In today’s world of literature, where authors and books seem to abound a dime a dozen, and every other person you meet claims to be an “aspiring writer,” it takes a very talented author to actually bring a character to life. One such talent is Bracha Goykadosh.
There is nothing flat, typical, or two-dimensional about the characters that Bracha writes about. To the contrary; I find them so authentic, so true-to-life, so “real”—it almost feels like I’ve actually met them in person! After reading too many books with characters comprised of the former qualities, static and unoriginal, it’s so refreshing to see something totally different in Bracha’s writing.
Take her newest book, Shadows on the Moon. I mean, how could any modern-day teenager NOT relate to Ella Sender? She’s so sarcastic and biting—yet, her tough exterior is only a façade covering up so many layers underneath… As an adult, who already went through my teenage years, I still found myself moved by Ella’s depth and her feelings. And Ruti Reuben, the so-called “perfect” class queen—who doesn’t remember the girl exactly like that from their high school class?!
I think the reason why I, and so many readers whom I speak for, too, loved this book so much, is due to its frankness and realism, elements that unfortunately are not found in your typical teen or adult novel. This, of course, can only be a credit to the book’s gifted author, Bracha Goykadosh. We spoke with Bracha about her entry into the world of writing, and about her writing in general. Here’s what she has to say:
You’ve been writing for a long time, yet you seem to be a young person. How old are you and since when have you been a published author?
I just turned twenty-one. I have been writing since I was in eighth grade! I have always been a big reader, and my parents would read to me constantly when I was young. When my first story was published, it was more like an outgrowth of my love of reading: I wanted to join the ranks of writers on my shelves! My first story, Phone Call, was published in Shoshanim magazine. I wrote it after I had a telephone conversation with a friend that was not ideal.
Are your writings for teens? Or for any age group? Or do they mature with you, i.e. writing for your peers?
My writing has definitely evolved. Though I sometimes do write for specific audiences such as children or teens, I hope that my work can appeal to all readers.
Is “goykadosh” a real name or a pen name? that’s a very interesting name…
That’s probably the number one question I get asked. Goykadosh is really my last name. It is from a passuk in Parashas Yisro: Ve’atem tihyu li mamleches kohanim ve’goy kadosh.
What is this particular book about?
It’s about a girl in high school, Ella, whose father has just remarried after her mother’s death. I loved writing Ella because as a character though she is so cynical, she is still so sincere.
Do YOU think books should require some sort of hechsher or rating system?
I think when an author chooses a Jewish publisher for his or her work, that already is a hechsher.
What does the title “shadows on the moon” imply?
A shadow on the moon, is, literally, an eclipse. I don’t want to steal a pivotal scene away from my readers, but suffice to say, the shadows in Ella’s life shifts after a particular incident and she begins to view things differently.
What advice/ideas do you have for aspiring authors?
While reading an author’s blog the other day, the author mentioned that he had been asked this question as well. (Apparently, it’s a popular one!) His reply was: maybe try dentistry first?
But, in all seriousness, writing, like all other crafts, requires practice. Talent, though essential, will only get you so far. If you are not committed to your writing, you cannot expect to have committed readers. The best adivice I can possibly give is read, read, read, write, write, write, write, read, read, read, read, read, write, write, write and revise, read, read, write, write, write. Don’t let everyone read your work in its inital stages (you don’t want too many fingerprints all over it!) but when you are given advice from someone you admire, or even someone you don’t, consider it! Distance yourself from your work so that you can see it the way your readers will.
What are your thoughts about today’s Judaica books and book market? What would you like to see more of in the future?
Jewish fiction is a relatively young market, only about thirty years old, and I think there have been enormous strides made. I do like some “old school” Jewish novels, like those written by Sarah Birnhack. I feel like all sagas only strive to live up to hers. At the same time, perhaps it is time to experiment with new writing techniques?
What is it like writing a novel? Do the thoughts just flow, does the plot come to you in an instant and then the hard work is fleshing it out on paper, or is the plot development itself a long, drawn out process? i.e. when you start writing the book, do you already know the ending? (I’ve always wondered the same thing regarding composing new songs….)
It’s grueling, but a labor of love. I wouldn’t say it’s consistently one or the other. Sometimes the thoughts flow but other times I can stare at the computer screen for hours with no avail. Writing, for me, usually begins with one idea, one seed, and germinates from there into something larger. Like any plant, it needs to be watered and weeded. I have some idea of the ending, but writing in usually organic and I like to see how it grows on its own.