Post­ed by Nao­mi Firestone-Teeter

Sec­ond up in Words from our Final­ists”…Julie Orringer

Julie…meet our Read­ers
Readers…meet Julie

What are some of the most chal­leng­ing things about writ­ing fiction?

At the moment, because I have a nine-month-old son, the most chal­leng­ing thing is find­ing enough time to work. But every new piece I’ve writ­ten has been unique­ly chal­leng­ing; in The Invis­i­ble Bridgeone of the great­est dif­fi­cul­ties was learn­ing to bal­ance the story’s his­tor­i­cal ele­ments with its fic­tion­al ones.

What or who has been your inspi­ra­tion for writ­ing fiction?

My grandfather’s expe­ri­ences inspired me to write this nov­el. But my day-to-day inspi­ra­tion is my hus­band, Ryan Har­ty, who’s also a fic­tion writer. He knows how to make a sched­ule and stick to it, and he holds me to a very high stan­dard — he’s an ear­ly read­er of my drafts, and lets me know when something’s not working.

Who is your intend­ed audience?

Any­one who likes to read. But I think we all hope to reach read­ers whose lives are sim­i­lar to those of our char­ac­ters. It’s been par­tic­u­lar­ly mov­ing to have for­mer Hun­gar­i­an forced labor inmates come to read­ings and tell me that their expe­ri­ences mir­rored the ones I describe in the novel.

I’m work­ing on a nov­el about Var­i­an Fry, the New York jour­nal­ist who went to Mar­seille in 1940 to save near­ly two thou­sand Jew­ish and anti-Nazi writ­ers, artists, and intel­lec­tu­als who’d been black­list­ed by the Gestapo. I learned about Fry while I was research­ing The Invis­i­ble Bridge, and it was clear that his sto­ry would take an entire nov­el to tell. The nov­el pur­sues a fic­tion­al line along­side Fry’s real-life experiences.Are you work­ing on any­thing new right now?

What are you read­ing now?

I just fin­ished reread­ing David Bezmozgis’s won­der­ful col­lec­tion, Natasha and Oth­er Sto­ries, about a com­mu­ni­ty of Russ­ian Jews in Toron­to, and recent­ly picked up Karen Russell’s Swamp­lan­dia!, about a fan­tas­ti­cal alli­ga­tor theme park in South­ern Florida.

When did you decide to be a writer? Where were you?

In col­lege, when my poor grades in chem­istry, cal­cu­lus, physics, and biol­o­gy made it clear that I wasn’t cut out to be a doc­tor, I made a dire con­fes­sion to my doc­tor par­ents: I was ter­ri­bly jeal­ous of all my friends who were tak­ing writ­ing and film and lan­guage class­es, and I want­ed to switch my major to Eng­lish and see if I might study cre­ative writ­ing in grad­u­ate school. They claimed to have known all along that I’d take that direc­tion. If only they’d told me sooner!

What is the moun­tain­top for you — how do you define success?

Show­ing up for work and get­ting the words down, and then revis­ing them so they seem to express the orig­i­nal idea more exact­ly. In the case of The Invis­i­ble Bridge, that meant tak­ing three years to write a first draft and three more years to revise it.

How do you write — what is your pri­vate modus operan­di? What tal­is­mans, rit­u­als, props do you use to assist you?

In the morn­ing I go to the lit­tle room my hus­band and I rent in the build­ing next door, unload my com­put­er and books, and get down to it. I’ve got a bul­letin board above the desk where I like to tack pho­tos of the places I’m writ­ing about, or of peo­ple who look like they might be char­ac­ters in the book; I pace a lot, take walks, do research, return to the com­put­er, wres­tle with lines. In gen­er­al I try not to revise the ear­li­er parts of a draft too exten­sive­ly until I’ve fin­ished the whole draft. Before my baby was born, I was work­ing about sev­en or eight hours a day, but until he gets a lit­tle old­er, I’ll be hap­py with three or four.

What do you want read­ers to get out of your book?

I’d like read­ers to know what hap­pened to Hun­gar­i­an Jews dur­ing the war: in oth­er words, to feel what it might have been like to have one’s entire life — one’s aspi­ra­tions, con­cerns, and con­nec­tions — swept away in an instant, and then to have to find a way to keep living.

You can read more about Julie Orringer by vis­it­ing her web­site: http://​www​.julieor​ringer​.com/

Orig­i­nal­ly from Lan­cast­er, Penn­syl­va­nia, Nao­mi is the CEO of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She grad­u­at­ed from Emory Uni­ver­si­ty with degrees in Eng­lish and Art His­to­ry and, in addi­tion, stud­ied at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Pri­or to her role as exec­u­tive direc­tor, Nao­mi served as the found­ing edi­tor of the JBC web­site and blog and man­ag­ing edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World. In addi­tion, she has over­seen JBC’s dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, and also devel­oped the JBC’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series and Unpack­ing the Book: Jew­ish Writ­ers in Conversation.