Book Reader's Heaven is proud to host a four-day visit with Hillel F. Damron, whose second novel will be out August 15th. Unidentified Woman is an unforgettable story of a young Mexican girl. His first book, Very Narrow Bridge is the story of a reclusive Vietnam war soldier... Hillel, welcome!
Hi everybody, nice to be here.
Your first two novels center on single individuals, who have been transformed in some way by what happened to them during their lives. What has led you to choose to spotlight those who have been traumatized in some way? Did you use your own war experiences in writing your first novel to some extent for instance?
I certainly did, as far as both Ray, the wounded Vietnam War hero, and Gideon the novice private investigator who tracks him down. However, the real protagonist in Very Narrow Bridge is a young woman, as is the case in my new novel Unidentified Woman, who set the wheels of the stories in motion. Both are entirely fictional.
And do you foresee your future work moving along these same lines?
I feel that there is a third book boiling inside me along that path. And yet, it’s also quite possible that a totally different book, literary or even a memoir, would come up next.
Tell us a little about your latest novel, coming out on the 15th. I've thus far only read Unidentified Woman. Your character was created so beautifully and with a realism that actually hurt to read. Are there unidentified women who have been in your personal life that led to the story? Or what brought you to share as you did?
You’re raising an interesting question. Because, as for Maria’s childhood and the terrible fate that came her way when she was kidnapped, raped and abused, and brought to Los Angeles to be a sex-worker during the day and a sex-slave during the night -- while this is all fictional, it’s based on the terrible, unsolved cases of Mexican girls’ disappearance (you can read more about it on my blog, at http://hillelbridge.com).
However, the second part of her life as depicted in my novel, where and when she becomes an independent young woman living in L.A. with a new name and a new identity, taking matters into her own hands, while entirely fictional as well, does reflect -- boy, it does seem I haven’t thought about it in this light until now -- a woman I knew well, who did change names and personalities to suit, disguise her circumstances.
LOL...I hope she doesn't happen to see this interview--or, at least, people won't connect the woman to her new name and personality!
The stories of rape must be tragically presented if we are to learn from their stories. For many of us who see such stories on TV and in some books, the victim "loses" many times. For you this was not an acceptable conclusion. Do you write what you believe or did you take the writer's way to imagine what would make a good book?
Indeed, it does seem that victims of rape -- and I not only read about it, or watched films, but was involved a bit with rape victims when I worked at UC Davis -- lose so much and for so long. And I just wanted my heroine to stand up for herself and her sisters, and be an avenger: an enforcer of her fate. Then my imagination as a writer took over. Here’s a line of her as she writes, throughout the book, to her best childhood friend: “The wish for revenge never dies, Adela, it only gets stronger with time.”
Certainly, you might say your storyline went beyond "an eye for an eye"! I must admit the ending felt right to me. Did you seek to have readers agree or disagree with the woman's choices?
I’m glad to hear that the ending felt right to you. I’ve had a major disagreement about it with an editor, and I did make some changes to it, obviously, as I struggled with it. But without giving anything away for your readers’ sake, I’d say all her actions, and his actions too (i.e. the detective), must feel true and natural as result of their circumstances and decisions. The rest is up to the reader.
It was with hesitation that I asked that question...but I just had to, even if it gives a little away, there is so much to the story that I hoped readers would forgive us both...
I understand you had an earlier scifi novel, War of the Sexes--an interesting title! Tell us a little more about that story! Do you plan to have it translated into English?
The more I live the more I’m proud of that novel, because with the passage of time, quite a number of issues I dealt with have become true and real. It was published by Domino Press, Jerusalem, in 1982, and was praised as the “best of all Israeli sci-fi literature” by the American “Science-Fiction Studies.” According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, The War of the Sexes “… is set in a post- Holocaust underground colony where a society of sexual equals devolves into full-scale subjugation of males.” It then explodes into a full-scale war.
The first chapter of the book, The Monster, was published first in the Israeli sci-fi magazine “Fantasia 2000,” and was awarded a best short story prize by that magazine. You can read the chapter on my website, under the page “Shorts.” And yes, for years people in the know had urged me to have it translated into English. It just might be the next thing on my agenda, to translate it myself.
Wonderful! I'm reading Very Narrow Bridge right now and will have my review on Thursday. If others are like me, once I enjoy a book, I want to go back and read from the beginning, so did just that! So far, the story is a surprise to what I expected! Cool!
You've traveled somewhat in the past as you've worked in film making...did you move to California to possibly work in the same area or what led to more full-time writing activities?
My second wife, an American who knew a thing or two about the film industry, insisted that Hollywood is the place to be if you want to make it “big.” I’m not sure how much I wanted to make it “big,” but I wanted very much to live in America for a while. I tried writing screenplays in Hollywood without much success, before I discovered this true fact: If you write a fantastically good screenplay that nobody wants to produce (because it's too risqué, let's say, or complicated)--it’s gone and lost; if you write a likewise work of literature that nobody wants to print--it’s still exists as a complete work of art no matter what. And who knows, it may find its way to readers eyes one of these days. Looking back--how prophetic was that conclusion!
Yes, I enjoyed the connection of the screenwriter turned Private Investigator, more so in your first in the series, since we get much more intimately involved with his inner thoughts there, I think...
Tell us a little about your personal life. I see you have several blogs??? Single and looking? LOL
I have a political blog, www.good4jews.com, in addition to my literary website/blog. As for my personal life, yes, I’m currently single--but definitely not looking (unless something totally unexpected comes along). I’m flying happily solo, my cat on my lap, over the smoldering ruins of two unsuccessful marriages, with two successful sons on both my wings.
Well, I tried ladies...but note the answer to a question below...
What is one thing that few people know about you?
That in spite of what I just told you above, I’m still yearning for a daughter of my own.
And, finally, what questions (and your answers) would you love to have somebody ask, but nobody has yet!? We'd like to have you share as much as you'd like to our readers!
For that, I don’t have an answer. However, if after reading this interview, and preferably after reading my novel, one or more of your readers would come up with such questions, please send them my way and I would do my level best to answer them.
Here's my contact info--would love to connect with all of you!