I’m pleased to welcome Ralph Webster to the blog today for my very first author interview! Ralph is the author of A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other.
Hi Ralph, thanks for taking part in this interview! Tell us about your book… what it’s about, and what inspired you to write it.
Last year my wife and I spent 8 weeks in Europe. This was a pleasure trip. We were doing lots of hiking and biking. Our trip took us from Croatia to Sweden and all parts in-between. We often traveled by train. This was at the time the international news was flooded with images of the refugee crisis.
I have a great compassion for those forced to leave their homelands and this is a story that history keeps repeating. The world continues to be confronted with issues of ethnic cleansing, immigration and how to cope with the influx of refugees. How can it be, in this day and age, that people are forced to leave the homes of their mothers and fathers through no fault of their own? Imagine what it would be like if you found yourself in this situation.
I wanted to convey that sense of helplessness – what it is like to be hated – what it is like to have to run for your life – what it is like to leave the country where your family has always lived – what it is like to leave family behind – what it is like to be totally disconnected and not know who has survived and who has not – what it is like to try to survive in a place with a different language and culture. And, I wanted to convey that sense of determination, of going forward with one’s life, and of keeping one’s perspective and outlook.
My father’s journey took place 75 years ago. Yet, the parallels with today’s world are clear. We need to learn from this story. That is what inspired me.
Great questions. Whenever someone asks me how long it took to write it, my answer is simple – 65 years. Putting it to paper took only a few months. Learning the story and thinking about it took a lifetime.
What resources did you use in writing your book? (e.g. documents, diaries, stories passed down through the family, etc.)
I suppose I did what most do when writing a memoir or biography. I constructed the timeline and filled in the blanks. In this case there were a considerable number of blanks and since the story took place many years ago there were many dots to connect. I relied upon old photos, researched from one end of the internet and back, consulted with various family members, corresponded with various archives and historic research organizations. Those who read the book often comment that it reads more like a historical novel than a memoir or a biography.
The title? It is a variation of an expression that my mother once used. She would say that life always finds the balance between a smile in one eye and a tear in the other. In 1914 Kahlil Gibran wrote a collection of parables, stories, and poems titled A Tear and A Smile. I am pretty sure that is where she first found it. For me, the title is a perfect fit.
There were many that were difficult to write and I really would rather not recite them here as they might give away too much of the story as I am sure you can understand. Here is one passage.
“I was miserable. I can’t find words to convey the extent of my misery. I was fourteen years old. I went to school. All of my classmates were taught to hate me, to hate everything about me and my family. My classmates were listening to their teachers.”“Mela and Joanie often ask me to talk about these years. I resist. What more can I say? I have nothing more to tell. Who would want to keep and share these memories?”
Somewhere between 50 and 80 million people lost their lives during World War II – about 3% of the world’s population. Nearly 20 million Russians died and 6 million Jews were murdered. That is the history. Denial will not change the facts. Let us allow humanity to learn from this terrible man-made tragedy.
Many great minds have wrapped their heads around this question. I am not sure that anyone has found the answer and certainly not me. I do believe that we always need to remain vigilant and be mindful of the violence in civilization’s history. We have to understand our history in order to change our future.
There is so much to be grateful for. But, if I would pick one thing it would be that it connects the generations. Writing a book like this is a medium that allows many things to be said, shared, and understood.
Hope, joy, and perseverance. Go forward one step at a time. Sometimes, no matter what, fate will take you to where you are going.
I think I am a one and done kind of guy. I never imagined myself as a writer and this has been quite the journey. Maybe I will go back to walking the beach with my metal detector looking for lost treasure. Or, perhaps my wife and I will get a van, drive around, and meet with book clubs. She says that, given my ego, I would probably put a sign on the door that says “Author inside – Honk if you want a signed copy!”
About the Author
Ralph Webster is retired and lives with his wife Ginger in the United States on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. An enthusiastic world traveler, he is the son of immigrant parents; refugees who were forced to leave their homelands and families for reasons that defy comprehension. This is his first book.
It’s Giveaway Time!
Would you like to win an audiobook of A Smile in One Eye, A Tear in the Other? Here’s your chance! Ralph has generously offered not one, but THREE audiobooks for this surprise giveaway! Here are the details:
The giveaway is open ONLY in the following countries:
UK and United States.
Giveaway begins at 12:00 am CST on December 12, 2016 and ends at 12:00 am CST on December 17, 2016.
Winners will be notified via email.
Winners will be announced on The Geeky Bibliophile blog and associated social media pages (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) at 10:00 AM CST on December 17th, 2016.
Delivery of prizes will be handled by the author (Ralph Webster).