ll go into about why I was working since I was 11. That’s another book for another time. But so then I was,[00:05:00] at home, on drugs with my leg going like this and some kind of rehab machine and not doing anything, not wanting to be idle.
[00:05:08] I’m talking to my mother who was widowed a lot and she said, Audrey, your dad really wanted his book published and the book was I don’t know if you could see, but it’s it’s a pretty big tome. Yeah. It’s like a one pound tome. And, and so I started really reading it cover to cover, and I thought, wow, this is amazing, so much detail.
[00:05:28] He remembered so much from his childhood, growing up in Germany, under a Nazi regime and I thought. Yes, this absolutely should be published, except it is absolutely unpublishable because it’s really not good. So that really, got me thinking that if I ever was to do this, I would have to really rewrite it completely from cover to cover.
[00:05:51] buT I was still working. So after a couple of months, I went back to work on crutches, which is very hard, by the way, to do a colonoscopy on crutches. I don’t recommend it [00:06:00] to anyone. But I, I think also, coming back to work again, 2018 being a bad year, my mother, a couple of months later broke her hip and so I was going to work and doing the widow mother broken hip thing and but I started to think this is maybe a time I should start thinking about, uh, maybe at some point not working, um, in medicine for the rest of my life.
[00:06:29] Starting a new chapter,
[00:06:31] Stephen: literally, right? And that’s interesting. I’ve talked to a lot of authors that they do that, but they usually stick with their main career, retire and then write. You’re obviously not completely ready to retire. I think that’s, a lot of people would probably find it difficult to leave a profession like.
[00:06:50] Medical profession to go into writing a book. Cause as we joke, it’s just so lucrative to do. Do you find, and I know working with kids, [00:07:00] that probably was mostly good days helping kids. Do you find fulfillment or are you glad to get rid of that? Stress or whatever was with the medical.
[00:07:10] I’m just curious as to your feelings on doing this and moving away from medical a bit. Yeah.
[00:07:16] Audrey: I think that I think two things, I think I, I started my career really early. I was 22 when I graduated medical school. But just a very accelerated life of rushing through everything.
[00:07:27] And so again, like never having taken a break, I felt like maybe a little bit done. And I really loved patient care. I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoyed my patients and my interactions with families and the caring part was all positive, I think you’ll. Speaking to a lot of doctors today, they’ll tell you the more and more administrative stuff became, part of the end of day to late hours of night.
[00:07:57] And it became a little bit more than I [00:08:00] wanted, but I think more than that, I just really wanted to do other things. I always felt like I had this creative side that was untapped and that I had put away and couldn’t get to because. The work was just too consuming. That just wasn’t enough time to do, to balance it all and to do both.
[00:08:16] And so I did the opposite of what all my friends did. Their kids left the house and they went back to work. My kids left the house and I left work at the same time, which I’m a little guilty about. I was like, I’m supposed to be home with my kids and then go back to work and I did the opposite and I feel forever guilty and I hope they forgive me.
[00:08:34] Stephen: But I love that. Because I think too many people put off what they really want to do and what would be fulfilling in their life because they have this notion, this is my job. This is what I got to do. I got, you, you took that step an inspiration for many, I hope
[00:08:50] Audrey: yes.
[00:08:50] And I did it with therapy because it was such a hard decision, but no, it’s really hard. It was the idea of leaving work was. It was a painful [00:09:00] decision. There was pain in my leg and the pain in my brain. And I, it was not easy. And then I had to make sure I could afford to, which was, that was also really hard.
[00:09:10] The idea of not having a steady income was. Yeah,
[00:09:17] Stephen: I Bet I, I know a lot of people have that issue, which keeps them from doing what they want. And I understand about the a little bit about the administration stuff with in the medical world. My mother was an orthopedic nurse for 45 years and what drove her out was they Changed and upgraded the computer system and it was like broke.
[00:09:38] It was horrible. And she was like in tears and it’s just retire. You’re many
[00:09:43] Audrey: tears, many. Yes, I’m a good, I’m a good crier. So I understand.
[00:09:48] Stephen: That would, that could be your next thing. You’ll get an acting gig on some soap or something where you have to cry a lot. And
[00:09:54] Audrey: Here, I have a button somewhere that when you push it, they just come.
[00:09:58] I thought I might try it [00:10:00] today, depending what you say. Oh, it happened at
[00:10:04] Stephen: any moment. Who’s that? Who’s that? There’s that one, one interviewer that like always tries to. That gets people to cry and you always hear the actress of that. I wasn’t going to cry, but you got me to cry. No, I
[00:10:16] Audrey: don’t want to pull it off.
[00:10:19] Always. Yeah.
[00:10:20] Stephen: All so you talked a little bit about finding this book, wanting to redo this book for your dad. I want to find out a little more about what’s in the book. You said it wasn’t really publishable and you had to redo it. So walk us through reading it and what’s in there and what pushed you to keep going and then what you had to do to actually get it out into the world.
[00:10:41] Audrey: Yeah. So basically it is my father’s story about living through the Holocaust. He was born in Berlin in 1930 and he left. Germany in 1941. So he really lived through the [00:11:00] Nazi years and his escape was really is by the skin of your teeth escape. And I don’t want to give away too much about how he left, but cause that’s the exciting part, but.
[00:11:14] He is he was profoundly detailed about his life to a point that was astonishing. If I could tell you that I could draw you an architectural blueprint of his apartment in in Berlin the color of the walls, where the bathroom was. Every piece of furniture and, which was great because it was material for me that I could do something that was thoroughly believable.
[00:11:43] But if, as a reader, you would not want to say when you first walk in the apartment, there’s a foyer and then to the right is Anita’s room. And after that is the bathroom. It was written a little bit like that, which again, fabulous for me to make something completely [00:12:00] honest and true, but had to be.
[00:12:01] Written in a readable way, but the story itself of escape and survival was. Dramatic and then when he came to this country, there’s a whole other story about immigration and identity and trying to become an American and all of this in the backdrop of a very dysfunctional family, which makes it very relatable because don’t we all want to read about dysfunctional families and, some of it’s funny because I thought it sounded funny, um, because, his mother was a little crazy and erotic and his father was a bit of a pumpkin and a buffoon, I guess would be a better way to put it.
[00:12:44] And and that created a lot of errors in judgment that led to them getting stuck in Germany longer than they should have. Why did they stay? And, I, he didn’t really. Explain it. He documented it, but I don’t think [00:13:00] he really analyzed it. There wasn’t a lot of assessment, so I did the assessing for him.
[00:13:04] So what I had to try and do is which was a challenge, was keep it in his voice even though they were my words, and assess it in an an adult way that he was a little stuck, I think in the frozen, in his childhood experience. And I had to analyze the motives of the characters that was, yeah, and give it life.
[00:13:27] Does that make sense? Yeah.
[00:13:28] Stephen: Yeah, absolutely. To have the narrative there, were there parts where you wished you were able to talk to him to get more information that there was things you wanted to know to put into the book or did you? Yes. Okay. Okay.
[00:13:45] Audrey: Yeah. In some parts, I think also, I had. I think the biggest difficulty I had actually were not with him, but I think there were things that he didn’t know.
[00:13:54] I had to research a fair amount. Like he, he wrote this before the [00:14:00] internet. So he didn’t know certain things. He, there were family members that disappeared. He didn’t know what happened to them. Friends who he just. Who got left behind in Germany, he didn’t know. So I, names of family members he didn’t remember.
[00:14:15] So I did a lot of research to try to figure out who were these people, what happened to them. And of course I had access to the Holocaust Museum’s database where I was able to find out what happened to his closest friends. A lot of sad stuff that maybe it’s better that he didn’t know. Then there was a very big story about his sister and what happened to her because the family got separated and she got I guess left behind due to some visa issues and her story of what happened was really fascinating.
[00:14:47] And again, I don’t want to give it away, but I would have liked more detail, but it’s possible because he was so young that he wasn’t always told the entire story. And [00:15:00] she. Wasn’t around and I asked my cousins or her children who obviously adults now if they could shed more light on it And I don’t think she had shared more intimate details So I would have really liked to have known more so I could only share just what he wrote so yes, I Would have liked a little more but I think he did give me enough To write a detailed moving story.
[00:15:30] And and I, I just want to say that, there’s a lot of Holocaust stories out there, and I’m not saying that this one is more dramatic. My father didn’t, he wasn’t in a concentration camp and he, there’s a lot of suffering to go around and a lot of very moving stories.
[00:15:48] But I finds that, everybody, has a story. Everyone who survived it has a story that’s moving in its own way. And the story still needs to be told. [00:16:00] I think again, this story is unique in its own way. Again, because of family situation, because of how late they were in Germany.
[00:16:09] And so I hope people just, can enjoy it and enjoy the way I’ve told it.
[00:16:15] Stephen: So would you say it’s closer to a nonfiction documentary or a fiction, not action story, but drama story? Where’s the,
[00:16:27] Audrey: no, I don’t think it reads like a documentary. I always felt like it read like. More like a novel.
[00:16:33] Okay. Even though it was, I, it’s, I can’t say it’s a memoir cause I, it’s not his words exactly though. Sometimes I used his, I did, sometimes he had a really nice line and I used it directly as is, but I felt like it read more like. As if it was a novel written in the first person, I saw it in my head as a movie, like that was, okay, as I was writing it, and I was, yeah, that was [00:17:00] to me, it was a movie and it was like, I would say it was like 50%.
[00:17:05] Like some combination of Europa, Europa mixed with Portnoy’s complaint, because the later part is all the awkwardness of, coming of age and, being a young man, being in the service, there’s a lot of and a little bit of the namesake to, I’ll throw that in too, because there’s this whole first generation American identity.
[00:17:28] So a combination of those
[00:17:31] Stephen: three. Got it. So if you came across a spot that maybe needed more depth to it, more, how did you go about putting in dialogue or describing something or writing it so that it fit what was real and what was there, but made it an interesting story to read, how did you like handle that?
[00:17:52] Cause that seems like I’d be frozen. It’s I don’t want to. Miss misrepresent what he’s putting, but I also want it to be [00:18:00] interesting for people to read. And I know a lot of the movies and stuff based on true events, that the dialogue, they just. This is probably close to what they said, type of thing, how did you handle that?
[00:18:10] Audrey: So part of it was that, I knew some of the characters. I knew my father, I knew my grandmother she was alive until I was, 16 years old. And so I’m going to use the Schitt’s Creek example. You may not get the reference. I like
[00:18:26] Stephen: that show, yes.
[00:18:27] Audrey: Yeah, everybody loves Schitt’s Creek, but I think when there was an interview with, I can’t remember the actor’s name. The father who plays the father.
[00:18:35] Stephen: Yeah. I can’t remember his name off hand.
[00:18:37] Audrey: And they were talking about just creating the show. He said, the humor is not in the one liners. It’s in the characters themselves. If you have good characters, they speak for themselves.
[00:18:49] And so I think that we had the characters of my grandfather and my grandmother and my father and my aunts, they were already well [00:19:00] developed. And I think I had developed them well early on, even from going back to like, when they got married back to the old country. And so once you had that. I could embody them and I knew what they would say.
[00:19:12] I knew who they were. And so when I wrote for them, I was writing as them and I could speak for them because I already knew who they were. I knew what they would say. So I didn’t find it difficult because it’s, to me, it didn’t seem artificial.
[00:19:28] Stephen: Nice. Okay. Yeah. And I love that because that’s, fiction writers often say when they really understand their characters and get into it, that they just go and you’re just trying to keep up and write down what was said.
[00:19:42] Audrey: Exactly. They wrote themselves. I felt like they were writing when I was writing, I never, I sometimes didn’t know where I was sitting because I was, I felt like I was there in, if I was in Germany or if I was in Washington Heights, wherever I was, like I was so immersed [00:20:00] in writing that I literally, I could not tell you where I was sitting in the house.
[00:20:05] Stephen: just, you hit that flow. Yeah,
[00:20:09] Audrey: exactly. It was total flow.
[00:20:11] Stephen: Yeah. Nice. So what type of feedback have you been getting from people who just discovered it, from maybe other people who lived through similar or had family members that lived through similar? Have you heard any feedback on that?
[00:20:24] Audrey: I have. So most of my readers so far have found it really emotional and very immersive. I think the feeling was like, they also said they feel like they’re there and they root for, I think, because I present my father as this sort of, awkward, just trying to try so hard to become once he comes here, first it’s like an eventual they get out and then it’s can he become the man he wants to be?
[00:20:53] And fit into an American society after all the tragedies that he experiences once he’s here, they’re [00:21:00] rooting for him. So that’s the feedback that I’ve gotten. And then the people I I’m publishing with Amsterdam Publishers, who’s like a large international publisher, mostly like Holocaust and World War II memoirs.
[00:21:13] And so I’m now part of a authors group. And there’s other people publishing their memoirs and again, it’s been very enlightening because Of course, now I realize there’s other people and they have their stories too, and it’s wonderful to read. And sometimes there’s similarities, uncanny similarities, and you’re like, really?
[00:21:31] Your parents were crazy too? But that’s because everybody, not really, because everybody who lived through this, everybody has a story, whether they were hiding. Plain sight, pretending to be Christian, hiding under the floor, or it’s whatever. There’s our they all have good stories.
[00:21:48] They’re worth reading. They’re interesting and dramatic. And all of us next generation, we’re all crazy as a result.
[00:21:56] Stephen: That must be, my, my [00:22:00] family didn’t go through that, but to hear that and know that growing up must be a totally different perspective on, uh, just being who you are and being in America and not having to, live through that totally different than somebody who’s. Family has been here for 200 years or something, yeah, I said
[00:22:20] Audrey: It’s an immigration story, but it’s a little unique, I think, because when my father got here, um, first of all, we were in the middle of a war and everyone was anti German and he was German.
[00:22:32] And then everybody pretty much was like, anti Jewish too. They were I don’t really want the Jewish refugees to come. So that was like a second thing. And then a lot of Eastern European Jews didn’t like German Jews because they were like, Oh, the German Jews, they’re so snobby. They think they’re so superior.
[00:22:50] So there was like, there was this, and plus he had already been through like the trauma of. The continuous loss of everything, lose your school, lose your clothes, [00:23:00] lose your friends, lose your furniture, lose your money, lose your sister, lose your family, so there’s it was very, in that respect, I think it was a little bit of a decision.
[00:23:09] Distinct immigration experience. So I think, there was a lot of trauma for him that it created a lot of things, anxiety and, behaviors that whether he passed that down in DNA or just behavior, I couldn’t tell you, but it was. It was a bit of a unique experience.
[00:23:34] Stephen: And you mentioned something about your father when he was young and coming over and all that did, was it difficult for you to write your father as a character and things that Of how he was before you were even born and what you knew of him. And, cause still you gotta have some sort of a little bit of a character arc in there, without making him like the big superhero or [00:24:00] something, you know what I’m saying?
[00:24:00] That you want to idolize your father. Was that a difficult thing for you to do?
[00:24:06] Audrey: So I think to be like as honest as I can be, like, I think my father was a difficult father because of his traumas that he experienced. And by the time I was an adult and a parent, myself, I had already You know, forgiven his, whatever difficulties that he had come to terms with that.
[00:24:30] But I don’t think that I fully sympathized with his experience until I read and understood what he had written and all the losses he experienced. I could not believe. I knew, again, the escape story. I got that. But I didn’t know how much else was in it and how deep the losses went, even after he came here, how difficult it was.
[00:24:56] So I think I developed a real sympathy for the child that [00:25:00] he was that I never really had before. And so I think I was able to imbue sympathy for the young person that I was writing about and not the adult father figure that I knew.
[00:25:15] Stephen: That would be very difficult, I feel I’d have a hard time doing that myself, so I applaud you for that, definitely.
[00:25:22] Audrey: Yeah, that’s a lot of tears. A lot of sobbing occurred.
[00:25:27] Stephen: Did your mother like the book?
[00:25:30] Audrey: Oh, yeah, my mother and my sister loved it. They… Cried buckets when they read it and then, and I was thinking, I kept thinking like, Oh, I wish my dad was around to see this get published. And then I thought, Oh my God, I could never have written this if my dad was around because he would have prevented me from writing it the way I wanted to, I, I wrote my version of events and that was not his, this is what he wanted, but that’s.
[00:25:59] That’s not [00:26:00] what, that’s not what I wanted to say.
[00:26:03] Stephen: It’s he wrote for himself. He wrote for his own reasons and you wrote to get the story out into the world and to share it with
[00:26:12] Audrey: others. I think he wrote really more as a legacy to his family. Like he really dedicated to his children and grandchildren.
[00:26:19] This is my life story. This is, chronicle of my life. And yeah, and exactly. My motive is to. It tell a story to the world that should be heard. Exactly.
[00:26:32] Stephen: So do you have any plans now for another book? That’s a big auspicious beginning what do you, what’s next? ?
[00:26:40] Audrey: Yes, I do. Actually I’m in the middle of writing another book and it’s fiction and it’s much more fun and totally different.
[00:26:47] And now I realize like how in, in a way it’s easier because I can manipulate. the characters as I want to, I don’t have to follow as, I’m like, I think nonfiction is hard. [00:27:00] Because it, again, that narrative arc, you have to, you have to have a conflict and conflict resolution and where’s your ending.
[00:27:06] And sometimes with a biography, you can’t, sometimes There is no, I, in this book, in my dad’s book, I definitely tried to create that kind of narrative arc with where I ended it and having a resolution. But I think it’s, with fiction, you can manipulate it just right. Time it just right.
[00:27:27] And so anyway, yeah, so I’m writing a book. It’s a, it’s called The Climb. It’s a, it’s an ensemble cast of people on vacation. People with bringing all their problems with them on vacation, getting together and running into some trouble and having to work together. And it’s fun, humorous, um, totally different
[00:27:53] Stephen: genre.
[00:27:55] Great. And do you have a website that people could go to if they have, want to see more about the [00:28:00] book?
[00:28:00] Audrey: Yes, it’s, audreyBurnbaumAuthor. com
[00:28:03] Stephen: Okay, we’ll put links in the show notes for that. Okay. Yeah. Let me ask, do you have any favorite books of, that you’ve read throughout your life or authors that you really like?
[00:28:15] Audrey: yEs, I do. I have it’s funny. I was thinking about this and I was thinking I have more male authors that I like than female authors. And I thought, is that bad? I do really like Jonathan Franzen. I really did like his last book, Crossroads very much. I love Philip Roth. And I love Jonathan not Jonathan. John Irving. And then I Zadie Smith is a favorite woman author of mine. And Chimamanga Adichie. I hope I didn’t mangle her name too much. And Elena Ferrante. I think those would be my… Top contemporary authors. Okay.
[00:28:58] Stephen: Nice. There in [00:29:00] Westchester, is there any bookstores that you like to go visit?
[00:29:05] Audrey: Yeah. The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville is a, which is a town away from me, is a lovely, sweet bookstore where you can get lost in and, just You know, it’s real brick and mortar, find a book, get help, buy a gift, lovely
[00:29:26] Stephen: place. Okay. All right. So we want to talk a little writing stuff about opportunities, which I have some questions on.
[00:29:33] But before we do if someone said, Hey, I heard you wrote a book, why should I get your book and read it? What would you tell them?
[00:29:40] I would
[00:29:40] Audrey: say that it’s a, this is a, it’s a character driven story and it’s a family drama and It’s a it’s a good read whether or not you want to read a story about the holocaust or not. So if you’re the kind of person who does want to read like a holocaust story or you’re a World War II buff, you’re going to like it.[00:30:00]
[00:30:00] But if you also just want to read a heartwarming story about a boy who’s living through some difficult times with his family and It’s trying to find his identity even for I would say even a YA audience might find that to be something they could relate to. So I think, a lot of people could find something in this book that they would connect
[00:30:22] Stephen: to.
[00:30:22] Nice. Okay. AUdrey, let me ask you this. You did not choose a first writing project as an easy project. You chose one that is probably very… So everything else should be easy. So what are some things you’ve learned through this process that are helping with this next book?
[00:30:43] Audrey: Yeah. I, I didn’t accomplish this entirely on my own.
[00:30:47] I had help in the sense that I. Had, friends who read for me, which was really helpful. I had a friend who’s an author, Katie Size, who [00:31:00] read my book and gave me some hints and clues, which was really helpful. I. Realized pretty early on how difficult it would be to get an agent. And so I decided instead to go to a niche publisher, which was helpful.
[00:31:14] But on the bright side of that, the rejection, not getting an agent was really helpful because I actually put the book down for a long time. And then when I came back to it, I think improved it a lot. So that was, I think, a lesson to, put it down. For a little while and then come back and look at it again, freshly with fresh eyes.
[00:31:40] And you’ll see things, you’ll see where the writing is weak and where you can prove it. And so I think that’s one important lesson, and then also that, finding landing like a niche publisher, I think to me, that was. Very helpful. It’s getting [00:32:00] it moving to make sure that it actually made it somewhere.
[00:32:03] Stephen: oKay. So you mentioned in email about talking about not missing opportunities and taking advantage of opportunities. With this one book, has there been some opportunities that you regret that you’ve missed? And the reason for possibly talking about that? Or have you, do you have some great opportunities that you’re glad you did?
[00:32:27] Audrey: Do you mean opportunities with the, with writing itself, you’re saying? Yes.
[00:32:32] Stephen: Yeah.
[00:32:32] Audrey: I’m
[00:32:35] apologizing, I really, I’m
[00:32:37] Stephen: not An Agent, which would have been an opportunity, possibly, to get in a big publisher, a big possibly, who knows what, foreign rights movies and stuff, and you didn’t do that. Do you regret not choosing An Agent? Do you wish you had?
[00:32:54] Audrey: Oh, I think I see what you’re saying. Okay I think that…
[00:32:58] I would have [00:33:00] liked to, I think I, I think an agent didn’t choose me. Let’s be clear. I did put it out. I maybe didn’t, do it as aggressively as I might have. But I’m not sure that this genre lends itself to being picked up by an agent, to be fair. It is a niche genre that may not, at this particular moment in time, have the appeal that an agent would.
[00:33:34] Really be interested in. Just to be completely fair, this is, not necessarily, Holocaust literature, not necessarily what people are really interested right now,
[00:33:46] Stephen: flying off the shelf for every day.
[00:33:49] Audrey: Exactly. So I think like I recognize that after, a couple of go arounds with seeking out agents.
[00:33:56] And I. So I, but I didn’t give up, [00:34:00] I wasn’t gonna give up and I did not want to self publish I, I could have, I certainly would be a way to go, but I, that wasn’t the route that I wanted to take. I Didn’t think that it would be easy to get noticed and, and I didn’t want it to be a vanity project either, so I I was looking still for real representation.
[00:34:22] So I think I found, I found a good publisher, a legitimate publisher, and, I feel, represented.
[00:34:29] Stephen: Are there any other things that may be coming up that you’re going to do to help promote the book that you wanted to make sure and take advantage of either setting up somewhere or some conference or something going on?
[00:34:42] Is there anything besides podcasts? I
[00:34:46] Audrey: am, I’m, right now I’m. I’m working with so social media, the marketing part of this is all, brand new for me. I’m not, I was never really on social media before. So I now do have an Instagram and I do have Facebook. And so I’m working on [00:35:00] that.
[00:35:00] I do have something coming up in January that I’m very excited about, even though January is always away, but the book isn’t. Officially launching till October. It’s available for pre order September 15th, and then it’s it’s going to be available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in on October 23rd and January there’s a, the Reagan library Reagan presidential library in California has been doing a program, really beautiful program on outfits. And, but it’s not just outfits. It is a Holocaust related program. And I’ve been invited to speak there in early January and speak about the book, which is, an amazing opportunity because ultimately.
[00:35:44] Besides the book. And again, I’m not doing this because I think I’m going to become rich from this book, but the idea is really to get the story out and to tell my dad’s story. And and so that to me is a marvelous opportunity. And as you can see, I like [00:36:00] to speak, so I will. Do it more. And that’s, so that’s my, to me a big opportunity.
[00:36:07] Otherwise, I’m going to probably be doing be setting up, uh, talks and temples, continuing education programs, and, neighborhood things. I have not set that up yet because I don’t physically have the book.
[00:36:20] Stephen: And I love about doing that talk because that’s a perfect venue to be, everyone listening to the talk is interested in the topic.
[00:36:31] And I think that’s something a lot of authors don’t think far enough and wide enough that I, if there’s a writer’s conference in the area, I see a lot of authors setting up at a table to sell their crime fiction or their fantasy. And I’m like, That doesn’t make sense to me because everybody at this conference is a writer with their own book.
[00:36:52] They’re not looking to buy a book to read, and I, I think there’s opportunities out there for [00:37:00] people to do things outside of just. Book and library related things. So I love that you’re going out to do this talk and you’re doing things with the local community. Have you looked at other Jewish events or other synagogues or anything out there that you could go work with and talk with or anything like that?
[00:37:20] Audrey: I’m planning to approach, it’s a little early yet still, but I’m planning to approach the the New York version of the Holocaust Museum. It’s called the Jewish, it has a different name, but it’s so I think I’m going to do museums and then all of the, there’s plenty in Westchester, plenty of local synagogues.
[00:37:40] And there’s also a lot of groups that are children of Holocaust survivors, like smaller groups that I’m. Planning to approach. So all the in person stuff I’m planning to do for the fall and set up. So I haven’t done it yet, but it is. Next on my list of things to do.
[00:37:58] Stephen: Nice. I like [00:38:00] that thinking outside the box.
[00:38:03] Are you using the same writer name for this book as your next book, or are you separating those?
[00:38:10] Audrey: No, it’s gonna
[00:38:11] Stephen: be the same name. Okay. Have you Do you have any thoughts or concerns about someone who picks up a book about the Holocaust and then they look at your next book and it’s like completely different fiction any concerns about people going, Hey, this is not what I wanted.
[00:38:27] Now I do.
[00:38:28] Audrey: Oh I I had. No, I’m just, I, again, I’m not in this as, for me, I’m in this not to there, I know there are some writers and they’re very targeted in terms of, this is my audience and this is who I’m marketing for. And this is exactly the type of literature I’m doing.
[00:38:49] I’m right, from the heart and. I’m going to write what I want to write that could be another memoir in the future. It [00:39:00] could be, so I, it’s maybe that’s not a good business approach, but it’s for me, the goal was not, um, yeah, I’m, I’m a later in life.
[00:39:15] Right in, in, and I maybe don’t have the, this is one project, I’m putting this away, I’m starting the next project, and. We’ll market it accordingly.
[00:39:27] Stephen: The other thing I’ve seen and think about too is you’re not so much worried about selling two different products. It’s more about you that you’re the brand, you’re the product almost, you know, if someone.
[00:39:41] I am the brand. Exactly. If somebody does like the first book. And they like the writing. Even if your next book’s fiction, it has nothing to do with the Holocaust or anything like that. They may say, you know what, she got this story out. I love what she did and I’m going to stick with her. I [00:40:00] like that.
[00:40:00] And it’s a different approach than like you said, a lot of authors get really focused. Oh yeah. I write in three genres of three different pen names. I got three different websites and that’s a lot to do. So I’m just I actually love that, you’re, this is me, this is what I write.
[00:40:17] Audrey: Thank you for being so supportive, Steven.
[00:40:19] Stephen: Yeah, and
[00:40:20] I’d love to definitely check it out after the next book and see what the feedback read that first book, this is different, but I love it. That type of thing, because I think that’s a, a. A way of marketing and getting out there that a lot of authors avoid cause we’ve been told to, but I don’t think that’s completely right.
[00:40:43] I think you’ve got a good angle actually.
[00:40:46] Audrey: No, I think, listen I, the truth is, I think that really good authors can spend quite a few years on a. On a novel and write very different books. And that’s, I think, to their [00:41:00] credit. And I think you know who those authors are. But also this book was a commitment I made to do something, in homage to my father, which I did.
[00:41:12] And now that I know that I can write and I can finish a book. And now I’ve got the bug and I really enjoy writing, it’s a great pleasure that now I move forward and now I’m going to do the kinds of stories that I want to tell and they will be different.
[00:41:27] Stephen: And that’s beautiful.
[00:41:28] I love that. All right. Audrey, I appreciate everything today. I think that book sounds wonderful. I agree. I think the world needs some more of those, even though there are plenty of things happening that take people’s attention and something that was a hundred years ago may seem like eh, it’s old news.
[00:41:48] It’s still something that we shouldn’t forget that affected people and people’s lives. To this day. So I love that you did that. Do you have any advice for anyone else that is [00:42:00] in a similar situation where they have a parent or a grandparent that has a story to tell and they might want to write a book and get that story out?
[00:42:08] Do you have any advice for them?
[00:42:11] Audrey: Yeah, I think it’s don’t hesitate to start putting it on paper, just start writing, don’t critique yourself till you have it down, excuse me, from start to finish, and then edit it and edit it but find, even if it’s somebody else’s story, I think you still have to find your own voice as a writer, um, you’re still telling it, and I think that’s the, probably the biggest challenge is in finding your own writer’s voice and knowing if you have one.
[00:42:45] Because yeah, because people still have to be able to, feel, they have to still feel it for it to be. To feel the emotion of the story. You can’t just, again, it’s a show not [00:43:00] tell.
[00:43:01] Stephen: They have to connect to it. Yeah. Very much. Great. Audrey, thank you for being on today. It’s been great talking to you.
[00:43:08] I wish you lots of luck not only with the book, but with your talk in January. I hope that goes very well for you.
[00:43:15] Audrey: Thank you. Thank you. I’m very excited. Thank you so much for having me, Stephen. Thank you.