Phyllis is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She graduated from high school at sixteen, earned a B.A. in English from Herbert H. Lehman College, an M.A. in Literature from New York University, and later an M.S. as a Developmental Specialist from Yeshiva University. She lives in Westchester County.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Phyllis. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a fifty-eight-year old mother, wife, sister, aunt, and friend. I was a daughter until three years ago. I am a reader and a writer. I have a legacy that shaped me and continues to influence me, and a wicked, almost evil sense of humor.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Washington Heights on the very tip of Manhattan. In the Fifties, it was an enclave for German Jews. It was largely Irish and Jewish in those days. I attended public school and went to a CUNY college. I’m a born and bred New Yorker.
When did you begin writing?
I always wrote. Reading and writing were my favorite pastimes. I had work published in my middle school and high school literary magazines. As I got older, I talked a lot about wanting to be a writer, but I didn’t understand that writing is hard work. One day a friend asked me if I was going to spend the rest of my life talking about being a writer, or if I was ever going to actually write? It took me three more years to get the courage to sign up for a fiction writing class at the New School in Manhattan. I was completely unprepared for how talented my classmates were—I thought I would be the best one in the class. My teacher, Hayes Jacobs, was the head of the writing program. He ultimately became my mentor. That first summer, I learned more than I could have ever anticipated. I became a writer. I worked steadily and diligently, and I began to develop my craft. I’ve never stopped.
What is this book about?
The Manicurist is a tale of redemption. Each character is in turmoil, and the common denominator is Ursula, the protagonist’s mother. I like the idea of people being connected in that way. It’s interesting to think how one person or one situation can have such a ripple effect. So. I would say that in the end, The Manicurist is about the realization that the universe will not be controlled, and that it’s probably best to embrace that concept instead of fearing it.
Too many things to even explain. I’m deeply interested in prescience. I believe in it wholeheartedly. I’m also fascinated by magic, an element that plays a role in the novel. And I’ve witnessed the toll mental illness takes on the person who struggles with it and on family and friends. Of course, I am always interested in relationships. How do people navigate the world? Relationships are always a mystery to me—the love we feel for a parent regardless of how competent or incompetent that parent might be; the bond between siblings, husbands and wives, friends… the combinations are endless, and they’re all fascinating. No one knows what other people’s lives are like. That’s what inspired me to write this book.
Who is your favorite author?
I would say that it is almost impossible to answer that question, bit if forced, I would be hard-pressed to say anyone other than Anne Tyler.
Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?
Harvey Klinger of Harvey Klinger, Inc. has represented me since 1996, and I consider it nothing short of good fortune.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
http://www.amazon.com/ and http://www.barnesandnoble.com/
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
The web site will take you directly to Amazon and to Barnes and Noble
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
I do have a video trailer, and you can find it on my web page.
This is the direct link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ise5V2QXe8o
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
In the words of my late mentor, Hayes Jacobs, I would say, “Produce manuscript.”
What is up next for you?
I am currently working on a semi-autobiographical novel about growing up as a child of Holocaust survivors.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Write because you have to, because you need to, and not because you want to be rich and famous. Write because you have a story that must be told.
Thanks for spending time with us today, Phyllis. We wish you continued success.
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