For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book please?
Others may find my answer strange, but becoming an author was never a career choice or life plan. Writing became a passion only after I tried a variety of other retirement hats – becoming an emergency medical technician, driving the fire trucks and ambulances, searching for treasure with my metal detector, guiding a historical preservation project, raising funds for our local hospice, trying to learn Spanish, trying to write apps for Androids, and taking calculus courses online.
I was drawn to writing because I wanted my grandchildren to know about my father. My first book, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, told his story. He was a holocaust survivor – not a hero but simply an ordinary man who walked through life one step at a time, with grace and dignity, even in the most horrific and extraordinary circumstances. When readers selected the book as a 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards nominee for best memoir/autobiography, I couldn’t believe it. That’s when I became hooked on writing.
My new book, The Other Mrs. Samson, is my third. It tells the story of three people – Hilda, born in 1884 and raised in a wealthy San Francisco family; Katie, a German girl born twenty-five years later; and Dr. Josef Samson, a Berlin Jew, whom they both loved and married. While neither a romance novel nor a war story, the book is about privilege, struggle, survival, and escape. For me, it is a story about love. And the thing about love is it can be complicated and emotional.
Where did you get the idea from?
From the people I know, the stories I heard, and from a small black lacquered antique cabinet in the attic. It had been hidden in a corner for nearly fifteen years when I rediscovered it one day. I knew where it came from and why we had it but knew little about its journey or the secrets it would lead me to uncover. That’s when I found the missing clues to questions I have been trying to answer and the riddles I have wanted to unravel for years.
Tell me about your characters. How did you create them? What was your writing process?
The people – Hilda, Katie, and Josef are all real. So are the places and events. I did change a few names to preserve some privacy. To create the story, I had to connect many dots. While I knew Katie quite well, there was always a wall of privacy that surrounded her. For the others, I had to dig. And, of course, I was left to my own imagination to portray their personalities. I think the characters make the story and I hope that readers can relate to them in some way and can witness the events through their eyes.
As for the process, when I am working on a book, I write from early morning until late in the afternoon when it’s time for Scrabble and martinis. For me, writing a book (and finishing) is a very intense undertaking, filled with long days and restless nights, an all or nothing proposition. I try to avoid distractions because I know I can be easily tempted. The only sound I want to hear is the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.
Do you have a favourite author?
One author who always comes to mind is Carlos Ruiz Zafόn. He paints amazing pictures with his words. I thought the Shadow of the Wind was an absolutely wonderful book and recommend it. I like authors who make the story authentic and write to entertain, inform, and excite the reader. I enjoy books with a good ending.
If you could meet any author, who would it be? And, what would you ask?
That is a much more difficult question. There are so many who impress me. I tend to enjoy serious books that have a well written story, books that genuinely develop the characters so you feel you intimately know the personalities. My interests are wide – biographies, historical, political, and stories with a good plot. What would I ask? I would ask how they could start with a blank canvas and create what they created. And, with all that would be rolling around in their heads how could they ever sleep?
Were you a big reader as a child? What about writing?
My mother loved to read and always encouraged me to learn about the world through books. I never saw my father read a book. So I suppose I was somewhere in the middle. As for writing? Most would tell you that I excelled at talking but never writing. In school, I was the kid sent to wood shop, never advanced English or literature class. My aptitude was numbers, never words.
Are you working on a new book at the moment?
At the moment I am taking a rest and focusing my attention on taking part in book club discussions. I love to interact with readers. I learn so much from the comments of others. And with Zoom and Skype it is so easy to do virtually – anywhere around the globe. Perhaps I will try to write again one day but right now book clubs are far more interesting.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
They can email me anytime at email@example.com or go to my website: ralphwebster-author.com. I always enjoy the conversation.
Surviving two wars, sharing one husband, searching for answers.
A hidden compartment in a black lacquer cabinet left in an attic reveals the secrets of two incredible women: Hilda, born and raised in one of the wealthiest Jewish families in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, and Katie, whose early life in Germany is marked by tragedy and death. Their lives are forever entwined by their love of the same man, the brilliant and compassionate Dr. Josef Samson.
From the earliest, rough-and-tumble days of San Francisco, through the devastation of the Great War in Berlin and the terrors of Vichy France, and then to a new yet uncertain life in New York City, their stories span the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. In the end, one of these women will complete the life of the other and make a startling discovery about the husband they share.
About Ralph Webster
Award winning author Ralph Webster received worldwide acclaim for his first book, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, which tells the story of his father’s flight from the Holocaust. Voted by readers as a Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards Nominee for Best Memoir/Autobiography, A Smile in One Eye: A Tear in the Other, his second book, One More Moon, and now his third book, The Other Mrs. Samson, are proven book club selections for thought-provoking and engaging discussions. Whether in person or online, Ralph welcomes and values his exchanges with readers and makes every effort to participate in conversations about his books.