I’m delighted to welcome back Jennifer Wilck for an interview and a look at her new contemporary romance, The Seduction of Esther
Hi, Jennifer. Tell us a little about The Seduction of Esther:
The Seduction of Esther is a contemporary romance with a Jewish theme. Revolving around the holiday of Purim, it is the story of two people who have to learn to stop hiding pieces of themselves in order to find love.
Samara Goldberg has a problem even the most beautiful singing voice can’t fix. She’s a walking disaster, especially when she’s around handsome men. To make matters worse, she’s in desperate need of someone to play the character of Mordecai for the Purim spiel she’s producing and the new congregant, Nathaniel Abramson, is a perfect fit. Nathaniel is a divorced dad who’s recovering from the biggest public scandal of his life. The last thing he needs is a relationship with the choir director at his new synagogue, who also happens to be playing the lead female role of Esther in the very play he’s been coerced into joining.
Woven around the Jewish holiday of Purim, The Seduction of Esther is a story of two people whose lives mirror the plot of the Purim story. Like Esther, who had to hide her Jewish identity from the King of Persia, Samara and Nathaniel are hiding key pieces of themselves. Evil Haman wanted to destroy the Jews, and the nasty Josh will do anything to keep Samara and Nathaniel apart. Will their love survive, like the Jewish people in Shushan, Persia, or will their fear keep them apart?
What inspired this story?
While I’ve loved reading stories that mention (even in passing) Christmas, going to church, etc., I wanted to see if I could come up with a contemporary romance that had Jewish characters that wasn’t classified as chick lit. I worked really hard with my critique partner, who isn’t Jewish, to make sure that the story is interesting to everyone and that everything is explained in a seamless way. Hopefully, I did that. And Purim is a fun holiday to work into a romance for many reasons. One, it involves hiding ones identity, and that provides lots of conflict. Two, it’s a joyous holiday involving costumes and parties and food. And three, the story is told as a play, so readers who aren’t familiar with it, will learn about it.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a sequel to The Seduction of Esther, which will focus on the holiday of Passover and give the secondary characters from the Esther story their own spotlight. Additionally, I’m working on another contemporary romance that was inspired by an old Victorian mansion I saw. I hope to have both of them completed this year.
How do you come up with ideas?
There are lots of ways I come up with ideas. Sometimes, I see something that inspires me, like the Victorian house, or a secondary character in a movie or TV show. Other times, I start hearing dialog in my head (I swear I’m not crazy!) or I’ll picture a scene right before I drift off to sleep—the trick there is remembering it enough to write it down later.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy disappearing into my characters and their world. For me, it’s a form of escapism. I can get away from the stress of everyday life and solve all problems with a few keystrokes.
Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, character, or…?
I start with whatever I have in my head and get that down. Then I try to turn it into an actual story. Sometimes, it remains nothing more than a scene or a cool character. Other times, I’m able to come up with the plot, the beginning-middle-end, etc. I’m definitely NOT a plotter though. I tried it once and it was horrible! Kudos to those of you who can do it—I’m in awe!
What is the best thing about being an author?
I get to see my creation in print and I get to hear people’s opinions about what I write. I’ve had to learn to get comfortable with that, because I kept what I was doing a secret until I got my first contract offer, and at that time, I’d been writing for years. But little by little, I’m more comfortable in my “author skin” and I’m enjoying myself.
Do you have a favorite time of day for writing?
That’s changed over the years. I used to write at night after the kids went to bed. But now that they’re older, and I’m way more tired J, I try to write late morning to early afternoon while they’re in school.
What is your favorite scene from this story and why?
I love the scene where the hero, Nathaniel, takes his young daughter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and they meet up the heroine, Samara. I love the interactions between the adults and the child and with the adults themselves as they explore their relationship while looking at art.
How do you balance writing and everyday life?
Ha! There’s a balance? My goal has been to get my writing done while the kids are in school, the same way I would work out of the house while they were in school. So I guess I look at it as a job, which is good. Unfortunately, a lot of times life does get in the way, and it’s a bit tricky to get everything done. But I have a very supportive family and they give me space when I need to get writing done.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
Actually, I have two. One is Block Island. My uncle has a house there and I love visiting and dream of one day spending a lengthy period of time there writing. The other is Paris. I was a French major in college and lived in France and have visited several times and can’t wait to go back!
What do you like to read?
I love to read, period. But my favorite romance to read is usually historical, even though I write contemporary. I love the different time periods and I think you can get away with a lot more when you’re not dealing with modern times.
Who first introduced you to the love of reading?
I have a lot of writers in my family and my great uncle sent me books all the time, starting with the Wizard of Oz series. My dad would read them to me at night.
These are few of my favorite things:
3. Refinishing furniture
And Jennifer has a question for you all: One of the things we do on Purim is dress up. What’s your favorite thing to dress up as?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was one of Nathaniel’s and Zoe’s favorite places to spend a Sunday afternoon.
“Look, Dad, there’s Ms. Goldberg.”
“Where?” His interest in the paintings disappeared as he scanned the room for her.
Zoe half pulled, half dragged Nathaniel across the cavernous space. Samara stood in front of The Dance Lesson, by Edgar Degas.
Nathaniel remained motionless as Zoe grabbed Samara’s arm. Was it his imagination, or did an electric current pass from Samara to him through Zoe? He pulled his hand out of his daughter’s grasp and smiled.
“Zoe, Nathaniel, hi!” Samara’s smile lit up her face and Nathaniel’s chest tightened. He tried to breathe and talk at the same time, resulting in stilted conversation. He could only hope he sounded like less of an idiot than he felt.
“Hello. I hope we didn’t disturb you.”
Samara gave Zoe’s shoulders a squeeze. “Not at all. I see we had the same idea for the day.” She gestured around the crowded gallery.
“We come here all the time,” Zoe piped up. “Last time we saw sculptures, but this gallery is my favorite.”
“Really? Well, I like the Impressionists too. Which one do you like best?”
Nathaniel listened as Zoe and Samara had an intense discussion about artists. For a seven-year-old, Zoe could hold her own in the discussion, Nathaniel marveled. Or maybe it was Samara’s way of keeping the conversation at a level Zoe could handle, without talking down to her. He watched Samara’s entire body get involved in the conversation—her expressive face animated as she discussed an artist she liked, her arms and hands gesticulating and hair bouncing. He smiled and leaned against the wall. If they hadn’t been in the museum, you would have thought they were spoke about their favorite kid TV show or something else enthralling to a child. Zoe gave as good as she got—although a little louder than Samara, she bounced from one leg to the other and continued to touch Samara on the arm when she wanted to make a point. Nathaniel almost felt tired just looking at them.
“Daddy, Ms. Goldberg wants to show me something by Manet. Come on!”
He pushed off the wall and followed behind them. Samara turned back and raised an eyebrow at him, as if to half apologize and half ask permission. He shrugged his shoulders and followed them into another gallery, where they stopped in front of The Spanish Singer.
“Look, Daddy, he plays the guitar just like Ms. Goldberg!”
Samara and Nathaniel smiled at this and watched Zoe wander around the gallery.
“She’s very into art,” Samara noted.
“She’s very into everything. Would you like to join us?”
“I’d love to, but I don’t want to intrude.”
They followed Zoe and admired the paintings. Brush strokes, textures and colors leaped off the canvas and brought the images to life. Other museum patrons stopped by to listen as Samara or Zoe discussed the merits of one painting over another. They’d nod, smile and walk away, only to be replaced by others. Nathaniel found himself with a new appreciation for some of the pieces he wouldn’t have taken a second glance at under other circumstances, as well as a new appreciation for Samara. Music might be her passion, but art also gave her vitality that made everyone around them want to be close to her. Her eyes sparkled, their brown irises dappled with a depth that rivaled the masters hung on the walls. Her skin glowed and Nathaniel tried in vain to find a matching skin tone in the pictures. This one was too pale, that one too rose, another too sallow. He didn’t know the color name, couldn’t explain the texture, but his fingers trembled with a desire to run down her arm, to caress her cheek.
Samara leaned over to point out the shape of a woman’s body in the painting. Nathaniel gulped. All he could see was Samara—the shape of her breasts as they strained against her silk blouse, the curve of her hip accentuated by the soft blue denim of her jeans. As Samara described the subject of Pissarro’s painting, Nathaniel traced Samara’s body with his eyes and stifled a groan. He imagined his fingers as they slipped in between the buttons of her blouse, the silk fabric sliding over his skin, his calloused hands tracing her ribcage and her soft breasts as he undid each button and revealed her to him. His gaze lowered as he found the button of her jeans. In his mind, he unzipped the zipper and lowered them over her hips. His hands cupped her rear and drew her close to him.
Bio: When I was a little girl and couldn’t fall asleep, my mother would tell me to make up a story. Pretty soon, my head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Each character had a specific personality, a list of likes and dislikes, and sometimes, even a specific accent or dialect. Even as an adult, I think about the characters and stories at night before I fall asleep, or in the car on my way to or from one of my daughters’ numerous activities (hey, anything that will drown out their music is a good thing).
One day, I started writing them down (it was either that or checking into the local mental hospital—the computer was way less scary). Since then, I’ve published two contemporary romances with Whiskey Creek Press. The Seduction of Esther is my first book with Rebel Ink Press, and I’m excited to be part of their team.
In the real world, I’m the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men I know. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading, traveling and watching TV. In between chauffeuring my daughters to after-school activities that require an Excel spreadsheet to be kept straight, I serve on our Temple Board and volunteer for way more things than I have time to do. I also write freelance articles for magazines, newspapers, and edit newsletters.
When all of that gets overwhelming, I retreat to my computer, where I write stories that let me escape from reality. In my made-up world, the heroines are always smart, sassy and independent. The heroes are handsome and strong with just a touch of vulnerability. If I don’t like a character, I can delete him or her; if something doesn’t work, I can rewrite it. It’s very satisfying to be in control of at least one part of my life.
Jennifer can be reached at:
Blog (Fried Oreos): www.jenniferwilck.wordpress.com
Blog (Heroines With Hearts): www.heroineswithhearts.blogspot.com.
The Seduction of Esther will be available June 3 through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance. Paper book will follow shortly