Monday, 26 January 2015

Guest Author Interview - Mel Ostrov

In this week's Guest Author Interview I am joined by Mel Ostrov, author of 'Mud Castles':

Click on image to buy from Amazon

Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I was born in the U.S.A. during the Great Depression. My parents were poor immigrants from England – my father from the east side slums of London, my mother from Manchester. Both parents had only an elementary school education; both had to work to support their new family. Fortunately, the New York City schools, including Brooklyn College, were free. I proved to be a good student, serving on the math team and earning a science medal. After college I attended medical school, followed by a hospital internship, then residency in Internal Medicine followed by another year specializing in Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, going on to become a Fellow of the Academy (FAAAAI). During the Vietnam War I served in the U.S. Army for two years as a physician in an Army Hospital. By then I had a lovely wife and two wonderful children. After I was discharged at the rank of Major I joined a practice specializing in Allergies and Asthma. Now that I’m retired I have found time to write my first novel, Mud Castles.

What first inspired you to start writing?
In school, writing compositions and reports seemed to be merely a chore because I had to do it. However, when I became a contributor to medical journals and wrote articles for newspapers I found it to be quite enjoyable. From there it wasn’t much of a leap jumping to books.

Where did the idea for Mud Castles come from?
Believe it or not, the entire concept of Mud Castles did not present as an idea; it evolved. From early childhood I always empathized with other children in distress; I couldn’t bear to see them cry. That trait always persisted, but a physician adapts by mentally distancing himself in situations such as mental or physical suffering. After I retired from practice, I had the time to illustrate in writing how I thought an afflicted child may feel and react to his situation. After I created a boy with a birth defect it seemed only natural to have him acquire psychological problems. Then, it had to evolve into a situation where the parents would desperately attempt to help him. As I was writing, I realized that the concept of God and religion played an important part, not only in physical and mental anguish, but also in life and death. And so, the metaphor of Mud Castles came into play as the protagonists philosophized on the beach. I just made it all up as the story unfolded.

Which book has had the greatest impact on you and why?
“Arrowsmith” by Sinclair Lewis definitely had the greatest impact on me. My mother was an avid reader. She cherished and raved about her 1925 edition of the book (which I still own), enticing me to read it when I was about 12 years old. I attribute that story to my career in medicine, for after that I read every medical novel I could find in the public library (I couldn’t afford to buy a book).

Where do you like to write?
In the public library; it’s isolated, quiet and comfortable.

What makes your writing stand out?
They tell me that my style is “simplistic”, whatever that means; I guess it must be easy to read. The text of the book deals with important, controversial issues, some of which are depressing, but there are also dabs of humor and hope. Some readers regard it as a historical novel describing an interesting locale during a time gone by. Others appreciate the controversial messages buried in the story. A few people may even recognize and understand an occasional epithet like “Ofays” or the meaning of a dog’s foreign name.

What is your favourite song lyric?
It shouldn’t be surprising to see that an empathetic person’s favorite song lyrics are those that reflect hope in the face of sadness, suffering, anguish, or rejection. My favorite lyric is from “The Little White Cloud that Cried,” written and sung by Johnnie Ray:

…When all at once I saw in the sky
The little white cloud that cried
He told me he was very lonesome
And no one cared if he lived or died
And said sometimes the thunder and lightning
Make all little clouds hide
He said Have faith in all kinds of weather
For the sun will always shine
Do your best and always remember
The dark clouds pass with time

It’s reminiscent of Longfellow’s poem, Rainy Day:

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

What are you working on at the moment?
I‘m still involved with Mud Castles, looking into producing an audiobook and perhaps even a movie version, while thinking about a plot for a follow up book.

Tell us about your latest release and how we can find out more.
So far, Mud Castles is my only release. It’s a Coming-of-Age story of a boy as he learns about life and death. He was born with a permanent disfigurement on his face with no hope for correction. It proved to be a defining factor in his life. Raised in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn, New York, he had to endure taunts, mockery and bullying leading to pathological shyness and self-imposed social isolation. Over the years a family tragedy adds to his tribulations leading to religious conflict, followed by even more devastating consequences during adolescence when a mysterious girl enters the scene.

Click here to buy Mud Castles from Amazon

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