Hadas Israel's latest book, Tough Like Her just hit the bookstores.
Here, I asked the author a few 'behind the scenes' questions about the story behind her latest book.
You can pickup the Kindle version of the book up for just 99 cents, by clicking HERE.
Q: When did you first start writing?
In 4th grade, I wrote out an 80-page story by hand. It took months and I was very proud of the accomplishment. I can't remember exactly what it was about, but I was fascinated by the purple-haired punk rock look of that time (the 80s) and by the Valley Girl slang, so it featured characters with all that. And it had a tragic ending in which a teenage girl died at the end. Anyway, I showed it to one adult I thought would be impressed, but the person wasn't remotely interested in reading it, although that adult pretended to have read it. But I knew that person was lying. Anyway, I was told that it was "nice," but when I pressed by asking, "But what did you think of the way she died at the end?" and other such questions, the answer was, "Yes, I told you it was nice! It was all very nice!" But I hadn't been trying to write a "nice" story, I'd tried to write a story that touched hearts. After that, I continued writing novels by hand until around 8th grade. But I definitely need to feel that I'm writing for someone, so I ended up reading the novels out loud to my little sisters, who were a great audience. But I wouldn't even admit to anyone else, not even close friends, that I secretly wrote novels; just my sisters knew. Then all of the sudden, I couldn't complete novels anymore; I'd start writing them and then lose interest. Then in 9th grade, I took a Creative Writing class where I learned to write poetry. I didn't really get back into writing novels again until after I was married with 2 kids.
Q: What motivated you to become an indie author?
After carefully researching agents, I sent a couple of queries out, but looking at the market, I realized there was no way books like mine would ever get published traditionally, not even if I could somehow make them the best-written novels ever. And this realization only came after I'd invested in a 6-month course to revise this novel. As far as I can tell, there is no one who will publish novels in which the characters AREN'T secular Liberals. In today's climate, religious or conservative (including pro-Israel) characters are only okay as bad guys or characters to look down on or laugh at.
Q: Why did you choose another pen name?
I have a book written for early teens under the name Dassie Dahan. But Tough Like Her really covers harsher themes with adult humor--nothing at all vulgar or remotely R-rated, but definitely adult. I know that many authors successfully write all different genres under one name, but for me, it just didn't feel right. And I was concerned that Tough Like Her would be picked up by or for a kid by mistake. So I published it under the name Hadas Yisrael.
Q: What's the story behind your latest book?
Tough Like Her is a book about teshuvah, but not obviously so. I went through a stage in which I was obsessed with the Enneagram and the Type 8 personality intrigued me. I wondered how an unhealthy 8 could possibly do teshuvah and move up the levels of emotional health. So I just started writing. The main character is an unhealthy Type 8, a very hard mother who's successful in a cutthroat businesslike manner, and she's raising an intelligent, sensitive teenage daughter from her first marriage. The mother keeps pushing the daughter to be more like her, but when they go to the Gaza Strip on a business trip, the mother is kidnapped by terrorists wannabees. It's a turning point for the mother because she realizes that the blindfolded, handcuffed forced trek into a cell is metaphorically what she has been doing to her daughter.
There is also a character who lives under the threat of being "honor"-killed by her father or brother because she had been dating a non-Muslim.
So the book is really about mother-daughter relationships and emotional growth and self-transformation, but a pro-Israel theme pops up halfway through, although the pro-Israel theme never takes over the novel. But see what I mean? There is no way that such a novel would be accepted by traditional publishers today. It's just not PC enough.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
Miriam Cohen, even though she only wrote two books: Behind the Wall and A Daughter of Two Mothers. The latter book especially resonates with me. I love the language and the people and the way Miriam writes. They're both true stories and I just love them.
Rabbi Marcus/Meir Lehman is another favorite. It took me a few pages to get used to his more literary language, but the stories are mostly true and absolutely incredible. I think he is the example for frum story-writing: He mixes great, exciting writing with incredible plots and you learn a lot about Judaism along the way. Yes, he based his books on true stories, but still, he had to know which stories to choose. He also invested in tremendous research and really knew whatever was available at that time--the late 1800s.
Rivka Levy's Books: