Category: Archive

Page Turner: Barbara Fischkin

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

What is your latest book about?
“Exclusive: Reporters in Love…and War” is a satiric screwball comedy, a novel about two competing newspaper reporters from Long Island’s Newsday who fall in and out of love as they become foreign correspondents in Northern Ireland, Dublin and the Basque Country. “Exclusive” is also about the fine line between fact and fiction. As the first page says, “This book is based casually on our lives. Some of it is even true.” The protagonists are named Barbara Fischkin and Jim Mulvaney and they are our fictional alter egos. Brooklyn-Jewish and Queens-Irish. I’ve “imagined” other real life characters as well, some of who may be of particular interest to Echo readers, including Gerry Adams, Danny Morrison, Ian Paisley, Congressman Peter King and Dan Tubridy, proprietor of Pier 92 in Rockaway. A variety of my own relatives also appear as made-up characters, including my father-in-law Jim Mulvaney Sr., a Queens criminal lawyer, and my mother Ida Fischkin, a temple activist, who reads “Too Long A Sacrifice” by the great, and now dearly missed, Jack Holland and winds up in her own adventure on the Andersonstown Road.

What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
The ideal condition is no Internet. It’s too much fun. You could procrastinate away an entire writing life on the Internet so I write on a laptop that is not connected. If I have a quick question requiring research, I try to look it up in a real encyclopedia, the kind that has volumes.

What advice to you have for aspiring writers?
Writing that sits in a drawer is never as good as the work you send out for others to scrutinize. Certainly blogs make this easier. But how much of that writing is meant to be serious writing – and how much is actually read by editors? Every writer needs a second pair of eyes, at least. A good editor is priceless, so find one.

Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure?
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison
“Geek Love” by Katherine Dunn
“The Executioner’s Song” by Norman Mailer

What book are you currently reading?
I read at least two at once. Now it’s “The Freedom Line” by Peter Eisner and “Leeway Cottage” by Beth Gutcheon. History and fiction, both extraordinarily compelling takes on the nuances of World War II – from the Basque and, in part, Danish perspectives. It is a period I hope to tackle in a later novel.

Is there a book you wish you had written?
“Portnoy’s Complaint” by Phillip Roth. But from my point of view.

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Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by?
The first volume of Sean O’Casey’s autobiographies “I Knock at the Door.” I picked it up one winter afternoon in Dublin when the sun set at about 3 p.m.

If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
James Thurber

What book changed your life?
“The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster. I read it at nine and it opened up my imagination, as no book had before.

What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
A barstool at Toner’s Pub on Baggot Street, circa 1984. I never sat on one of those without feeling the promise of a great night ahead, even if I stayed put. Or just walked downstairs. There might be an O’Casey play on the lower level. On the best of nights, we’d walk from Toner’s over to Wicklow Street to hear the One-Eyed Rattlers with Frankie Lane at the International. Or, even better, I could go home with Mulvaney. We lived for more than a year on the top floor of a renovated mews behind Fitzwilliam Square.

You’re Irish if . . .
It does not surprise you that your favorite plumber is as well-read as your favorite professor.

Barbara Fischkin will read on Thursday, July 21, at the Barnes and Noble in Carle Place, L.I. (91 Old Country Rd.) at 7:30 p.m. More details at www.barbarafischkin.com

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