Author of the Week: Dave Riese

Cover for 'Echo from Mount Royal'

‘Echo from Mount Royal’

Our Author of the Week is Dave Riese. He’s here to speak with us about his novel, Echo from Mount Royal. Welcome, Dave. When did you begin writing?

I began writing at Bates College in Maine. While studying abroad at Oxford University in England during my junior year, I travelled throughout Europe during term breaks. For my B.A. thesis, I wrote stories, essays and poems based on my travel journals. Like many young writers, I was ‘bitten’ by the poetry bug in my twenties. I was cured, mercifully, within two years. Three poems were good enough to escape the shredder.

In my mid-twenties, I began writing short stories. An early story, submitted to the University of Massachusetts literary magazine, was not accepted, but the editor wrote a personal note praising the story and encouraging me to continue writing. I have always treasured that ‘rejection.’

While studying for my MBA at Suffolk University in Boston, I entered stories in the university’s annual short story contests and won a couple of cash prizes. Despite that success, I knew I had to keep my day job.

In my thirties, I began writing a novel off-and-on over several years. I finally finished the 400-page novel. It hides in a cardboard box under my desk.

What is your chosen genre?

I fell into the genre of my book. Before going to work, I’d often meet an elderly Jewish woman in the coffee shop downstairs from my office. We talked ‘books,’ sharing a similar taste in fiction. When she learned that I was a writer, she told me many stories about her experiences growing up in Montreal before and after WWII. Her story about her engagement as an 18-year-old girl astounded me. She invited me to ‘write it up,’ thinking it would make an interesting short story. Over the next ten months, I gave her chapters ‘Hot off the press” to read. When the 300-page manuscript was finished, she hefted the pages laughing, “This weighs more than a short story!” After a year and a half editing the book, it was finally finished In October 2014.

Montréal 1952  Rue Sainte-Catherine

Can you please tell us about your most recent release?

The novel takes place in the Montreal of 1951. Rebecca Wiseman, 18 years old, from a Catholic-Jewish family, briefly meets a handsome young man at a local dance. She has little hope of seeing him again. When Sol Gottesman tracks her down and asks her on a date, her joy mingles with disbelief: he is the son of a wealthy Westmount businessman.

Sol takes her in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce to the most expensive restaurant in the city and Rebecca enters a world of upper-class wealth and privilege. She believes her life is perfect.

She soon learns that despite Sol’s outward charm, he lacks self-confidence. On a visit to Mount Royal overlooking the city, Sol reveals the simmering conflicts in his family. When Rebecca tries to help him stand up to his family, she puts herself squarely in the midst of it all.

Class, religion, family conflict and sexual secrets test their love. And then, a late night telephone call changes her life forever.

In their reviews, readers respond to the independent and outspoken character of Rebecca who struggles to reach out for love and to support the man she loves; to the vivid descriptions of Montreal and its social norms in 1951; to the realistic depiction of family love and conflict; and to the unusual twists of the plot and the surprising revelation at the end of the novel.

Rebecca #1

What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

The most difficult challenge was capturing the attitudes, prejudices and social conventions of that era. Knowing someone who lived during those years was a precious advantage. Also, the Internet is an amazing resource. Here are some issues I encountered while writing the novel:

When Sol and Rebecca go to the cabin in the Laurentians, I originally had them driving on a highway that did not exist in 1952.

In early drafts, I wrote scenes in which people watch television. Canadian television did not exist until the first TV stations were built in Toronto and Montreal toward the end of 1952.

Using a specific consumer product usually required an Internet search. For example, I remembered the commercial for Ipana toothpaste from my childhood – a cartoon beaver singing “Brusha, brusha, brusha, get the new Ipana.” I confirmed on the web that Ipana toothpaste was sold in Canada in the early fifties.

Researching radio shows that Rebecca might have heard while looking at her bouquet of roses, I discovered that Princess Elizabeth came to Canada in October, 1951.

Contemporary newspaper descriptions supplied details about Ben’s Deluxe Deli – the décor, waiters’ uniforms, and the Wall of Fame.

The hardest work was striking the right tone regarding the attitudes of people in 1951 in areas of pre-marital sex, public displays of affection, parental control of daughters, and the revelations of child abuse. I hope I’ve resolved these complaints satisfactorily.

Burnt photograph

What projects are you currently working on?

My next project?

Authors are superstitious about discussing their next project. They may discover after six months of writing that the novel or memoir isn’t working and abandon it. Inevitably, when people learn you’re a writer, they’ll ask, “Who’s your agent?” and “When will it be published?” and “Is it about anyone I know?” Inevitably there’s a reference to Stephen King. The writer often underestimates the time required to finish the work (I needed an extra year), then feels compelled to justify why the book is taking so long to complete. These discussions can be depressing.

Nevertheless, I often ignore my own advice. My next book is about the last years in the lives of the main character’s parents when he faces the fact that they will not be with him much longer. Watching them fail both physically and mentally caused him to confront his own mortality. The novel will explore how memories change over time to reveal one’s parents in a different light. Of course, there will be juicy family secrets. I hope to show how memories both deceive us and encourage us to reexamine our lives.

And, no, I do not know when it will be finished.

What is your primary goal as an author?

My goal as an author is to write honestly about the themes in my next book. To keep learning how to write better. To encourage other writers. To get my writing out to as many people as possible and not worry about how much money I make. (Which is very little. Luckily I am retired and not trying to support myself writing.)

Which authors and/or books have inspired you as a writer?

The smart-aleck answer is “The book I’m reading now.”

My favorite Irish and English authors are Sebastian Barry, William Trevor, Colm Toibin, Frank O’Connor, Jaime O’Neill, Edna O’Brien, Jane Gardam, Brian Moore, Peter Ackroyd, John LeCarre, Patrick McGrath, Ian McEwan, Magnus Mills, John Mortimer, Roddy Doyle, Virginia Woolf, Michael Frayn, Graham Swift, Graham Greene, Elizabeth Taylor, Hilary Mantel, Charles Dickens, and Evelyn Waugh.

My favorite American and Canadian writers are Edith Wharton, Pat Barker, William Maxwell, James Cain, Jim Thompson, Willa Cather, Stewart O’Nan, Bernice Rubens, Mordecai Richler, Alan Furst, Muriel Spark, Patricia Highsmith, Ernest Hemingway (short stories), Scott Turow, Henry James, Eudora Welty, and Tobias Wolff

What advice would you like to share with new or aspiring authors?

When asked how she wrote so many books, Nora Roberts answered ‘Ass in chair.’ That’s the best advice for aspiring writers. Spend time each week and write. Not ‘thinking’ about writing. WRITE! (Note: I don’t always follow my own advice,)

  • Keep a journal to record thoughts and impressions. It’s amazing how those notes can inspire you years later.
  • Write a first draft without stopping to think too much. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, using the right word. Then let it simmer. Finally edit, edit, edit. Sculpt the work with revision after revision. Editing is when the book is created.
  • Don’t show anyone your work until you’ve gone over it carefully 5 times.
  • Develop a thick skin. Don’t argue when someone offers criticism. Some of ‘my’ best ideas have been suggested by other writers.
  • Join a writer’s critique group. You’ll learn as much critiquing others’ work as you will from their reviews of your work.
  • Send out your work to websites that publish new authors — not to make money, but to get your work out there and gain self-confidence.
  • Never give up. Don’t panic if you think that you’ve got ‘writers block.’ Sit down and write whatever comes into your head. You are a writer as long as you write. Publishing doesn’t make you a writer.
  • Take time to live your life. You don’t know everything when you’re 25 or even 40. I’m still learning at 69.
  • Read, read, read. Everything. Never be without a book. Take two with you in case you finish one while you’re away from home.
  • Observe, listen, and daydream.
Dave Riese

Dave Riese

About the Author:

Born in 1946, I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts. I attended Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, majoring in English literature. During my junior year, I studied English Literature at Oxford University and travelled in Europe. I wrote a travel journal as my senior thesis.

After graduating in 1968, I enlisted in the Air Force one step ahead of my draft board’s kind invitation to join the army and travel to Vietnam. I married Susan, my high school girlfriend, during leave between tech school and my posting to the Philippines at Clark Air Base. During this period, I wrote poetry.

Discharged from the military in 1972 and despite my lack of computer experience, I was hired by Liberty Mutual Insurance to attend their three-month computer training course. I learned later that the major reason I was hired was my writing and communications background. An English degree can be a valuable asset!

I began writing short stories, a novel and a screenplay, but wasn’t disciplined enough to produce much over the next 25 years. A job, a house, and raising two children took all my energy.

After 35 years in information technology, I retired from Massachusetts Financial Services in the spring of 2012. I sat down and had a long talk with myself. “If you want to publish a book, you’d better take writing seriously.” (i.e., AIC — ass in chair)

My wife and I moved north of Boston in 1974. Our daughter lives in Ireland with her husband. Our son and his wife are pediatricians in Rhode Island. We have four grandchildren.

Echo from Mount Royal is my first novel, published in 2015.

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Mount Royal McCord Museum - cropped

 

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2 thoughts on “Author of the Week: Dave Riese

  1. Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

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  2. Pingback: Echo From Mount Royal – an interview | reading recommendations reviewed

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