Today, I'd like to welcome Dave Riese, author of “Echo from Mount Royal” to The Thursday Interview. Before we get started, a quick intro!
I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts. I attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, majoring in English literature. During my junior year, I studied at Oxford University and travelled in Europe. After graduating in 1968, I enlisted in the Air Force, avoiding my draft board's kind invitation to join the army and travel to Vietnam. I married Susan, my high school girlfriend, during leave. Discharged from the military in 1972, I became a computer programmer. I began writing short stories and a novel, but wasn’t disciplined enough to write much over the next 25 years. After 35 years in information technology, I retired in the spring of 2012. I had a long talk with myself, “If you want to publish a book, you’d better take writing seriously.” My wife and I live north of Boston. We have a son and daughter and four grandchildren.
OK - HERE WE GO !!
No.1 Would you break the law to save a loved one? .. Why?
I would steal food to feed a friend or member of my family. I would perjure myself if it meant keeping a loved one from going to prison. The decision to break the law is more difficult when it comes to taking the life of another person. I hope I never face that decision. However to protect the life of a loved one or an innocent person threatened with death, I hope I would have the courage to act. In those cases I’d have no problem intellectually with killing, but emotionally it would be very difficult under any circumstances. But I know in emergencies, one acts on adrenalin and rational thought may not have much effect.
No.2 What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
Everyone is alive. That is the simple definition. Even if one is in a coma or on the edge of death, one is alive. However to be ‘truly’ alive is completely different. It depends on the emotional reactions, the inner imagination, the confidence to seize an opportunity, and the courage to attempt something new to change a lifestyle. We all have different ideas of what being truly alive means. What is satisfying for me, may be unimaginable for someone else. Some may consider wealth, fame, artistic achievement, outdoor adventure, contemplating nature or praying as the foundation for their feelings of being truly alive. Those we think of as being ‘truly’ alive, may not feel that way themselves. And the opposite is true. One can only look at one’s own life to make a judgment.
No.3 What motivates you to write?
At the basic level, I have no choice. I must right to maintain my emotional balance in the world. Writing is one way I surmount the difficult periods in my life. I sublimate my experiences which become the fertilizer of my imagination and the source of character and plot. If I do not write for several days, I become moody, angry, depressed, and introverted (more than usual). I feel like I am accomplishing nothing worthwhile, that I’ll never have the will to write again, or worse, that I am losing my skills as a writer. At a higher level, I write because only then do I feel truly alive. (See question two.) I forget all the annoyances of everyday, the disappointments, and the dreaded events of the future. I slip into my subconscious and live in my characters, giving them parts of myself but also letting them tell me what they need. When I finish for the day, the sense of satisfaction is so overwhelming that I see the world as a happier place where problems can be solved and one’s fears are inconsequential. And then it starts all over again the next morning... At the highest level, I write to express my thoughts for other people to read. I’m happy to know that my writing interests them, and that, for a short while, I’ve pulled them out of their lives into mine and the lives of my characters.
No.4 Why do humans want children?
The cynical answer is “I need someone to take care of me in old age.” This is a false hope since some children desert their parents or are unable to help or care for them. Another reason might be that we want to make sure that the human race continues. However given the overpopulation of the earth, this is no excuse. Finally, we might have children to please our parents, to be like our friends, or worse, to live in our child and create the life we wished that we’d had. Instead there is something hardwired in our DNA that ensures that the species continues. In earlier times, it was unquestionably assumed one would have children, and that is true to some degree in the modern age. However, the modern question is more when and how many children one wants. The question should be “Why do humans NOT want children.”
No.5 What was the biggest challenge in creating your book "Echo from Mount Royal" ?
The most difficult challenge was capturing the attitudes, prejudices and social conventions of 1951 Montreal. Knowing someone who lived during those years was an advantage. Also, the Internet is an amazing resource. Here are some issues I encountered while writing the novel: When Sol and Rebecca go to the cabin in the Laurentians, I originally had them driving on a highway that did not exist in 1952. In early drafts, I wrote scenes in which people watch television. Canadian television did not exist until the first TV stations were built in Toronto and Montreal toward the end of 1952. Using a specific consumer product usually required an Internet search. For example, I remembered the commercial for Ipana toothpaste from my childhood – a cartoon beaver singing “Brusha, brusha, brusha, get the new Ipana.” I confirmed on the web that Ipana toothpaste was sold in Canada in the early fifties. Researching radio shows that Rebecca might have heard while looking at her bouquet of roses, I discovered that Princess Elizabeth came to Canada in October, 1951. Contemporary newspaper descriptions supplied details about Ben’s Deluxe Deli – the décor, waiters’ uniforms, and the Wall of Fame. The hardest work was striking the right tone regarding the attitudes of people in 1951 in areas of pre-marital sex, public displays of affection, parental control of daughters, and the revelations of child abuse. I hope I’ve resolved these complaints satisfactorily.
No.6 What is the most important thing you have learned in life so far?
The most important thing I’ve learned in life is that there is always more than one answer to a question. I sometimes dream of rubbing the magic lamp and making my first wish to be the ability to make all the wishes I want. Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned (#1) is the famous saying “this too shall pass.” Rejection by a lover, a difficult divorce, a crime committed, lack of success, the fight to have others discover your talent, an emotional or mental condition – most of these can be survived. It takes time, maybe some money, fresh insights from friends or professionals, or learning how to ask for help. (#2) There are many people who are eager to help you (sometimes for money, sometimes for sex, and sometimes out of the goodness of their heart) and it becomes a matter of knowing how to ask. The hardest thing I’ve had to learn is (#3) how to become less introverted (a kinder way to save self-centered), to look outward and become more involved with other people, and to not remain in my comfort zone of being an observer. And finally (#4) to realize that things aren’t as bad as they appear at first. Give yourself time; success takes a whole lifetime to achieve. And if you write down your problems, you discover that they aren’t as impossible as you first think.
No.7 How did you come up with the title "Echo from Mount Royal?”
The working title of the book was ‘Will She Ever Know?” Since the book is in the 1st person, I then changed the title to ‘I’ll Never Know.’ But the contraction of ‘I will’ seemed confusing for a title. Some people might think it was ‘III.’ So I changed it to “I Will Never Know.” Everyone thought the title stunk! Besides the title gave away part of the surprise at the end of the book. I spent an afternoon going through several poetry anthologies to see if I could discover a fragment of verse that would epitomize the theme or tone of the novel. I came up with a lot of nonsense, but the afternoon wasn’t totally wasted: I did find a title for my next novel! Then a friend suggested I choose a landmark in Montreal as part of the title. That’s how ‘Mount Royal’ became part of the title – the place where Rebecca and Sol, the main characters, have three major scenes. Now I needed some ‘action’ in the title. I came up with ‘Road to’ or ‘View from’ or ‘View of.’ Since the novel is the memory of an 81-year old woman, I suggested ‘Memory of’ or ‘Memories of’ or “Desire on’ or ‘Love on’ and finally hit on ‘Echo.’ The last decision was ‘Echo’ or ‘An Echo.’ The rest is history!
No.8 How do you handle personal criticism?
Although I have published very little during my life, I have been involved in the writing ‘game’ since high school. My first critic was my sister who said I kept her up after midnight by typing in my bedroom – plus I was playing the same record over and over. I acted in plays in high school and college and, of course, the director always had criticism about body movement, position on stage, accuracy of the lines, and the tone and pace of the words I spoke. That was all part of the territory. I took several classes during my twenties and thirties at adult education centers. In these classes, we critiqued each other’s writing. I wasn’t bothered by the comments of other students, but it was hard to read the comments of the teacher when I thought I had done ‘a fairly good job.’
I am a member of a critique group that meets once a month. We give honest criticism as well as positive feedback. Most importantly, the members suggest changes or possible scenes that I had not considered. Each member of the group has their own view of my work; the result is a comprehensive evaluation of your writing that motivates you to go back and improve the piece. This does not lessen the nervousness one feels when arriving at the critique group and wondering what the reception of your work will be. That is the lot of the creative person. You must develop a tough skin. Criticism from your fellow writers is nothing compared to that of readers, agents, and publishers. Take from criticism what is helpful and let the rest bounce off.
No. 9 Why should people read your book?
In their reviews, readers respond to the independence and outspoken character of Rebecca who learns how to reach out for love and who is determined to support the man she loves against all odds. Readers are fascinated by the vivid descriptions of Montreal and its social norms in 1951. They enjoy the realistic depiction of family love and conflict, the unusual twists of the plot, and the surprising revelation at the end of the novel. It's a love story, a poignant reminder of the fragility of life and how the pattern of one's life can change dramatically in just a blink of an eye...The story is well paced as it grips the reader right from the beginning. A well-crafted story (From Readers' Favorite). Rebecca is a very likable character [who] thinks that love is more than enough to conquer complex issues such as class and religion. Despite the roadblocks that she faces in her quest to remain with Sol, she fights hard and passionately for the love that she believes she deserves. From the opening pages, I was hooked on her narrative...Full of vivid descriptions, crisp dialogue and a headstrong female protagonist at its center, this book left me emotionally exhausted but equally sad to see it end (From Contemporary-Books).
No.10 Why is there something rather than nothing?
In one sense, one could say that if you are totally broke, you have nothing; that if your cupboard is bare, you have nothing to eat. But as one who believes that the glass is half-filled, I look at this philosophically. The material world and inner consciousness exist. There can never be nothing. One could say, in relation to writing that a book is nothing until the author puts the first word on paper, but one can go back farther and say, his idea for a story brings it into existence. The power of life is in the ability to make something out of nothing, but even then the ability to create and re-create is an impulse or thought which exist before you act. Was the universe created out of nothing? One day scientists may know, but until then I’ll put this question to bed.
Thank you Dave :)
For taking the time to answer my questions
& the best of luck with your new book!
Check out “Echo from Mount Royal” on
A young woman from a working class, Catholic-Jewish family blindly falls in love with a handsome, wealthy, Jewish orthodox man. The courtship is a romantic dream, but class, religion and family secrets test their love, leading to a shocking, life-changing revelation.