Friday, April 13, 2018

Interview with crime fiction novelist Ellis Shuman

I’m wrapping up the week with mystery novelist Ellis Shuman. We’re chatting about his crime fiction thriller, The Burgas Affair.

Welcome, Ellis. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am an American-born Israeli author, travel writer, and book reviewer. I served in the Israeli army; was a founding member of a kibbutz; and have worked in the hotel industry and online marketing. My writing has appeared in The Times of Israel, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, The Oslo Times, and Israel Insider. My earlier books are The Virtual Kibbutz and Valley of Thracians. My wife and I lived for two years in Sofia, Bulgaria, and our home is Moshav Neve Ilan, a small community outside Jerusalem.

Please tell us about your current release.
The Burgas Affair is a fictional account of the investigation of a very real terrorist attack. On July 18, 2012, a bomb detonated inside a bus at Burgas Airport in Bulgaria. Five Israeli tourists and their Bulgarian bus driver were killed in the blast. As no one was ever held responsible for the bombing, I envisioned a joint Bulgarian-Israeli investigation. A headstrong Bulgarian detective is teamed up with a young Israeli analyst on her first overseas assignment. The two must track down the terrorists behind the attack, while at the same time confront the demons from their past.

What inspired you to write this book?
During the two years I lived in Sofia, I fell in love with Bulgaria and most of my writing these days, both fiction and non-fiction, is based on my experiences there. Having grown up in Israel where, unfortunately, suicide bombings and terrorist attacks are an ever-present security danger, I assumed Bulgaria to be a completely safe place to live. That is why the terrorist attack at Burgas Airport was so upsetting to me. I read every media report about the bombing and the investigation in its aftermath. As the terrorists were never caught, my creative mind came up with some possible explanations. I envisioned a joint Bulgarian-Israeli investigation and the end result was my novel, The Burgas Affair.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My next novel will again focus on Bulgaria - Israel relations. The two countries have a very strong connection these days, as well as a shared history. During World War II, Bulgaria sided with the Nazis. Even so, Bulgaria refused to allow its Jewish citizens to be sent to the concentration camps. The entire Jewish community survived the war. (A sad side note is that more than 11,000 Jews from territories controlled by Bulgaria during the war were murdered by the Nazis). After the establishment of the State of Israel, the majority of Bulgaria’s Jewish community moved to Israel.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have been writing ever since I was a child and I have been writing on the Internet ever since I first got a computer. I have enjoyed blogging about my life and my family. When we lived in Bulgaria, my wife and I blogged together. Our blog, “Ellis and Jodie’s Bulgarian Adventure”, was a way to share our life in Sofia with family and friends. Upon our return to Israel, I began blogging on “Ellis Shuman Writes”.

My very first post on The Huffington Post was entitled “10 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Bulgaria”. The article went viral and was translated, without my permission, into Bulgarian twice. As a result of my growing popularity in Bulgaria, I was able to get a book deal with a major Bulgarian publisher. My novel The Burgas Affair was initially published in Bulgarian in 2016.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I wish I could write full-time! The most difficult part of writing, for me, has always been finding the time to write. When I come home from work each day I am too tired to be creative. Weekends are devoted to family. Luckily, I was able to solve this problem. I start every day by sitting down at a coffee shop, writing for at one hour while drinking a cup of cappuccino. I don’t hear the other customers or the coffee machines. And, I accomplish quite a bit.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I wouldn’t define my habit of writing in a coffee shop to be that quirky, because many of the other customers also work on their laptops at that hour of the day. Even so, I often get carried away and lose track of time. On many occasions I am nearly late to work because I have been concentrating on my writing. And from time to time, I find my coffee getting cold because I forget to drink it.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Ever since I was a child, I have wanted to be an author. My inspiration for writing came from my father, who was a journalist at the local newspaper. When I was in grade school, I wrote and sold a neighborhood newspaper during the summer months. I would go door to door, asking the people for news about their family and their summer plans. My father would help me type up their answers and print copies of the paper, which I then sold door-to-door at ten cents a copy. Sometimes I managed to sell advertisements as well.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Most Americans could not place Bulgaria on the map. My writing is my way of introducing the country to readers. I hope they will be as fascinated with Bulgaria’s culture, nature, history, and people as I am, and I encourage them to travel there. In addition, I have a deep love for Israel, where I live. My fiction is a creative attempt to highlight the connection between Bulgaria and Israel. I hope readers enjoy my writing!


Thanks for being here today, Ellis!

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