Author Alyson Richman & The Mask Carver’s Son

Posted by on Sep 13, 2013 in Author Interviews | 2 comments

Author Alyson Richman & The Mask Carver’s Son

mask carverToday we welcome mutli-published author, Alyson Richman, to Between the Sheets. Alyson’s novels have been nominated for several awards including a Book Sense Notable Pick in 2006 and  best books of 2012 by the Jewish Journal of Books. In addition, they have been translated into fifteen languages world wide. THE MASK CARVER’S SON, her first novel, has just been re-released and given a beautiful new cover! In celebration, we talk with her today.

How do you find inspiration for your stories?

All of my stories begin with a question in my head.  When I find that the question is needling me, it’s usually a sign that there is a novel in there somewhere!  For example, “A Rhythm of Memory, the question arose after I met a friend who’s mother was incarcerated in the Villa Grimaldi, a prison that was used to interrogate political prisoners during the Pinochet regime in Chile.  Music was piped into the prison cells so inmates couldn’t hear the brutal interrogations being done in the cells next to them.  My friend’s mother couldn’t listen to music after she was released and I began to wonder how does someone who now associates something terrible with something we all consider beautiful, come to heal from that experience?  That was the question that began the genesis for that novel….

Your publisher is reissuing your first novel, THE MASK CARVER’S SON. Can you talk about how this came to be?

 I’m very lucky to now be with a wonderful publisher Penguin/ Berkley.  After the success of my fourth novel, “The Lost Wife,” they were interested in having all of my previous titles back in print and under their imprint.  My agent worked to get my rights back from the publishers who had originally published them and now all my books will be in paperback and ebook form for my readers to enjoy.  I’m so happy about this because all my books have either a thread of music or art in them, “The Mask Carver’s Son” is about a Japanese artist who travels to France study with the Impressionists, so I’m hoping if my readers learned a lot from “The Lost Wife,” how an artist survives the Holocaust, they’ll be also interested in my other novels.

lost wifeWhat does your research process look like?

Typically, I spend close to a year researching for my novel.  I travel to the country I’m writing about, interview people relevant to the research, and harvest as many images I can whether it’s through observation or going through archival photographs.  At the same time, I begin to think about the characters and hold them in my head, shaping them as one might a piece of clay, adding on features, history as I continue to simultaneously do my research.  Only after feel I have a deep understanding of the place, the history, and the characters do I begin to write.  At that point, it just flows out of me and I don’t have to stop and start to do the research.

Writing novels about a time period different from your own comes with a set of challenges–points of view with differing social mores, culture norms, etc. How do you overcome them?

For me, it’s all about a strong base of research. Once I have that, the voices of the characters and their cultural history is just a natural extension.  Sometimes I feel like the voices of my characters, especially when I’m writing in the first person, which I did with three of my novels (The Mask Carver’s Son, The Last Van Gogh and The Lost Wife) are speaking through me.

Can you share with us what you’re working on?

My next novel, Dragonfly, is about a cellist in the Italian Resistance who sends coded messages through her music.  It was wonderful to explore how female messengers were used by the Resistance to transmit codes.  I was fascinated how one could use a form of art to communicate during this dangerous period in history.  And having had the opportunity to meet 90 year old partisans and messengers while I was in Italy, was such a gift.


Son, The Rhythm of Memory (formerly published as Swedish Tango), The Last Van Gogh and The Lost Wife. Her books have received both national and international critical acclaim and have been translated into fifteen languages. The Last Van Gogh was nominated as a Book Sense Notable Pick in 2006 and The Lost Wife was nominated as one of the best books of 2012 by the Jewish Journal of Books. A graduate of Wellesley College and a former Thomas J. Watson Fellow, she currently lives with her husband and children in Long Island, New York. Her fourth novel, The Lost Wife, was The 2012 Long Island Reads Selection and is now a national best seller with over 100,000 books in print.

Her next novel “The Garden of Letters” about a messenger for the Italian Resistance who sends coded messages through her music will be published by Berkley/Penguin in October 2014.

For more about Alyson or to purchase her novels, visit her website HERE 


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Melissa Crytzer Fry

    I’ve been dying to read the Lost Wife, which came highly recommended to me by author Jessica McCann – and it’s so fun to read about the research process for authors of historical fiction. I’m writing my first novel in a historical time frame (dual period) and find I’m a bit overwhelmed. But I like the approach of ‘research first’ then ‘writing’.

    What fun that your rights have been re-negotiated and your previous works will now be available for us to read!

  2. Trish Dolasinski

    I have just completed my debut historical novel, WATERSHED. I am pitching it and have some interest by agents. I did exactly what you described and found it to be so helpful in writing the Vietnam era story. I just order The Lost Wife on my Kindle and look forward to reading it. I enjoyed Jessica McCann’s debut novel as well and would be interested in books she recommends as well. Congratulations on your amazing success, Alyson! Trish

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