by Sarah Shew­chuk

Mar­tin Fletch­er is the author of four books, most recent­ly Jacob’s Oath. A five-time Emmy-win­ning tele­vi­sion news cor­re­spon­dent who has worked for decades as the NBC News Bureau Chief in Tel Aviv, he is cur­rently a Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent for NBC News.

Sarah Shew­chuk: Mar­tin, your first two books are works of non-fic­tion that exam­ine con­tem­po­rary events in your own life, name­ly your career as a tele­vi­sion news cor­re­spon­dent in Break­ing News and a walk­ing trip that you took down the length of Israel’s coast­line in Walk­ing Israel: A Per­son­al Search for the Soul of a Nation. In turn, your two most recent books, The List and Jacob’s Oath, are works of fic­tion that explore the Holo­caust and its after­math. Why did you choose to use fic­tion as the lens through which to exam­ine the past? 

Mar­tin Fletch­er: I did so much research for the two nov­els that I could prob­a­bly have writ­ten them as non-fic­tion. But in these nov­els I want­ed to reach some­thing you can rarely tap into in non-fic­tion, name­ly, what was it like to be that per­son? To expe­ri­ence those dilem­mas? To meet those chal­lenges? I want­ed to enter the hearts and minds of the char­acters, not just to tell their sto­ries, which is what I do as a jour­nal­ist. As a nov­el­ist I hoped to take the read­er not only on the exter­nal jour­ney, but the inter­nal jour­ney. It’s actu­al­ly a very hard thing to do and I can only hope I man­aged it. When I start­ed out I thought it would be eas­i­er: I can just make it up! But it doesn’t work that way, every nuance and devel­op­ment and action must have its own relent­less log­ic or it won’t work, and that takes the writer into unchart­ed ter­ri­to­ry. Each char­ac­ter takes over his own sto­ry. I loved the process. 

SS: How have your expe­ri­ences as a tele­vi­sion news cor­re­spon­dent impact­ed your choic­es as a writer? 

MF: They have guid­ed me toward want­i­ng to be very truth­ful in my sto­ries and char­ac­ters. I want to cre­ate a sense of authen­tic­i­ty, not through peri­od details but through the real­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tions and the char­ac­ters’ reac­tions. My work in all kinds of dis­as­ter zones has helped me to visu­al­ize ter­ri­ble scenes from the past. For instance, wit­ness­ing the geno­cides in Rwan­da and Cam­bo­dia helped me imag­ine the reac­tions of peo­ple in the Nazi Holo­caust. And above all, it does make me like hap­py endings. 

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