Interview with Seymour Ubell, author of The Birth Mother

Can you share a bit about your journey to becoming a writer/published author?

My first book, a memoir was based on my experience as a teen age boy. My father died when I was seventeen years old. The memories I had of his life were few and somewhat vague. I decided that I want my children and grandchildren to have an accurate account of who their father was, his life, his loves and his philosophy.

How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or ?

I write almost every day; At least an hour or two. I am 88 years old and still go to work every day for only about 4 hours each day. These two activities, writing and my job keep me busy and alive.

When I read this book I was given the impression that you were telling someone else's true story and yet the book is listed under adult fiction. Was this a fiction story or is it a true story of adoption?

I am very pleased that you have read The Birth Mother. It is a fictionalized story based on multiple true incidents. I have spent almost 25 years in Asia, including the negotiation of the adoption of twin girls. I have had the joy and the pleasure of making friends with hundreds of Chinese men and women.

This is your second book. What was different the second time around - especially from moving from a memoir telling your story to now writing someone else's (or writing a fiction if that is the case)?

A memoir is easy, there is no fiction. I just wrote the truth. When I wrote my second book, I was a more experienced writer. I improved my descriptions of feelings, surroundings, pauses etc. In The Birth Mother, I fictionalized a multiple of true incidents that I personally experience or told to me by real people.

Review HERE!
I found it a bit confusing that you moved back and forth from you telling their story, to the father taking over, especially as the writer's voice didn't really sound very different. Why did you chose this technique?

The father and the author are one and the same. As author I wanted to write it my way. The father wanted no fiction. I also imagined that the author and the Father could be an interesting debate throughout the novel. Many readers found it interesting and as you experienced, just a bit confusing. But unique.

As an author - what do you enjoy most about writing process? What feels like a chore?

I enjoy being totally in control. If a character is kind and good, I can reward him or her with love, success, intelligence, incite, riches. IF my character is not a good person, I can kill him or her, make them suffer and punish them. I am in total control. The chore Is the creativity. Often I have a specific idea I want to offer to the reader, fortunately the story takes over. I lose control and the story takes over to a different and often an improvement of the plot.

Do you have any new books in the planning or writing stage? 

I am working on two books simultaneously. When I am confronted with slight writer’s block on one book, I switch to the other. Often I will take a few days holiday from writing; And then return full of enthusiasm.

Any advice for new authors working toward publishing their first book, especially those starting at at a later stage in life?

Writing at a later stage in life, is a gift one gives to him or herself. Writing insists that you think and plan. I can be sitting in my office or at home, my wife will say, “You’re thinking, what about? I respond, “I am not thinking, I am writing…in my head”

I urge new authors to read. Read as much as possible. As a young man and boy, I was not a heavy reader, much to my regret. I am now reading about a book a week. The books I most recently read are, Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck, Emma, Jane Austin, What It Takes, Stephen Schwarzman, and Pavilion of Women, both by Pearl Buck, Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles, and Sherlock Holmes. My favorite author is David Liss. I read every book he has ever written. Liss’s writing is all fiction based on true historic events. Each book I read is like a master class. I learn, learn, and learn from each author.

When my wife and I go to a play on or off Broadway, as much as I enjoy the acting, I am immersed in the dialogue and the writing. It’s an amazing and stimulating experience. Also important is watching grammar, and punctuation. New authors should not be shy to use a Thesaurus and a dictionary and Google for factual information.

Last but not least, Read, read, read…I read an article in the Metropolitan section of the New York Times. The article in one paragraph gave me an idea for a part in one of my new books I am now writing. Ideas, ideas are everywhere.

MOST IMPORTANT: Every author should write and re-read, and re-read…It will only improve the story. I find if you have someone helping, your editor and yourself as a team should read the book out loud. Errors are heard easier than read. Ears are often sharper than eyes.

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