“So, Miriam Drori,” says Kirsty Young and I’m thinking: why isn’t Roy Plomley here? because his is the name I associate with this radio programme. “As a lover of music, you must have had a hard time choosing just eight pieces.”

“I certainly did,” I answer confidently, because of course this is all made up, so I might as well make myself and my communication abilities up, too.

“How did you narrow your choices down to just eight?”

“I chose pieces connected to my life,” I say, because it’s what they all say and it happens to be true. Turntable-floating-view

I continue to answer Kirsty’s questions with ease and to explain why I chose these particular pieces of music.

  • Ledavid mizmor… (the prayer): The synagogue played an important part in my childhood, and my father often led the services there. I particularly remember this tune, for a prayer that is said only on special occasions. Most of the members of the congregation didn’t know the tune and so my father’s beautiful tenor voice easily rose over the rest. (I listened to several Youtube videos but couldn’t find the tune I know.)
  • Ma Nishtana: The seder night – the first night of the festival of Passover – was a specially fun time in our family. I enjoyed my moment of fame with this song, traditionally sung by the youngest person present. I was always the youngest.

  • Beatles – Here Comes the Sun: I grew up with the Beatles. I had to include them in my list. So I chose one that’s lively and good to dance to. I expect I’ll do plenty of dancing on the desert island.
  • Bach’s Double Violin Concerto: This is one of the pieces I studied at school, and it’s one that I love.
  • Paul Simon – Something So Right: I’ve always felt this song is about me. “They got a wall in China. It’s a thousand miles long. To keep out the foreigners they made it strong. And I got a wall around me that you can’t even see. It took a little time to get next to me.”
  • Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar: At university, this was the song I loved dancing to the most. I had no idea what it was about; I just loved it.
  • Back Street Boys – I Want It That Way: My daughter was just six when this song was popular. But she heard it a lot because her big brother liked to play it. So she learned it – words and all. No wonder she became a singer!
  • Vatikach Miriam: I had to include a song from the many I’ve danced to at Israeli folk dancing sessions. And why not one that’s lively and includes my name!

“Thank you, Miriam Drori, for letting us hear your Desert Island Discs.”

“Thank you for inviting me,” I reply. “I’ve enjoyed it immensely.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Author of the Day

Stella Hervey Birrell knows about being concise and keeping to rules. All the posts on her blog are exactly 140 words long. She also draws simple pictures to accompany the posts. When I submitted a guest post for her blog, I managed the first but not the second, and was delighted with Stella’s rendering of Neither Here Nor There. Stella writes women’s fiction and is the author of How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right? – a novel I enjoyed and recommend.

(This is where I get to reveal the gorgeous new book cover.)

What links my first book, Neither Here Nor There, with my second, The Women Friends: Selina, written together with Emma Rose Millar?

Not a lot. It would be easier to list the differences:

  • Contemporary – Historical
  • Romance – Story of love, but not romance
  • Light – Dark

One link is orthodox Judaism. Esty in Neither Here Nor There leaves the ultra-orthodox community in which she grew up. Janika, the second of the models in The Women Friends, does something similar, but that’s described in the second novella. In the novella to be published by Crooked Cat on December 1st, Janika takes a big part but is not the main character.

The other link is orange, which is what makes the two covers so distinctive.

Neither Here Nor ThereCoverFront

When my first book, Neither Here Nor There, was published, I didn’t know what to expect. Would anyone buy it? Would anyone read it? Would anyone like it?

Neither Here Nor There Cover

 

Two years on, I’m proud of what my little novel has achieved. It’s informed some readers about things of which they had no knowledge, it’s rung true with many of those in the know, and most of all, it’s brought joy to many readers.

One thing I did know in advance: not everyone would like it. I think that’s true of any book. If every review of a book has only praises for it, you begin to think something is rotten in the state of Goodreads.

I knew in advance that some readers would find the story not to their taste. Not everyone likes romance; not everyone likes sweet and gentle stories. That’s why I was particularly pleased with the words of the mentor of my writing group, D.r. Brauner, who is “not normally a fan of seesaw romances.” He wrote:

An extra-ordinary book that takes romance writing to a higher level.

I also knew that some readers would be against the very idea of anyone leaving orthodoxy for secularism.

BuddhaAngry

Some readers don’t like the plot

BuddhaSad

Some readers don’t like the style

.

.

BuddhaHappy

Many readers love the novel

.

Yes, I’m proud of all the reviews of my debut novel on Goodreads, Amazon UK and Amazon US, and I’m very grateful to everyone who has gone to the trouble of writing a review.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Author of the Day

D.r.Brauner writes excellent fiction, which deserves to be better known. His novel, ANOTHER GOD: a novel of Independent Scotland, is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Disclaimer: this post is in no way political. (Well, that’s almost true.)

It’s time for a CHANGE. I’ve been feeling that for a while. It’s time to make that happen. Let me explain.

History of An’ de walls came tumblin’ down

The Point of the Blog

I began this blog over seven years ago when I was in a very different place. I wanted to write about writing and about social anxiety – especially social anxiety. It had been my ambition for some time to tell the world about this common but little-known disorder. I began anonymously, because I was afraid  of negative reactions. (In all seven years, I haven’t had any at all.)
ClosetGradually, as I became more confident, I added my first name, then my whole name. And with that came the other secret: I live in Israel – the place I felt everyone loves to hate. I don’t know whether that turned anyone off, but I still had readers after that revelation. And some readers even said they wanted to know more about what living in Israel is really like. So I added a category: Everyday Life in Israel, because I was scared to mention anything controversial.

Only occasionally – very occasionally – I felt I needed to write about something more serious. And I put it under Everyday Life in Israel, because that was all there was, even though the serious topic was far from ‘everyday.’

So, for me, as far as this blog goes, the walls did come tumbling down. In real life, well, that’s much harder, especially after nearly fifty years of SA.

Swerving Off the Path

Then, at the beginning of 2014, I received some wonderful news: my novel, Neither Here Nor There, was going to be published by Crooked Cat. I was thrilled… ecstatic. I’m still very grateful and happy that Crooked Cat accepted me and my novel.

Letters from Elsewhere

Farewell, for now

From that time, I became a member of a large and ever-growing community of writers. Many of those lovely writers hosted me on their blogs and I hosted them on mine. I started the series Letters from Elsewhere, in which characters sprang out of books to share their letters or to write directly to blog readers. It turned out to be popular among the writers.

During those two-and-a-half years, I hardly wrote about Israel or about social anxiety. I lost sight of the point of this blog and it became just another writer’s blog. Don’t get me wrong – there are many blogs that are solely about writing and are interesting, because their owners do it much better than I can. But I had a different purpose for starting this blog and it’s time to return to it – not as that frightened, anonymous individual who began it, but openly, as me: Miriam Drori, an author who lives in Jerusalem and who still lives with social anxiety, as do many others all over the world.

What’s New?

As well as social anxiety and Israel, I will talk about writing – my writing, starting with some very exciting news that hasn’t even made it onto this blog yet. I will also mention my fellow authors, at the end of each post, with links to their blogs and books.

With that decision in mind, I have changed some of the categories. That will be a problem for old posts, but it needed to be done.

There may still be guest posts; I’m hoping there will be. But guests will have to relate to Israel (or Jews) or social anxiety in their posts.

This decision isn’t set in stone. If you have any further ideas, do let me know and I’ll consider them.

 

2016Sale

Poster by Ailsa Abraham

Yes, I’m interviewing myself. Why not?

Q: Hello, Miriam. I’m delighted you could join me today.

A: I’m delighted to be here. Thank you for inviting me, Miriam.

Q: Tell me about your novel, Neither Here Nor There.

A: It’s a light romance, set mostly in my home town of Jerusalem and partly in my former home town of London.

Q: Oh come on, it can’t be that light with such a background. It must involve terrorist attacks and killing and all those scary things that go on all over the Middle East.

A: No, there’s none of that in my novel.

Q: So it’s a utopian sort of novel – the way you’d like your country to be.

A: No, it depicts everyday life in present times, just as it is. The fact is, there’s so much more to life in Israel than those troubles you hear about on the news. We follow the news, of course, and we’re so very sad about the lives that are lost. But most people go about their lives without encountering any danger at all. And so the story of Esty and Mark and all the characters in my novel is perfectly realistic.

Q: So you’re saying this is just another romance.

A: No. While it can be read as a simple romance, it also brings up some complicated issues – issues most readers will recognise in some form or other.

Q: What sort of issues?

A: Arranged marriage, living in a closed community, escaping from a closed community, emigration, life-changing decisions.

Q: Yes, some serious issues there. Tell me about the closed community in your novel.

A: The haredi community. I call it that for simplicity, although within that group are several sects, some very much opposed to others. They live in various parts of the world. Many of your readers will have noticed their distinctive dress. The men wear black hats, black suits and white shirts, with tassels hanging over their trousers, and they have beards and sidelocks. There are some who wear stranger garb. The women always wear long sleeves and long skirts, and married women cover their hair with scarves or wigs. Some people even think that all Jews or all Israelis dress like that.

In Jerusalem, they used to live only in specific districts like Mea She’arim, but they’ve expanded to other areas due to lack of space. The men often don’t work, spending their time studying the holy books. That leaves the women to support their large families, as well as caring for children and doing the housework.

Q: The women must feel very bitter about that.

A: I don’t think so. Most of them believe that’s how they’re supposed to live and never question it. They’re proud to have husbands who are able to study for long hours.

Q: What about arranged marriage? How does that work?

A: I want to stress that their marriages are arranged and not forced. They’re allowed to choose their marriage partners, but their choice is limited. They’re expected to choose one out of the few they’re introduced to.

Q: Do you think that works?

A: It seems to work as much as our system of random meetings does. The divorce statistics show that. I think a couple can grow to love each other after marriage, although I don’t have first-hand experience of such a relationship.

Q: How do other Israelis regard the haredi community?

A: There’s a lot of resentment. They generally don’t have to serve in the army, and they get grants for studying, which many view as a complete waste of time. On the other hand, they do jobs that no one else wants to do. There are at least four major associations run by people from the haredi community and serving the population at large. There’s one that deals with everything surrounding burials. One that provides all sorts of medical equipment. One that provides food for hospital visitors. And one that picks up and identifies all body parts following an explosion.

I saw an accident once at a junction in Jerusalem. I looked down from the top of a hill and saw a man lying on the road, having been thrown off his motorcycle. Immediately, someone got out of a car and started redirecting the traffic. Someone probably phoned for an ambulance. Two minutes after the accident, a haredi man who happened to be passing stopped his car, took a first-aid kit out of the boot and rushed over to the victim.

Q: Well I think we’ll leave it there. Thank you for coming, Miriam.

A: Thank you, Miriam.

Neither Here Nor There, published by Crooked Cat Publishing, is available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes and elsewhere.

Miriam Drori can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad and on her website/blog.

Stop press: Neither Here Nor There is on sale for a few days on Amazon. In honour of that, several bloggers will be featuring the novel. I’ll update this post as those posts appear.

Letters from ElsewhereMy visitor today is Rivka, mother of Esty, the heroine of my novel, Neither Here Nor There. Rivka was called Rose in her previous life. I’ll let her tell you more.

BS”D

Dear Readers,

At first, I was pleased to receive this opportunity to explain myself and my actions to you. I thought I’d write it all down and then it would make sense. But when I sat down with a pen and a blank sheet of paper, doubts filled my mind. I’m not sure I can explain it logically to myself. How can it make any sense to anyone who hasn’t experienced what I experienced? How can such people comprehend the decisions I made?

Don’t get me wrong. I have plenty to thank G-d for. I love my husband and my children – all of them. I have much joy from watching and helping them to grow up and take their places in the world. I take pride in trying to steer them in the right direction – in the path of good and righteousness, but I know that eventually I will have no influence over them.

Mea Shearim 2014 Street

A street in Mea Shearim, Jerusalem, where Rivka lives.

Esty, my first-born, has chosen a different life for herself, away from the fold. I miss her so much, even though I see her occasionally. She was such a good girl, always ready to help me with the housework and the little ones. That’s not why I miss her. It’s because she’s one of mine, but she’s no longer one of us. Also, it’s possible I’m a bit jealous, because a part of me wants to be out there with her, although I do my best to suppress those feelings.

It’s easier for people who’ve always lived this life. My husband, for instance. It’s all he’s ever known. He’s never considered any other lifestyle. But I grew up with no religion at all. I could have stayed in London, studied at university, worked and settled down there. And kept in touch with my parents. I do regret making that break. And it wasn’t necessary. I suppose I worried they’d try and influence me to return to their way of life. I suppose I doubted my ability to stand up for what I’d chosen.

How can I explain why I gave it all up? How, at eighteen, I thought I was grown up enough to make my own decisions without any help from anyone. How I thought I’d found everything that was missing in my life – the spiritual stuff – and was happy to give up all the rest, even seeing my parents. I didn’t miss them then. It was only when the babies started arriving that I realised how much I missed my parents and how much they must miss me. Only then, when it was too late, did I realise what an awful thing I’d done to them. Their only child. How could I have left them like that?

No, I don’t expect you to understand. I don’t expect you to empathise with my situation now. I will endeavour to concentrate on being a good and pious woman and thank G-d for everything He has bestowed on me.

Yes, that’s a message I can leave you with – one that can be understood whatever culture you live in. Be thankful for what you have.

Rivka

Thank you, Rivka, for sharing your worries with us. I’m sure you didn’t envision all these difficulties when you decided to join the haredi community. Readers may remember the letter from Leah, Esty’s ex-friend, who has none of these doubts, having been born into the community.

Neither Here Nor There

Neither Here Nor There CoverSo much more than a romance, this is a tale of transformation in an exotic setting. Esty’s life was laid out for her from birth. She would marry one of a handful of young men suggested to her and settle down to raise a large family in a tiny space within the closed community of her parents, near to and yet far from the modern world. But Esty has decided to risk all by escaping while she still can. Will she make it to the other side? Mark, who is struggling with his own life changes, hopes that Esty will find a way through her troubles. He is fast falling in love with her. Separately and together, in Jerusalem and London, Esty and Mark need to overcome many obstacles in their endeavour to achieve their dream.

Neither Here Nor There is available from Amazon, Smashwords and elsewhere.

Miriam Drori

Me with Neither Here Nor ThereMiriam Drori was born and brought up in London and now lives with her husband and two of her grown up children in Jerusalem.

With a degree in Maths and following careers in computer programming and technical writing, Miriam has been writing novels and short stories for eleven years. Two of her short stories have been published in anthologies and others have been published online. Neither Here Nor There is her first novel.

Miriam began writing in order to help raise awareness of social anxiety. Since then, the scope of her writing has widened, but she hasn’t lost sight of her original goal.

Happy New YearSo, it seems to be 2016. 2015 was fine. I have no complaints. But 2014 was more exciting and I hope 2016 will be, too. One exciting thing is planned for the end of February. (More about that in March.)

I’ve been working on a novel I’m writing in collaboration with another author. I hope that comes to fruition in 2016.

I’ve also been working on the sequel to Neither Here Nor There. I have plenty more to do on that, but hope I can finish that, too, in 2016. And there’s another novel that’s completed but needs changing a bit.

I also edited three novels in 2015 and look forward to more of that. I think I learn from such close reading as much as I contribute.

In 2016, as well as having a more exciting time, I plan to write more and read more.

“That’s not a resolution,” I hear you say. “Resolutions have to be specific. You have to say how many books, how many hours, how many words.”

No, I’m not going to say that. I’m simply going to keep at it. Every day. Maybe…

Although…. At the last minute, in a moment of madness, I signed up again for 100k in 100 days. I’ve never actually succeeded in this challenge, but it seems I will try again to write a thousand words a day for a hundred days starting today.

This blog post is the start. Two hundred and thirty two words. No… two hundred and thirty eight. No…