Interview with Michelle Cohen Corasanti

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Thank you, Nimi from the Readers Cosmos, for giving me a chance to read ‘The Almond Tree’ and also to interview the much acclaimed Michelle Cohen Corasanti. Thanks Michelle, for giving us a book like this. It takes a lot of heart and courage to write a book like this. My favourite line from the book is “Good Things make choosing difficult, bad things leave no chance”.

How did this book come about? Did your stay in Israel help you? How challenging was writing this book?

The idea for The Almond Tree came about after I read The Kite Runner and realized that a writer can reach into readers’ hearts and change them. In addition, that book showed me how to put a westerner in eastern shoes. The Almond Tree is based on what I witnessed during the seven years I lived in Israel and what I learned during the almost decade I spent studying Middle Eastern studies in college. Writing The Almond Tree was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done because I wasn’t a writer. I was someone with a story to tell.

How long have you been writing? When did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve been writing for nine years. I decided to become a writer when I found a way to put people in my shoes and let them experience what I witnessed and learned when I lived in Israel.

Reading the atrocities that Ahmed and his family faced, I felt that you must have researched a lot. How much time did you spend on research?

In the book, I am the almond tree and I wrote about what I know. I did massive research on Gaza because, unlike the rest of the places in the book, I had never been there and I didn’t witness the events there personally or study them in college since they still hadn’t happened when I attended college. The section on Gaza took two years to write mainly because of the research and the fact that I lost perspective. I had fifteen years to digest and recover from what I witnessed and learned during the first three parts.

The cover depicts the soul of the book. How did it come about?

A Palestinian American read my book and identified with my protagonist. My protagonist grows up without a father and so did this man. In the US, one in three children grow up fatherless. The man on the cover also has two Masters’ degrees in science and is a model. He wanted to represent my protagonist.

How do you start a book: do you start with the characters or the plot? Was the main character Ahmed inspired from real life?

I started with a seed for the story that I got from a Palestinian I met at Harvard who was doing his post-doctorate with a Nobel Prize winner and his Israeli professor. I wanted to show how strong we could be if we worked together. Ahmed was a composite of many people I met over the years.

How did you market the book? Any advice to publishing authors?

The most effective marketing I did was giveaways on goodreads because one person who reads it usually tells many others so it spread that way. Also, I sent copies to reviewers whose reviews of other books I liked.

Though there is a lot more that I would like to ask, but I do not want to take up much of your time, is there any book you are working on now?

I’m finishing my next book. People have become very interested in my personal story, a Jewish American who writes in the voice of a Palestinian Muslim. My next book is by no means autobiographical, but I pulled a lot from my personal life in writing it.

Thank you once again Nimmi.

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