An interview about writing and Life at 12 College Road

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I was honored to have Jan Bowman, writer and winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, interview me for her blog: janbowmanwriter.com about writing and why I wrote Life at 12 College Road.  Jan Bowman

Jan:   Tell me about your book, Life at 12 College Road. Why will readers enjoy reading it?

Eric:   Life at 12 College Road is a collection of thirty-three “real life” short stories that, when taken as a whole, paint a mosaic of a time and place both familiar and distant. Each story can be read and enjoyed on its own, and each provides a different glimpse into the world of growing up in 1950s and 60s America. We all have memories—those that make us smile or laugh, others that bring anger or tears, and some that we’d just as soon forget. But those memories help to make us who we are today—and in some ways, who we will become tomorrow. While reflecting upon my past to write the book, I found that it was not the major earth-shattering events that were truly significant for me. Rather, it was the small things, many long forgotten until recently, that deeply touched me. The book is not really so much about me as it is about those feelings and emotions that we all at one time or another share; feelings of joy, happiness, sadness, anger, fear — and yes, loss — that each of us, in our own yet similar ways, do inevitably encounter. And if their retelling can help the reader connect with similar moments from their lives, then it was worth the time and effort in my writing Life at 12 College Road and their reading it.

Jan:   What inspired you to write this particular book?

Eric:   I am glad you asked this question. I had not intended to write this book at all.  I was on a mission to write an adventure/action thriller and was attending a writer’s retreat in Maine several years ago to do just that. But as fate would have it, I had decided to take a break, as I was just not getting anywhere and take a short nap. I was either dreaming, or it was during that period of time just before awakening that the idea came to me.

I recalled sitting at the dining room table where I had shared Sunday dinners with my family growing up. As I sat at the table, I realized the other three chairs had been tilted forward so that their ladder-backs rested against it. They were obviously no longer of use. And it was then that I remembered what had been bothering me: I was alone. You see, my mom, dad, and younger brother have all passed on without me. They are exploring new worlds and I have been left behind. Heck, even my dog is gone. It was that realization, those memories, which formed the impetus for me to write Life at 12 College Road.  So I put my novel on the shelf and proceeded to write this book. I may in time get back to the novel, as every once in while I think I hear the characters trying to talk to me.

Jan:   Why do you write?Eric_Mondschein_v_2-296x370

Eric:   First, no one makes me write. In professional positions I’ve held over the years, I have been required to file reports, write memoranda, even treatises, but I was never required to publish law-related articles, write poetry, or Life at 12 College Road. I wrote those because I wanted to.

It certainly was not because I had nothing better to do. The time spent away from family and the activities that were sacrificed along the way attest to that. It was more often a feeling of being compelled to write. Not for others, although most writers do want people to read their work, but to feed a need or a desire coming from within.

Through this writing experience, I have come to recognize, dare I speak a universal truth, that even in the solitude of writing, we are not truly alone. Our memories of loved ones, friends, and those we admire are always with us, some closer to the surface of awareness than others, but they are there nonetheless. And if we are really willing to listen, they have much to offer.

Jan:   What do you need in order to do your best work?

Eric:   On one level I need the peace, quiet and solitude of just being alone.On another, I need to feel compelled not by others, but from within to write, whether it is a poem, a random thought or the monograph I am currently co-authoring with a friend, Ellery (Rick) Miller Jr. on sexual harassment and bullying, or the sequel to Life at 12 College Road.

Jan:   As you aspire to improve as a writer where do you begin?

Eric:   I read a lot. I read newspapers. I read professional journals, magazines, short stories and novels in as many genres as I can. From fiction to non-fiction, historical, adventures, thrillers, science fiction, children’s stories to yes, even romance. Never thought I would say that, but I read Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s Snow Fence Road, and thoroughly enjoyed the story, the plot and the characters. The more I read the more I learn about writing. What works and what frankly does not. My parents were both prolific readers and would often share what they were reading during dinner and encouraged my brother and I to read. I also had a professor in College who told us “if you want to write you have to read, read, read.”

Jan:   What writers do you read?

Eric:   As I indicated I read a lot and in many genres, but I must admit I have truly enjoyed reading books by Dean Kootnz, John Sanford, Gary Paulsen, Dale Brown, Robert Ludlum, Clive Cussler, W.E. B. Griffen, and Wilbur Smith. And as a young boy I loved Ian Flemming’s James Bond books and Herald L. Goodwin’s Rick Brandt Science adventure stories.

Jan:   What is the best advice you ever received and what advice have you chosen to ignore?

Eric:   As it relates to writing, the best advice was to “read, read, read” and the advice I chose to ignore was that I probably should not try to write.

Jan:   When you review your work over the past couple of years what do you notice?

Eric:   The first thing I notice is that I think that I have now found my voice.  The second is that my writing is still evolving and improving, and will most likely continue to do so. At least I hope so. I also have learned so much working with other writers and attending writing workshops and just writing more and learning to accept criticism. That one I am still trying really hard to learn.

Jan:   Finally – What question do you wish I had asked?

Eric:   When you are not writing what do you like to do?  And my answer is that I truly enjoy being with the love of my life, my wife, Ginny. I also like being with my son and daughter and their dear families.

Jan:   How can readers buy a copy of your book and contact you? 

Life at 12 College Road is available on Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com. For those who live in upstate New York you can also pick up my book from Northshire Books Saratoga Saratoga Springs, NYand The Bookstore Plus Lake Placid, NY.

If readers are interested in some of my other works I invite them to visit my website at: http://www.ericmondschein.com

Jan Bowman’s Interview with me can be found on her blog Jan Bowman Writer at:

http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com/2014/06/entry-217-interview-with-dr-eric-s.html?spref=fb

Life at 12 College Road

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