Uvi Poznansky is a poet, artist, and author. Her versatile body of work includes novels, poetry, short stories, bronze and ceramic sculptures, oil and watercolor paintings, charcoal, pen and pencil drawings, and mixed media. She has published a poetry book, Home, two children books, Jess and Wiggle and Now I Am Paper, a novella, A Favorite Son, and a novel, Apart From Love.
Time to chat with Uvi!
What is your latest book?
My latest release, which is now available in e-book, print and audiobook editions, is a new twist on an old yarn. The title is A Favorite Son. Inspired by the biblical story of Jacob, I describe the story in first person narrative, as if this is happening here and now. He and his mother Rebecca are plotting together against the elderly father Isaac, who is lying on his deathbed. They wish to get their hands on the inheritance, and on the power in the family. This is no old fairy tale. Its power is here and now, in each one of us.
Listening to Yankle telling his take on events, we understand the bitter rivalry between him and his brother. We become intimately engaged with every detail of the plot, and every shade of emotion in these flawed, yet fascinating characters. He yearns to become his father’s favorite son, seeing only one way open to him, to get that which he wants: deceit.
I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?
Two of my books—Apart From Love and A Favorite Son—have now come out in audiobook editions! This is the new way to read books—which is also the oldest way: to listen to a story. And unlike writing a novel, which is a solitary endeavor, here we have a creative collaboration between my narrators and me.
The audiobook of Apart From Love is truly special, because unlike most narrated stories, the reader can take an intimate listen to two voices, describing events in a “he said, she said” exchange: Anita (narrated by the warm, sultry voice of Heather Jane Hogan) and Ben (narrated by the incredibly versatile voice actor David Kudler, who does many other voices in this story, including conversations with the hilarious aunt Hadassa.)
What else have you written?
My novel, Apart From Love, was received by readers with high acclaim: 5-star rating, 48 beautiful, eloquent reviews on Amazon, and more reviews on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble and elsewhere. The novel is an intimate peek into the life of a uniquely strange family: Natasha, the accomplished pianist, has been stricken with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
Her ex-husband Lenny has never told their son Ben, who left home ten years ago, about her situation. At the same time he, Lenny, has been carrying on a love affair with a young redhead, who bears a striking physical resemblance to his wife–but unlike her, is uneducated, direct and unrefined. This is how things stand at this moment, the moment of Ben’s return to his childhood home, and to a contentious relationship with his father.
The story is told from two points of view, Ben’s and Anita’s, which gives me an opportunity to illustrate how the same events, seen from different angles and through difference experiences in life, are interpreted in an entirely different way.
How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
At times, the research is based on my past professional experience. For example, as a software engineer I developed software for medical devices, including ultrasound machine. This experience allowed me now to write the scene with Anita watching the ultrasound image of her baby:
“With a soft, squelching sound, little specs glitter in the dark fluid. And there—just behind them specs—something moves! Something catches the light and like, wow! For a second there I can swear I see a hand: My baby’s hand waving, then turning to float away.
This isn’t exactly what I’ve expected, ‘cause like, not only is that fluid kinda see-through— but to my surprise, so is the little hand. Like, you can spot not only the faint outline of flesh on them, but the shine of the bones coming at you, too.”
Other times, I do extensive research. For example: every time Natasha, the mother character, appears in Apart From Love, it is to mark the distance between what she is and what she used to be, a distance that is expanding in time. I was somewhat familiar with Alzheimer’s from watching the last year of my father’s life, and from visiting patients in a home–but in addition, I did extensive research about how it is diagnosed, how do you solve the problem of placing a loved one at such a home, and the emotional roller coaster ride of blame and guilt that takes place in a family. Here is an excerpt from the moment Natasha is diagnosed:
The doctors, they point out the overall loss of brain tissue, the enlargement of the ventricles, the abnormal clusters between nerve cells, some of which are already dying, shrouded eerily by a net of frayed, twisted strands. They tell her about the shriveling of the cortex, which controls brain functions such as remembering and planning.
And that is the moment when in a flash, mom can see clearly, in all shades of gray blooming there, on that image, how it happens, how her past and her future are slowly, irreversibly being wiped away—until she is a woman, forgotten.
Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?
I welcome feedback, it lets me reflect on how my words are understood by readers. So as my work is being written I bring a chapter every week to my writers group, and read it aloud in front of them, or let someone else read it aloud. The first thing I listen for—even before the reading is complete and comments are offered–is the breathing patterns of the audience. Do they laugh at the right moment? Do they hold their breath when the character is in dire straits? Do they utter a sigh of relief when my writing comes to its resolution? If so, I’m on the right track.
Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?
My poetry book, Home, was published soon after. It is a tender tribute to my father. Home. A simple word; a loaded one. You can say it in a whisper; you can say it in a cry. Expressed in the voices of father and daughter, you can hear a visceral longing for an ideal place, a place never to be found again.
Imagine the shock, imagine the sadness when I discovered my father’s work, the poetry he had never shared with anyone during the last two decades of his life. Six years after that moment of discovery, which happened in my childhood home while mourning for his passing, present a collection of poems and prose, offering a rare glimpse into my most guarded, intensely private moments, yearning for Home.
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
I started telling stories and composing poems before I know how to hold a pen. My father would write these snippets for me, and when he passed away I found a stack of papers in his archives with these early stories, with his notes at the margins
Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?
Evil? No way! The synopsis is the way you would tell about your story to a person who has just met you and is open to listen to you describing your work. If you dread doing it, you are not ready for prime time!
What have you done to market your novel and what did you find the most effective? The least effective?
I have explored many different venues, and I think that rather than grade them in terms of success, I believe in the accumulation of results from all of them. I truly enjoy reaching out to readers. For example, I have a Q&A group on Goodreads (which is a social network for readers) where I invite readers as well as writers to share their thoughts about the creative process.
Have you ever wished that you could bring a character to life? If so, which one and why?
In my mind, the characters are alive! And they chatter so much that it is hard for me to keep up with them. So from time to time I throw an obstacle their way, to see how they negotiate their path around it, over it, or through it. This makes for surprising twists in the plot.
And now, I am so lucky that two of my books are now in the process of becoming audiobooks! So every evening I listen to the voices, no longer inside my head–but out here, reverberating in midair. I am deeply grateful to my two narrators, David Kudler and Heather Jane Hogan, whose talent and incredible interpretation flesh out the characters.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?
Knock on wood, I never suffered from writer’s block, but I have experienced another kind of difficulty. How do I explain it to you? First, let me say that the important thing to know about your characters is that each one of them is gripped in some emotion, has an overwhelming need which may be at odds with another character. While your mind “embodies” this character, you must live in her skin and see things through her eyes. At every moment, you must be totally committed to the point of view of the character whose skin you have just entered.
The difficulty, then, is this: when you move to embody another character, you must “swim” out of one skin and into another. This is not an easy thing to do, because the first character is still holding on to you, holding as firm as can be, because she still has more to say… So you must promise to come back to her, as soon as you can.
Have you ever started out to write one book and ended up with something completely different?
No. But then again, I do not “start out to write a book”—I write a story, which may evolve into a book, depending entirely on the voice of the characters.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
I must admit: I have gained absolutely no wisdom. Just collected more and more mistakes…
Would you like to write a short poem for us?
Sure… This is in the voice of a Plucked Porcupine! Here goes:
I miss the swish of grass and clover
The crunch of twigs, no pangs, no hunger,
That place is far—I must not pine—
For a poor, plucked porcupine
I watch out for the angry poet I stumble back, too late to exit,
She glares at me, at these sharp spines
Her ink has spilled, so here she whines
I hate, I hate to wish her ill
She writes this poem with my quill
What’s your favorite comfort food?
Chocolate! is that food? For me, it is…
What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
Honesty and being an interesting thinker.
If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?
Singing. Can’t do it for the life of me! But I love introducing musical themes into my stories, just as though I were writing the music for a movie based on my novel. I also enjoy describing the ways my characters sing–some of them have a flat voice, some gruff, some melodious.
CONNECT WITH UVI