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Words with a Wordsmith: Andrea Simon

By Edie Cay
April 23, 2021

Award-winning writer Andrea Simon has written memoir, historical fiction, and a novel-in-stories. Her latest publication, FLOATING IN THE NEVERSINK, is a coming-of-age story set in 1950s New York, and won the 2020 New York Indie Author Project.

What’s the difference (at least for you!) between being a writer and an author? How do you shift gears between the two?

I love this question. For many years, I considered myself a writer since this was my paid profession. This occupation appears in my tax forms. I wrote book jacket copy, newsletters, community newspaper articles, patient-aid materials, brochures, advertising copy, video scripts. I was a paid employee, freelancer, and an entrepreneur; I had clients with demands. If someone asked me what I did for a living, I answered “writer.” I often heard the response, “What have you published?” I wondered what else I could answer. Then, after twenty-five years of devoting my writing talents to others, I wrote for myself — fictional short stories and novels, as well as personal essays and memoirs. Though I had several stories and essays published, it wasn’t until my first book came out that I called myself an “author,” though I haven’t yet changed to this title on my tax forms.

What was the inspiration for your most recent book?

My childhood experiences influenced my most recent (published) book, Floating in the Neversink. I grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and summered in the Catskill Mountains, primarily during the 1950s, an evocative time of cultural stimulation and impending turbulence. I based some characters in the book on actual people, and I formed some into composite characters. I tried to create a setting with authentic period details. This was the last era when multigenerational Jewish families spent concentrated times together, particularly those with immigrant roots, and I was interested in capturing the spirit and flavor of a time and place that was lost forever.

What do you worry about in your work?

My books have a long and complicated gestational period and bring with them all the concerns of growing offspring. Like a parent, I worry about everything. Do I have a strong plot? Are my characters compelling? Is the pacing good? Are my facts accurate? Have I repeated my themes? Do I have typos that have escaped editorial surveillance? Even after publication, I have questions: Will my friends and family like the book? Will readers find a factual error? Will a friend or relative be offended by a resembled character? And like a parent, the worries never cease.

Have you ever experienced Imposter Syndrome? How do you work through that?

Yes and yes. For many years, I wrote nonfictional informational material. I wrote descriptive copy about Russian scientific books, though I didn’t speak the language, reviews of restaurants in faraway places I had never visited, how-to articles on fitness regimes while my flab increased. I became an “expert” on things I knew nothing about. I learned that research and imagination often fill in the gaps of personal knowledge. Then, when I published entire books on historical events, of which I did enormous research, I still felt uneasy about opining on those subjects in my work. What did I know? I wasn’t a historian. My memory was poor; my education lacking; my degrees in entirely irrelevant subjects. At book signings, I dreaded question-and-answer sessions. Once I asked a friend to sit in the audience and ask me something easy. My “plant” raised his hand and asked, “Are you from Brooklyn?” An answer I knew. Then I spoke to a successful physician who admitted that he always felt like a fraud, that someone would eventually find him out and take away his license. I suspected that the only people who didn’t feel like a fake were probably those who didn’t know a thing but thought they did.

What’s the best compliment a reader has ever given you?

An Israeli American woman wrote to me after she read my memoir, Bashert: A Granddaughter’s Holocaust Quest. This woman’s father was from Brest in present-day Belarus. He came to New York in 1939 to visit his brother and attend the World’s Fair. When war broke out in Europe, he was stranded in America and couldn’t return to his wife and three daughters. After reading my book, this Israeli woman, who became my friend, found out that her three half-sisters were on the list of those killed at Brona Gora, the 1942 massacre site where 50,000 Jews were killed. She found the fate of her relatives because of information in my book.

Andrea Simon is a writer and photographer who lives in New York City. Her published work includes a memoir/history, Bashert: A Granddaughter’s Holocaust Quest, now in a paperback edition, on the Book Authority’s list for the Best Holocaust Biography Books of All Time; an award-winning historical novel, Esfir Is Alive; and her recent novel-in-stories, Floating in the Neversink, the winner of the 2020 New York Indie Author Project. Andrea has published many stories and essays and has received literary honors. She has presented her work at book clubs, schools, synagogues, the 92nd Street Y, genealogy conventions, and reading series. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the City College of New York, where she has taught introductory writing and creative writing. A longtime member of a writing group, Andrea has also mentored many writers.

Website:  https://www.andreasimon.net
Twitter: @simonandrea19
Facebook: Andrea Simon

To purchase Andrea Simon’s books on Amazon:
Bashert (memoir)
Esfir Is Alive
Floating in the Neversink

Edie Cay
Written by Edie Cay

Edie Cay writes award-winning feminist Regency Romance about women’s boxing and relatable misfits. She is a member of the Regency Fiction Writers, the Historical Novel Society, ALLi, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can drop her a line on Facebook and Instagram @authorediecay or find her on her website, www.ediecay.com

View Edie’s PLW Profile

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