August 5, 2009

Interview & Giveaway with Gary Morgenstein

First I want to thank you for allowing me to interview you and for allowing me to host a giveaway. Thank you.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
When I was in kindergarden in the Bronx, the teacher called my mother to school and had her watch me through the old-fashioned grill in the wooden door. There I was, playing with pencils, making up some story, howling away as all the children stared in fascination. The teacher said, "Mrs. Morgenstein. Your son has a very vivid imagination. But he is disrupting the class. The kids would rather watch him than listen to me." My mother got hysterical, thinking her son would have to be institutionalized, lol. But that was my first story since, after all, writers are minstrels, strumming a guitar, racing a quill across parchment or pounding on a laptop, telling a tale. By eight I'd graduated to a pencil and paper.

Who has been your biggest inspiration? Can't say that I ever had one person with that kind of influence. There've been numerous historical figures I'd admired like Churchill, writers like Hemingway, Ronald Reagan for sure. But on a personal level, I've been blessed with wonderful friends whose love and support have meant the world to me.

How do you create the characters in your books? Are they based on people you know?
A writer feeds on his experiences, whether his own, others, maybe a stranger in the subway with an interesting expression. When I wrote Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman, that was prompted by my attending a bat-mitzvah and seeing the most gorgeous woman in the world walk onto the dais. I jabbed a guy next to me and asked, "Who's that hottie?" (not quite how it should've been phrased in a house of worship) and he grumbled, "Our rabbi." I wondered, what if an irreligious guy like me fell for a woman like that, and the novel was born. But I prefer to use the emotions of experiences to create new ones. Otherwise it's a memoir and you end up worrying about how you're re-creating, rather than creating. Plus it's boring and writing should never be boring otherwise what's the point? Jeez, it's difficult enough!

What is the one book that you think everyone should read? (Feel free to name your own) My favorite novel of mine is Jesse's Girl, maybe because it is from the perspective of a father, I am a father, and there is nothing so painfully powerful as parenting. When you marry they say til death do you part. As someone who was once married, that ain't true. But you are a parent until you die, which is why you see a lot of red-faced children of 60 rolling their eyes at their doting parents. But my favorite all-time novel is For Whom the Bell Tolls. An amazing love story, a thriller, which gets better every time I read it. That Hemingway sure could write.

If you couldn't be a writer, what profession would you choose?
Oh, a baseball player. Preferably playing center field for the New York Yankees like Joe DiMaggio and The Mick.

If you could trade places with anyone in the world, past or present, real or fiction, who would it be and why? Boy, just imagine being Winston Churchill in May 1940, knowing your courage and that of your island nation stood between Hitler and the new Dark Ages. What a terrifying and exhilirating time that must've been to live, confronting evil and saving the world. Yes, he is my hero!

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have 3 belongings, what would they be? A cell to call for help would be cheating, right, Bridget? Okay then. I'd need a book to read (I would be regretting not owning a Kindle). I'd need my iPod since I am a huge rock fan and I would want to dance. Holly Hunter doesn't qualify, does she? Sorry, sorry, can't kill me for trying. Probably sunscreen since I doubt any dermatologist would be making a house call.

What is your favorite movie of all time? The Godfather. A perfect movie. I've seen it several bazillion times. The theme is the ring tone for my cell. Boy do I get some strange looks. After that, Casablanca. Who wouldn't want to be the Bogie of screen?

What is the one thing that you want all of your fans to know?
That I deeply respect them because without readers, a writer is simply disembodied. The connection between author and audience is precious and you must NEVER fool them. They must believe what you have written is the truth of your heart.

MJ - Do you have children?
Yes, I have a wonderful teenage son!

Pam [I'm probably going to steal this question for future interviews, it's a great question. Hope you don't mind Pam:)]- If you could invite 5 people to dinner, who would they be and why? (living or dead, famous or not, real or fictitious)? Well certainly my hero, Winston Churchill. Jesus Christ, because he was a great and inspiring man. Moses, another great man. Thomas Jefferson, because I believe democracy is the greatest form of government ever, and Barry Goldwater, because he had such wonderful morals, so rare in our modern politicians.

Wanda - How many books have you written so far?
Four: Jesse's Girl, Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman, Take Me Out to the Ballgame and The Man Who Wanted to Play Center Field for the New York Yankees (yes a little autobiographical), which will be available on Amazon next spring. I've also written two plays, one of which, Ponzi Man -- talk about prophetic -- performed to sold-out crowds during the New York International Fringe Festival a few years ago.

Vicki - What's your favorite thing to do other than writing?
I love yoga. I studied martial arts for 15 years and got tired of hitting and being hit. So I turned to yoga about a year-and-a-half ago. I love rock music and dancing. I am also a huge movie buff and see EVERYTHING, even chick flicks. Pretty odd, this guy just hanging out with his popcorn all alone, sniffling at a sad scene.

And I thank YOU for inviting me into your online home:)

Now for the giveaway! Gary has kindly offered to give one lucky commenter the three books pictured below:

This giveaway is restricted to US and Canadian residents only.

TO ENTER (do any or all of the following) & make sure you leave a way for me to contact you:

+1 Ask Gary a question that was not asked during the interview (those who asked a question earlier to receive 5 extra entries may do this as well & don't worry, I've already given you the +5)(can be done once a day)
+1 Friend Gary on Book Blogs here.
+1 Friend Gary on Facebook here.
+5 for every place you link to this contest (CAN BE DONE ONCE A DAY - sidebar DOES count)

Ends 8/12 & winner will be notified via email.


  1. Mr. Morgenstein sounds like a fascinating man, and I shall have to look for his books! Any man who would think of hosting a dinner party for Churchill, Jesus, Moses, Jefferson, and Goldwater would have to be a man of great courage and quite a storyteller.

  2. How do you come up with names for your characters?
    wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. +1 Gary did you always want to be a writer?

    +5 Blogged on sidebar.

    cindyc725 at gmail dot com

  4. If you could have a dinner party and invite any person alive or dead who would you invite and why?

  5. My question is how do you ever get the ideas, I cannot even come with a great fiction or whatever paragraph. Thanks for the giveaway.

  6. I would like to know what type of writing schedule Mr. Morgenstein uses? Does he write everyday for a certain amount of time. Does he work in a home office, or at the dining room table? Does he write while on vacation?



  7. I would love the chance to win his books. They all sound wonderful, including the new one about the Yankees. I'm originally from NJ, now living in Wisconsin, and the Yankees are my baseball team.

    +1 - Gary, which genre do you like right better, fiction or non-fiction?

    +1 - Friended Gary on Book Blogs

    Thanks for the chance

    This would be a nice birthday present (bday 8/11). :):)

  8. Of course you can steal my question!

    I have a couple more...

    1) What would you serve at that interesting dinner party?

    2) What was the worst job you ever had?

    melacan at hotmail dot com

  9. I enjoyed this fascinating post about Mr. Morgenstein. I am captivated with this post and your talent and ability. What were your hopes and reams like as you were growing up?
    Did you ever travel and has this influenced your writing.
    Thanks for this great giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  10. Thanks for the interview, Bridget!

    Gary- What bad habit do you have that would probably drive all of us crazy? (We promise that we'll still love you!)

    I blogged it:

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  11. +5 I tweeted!
    imsosweepy { at } gmail { dot } com

  12. These all sounds like awesome books! Please enter me.

    If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?


  13. Thank so much! I am thrilled to have been chosen as the winner of these books! They all sound fantastic, although, I am especially excited to be able to read Jesse's Girl! Thanks again! Rebecca N.