My most recent book is the final installment of my Rashi’s Daughters trilogy of historical novels, BOOK III – RACHEL. The trilogy takes place in the household of the great 11th-century Jewish scholar, Rashi, who had no sons, only daughters – women who were studied Talmud when most women were forbidden to study the holy texts.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m a native of Los Angeles, where I still live. I was a clinical chemist for over 30 years with Kaiser Permanente before my first novel, RASHI’S DAUGHTERS: BOOK 1 – JOHEVED, was published in 2005. I began writing it in 1997, with no previous literary experience other than being a voracious reader.
What inspired you to write this book?
In 1992 I began studying Talmud in an all women’s class [women not permitted to study Talmud with men at this time], where I learned that Rashi had no sons only daughters. I was intrigued with the idea of these learned women in medieval France, and the idea of a book about them was born.
How did you publish this book? Why did you decide to self-publish?
I self-published the first volume of the trilogy by starting Banot Press, my own small press. My literary agent hadn’t found a buyer yet in 2004, and I was determined to get the book out in 2005, the 900th anniversary of Rashi’s death.
What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?
Getting the story down in the first place. Research is fun for me, and editing/polishing is more time consuming than difficult.
How do you do research for your books?
Rashi and his family are real historical figures, so I had to be as accurate as possible in describing their fiction lives. I did 3 years of research before I started to write, and continued my research until the last volume was finished in 2009. I try to use primary sources as much as possible, but I had lots of other sources as well. My entire bibliography contains over 400 references.
Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?
I learned a tremendous amount about the lives of Jewish women in medieval France, as well as the lives of others living during the 12th-Century Renaissance. I also learned how to be a publisher, which was invaluable when it came time to negotiate with Penguin for the sale of the trilogy in 2006.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading lots of nonfiction about life in 3rd-4th century Babylonia as research for my next novel, RAV HISDA’S DAUGHTER. It will be a new family saga with a Jewish female protagonist, set in another time period that most people know almost nothing about.
What types of books do you like to read?
I love to read all kinds of fiction – detective stories, romance, sci fi, historicals, thrillers, fantasy, even YA.
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
Be passionate about your subject, it will come through in your writing. Know the audience for your book and how you’re going to reach them.
What are you doing to promote your latest book?
I do lots of speaking about my research, and have traveled extensively in the last 5 years to lecture to various Jewish and women’s organizations. Of course, I also have a website and facebook pages, as well as a blog.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
My website is www.rashisdaughters.com