Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter
Our fifth, and final, installment of this year’s “Words from our Finalists”…Nadia Kalman
Nadia…meet our Readers
What are some of the most challenging things about writing fiction?
When writing The Cosmopolitans, I found it challenging to emphasize with characters who initially seemed very different from me – such as Jean Strauss. Finding that empathy is also the most rewarding part about writing.
What or who has been your inspiration for writing fiction?
Family stories, and the way people in my family tell stories – spinning funny stories out of sad histories, and cautionary tales out of seeming triumphs. Writers such as Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam, Sholem Aleichem, Primo Levi, Lev Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, and Michael Chabon.
Who is your intended audience?
Jewish people and immigrants of all kinds.
Are you working on anything new right now?
I am now one third of the way through writing a second novel. Entitled “The Women’s Battalion of Death,” and set in the Russia of 1917, the novel fictionalizes the exploits of an historical all-female militia whose members included Jews from the Pale, laundresses, princesses, opera singers and maids.
What are you reading now?
A Tale of Love and Darkness, by Amos Oz – I’m fascinated by his memories of a Jerusalem neighborhood in which everyone “worked for Chekhov.”
When did you decide to be a writer? Where were you?
There are many moments that led to my becoming a writer, beginning in my early childhood, but when I turned thirty, I decided to make it the focus of my life. I was scuba diving at the time – perhaps I realized there were safer ways of finding excitement.
What is the mountaintop for you – how do you define success?
I used to think that success meant accumulating awards and recognition, but I now I think it is doing what you love, and, in some small way, contributing to the well-being of others. I hope to connect with readers and help them connect with one another.
How do you write – what is your private modus operandi? What talismans, rituals, props do you use to assist you?
Before starting to write, I read a little, from the Torah, Chekhov’s notebooks, Mandelstam’s poems, the Brothers Grimm, etc. (I suppose it’s a little strange to write “etc.” when these sources are so disparate.)
What do you want readers to get out of your book?
We are all, in some sense, immigrants – none of us feel completely at home in the world. If we recognize this about one another, that recognition can allow us to connect.