I have a treat for you guys today! Here’s an interview with Aviva Gat, bestselling Amazon indie author of My Family’s Survival.
When did you first decide you wanted to write? Was writing a memoir your first idea, or did you have other non-fiction or fiction ideas prior?
A: Writing was always something I wanted to do. As a child, I wrote stories that my dad would “publish” for me by typing them and putting them in folders. I also spent a lot of time making up stories that I would act out with friends and Barbies. When I got older, I still loved writing, but the idea of writing a novel seemed daunting and scary to me–how do you come up with ideas and make things up? In college, I was encouraged to take a journalism class, which I ended up loving. It was perfect for me, I could write all day and I never had to make anything up! I worked as a journalist for many years, always thinking that one day I could write a book about something I encountered during my journalism career. Think Truman Capote or Jon Krakauer.
When I first decided I was ready to write a novel, I felt overwhelmed about figuring out what I would write about–fiction seemed really hard because you need to come up with the book from scratch. Non-fiction seemed easier, since the story already existed. A lot of people shot ideas at me, but nothing that I felt connected to, except for my grandmother’s Holocaust survival story. There was a ton of material for it, so it seemed like a good idea for my first book.
When did you first publish? Did you enjoy your self-publishing experience?
A: My book was first published at the end of January on Amazon. Before publishing, I did a lot of research about whether I wanted to self publish or try to get a deal with a traditional publishing house. From everything I learned, self publishing seemed like the way to go, not only is it much faster than working with a publishing house, but you also have more control over your book and the royalties. Self publishing was a really great experience for me–it requires a lot of work, but the payoff is amazing when you get to hold the book in your hand!
Is My Family’s Survival your debut novel? What is it about?
A: Yes, My Family’s Survival is my debut novel. It follows my grandmother, her brother and his family through their experience during the Holocaust. They lived in a small town in Poland and ran away when the Nazis came. The book follows each family member and tells the story from different perspectives. The story is all based on recorded testimonies given by the family members as a part of Steven Spielberg’s Visual History Project, which conducted nearly 52,000 interviews in 56 countries in 32 different languages. I am extremely grateful that my family members participated in this project to ensure their stories were never forgotten.
What inspires you to write?
A: I often get inspired when I am outside. I spend a lot of time outdoors, I love going on walks, running, going to the beach. These tend to be the times that I feel most inspired, so I often run to my computer when I get home to jot things down.
Who are some authors that inspire you to become a better writer?
A: I love Elizabeth Gilbert–I aspire to write literary fiction like she does. In her books, the writing is often more beautiful than the story itself. I also really like Jodi Picoult. I love how each of her novels explore a different issue, something that is very relevant and real, and make you think about it from perspectives you may not have thought of before.
Do you have a favorite character you connected with more when writing your book?
A: I was surprised that I ended up loving the character Abi the most. He is a five year old boy when the story starts, but grows up quickly when his family is forced to run. He is sharp and thoughtful and independent and grows up during the story. Abi unfortunately passed away about two years ago. I never spent that much time with him when he was alive, but after hearing him speak about his experiences during the Holocaust, I really wish I had. I truly admire him.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
A: Coming up with ideas! Sometimes I sit down and the ideas flow from my fingers and other times I just stare at the screen. I also find editing to be tough. I have a hard time changing things I’ve already written, I think I’m just impatient and want it to be done already.
How would you describe your writing style?
A: I guess my writing is very conversational. Many people have told me that my writing is very easy to read, it moves very quick.
Do you have a favorite snack or drink you enjoy while writing?
A: I drink a lot of soda water, tea, and coffee. I’m usually always drinking something.
Just because I’d like to include it for readers’ purposes, what would you say your target audience is for your book? Is there any content I should warn readers about?
A: I would say that my book is geared towards Historical Fiction lovers, even though it isn’t fiction. There are a few parts in the book that are harsh, violent, and hard to read, but I don’t think it is worthy of a warning.
What is some advice you can give aspiring authors out there that you wish you had known when you began your writing and publishing journey?
A: I would first say, don’t be afraid! Just start writing, that’s the hardest part. I’d also say don’t be afraid to ask questions, find other authors who can help you out. Authors are not competitors, so it is important we all help each other. Also, remember that at the end of the day, you are the author and you are responsible for your story. That means double checking your editor (don’t trust that editors will do a better job than you fixing your story!) and sometimes it means not listening to others’ ideas. Trust your instincts.
Did you find writing a memoir difficult? If so, what were some of the struggles you faced and how did you overcome them?
A: Yes it was very difficult, especially since the characters are no longer alive. They all left testimonies about their experiences, but there were a lot of gaps. I had so many questions and no one to ask them to. I had to make things up to fill in the blanks, which is why I say the book is based on a true story.
Congrats on being a #1 best seller on Amazon! That is such an accomplishment. What would you say contributed to your success? Is being a #1 seller your definition of success or do you have other/future goals you would like to meet?
A: Thank you! I guess there are a lot of measures of whether my book is successful. Being a best seller on Amazon is just one of them, getting great reviews is another, and of course sales are an important measure of success. I’d say I’ve had a lot of success so far with my book, but it’s still a work in progress. A lot of hard work contributed to the success so far. Writing is just one part of that. With self publishing, marketing is just as important as writing. I invested a lot of time learning about how to market and implementing a lot of different ideas, some successful, and some less so. It’s something I am still working on and hope to get better at. For me, this book is just the beginning. I’m already working on another book–this one is completely fiction!–so I guess my ultimate goal is to be a full-time author.
Another huge thank you to Aviva for letting me interview her! Check out her book, My Family’s Survival, and learn more about this talented author below…
Aviva’s lifelong dream was always to be a writer. From a young age, she wrote short stories that she shared with friends and family. When she went to college at Boston University, her love for writing led her to get two bachelor’s degrees in Journalism and Religion. She then moved to New York City and wrote for a financial magazine, where she wrote breaking news and in-depth analytical pieces about corporate bankruptcy.
After getting tired of the hustle and bustle of NYC, she moved to Israel where she spent six months volunteering fulltime with special needs adults. Ready to get back into the corporate world, Aviva then got an MBA at Tel Aviv University and worked for a consulting firm and a high-tech company.
When her daughter was born, Aviva decided it was time to get back to her lifelong dream and be a writer fulltime. She still lives in Israel, happily married with a daughter and a dog. When she is not writing, Aviva loves to run, hike, and go to the beach.