Reading and Writing Addiction was able to catch up with Joel Chafetz, Author of The Chaff for an interview. We are excited to share this interesting interview today with our readers.
JC: When taking literary courses at the college I was suddenly confronted with the death of my mother and had no one to talk to about it, so I began writing as a catharsis and it’s never left me.
RAWA: What is your favorite part of writing?
JC: Believe it or not, I love revision. It’s where I discover what’s going on in the secret parts of my own brain. It’s where I analyze what I’m trying to say when I’m not just in the flow of creating form from the thinnest of smoke.
RAWA: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of writing?
JC: The length of a book. The never endingness of it. “A novels is never finished, just abandoned,” Graham Greene said and I agree.
RAWA: Tell us about your latest release.
JC: The Chaff is a story that grew out of my awareness of anti-Semitism that still lurks beneath the rocks where bigotry lives. I picked a time when that intransigent hatred reached the surface, 1881 Russia, after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. The story centers on a young woman who just wants to study and define herself (much like the average American trying to make their way through the constant pressures of modern life) when the world explodes around her and everything she knows and cares about is destroyed. She gets caught between forces over which she has no control.
The book was written as a metaphor for modern times, and as a warning that suggests the holocaust that came along a half century later and exemplified by people today that won’t listen to another political voice.
RAWA: How did you come up with the title of your book?
JC: When I’d written a first draft of the book I saw how indifferent the characters were to the protagonist and thought of the biblical phrase involving chaff blowing away in the wind: by definition, the useless leftovers of grain after all the good parts are taken. I found that the perfect metaphor for a book where the protagonist is treated as something to be crunched into the ground. The Chaff seemed to suggest a sense of waste.
RAWA: Who are some of your favorite authors?
JC: Russell Banks. Ray Carver. Chiam Potok. Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates. Alice Monroe, Richard Bausch, Doris Lessing, Hemmingway, Antonya Nelson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Tillie Olsen, Robert Heinlein, Jack Remick, John Updike, Harper Lee, and so many others of whom I am their student.
RAWA: What do you think has influenced your writing style the most?
JC: Movies. The way they cut from one scene to another so seamlessly. I try to create visual images that reflect the kind of fast action and twists that film has become so good at and then try to take it a step further; integrate the kind of dialogue 30’s & 40’s movies had to tell the story and dramatize the actions, underlying structures and sub-text.
RAWA: As a writer what is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
JC: The first story that I got paid for. I was shot gunning my stories across a wide range of literary journals and magazines when an editor wrote a simple note across her rejection slip. Nice story, she said. That’s all. So I sent another and another and another until I received a typewritten 3X5 yellow index card that said, “We have decided to publish your story in our September issue. We’re glad you continued sending stories to us. We liked many of them but we are limited by the amount of stories we can publish per issue and this is the first one we all agreed on.
So for about a year of writing and rewriting and sending out stories to her I received $100 and considered myself lucky at that.
RAWA: How did you get published?
JC: Persistence and the encouragement of friends and colleagues.
RAWA: Do you have any advice for writers looking to get published?
JC: I hate to be pessimistic or philosophical, but writing is a hard craft. It takes time to internalize all the techniques and information you have to integrate into your work. E.g. volume of writing seems to develop voice(s). So what I would humbly suggest is not to give up, keep plugging away, keep loading the dice, write and re-write until someone says, hey, that’s a good story, and then you’re on your way to more hard work, more learning, more developing of a craft that seems to have no limit.
The Chaff written by Joel Chafetz and published by Quartet Global Books is available online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.