Interview with Bruce Ashkenas

What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle. I have 3 of them. I also have Kindle apps on my PC. tablet, and phone. Where ever I am I'm in reach of a Kindle. Before there were Kindles where ever I was there was a book nearby. Now I need the big font a reading device provides.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Facebook, by far. When I started to promote my books on FB, less than 2 years ago, I had 50 friends. Now I have over 300 and on my author page I have almost 200 followers. I have tried other things, such as blog tours. without success. I write historical fiction for which there is limited exposure in the blogging world. I had an event at an idie bookstore for my latest, Shadows of Shame. It was held the evening of November 9. Now what happened the day before? The election! As you might imagine, turnout was sparse. But, I had run advertisements on FB. In the days after I was overwhelmed by messages from people saying they just couldn't go out that night but they bought my book because it told the story of Nazis in America in 1938-39.
Describe your desk
Crowded like my mind.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Cleveland, as did my dad and the hero of Shadows of Shame, who was named for him. Shadows takes place in New York, where my mom was from, and mostly follows the timeline of my family in 1938-39.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing in the early 1980;s, when I was working at the National Archives. I got the assignment to describe the records of the German American Bund, or Nazi Bund, as I call it, and I had to write about it.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I didn't set out to become an indie author. I set out to become an author. And, while I write well, I do not write fast. Searching for agents and searching for publishers takes time. In my sixties I self-published. When I turned seventy I had written something extraordinary, Shadows of Shame, and found a small publisher, Acorn, which is still considered Indie. The answer to the question is time.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are curious people who want to know how the world works. I've always considered myself that kind of person. I think I have a gift for storytelling. And that includes explaining what I'm curious about in an entertaining way.
What are you working on next?
I'm halfway into a historical ghost story. In the first chapter, set in New York, a 16-year-old girl is killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911, a famous mass-casualty event. She comes back as a ghost to haunt her mother, who had made her work at the firetrap, where stairway exits were locked to keep workers from stealing. Over a hundred and twenty were killed. Her mother dies of a broken heart after many visits from her dead daughter, leaving three younger children. The oldest boy turns 18 in 1917 and is drafted into the Army. He's sent to Jacksonville, Florida for training before being shipped to France in 1918 to join Pershing's army in the trenches. The boy also hears from his dead sister but she's not angry at him, instead commenting on his life and telling him about existence in ghost world. While in Jacksonville he falls in love with a girl from New Orleans who has come to Florida to be a war worker. She begins to hear the dead sister also. It's a whirlwind romance and she decides after his proposal to join the Hello Girls, a woman's telephone operators unit being formed by Black Jack Pershing to support his troops, They get married and she prepares to follow him to France.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend a lot of my non-writing time on the business of books, publishing and promoting. Publishing is different today from how it was in the past when the big houses dominated the market. There were fewer published authors but those who made it through the grueling process of getting noticed were pampered. Today the fewer big houses which provide the full service approach to authors have to compete with many smaller houses which strip down their operations to survive in the market.
What is your writing process?
I write a page or two at a time then leave it for a period, maybe an hour, maybe a day, or maybe a week. When I come back to it I review what I wrote at the last session. I always have a greater intuitive grasp of the material during these reviews and I change things, from words to whole sentences. I also rewrite frequently, usually at chapter breaks. I'm a fast reader but a slow writer and the proper words come to me during rewrite more often than when I'm organizing my thoughts for the first time.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It was a science fiction story set in Beruit. I remember there was some kind of device to defeat terrorists, That was back during the Reagan Administration. It was timely but not very good. It was the only time I tried SF.
What do you read for pleasure?
I grew up on science fiction, all the classic authors like Heinlein, Asimov. Bester. I've expanded to fantasy, dystopian novels, historical fiction (which I write), Occasionally I read history, science books, and politics.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Shadows of Shame is the story of a Jewish reporter in 1938 New York who accepts an assignment to pose as a German immigrant and join the German American Bund, the Nazi party in the United States. The story is based on the adventures of a journalist in Chicago who did that very thing during the 1930's. I moved it to New York because that was the headquarters of the Bund movement and there were many fascinating and horrifying incidents to write about.
Published 2017-01-02.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Aglow: A Christmas Fable
Price: $2.95 USD. Words: 26,980. Language: English. Published: October 10, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Religious
Aglow is the story of twelve year old, Adam, a Jewish boy, who likes to visit his grampa in The Bronx. His best friend there is Rafe, a Catholic. The difference doesn't matter to the boys, even after they get involved in the biggest miracle to hit the Tri-State area in years. Over the course of a Thanksgiving weekend they help cause and then react to an event which uplifts the neighborhood.
Shadows of Shame
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 102,830. Language: English. Published: February 21, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Historical
Harold Apple, a Jewish reporter in 1938 New York City, is assigned to expose the nefarious activities of the Nazi Bund. He leaves his long-time girlfriend and, with his perfect German, poses as a recent immigrant from the Fatherland to join the storm trooper unit of the Nazis of New York.