Today, Ali­cia Oltus­ki inter­views Randy Susan Mey­ers, who wrote The Mur­der­er’s Daugh­ters, about her expe­ri­ence tour­ing the nation’s syn­a­gogues and JCCs with Jew­ish Book Council…and talk­ing about domes­tic vio­lence in Jew­ish communities.

How and when did you first hear about the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and their author tour?

When my book came out, my love­ly (and Jew­ish) lit­er­ary agent pushed me to try out for the author tour. Don’t for­get, Jew­ish peo­ple read an enor­mous amount,” my love­ly (and Jew­ish) lit­er­ary agent said before my book launch. We real­ly love books.”

I’d had the good for­tune of hear­ing authors speak at the Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter in Greater Boston many times; I very much want­ed the chance to par­tic­i­pate as an author.

What do you think it was about your book/​yourself that made the JBC audi­ence respond to you?

My book The Mur­der­er’s Daugh­ters is about sis­ters who wit­ness their father kill their moth­er, and how their life unfolds for the next thir­ty years. Every­one seemed eager to dis­cuss the real­i­ty of domes­tic vio­lence in Jew­ish fam­i­lies — so long a for­bid­den top­ic. In addi­tion, every­one opened up about the ways in which sis­ters — any sib­lings — respond so dif­fer­ent­ly to the same fam­i­ly events, almost as though they’d been raised in dif­fer­ent homes.

And, as always in great Jew­ish events, no mat­ter how grim the top­ics, we found plen­ty of ways to find pock­ets of humor. There was plen­ty of laugh­ing in my ses­sions, espe­cial­ly when I talked about pub­lish­ing my first nov­el after the age of fifty.

What was your favorite expe­ri­ence on tour?

I grew up with a slight case of anomie, sur­round­ed by a cul­tur­al belief that all-things-Jew­ish equals fam­i­lies-push­ing-one-towards-great-achieve­ment, while, among oth­er fam­i­ly odd­i­ties, my grand­moth­er taught me to shoplift. I was unclear what being Jew­ish meant or if I belonged.

Then I par­tic­i­pat­ed in the author’s tour. How to describe the feel­ing of walk­ing into these fan­tas­tic Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty cen­ters filled with read­ers eager to hear from you? I felt as though I were final­ly meet­ing every aunt, uncle, and cousin I’d ever wished for. Warmth and love was present everywhere.

What do you remem­ber as the most thought-pro­vok­ing or insight­ful question/​com­ment you received from an audi­ence member?

In Colum­bus, an audi­ence mem­ber ques­tioned what could be done to pre­vent domes­tic vio­lence, which engen­dered a dis­cus­sion about the impor­tance of edu­cat­ing boys, as much as girls, about the impor­tance of emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal vio­lence-free rela­tion­ships. A healthy debate about the age to start teach­ing chil­dren about these issues pro­vid­ed, I believe, a forum for par­ents and edu­ca­tors to think about how to best bring these dis­cus­sions to schools and their homes.

You’re work­ing on a sec­ond book now. Did you feel that your expe­ri­ence on tour has, in any way, influ­enced your writing?

My sec­ond book, The Com­fort of Lies (the sto­ry of three women con­nect­ed by a child from a past infi­deli­ty), is fin­ished and releas­ing in Jan­u­ary 2013, from Atria Books. I’d already writ­ten most of the book before I was on tour.

Do you have any advice for authors about to go on book tour of any kind?
Any­thing you wish you’d known? Any favorite airports?

Pack light, in no more than two col­ors that all mix and match each oth­er, have a pair of com­fort­able shoes to slip into, and always have almonds mixed with raisins in your bag. Lay­er, lay­er, lay­er out­fits. Black dress­es, col­or­ful scarves.

Air­ports? When switch­ing planes, know the route from one ter­mi­nal to the next!

Fun­ni­est expe­ri­ence on tour?

In St. Louis, unbe­knownst to us, they were try­ing out new onstage chairs: round, high, and with rotat­ing cupped seats, Alyson Rich­man (author of The Lost Wife), Ellen Fut­ter­man (mod­er­a­tor of the pan­el, edi­tor of the St. Louis Jew­ish Light) and I perched up in these seats and began twirling around.

Alyson tried to keep her dress from pop­ping open, and I, too short for the chair, was des­per­ate to stay fac­ing the audi­ence, rather than address­ing the back of the stage. I guess our plight was all too appar­ent — with­in a short time they res­cued us by bring­ing up reg­u­lar chairs.

Did you find that most of the ques­tions relat­ed to craft/​writing or to thecontent/​subject of your work?

Most of the ques­tions were relat­ed to the con­tent of my book and how my life influ­enced writ­ing my novel.

Best post-read­ing after-party?

Past a cer­tain hour, I am incred­i­bly bor­ing. The only after-par­ty­ing I did was allow­ing myself to have room service.

Ali­cia Oltus­kis Pre­cious Objects: A Sto­ry of Dia­monds, Fam­i­ly, and a Way of Life is now avail­able.

Ali­cia Oltuski’s Pre­cious Objects is a Barnes & Noble Dis­cov­er Great NewWrit­ers selec­tion. Her work has appeared or is forth­com­ing on NPR’sBerlin Sto­ries, in the Finan­cial Times, W, The Faster Times, and others.She holds an MFA from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty, where she received a David­Berg Foun­da­tion Fel­low­ship, and a BA and MA from Uni­ver­si­ty ofPenn­syl­va­nia. She taught writ­ing at Uni­ver­si­ty of the Arts, and was aread­er at The Paris Review.