A Slice of Orange


Author! Author! An Interview by Veronica Jorge with A.J. Sidransky

March 22, 2021 by in category Write From the Heart by Veronica Jorge tagged as , , , , ,
A.J. Sidransky

Veronica Jorge: Greetings, A Slice of Orange readers. We have the pleasure of speaking today with A.J. Sidransky whose works have received much critical praise. His novel, Forgiving Maximo Rothman, reviewed on this site December 22, 2020, was a finalist in Outstanding Debut Fiction by The National Jewish Book Awards in 2013. Forgiving Mariela Camacho was awarded the David Award for Best Mystery of 2015. The third book in the trilogy, Forgiving Stephen Redmond was released Jan 16, 2021. A.J.’s works are a combination of mystery and historical fiction. A topic in which he excels is the Dominican Republic and the lives of the refugees who arrived there when they fled Nazi Europe. So let’s find out more about this prolific author and his unique stories.

Veronica Jorge: Welcome, A.J. You describe yourself as a dyed in the wool New Yorker, born in the Bronx, and life-long Yankees fan. So how did you develop such a deep interest in the Dominican Republic? 

A.J. Sidransky: My interest in the Dominican Republic began when I was a boy. My grandfather’s brother, my uncle Max, had lived there during World War 2. He and my aunt had escaped there when there were no other clear options to leave Europe. My uncle and aunt didn’t have children of their own. My mother was very close to him, and I followed suit.

As a child I studied Spanish starting in the fourth grade. My uncle spoke Spanish, which was a special treat for me. I was able to communicate with him in a language my English and Hungarian speaking family didn’t know. Many years later, as an adult with a wife and child, we moved to Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. Washington Heights is home to the largest Dominican community outside of the island republic.

I joined a gym in the neighborhood that was popular with Dominican weight lifters. I also lift weights. I established friendships with several of the guys there. One in particular, became my best friend. He has a home in the capital, Santo Domingo, where he spends the winters. I spend 3-4 weeks each winter with him at his home, deep in the barrio. I have come to love the people and the country. I often wonder why my uncle left. My love for the country and the culture is best demonstrated in Forgiving Mariela Camacho.

Veronica Jorge: Since an aunt and uncle of yours were among those refugees who lived in the Dominican Republic, can you share with us how their experience touched your emotions and influenced your writing?

A.J. Sidransky: My emotional attachment to both my aunt and uncle, and to how their experiences touch my emotions and influenced my writing are very much on display in Forgiving Maximo Rothman and Forgiving Stephen Redmond. My uncle Max was my maternal grandfather’s younger brother. They were 2 of 9 children. My grandfather came to the United States in 1923. My uncle escaped from a Hungarian speaking region of Slovakia in 1940. The rest of the family, their mother, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews as well as over 50 other family members died in the Holocaust in death camps. I am named for two of their brothers.

As I grew older I began to ask questions about the people in the photos on the walls of my grandparents’ home. As I learned about their stories, and about my uncle Max’s escape I became determined to tell their stories. That led first to Forgiving Maximo Rothman. The Interpreter, published in March 2020 also is based on the experiences of another relative who escaped. I believe every story that comes out of the Holocaust needs to be told. I’ve made it my purpose to try to bring some of those to life.

Veronica Jorge: You travel on a regular basis to the Dominican Republic. So I take it you really love the island. Do you also identify with Maximo because of the friendships you’ve made with Dominicans?

A.J. Sidransky: The short answer is yes. The truth is that while the historical aspects of the stories are based on Max’s experiences, the friendships between Maximo and Jose in Forgiving Maximo Rothman, and the friendship between the detectives Tolya Kurchenko and Pete Gonzalvez in all three novels are based on my friendship with my best friend William Cruz. He is, truthfully, the best friend I have ever had. We are like brothers. We look very different. I am very fair-haired and light-skinned. He is dark in both skin and hair coloring. I’m a good six inches taller than him, and he is much more athletic than me. We work out together five days a week; at least we did before COVID-19 arrived. The people at the gym refer to us as los mellizos, the twins.

Veronica Jorge: Two recurring themes in your novels are forgiveness and the relationship between fathers and sons. Why are these of such importance for you? 

A.J. Sidransky: Let’s start with fathers and sons. First of all, I’m both a father and a son, and I can say with some certainty that my most rewarding experience in life has been parenting. Being a father also made me view my own father and my relationship with him in a very different way than I did before I became a father. Much has been written about the relationships of women; mothers and daughters, sisters, etc. Not much has been written about the relationships between men. Perhaps because men aren’t supposed to show their emotions.

As a man, I wanted to explore those relationships. And not to limit them to fathers and sons, and what we do to each other and why, but also to male friendship, and how difficult it is to establish genuine friendship for adult men. I wanted to demonstrate the fragility of men and how much trust is required for men to let other men see that fragility.

As to forgiveness, well, who hasn’t had conflict in their life? And the key is to resolve it, not to carry it around, because it will destroy you. We all do things that we might wish we hadn’t. We all experience the reverse as well, a betrayal or severe disappointment from someone we love deeply. The only way out is to forgive. But, as another dear friend of mine, a pastor of a church in Harlem has told me, forgiveness isn’t free. We must forgive, but hopefully those we forgive will own their mistakes as well.

Veronica Jorge: What do you want the reader to come away with after reading your novels? 

A.J. Sidransky: LOL, first of all, a good cry! And I hope a laugh as well. I write about ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances. How do they stand up and confront the unimaginable? I want my readers to be in their minds, to experience their emotions, to feel what they are feeling.

Most of all, I want my readers to come away with an understanding of what brought about the extraordinary circumstances to begin with, and to be vigilant not to let history repeat itself, to learn from our collective mistakes, to create a better world going forward. If you read my books and you feel what my characters feel you’re more likely to feel compassion for those today who are faced with similar circumstances. I often tell people to really understand my work they need to read the short story The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson. It’s the most important short story ever written. It used to be required reading in high schools. It should be again. Jackson’s message was very clear. Don’t be so certain of your ideas until you’re the one facing the extraordinary circumstance. That’s what I hope for my readers. Soften your heart, don’t harden it.

Veronica Jorge: Do you have some new projects that you’re working on that you can share with us?

A.J. Sidransky: Sure, I’d love too. I have a novella and a collection of short stories that I plan on publishing late in 2021 or early in 2022. The title of the novella is The King of Arroyo Hondo. It’s set in the Dominican Republic today and is based on my observations traveling there over the past 10+ years. It’s a departure for me. No dead bodies, no dead Jews. I hope my readers will enjoy it.

I’m currently working on the second book in my ‘Justice’ series, which began with The Interpreter. The Intern is set in 1953. It’s a thriller and plays out against the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. I hope to publish that in late spring 2022. I have two projects planned after that.

The first is called Cuba no Falta Nada, which means in English, Cuba is missing nothing. While the title is Spanish, the book is in English. Based on a real story, it’s the story of two brothers born in Cuba in the 1930s to Jewish immigrants from Poland. One is a communist and the other is not. One stays in Cuba and is an official in the Castro government; the other immigrates to the United States. It tells their story from 1958 through 2001.

After that I’m planning on working on something that’s been on my mind for a long time, a novel about baseball. The tentative title is Fielder’s Choice. Fielder’s Choice is a term in baseball for a certain type of play on a line drive. It’s also the name of the title character, a ‘never-a-star’ baseball player who manages a mediocre major league team. He’s taken a young Dominican player under his wing. The Dominican player is a generational talent. They develop a very close relationship, there’s the father/son thing again. Fielder has to decide whether to push the young player forward to further his career or keep him close. Even men will cry at this one. It’s kind of my Field of Dreams, the same way Forgiving Maximo Rothman was my Dr. Zhivago.

Veronica Jorge: Tell us one or two things you’d like your readers to know about you. 

A.J. Sidransky: That’s kind of difficult. I don’t like to talk about myself; I’d rather talk about my work. But here’s a go. I’d like readers to know that I feel that if I can touch one person with my work, change one point of view, make one reader look at life a little differently, I feel I’ve done a good job, I’ve done what I set out to do.

When The Interpreter was in pre-publication, my publisher’s son-in-law saw an advanced reader copy on her coffee table. He liked the cover. He asked if he could take one, and she said yes without telling him about the subject matter. That was on purpose.

For those of you who haven’t read The Interpreter, it’s a novel set during and just after the Holocaust in Europe. And there aren’t any concentration camp scenes because I don’t write them. Anyway, she told me that while he’s a decent man, her son-in-law is something of a redneck, her words not mine. Two weeks later he returned the copy and told her that my book had changed his outlook on a number of things. He’d learned about what happened during the war in a new way. He connected with it. It changed his opinions about things. I didn’t ask what those things were, but I can imagine what they are. If I had not sold one copy of The Interpreter, I would have been satisfied with those results, then and there. My work broke through.

Veronica Jorge: Thank you A.J. for spending some time with us and allowing us a glimpse into your world and your writing.

We hope all of our readers have enjoyed meeting A.J. Sidransky. To learn more about him, and his latest works and news, connect with him at: www.ajsidransky.com. You can also write to him at aj@ajsidransky.com. He welcomes email from readers. He can also be found on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Visit his site. Say hello. And above all, read his books. They will touch your heart!

 Veronica Jorge

See you next time on April 22nd

P.S. For those of you who missed it, or want a refresher, here are the links to A.J. Sidransky’s books reviewed on this site.

Some of A. J. Sidransky’s Books


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The Extra Squeeze Book Club

March 21, 2021 by in category The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , ,

The Extra Squeeze Book Club

The Extra Squeeze Team loves book. We love to read them. We love to talk about them. We love to find new books or revisit old friends.

So, we’re going to hold a book club on A Slice of Orange, and we want to hear from you.

What books would you like to read and discuss in the book club. Do you have a favorite book? A book that made you laugh? A book that made you cry? A book that made you think?


Some of the titles suggested so far:

Send us the title and author of a book you love by using the handy dandy form below.

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    Writing The Dreaded Book Blurb by Jenny Jensen

    March 19, 2021 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , ,
    The Dreaded Book Blurb | Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

    Cartoons by John Atkinson, www.wronghands1.com

    Writing The Dreaded Book Blurb

    Every author faces this last crucial challenge. You’ve already spent untold hours researching, writing and editing your book. Your title hits just the right poetic note. You’ve gone several tense rounds to find the perfect cover. All that remains is the book blurb, the opening salvo in the promotional war.  This is the first (and sometimes only) chance to grab a reader and compel them to buy the book. And so, like click bait, you need to lure your reader with an honest but irresistible snap shot.

    It’s an art, this writing of a synopsis that isn’t a synopsis, this sell copy that isn’t an ad. And for something that isn’t a science there are strict rules: you have to be honest – no misleading the reader. No spoilers or why bother to read it – which can be tough since the spoiler is often the most exciting part of the story.  Keep it at 200 words or less and don’t make it one run-on paragraph. Use the proper keywords for your genre. Reveal something about the antagonist – readers like to know if they can root for the hero. This isn’t the place to relate the entire plot but you have to provide the zeitgeist, the feel of the tale. No easy task.

    A lot of the writers I work with find this daunting and ask for help, which I am happy to provide. I think it’s difficult for the writer to step far enough away from their work to pick out the enticing, salient points and present them with the tension and intrigue that make for a successful blurb. To the author, all story points are important. I get that, but as an avid reader I know what works for me in a blurb. It’s not how much is said, but how compellingly it’s said.

    I start with a deconstruction approach. It’s possible to distill any story down to bare bones. In his book Hit Lit – Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers James W. Hall provided the most distilled example I’ve ever seen. This is a beloved tale that we all know intimately: “A young girl wakes in a surreal landscape and murders the first woman she sees. She teams with three strangers and does it again.”  It’s short, accurate and intriguing but would it sell the book?

    I wouldn’t distill it down that far but it makes a great beginning. What if we knew something about the young girl – an orphan, a princess, a refugee? And what about the surreal landscape – gaping desert, oozing swamp, forbidding mountains? Then the three strangers – female, male, older, menacing, kindly?  Is all this murdering spurred by necessity, thrills, defense, the three strangers or is it unintended manslaughter? And finally, what is the young girl up to – revenge, enlightenment, finding a way out of the surreal landscape? Flesh out those points, add some genre keywords, reference any kudos and you could turn those original 24 spartan words into a 160 – 200 word blurb that would peak curiosity and entice the shopper to buy.

    If you can step away from the totality of your story and deconstruct the plot to the primary elements, then present those elements in a provocative way you can create an effective selling tool with your book blurb. BTW, that book Hall described? The Wizard of Oz.


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    Identifying and Breaking Bad Writing Habits

    March 18, 2021 by in category Ages 2 Perfection Online Class, Online Classes tagged as , ,

    Presented by: Jeffe Kennedy
    Date: April 17, 2021, 10AM PT
    Pricing: A2P Member fee: FREE
    Non-A2P Member fee: $10

    About the Workshop:

    Learn to identify your bad habits as a writer to improve the quantity and quality of your work.

    Jeffe will share some of her approaches, such as Own Your Process, Kick Excuses to the Curb, Listen to Your Editors–and Learn, Study Successful Authors and Keep a List of Recurring Tics. She’ll also help participants discover their own process and what might be getting in the way of more and better writing.


    About the Presenter:

    Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has won the prestigious RITA® Award from Romance Writers of America (RWA), has been a finalist twice, been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) as a Director at Large.

    Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015.

    Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms. Book one in that series, The Pages of the Mind, was nominated for the RT Reviewer’s Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 and won RWA’s 2017 RITA Award. The second book, The Edge of the Blade, released December 27, 2016, and was a PRISM finalist, along with The Pages of the Mind. The final novel in the series, The Fate of the Tala, released in February 2020, along with a short novel epilogue, The Lost Princess Returns. A high fantasy trilogy, The Chronicles of Dasnaria, taking place in The Twelve Kingdoms world began releasing from Rebel Base books in 2018. The novella, The Dragons of Summer, first appearing in the Seasons of Sorcery anthology, finaled for the 2019 RITA Award.

    Kennedy also introduced a new fantasy romance series, Sorcerous Moons, which includes Lonen’s War, Oria’s Gambit, The Tides of Bàra, The Forests of Dru, Oria’s Enchantment, and Lonen’s Reign. And she released a contemporary erotic romance series, Missed Connections, which started with Last Dance and continues in With a Prince and Since Last Christmas.

    In September 2019, St. Martins Press released The Orchid Throne, the first book in a new romantic fantasy series, The Forgotten Empires. The sequel, The Fiery Crown, followed in May 2020, and culminates in The Promised Queen in 2021.
    Kennedy’s other works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract.
    She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

    Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.



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    Where the Heck Do I Start (Self-Publishing)

    March 18, 2021 by in category Online Classes tagged as , ,

    Presented by: Kathryn Jane
    Date: April 1 – 30, 2021
    Pricing: A2P Member fee: $15
    Non-A2P Member fee: $30

    About the Workshop:

    Thinking about self-publishing? Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of taking on what some call a monumental task?
    Then you definitely need this workshop which will introduce you to self-pub in a non-frightening way, give you a basic understanding of what to expect during the process, and help you be prepared to navigate the steps.

    About the Presenter:

    Kathryn Jane, author, artist, and coach, loves to share her knowledge and experience in workshops designed to assist others in every stage of their publishing adventure. Her own career has included everything from short stories and novels, to multi-book series. Whether romantic suspense or the escapades of feral cats, Kathryn’s unique voice will take you on a journey rich with pitfalls on the way to the always promised happy ending.


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