Friday, August 16, 2013

Helene Wecker

Helene Wecker grew up in Libertyville, Illinois, a small town north of Chicago, and received her Bachelor’s in English from Carleton College in Minnesota. After graduating, she worked a number of marketing and communications jobs in Minneapolis and Seattle before deciding to return to her first love, fiction writing. Accordingly, she moved to New York to pursue a Master’s in fiction at Columbia University.

She now lives near San Francisco with her husband and daughter.

The Golem and the Jinni is Wecker's first novel.

From her Q & A with Foyles:

What made you think of mixing an East European mythical character - the Golem - with the Arabian Djinni?

The idea came from a conversation with a friend at Columbia University, when I was in graduate school. I was writing a set of linked short stories, based on tales from my own family history (I'm Jewish) and my husband's (he's Arab American). Only problem was, the stories weren't good enough, and I knew it. They didn't have much energy, and just sort of lay there on the page. Looking back, I think I was too familiar with the details; they felt like worn retellings, instead of something I was discovering anew. I complained about it to a friend of mine in my workshop, basically saying 'What on earth am I going to do?' She knew my reading habits, and asked me why I was writing in this very realist style, instead of something closer to the sci-fi and fantasy that I loved to read. It made a lightbulb go off: of course! So I swapped my Jewish girl and Arab-American boy for two fantastical creatures, taken from the folklore of each culture. The rest of the novel fell out from there.

Why do you think these two have endured and remained so potent?

Like the best of our imagined monsters, golems and djinn address specific questions about human nature. In creating them, we take a worrisome aspect of ourselves, blow it up larger than life, and set it loose to wreak all sorts of havoc. With golems, it's the perennial question of what happens when...[read on]
View the video trailer for The Golem and the Jinni and visit Helene Wecker's website.

Writers Read: Helene Wecker.

The Page 69 Test: The Golem and the Jinni.

--Marshal Zeringue