Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Interview with Jeffrey F. Barken

The Digital Ink Spot: Please introduce youself to the readers.

My name is Jeffrey F. Barken. I am the author of This Year in Jerusalem, a collection of short stories loosely based on my experiences as a kibbutz volunteer in Israel 2009-2010. During the time I was abroad, I lived, worked, and traveled throughout the middle east. My fiction re-imagines the country and the characters I met in a series of interconnected stories that leave readers feeling as though they have read a full length novel. Each story is beautifully illustrated by Irish artist,  Diana Muller. There is a short Author's note at the back of the book explaining how we met.    


I first published This Year in Jerusalem in May of 2013 and have been on book tour ever since, promoting the collection. Last summer I traveled first to Scotland, Ireland and Germany where Diana and I teamed up for a book signing event. Later I traveled to Israel where I spent 11 months riding the trains daily, traveling up and down the country, introducing myself to strangers in Hebrew and English, and peddling books. The Tour was a great success. The book sold over 1,000 copies and an additional 100 copies were purchased by the Norman Tel Aviv Hotel, a boutique establishment that will feature the book in all of its guest rooms. The stories do not advance any political ideology or arrogant propaganda. On the contrary they offer a refreshing outsider's perspective of Israeli culture and the conflicts that plague the region. It's the perfect read for first time visitors! 


The Digital Ink Spot: What are you trying to accomplish as a writer? What is your latest story about?

Jeffrey F. Barken: In addition to writing fiction I am also the founder and chief editor of Monologging.org, an online literary arts magazine that connects writers with artists around the world encouraging collaborative multimedia creation. The publication also provides weekly arts-related reporting. My ambition as a writer and a publicist is to assist in building creative networks that can provide writers and artists with quality feedback, and to promote artistic experimentation. In my own fiction, I try to tell the truth about our world, chronicling emotions and events through the eyes of lovable though often deeply faulted characters. My current work in progress is a novel entitled "All the Lonely Boys in New York," it tells the story of a failed terrorist attack in New York City, and reflects on the early days of the credit crisis, when banks and companies were failing daily...


The Digital Ink Spot: When is your newest book available or when did you start writing?
Jeffrey F. Barken: I wrote "All the Lonely Boys in New York" at the same time that I was writing "This Year in Jerusalem," The two books share some of the main characters, and offer a continuation of different plot lines... Diana and I are again working together to design an illustrated book that will likely debut spring or summer of 2015.


The Digital Ink Spot: Where can readers find you?
Jeffrey F. Barken: Readers can read reviews and personal posts about my writing at jeffreybarken.comI am on Facebook as well as twitter.


Explore Monologging.org today to see how I'm creating an engaged artistic community and to explore great multimedia creations!


The Digital Ink Spot: What sets your stories apart from the rest?

Jeffrey F. Barken: As a writer, I've always subscribed to Hemingway's time-honored advice; write truly, based on what you know, and do your best work, given the time and the circumstances... My collection of short stories, This Year in Jerusalem, was inspired by my experiences abroad and therefore came from a very personal place. I think readers appreciate the adventure spirit that shines throughout the book as strange and unexpected encounters with eccentric character lead the narrator to make emotional confessions and detailed musings. The fact that all the stories connect adds another element, allowing readers to interact with each story in intriguing ways. Likewise, working with Diana to illustrate the book was an amazing and extremely fulfilling experience. She has never traveled to Israel, yet her pictures, based on my words, capture what I had witnessed abroad exactly. I take her amazing effort to portray my scenes as confirmation that I've done my work well, telling a story truthfully and honestly. Since publishing TYIJ, I've continued to grow as a writer and am taking new risks. I now feel confident imagining characters who exist wholly outside my personal experiences and am throwing them into the mix with other more rational personalities. I'm experimenting writing thrillers with fantastical elements and look forward to bringing out my first novel in the coming year!