An Interview With Mitchell James Kaplan; Author of By Fire, By Water

Mitchell Kaplan credit Renee RosensteelI was recently given the opportunity to read and review By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan.  My review (and giveaway opportunity) will be posted tomorrow, so make sure to check back!

I want to send a special thanks out to Mr. Kaplan for not only giving me the wonderful opportunity to read his first novel, but for giving me something more important, his time.

Your author bio says that you used to be a screenwriter.  What made you want to make the jump from screenwriter to novelist?  Which do you enjoy more?

I always wanted to be a novelist. By chance, I fell into a job in the film industry. That job led to another job, and eventually I found myself being hired to work with screenwriters and occasionally being hired to write a screenplay. I even sold spec screenplays of my own (most of which were never produced, and none of which were produced with my name on the credits). It was a good boot camp in some ways.

When you made the switch to novelist, did you know that you wanted to focus on historical fiction novels?

My first mentor, whom I met while a student at Yale, was the author William Styron. One thing he told me, which I took very much to heart, was that nothing matters more than authenticity. What could be more authentic, I asked myself, than a novel grounded in historical events and people? If a novel is an effort to contemplate the human condition through narrative, what better framework than real people’s experiences? Styron himself had written a historical with The Confessions of Nat Turner.

By Fire, By Water” takes place during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. What drew you to writing about this specific time and these specific people?

When I started researching “By Fire, By Water”, I didn’t know it was going to end up being focused on the Spanish inquisition, but I knew that an exploration of some of the crucial issues in 1492 Spain would shed an interesting light on our world today. In part I was drawn to this period because I myself wanted to know more about it.

Is there a specific character that you were most drawn to write about?

I had no preconceptions about my characters. They unfolded themselves to me as I wrote the first draft. Once I understood who they were, I became fascinated with them – all of them – while working on subsequent drafts.

After reading your novel it’s incredibly obvious that you spent a lot of time researching.  How did you go about compiling enough data for the story?

I don’t separate research from writing or revising. I do all these activities all the time. I’m always asking myself questions: What do their shoes look like? What would they be eating during that meal? Even if I decide not to include all these details, I like to know them so I can inhabit the scene imaginatively before setting it to paper. I looked everywhere for answers – art museums, libraries, travel destinations, etc. – during the years I spent working on “By Fire, By Water”.

Do you have any other specific periods in history that you enjoy and would like to write about in the future?

Many. But that will have to be a surprise.

Are you working on another novel?  If so what is it about and when can we expect it to be published?

I’m working on a novel set in the 1st century Roman Empire, dealing with the emergence of proto-Christianity and proto-modern-Judaism. I wish I could tell you when it will be out. All I can say is, I’m enjoying the process.

                Thank you so much, Kimberly, for giving me this opportunity.

Make sure you check back in tomorrow for a chance to win your own copy of By Fire, By Water courtesy of Other Press LLC.


6 thoughts on “An Interview With Mitchell James Kaplan; Author of By Fire, By Water

  1. Great questions Kim! I would be very interested in learning what screenplays he wrote which were produced were his work, I wonder if they too based on an event in history.

  2. Pingback: #3 A Review of By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan (and a Giveaway) « Reflections of a Book Addict

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