Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Interviewed by Bulgarians in Detroit



Recently I was contacted by Daniela Natcheva, editor of the electronic newsletter, Bulgarians in Detroit. Daniela interviewed me about my book Valley of Thracians, my connection to Bulgaria, and the similarities (and differences) between Bulgaria and Israel. The interview appeared in the May 2017 edition of the newsletter. Included here is the interview.


Where do you live now? Have you visited Bulgaria again (after 2010)?  

I was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and moved to Israel with my family when I was fifteen years old. I have worked in many different jobs and eventually ended up in online marketing. My position was relocated to Sofia for two years (2009-2010). Upon my return to Israel I found myself thinking constantly about Bulgaria. My experiences in Bulgaria gave me inspiration for my writing, and the novel Valley of Thracians was the result.

My wife and I returned to Bulgaria for the first time in 2015. It was good to reconnect with friends. While we had traveled extensively during our two years, we had never been in the Rhodopes - and this was the most memorable part of this visit.

We returned to Bulgaria again in 2016 when The Burgas Affair was published in Bulgarian. The novel was presented in Sofia at a book signing.

Are you planning to write another book?

Valley of Thracians was self-published in 2013 and The Burgas Affair was published in Bulgarian in 2016. I have not yet found a publisher for The Burgas Affair in English, so I will probably self-publish it myself in the coming months.

I have also recently completed a third novel, again with a connection to both Bulgaria and Israel. I hope that will be published within the next year.

Why did you decide to write a novel (Valley of Thracians)? Your first book is short stories about Israel.  

My first book of short stories explored my experiences working and living on a kibbutz in Israel. My wife and I were founding members of Kibbutz Yahel, in Israel's south. While we ended up leaving the kibbutz, we still have fond memories of living there and being young pioneers turning the desert green (something quite literal - as we worked in agriculture among other things).

After my years living in Bulgaria I had a desire to share those experiences. I came up with the idea of an American Peace Corps volunteer getting lost in the country and of efforts to find him, and that idea led to Valley of Thracians. I wanted to include aspects of Bulgaria's rich culture and history, without the novel being a historical novel. I hope readers will see it as an introduction to the country.

How different/similar is Bulgaria from Israel?  Many Bulgarians live in Izrael. Do you have Bulgarian friends there?

Bulgaria and Israel are alike in many ways, such as our having lived under Ottoman rule for centuries and our brave efforts to achieve independence. We are both countries with very long histories, although our years living as parliamentary democracies are relatively short. Both countries have rich cultures and traditions. The Bulgarian horo dance is almost the exact same as the Israeli hora dance.

Even so, there are major differences as well. Bulgaria is blessed with beautiful nature, for example, and there is not enough rainfall in Israel. While Bulgaria does have some religious strife between Christians and Muslims, this is nothing compared to the strife in Israel. And, of course, Israel is surrounded by enemies, a fact that forces us to maintain a strong military and have compulsory military service.

While I have met members of the Bulgarian Jewish community in Israel, I don't really interact with them.

Did you present your book (Valley of Thracians) and where?

I tried, unsuccessfully, to find a literary agent and a publisher for Valley of Thracians, In the end, I self-published it in January 2013. I did have some success promoting the book, although not financial success, and this is something I did entirely on my own.

Somewhere I read that you did not like in Bulgaria “the heavy smoking and the poor infrastructure”. How these problems are solved in Israel?

In Israel, infrastructure is very well-developed and the health care is excellent. Part of the reason is foreign assistance, which helps pay for the Israeli military, and another reason is donations from abroad. Still, there is much to improve in Israel, including the education system.

When I first came to Israel, people smoked everywhere - on buses, in movie theaters. Luckily there has been a strong movement to ensure that all citizens can live in a smoke-free environment. In addition, while use of drugs is outlawed in Israel, Israel is on the forefront of medical cannabis research and use. Israel is also a world leader in high tech innovation and startups.

You said in the acknowledgements “Bulgaria is an amazing country”. Why? How can we make this known by other people?

I do believe Bulgaria is amazing - and certainly a very affordable destination for western tourists. I hope that through my writing more people will become aware of what Bulgaria has to offer and this will encourage them to visit the country.

Thank you again to Daniela Natcheva and Bulgarians in Detroit!

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