by Dani Crick­man

Helene Weck­er is the author of the The Golem and the Jin­ni. The debut nov­el fol­lows the con­verg­ing sto­ries of two myth­i­cal crea­tures who must find their place with­in turn-of-the-cen­tu­ry immi­grant New York.

Dani Crick­man: I love the sim­plic­i­ty of the title The Golem and the Jin­ni and how well it encom­pass­es the sto­ry. How did you come up with the title? Were there any oth­ers you considered? 

Helene Weck­er: The title nev­er was any­thing oth­er than that in my mind, from the first twelve pages that I wrote which was back when I was at Colum­bia and it was for a work­shop. I thought it would be a chil­dren’s book or a novel­la or some­thing short, and it had that fairy­tale feel to it. It was meant to have a sim­ple title, like those of the sto­ries from The Thou­sand and One Nights.

When it start­ed to become appar­ent that this was going to become a long, more adult book, and it was going to take me a while to write it, I had a num­ber of peo­ple tell me, You’re going to have to change the title before it gets sold. No one knows what a golem is, not as many peo­ple know what a jin­ni is as you think.” There were a cou­ple of times when I start­ed to think of oth­er titles, and I just could­n’t come up with any­thing. Every­thing was too vague or metaphor­i­cal. Lat­er on, my edi­tor, my agent, and I were all work­ing on titles, and we still could­n’t come up with any­thing. For some rea­son, this book was just com­plete­ly resis­tant to any oth­er title. So that was what we end­ed up going with. It’s a conun­drum we resolved by not doing any­thing about it in the end. 

DC: The golem and the jin­ni have believ­able per­son­al­i­ties that are both admirable and flawed, as well as oppo­site yet com­pat­i­ble to each oth­er’s. Was it dif­fi­cult to find char­ac­ter­i­za­tions for them that worked? 

HW: Yes, it was. Dur­ing the sev­en years it took me to write the book, it went through a num­ber of iter­a­tions, and the char­ac­ters them­selves went through a num­ber of iter­a­tions. Espe­cial­ly the golem. At first she was very much more like an automa­ton. She had her own free will, but she had much less insight into oth­er peo­ple. Her abil­i­ty to hear oth­er peo­ple’s desires and fears was added in three or four years after I start­ed writ­ing the book, because it was clear that she did not have enough agency. She did not inter­act very well with oth­er char­ac­ters because she did­n’t under­stand them well enough, and because of that she was­n’t as inter­est­ing a char­ac­ter her­self. It was like watch­ing a robot move around and have to learn about peo­ple, which could be an inter­est­ing sto­ry, but it was­n’t enough. Not for this. 

The jin­ni was also hard to pin down because I want­ed him to be ar­rogant and mer­cu­r­ial with­out being a total jerk. I want­ed him to still be some­one a read­er could relate to or be inter­est­ed in. With him, it was find­ing that bal­anc­ing point. He was fun to write, in that it’s some­times fun to write the bad boy, but I did­n’t want to go to nuts with that. 

They both took some fine-tun­ing, and it helped to think of them in rela­tion to each oth­er. They weren’t cre­at­ed in a vac­u­um. I was think­ing, How am I going to get them to spark off each oth­er? What about the one is real­ly going to piss off the other? 

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