When popular writer and columnist Batya Ruddel debuts with her first novel, people sit up straighter in their seats. This is no stereotypical, “blah” novel, folks. This is juicy yet realistic writing at its best, tackling a very real but often swept-under-the-rug issue in our circles—that of compulsive lying. In her honest and straightforward way, Batya develops the nuances and personalities of her characters so well, that you will feel as if you know them personally. As you read this book, you will follow the characters’ journeys with bated breath as you wait and hope for some positive changes to occur in their lives… Well, we won’t give away any more of the story for you, but here’s an interview with Batya Ruddel that may pique your interest in this book even more than we’ve already piqued it!
How did you choose the topic for your novel Changing Faces?
Actually, Hamodia pitched me the idea of writing a fictionalized short story about compulsive lying. They wanted to address this issue which is, unfortunately, more prevalent in our community than we realize.
So how did it become a full blown novel?
It’s really quite funny. Initially, when I researched the topic, I told my editor that it couldn’t possibly be addressed in a one-time story because the subject was far too complex and insidious. She immediately suggested I morph it into a serial, at which point I replied, “Oh, nooooo…I’ve never done one of those…I don’t think so.” My editor then came up with the option of doing a mini-novelette consisting of about 8 chapters. I readily agreed to this and off I went to get started. The problem was that once I got going, I couldn’t stop. When I reached 8 segments, I asked for an extension of 12…then 14…then 20, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What does it mean exactly that you couldn’t stop?
Precisely that! My characters just took over.
I’ve heard fiction writers say that a lot. Is it really true?
Absolutely! The characters sort of develop minds of their own. Many times I would sit down to write a chapter with something specific in mind, and they’d do something completely different. I love that…letting my characters lead the way and just going with them. The creative process is amazing. It’s like splashing words on canvas…painting a picture.
What reactions have you had to the book?
I think the readers were a little taken aback at first. This was the first time that Hamodia had published a serial of this nature, and they weren’t sure what they were getting. As the story unfolded, however, the feedback was amazing. I got e-mails and phone calls from people all over the world asking for advice, and as the novel wound down, there were even women in various communities discussing amongst themselves how they thought it should end. Those opinions were often conveyed to me electronically or through Hamodia, which I found quite amusing.
Were you satisfied with how you ended the serial?
Hmm…an interesting question. Well, I could have written many more chapters, but I had to finish. As it was, Hamodia had given me all the leeway I wanted (and more), but everything has its limits. It was very important to me that the story should end realistically and on a hopeful note.
Do you think you managed to educate people about compulsive lying?
Absolutely! And I hope I managed to portray how confusing it can be for a spouse/ family or work colleague to interact with someone who is afflicted with it. I actually received phone calls from all over the world, thanking me for sweeping this topic out from under the rug. Many told me that it was through Changing Faces that they finally understood what was wrong with a particular family member. It is so rewarding when I hear things like that. It reminds me what being a writer is all about… having the ability to help, educate, and hopefully inspire the public.
What did you enjoy the most about writing the book?
Oh, lots of things! First of all, I learned a tremendous amount professionally, both as a serialized-fiction writer and through the knowledge I gained on the subject of compulsive lying. As I said before, the creative process was fabulous. Changing Faces took me on a journey. I always knew where I was going but wasn’t sure exactly how I’d get there, so it was exciting to hold on tight and enjoy the ride. I also enjoyed the new relationships I made through writing the novel, and I especially enjoyed working with the editors at Hamodia. There, too, the creative process was fascinating, as we good-naturedly bantered about various metaphors they wanted out and I wanted in! It was great working together, and I am so grateful to them for letting me take this to where it went.
Are you planning another serialized novel, maybe even a sequel to Changing Faces?
I definitely am considering the idea of a sequel, but I think I have to let the two couples settle down a bit and get on with their lives first. When I’m ready, I’ll re-visit them and see what they’ve been up to!
Another serialized novel…well, yes, I’m working on a new one at the moment. And no, I’m not telling you what it’s about, sorry. I can assure you, though, that it will be another true-to-life drama with very real, relatable characters once again. Just like with Changing Faces, there will be plenty to think about and discuss over coffee.
We can’t wait. Hatzlachah with the new novel and with all of your writing.