Guest Post: Some (Mainly Surprising) Places Where I Wrote My Novel

Some (Mainly Surprising) Places Where I Wrote My Novel
by Deby Eisenberg, Author of Pictures of the Past

I began writing the novel, Pictures of the Past, one day while at our vacation home in Florida, looking for a diversion from my diversions of tennis and golf.   Since that time, until the book was sent to be published, there was never a day that I didn’t spend at least a few hours working on it, either writing, researching, rewriting, editing, or making contacts.  And that wasn’t so easy with another day job, and an active social life.  That is when I realized this: You find time for your obligations – You make time for your passions.  So here is a list of some of the places where I made time to complete my labor of love:

·         One day I would like to send a story to a fitness magazine, entitled, “Editing on the Elliptical.”  I am not an obsessive exerciser – I am an obsessive multi-tasker.  When I leave the house early for the health club, I psych myself out that I am going there just to read for a half-hour – and that’s what I do on the elliptical.  Before I wrote the novel, I would read a book (so much easier now to turn pages on my Kindle).  But during the writing process, I would actually bring manuscript pages, and I would proof and edit while working out.  (Yes, sometimes I would almost lose my balance, and many times my pen or the pages would go flying.)

·         You must understand that I am a morning person –  so after exercise, it was a short ride to Panera, where I would set up shop (and still do) with my computer and my iced tea.  It is my favorite part of the day before I am off to my day job.  Here is another article title I have been thinking about, “Meet Me at the Coffice.”  Everyone, coffee in hand, now uses these venues for office meetings, interviews, etc.

·         Vacation time frees me from some of my demands, and I find that I am most relaxed and creative when I am away.  Inspiration can come anytime and anywhere.  So I am never without a pen and a small notepad -- no matter where I am. In Pictures of the Past, one of my main characters, Sarah, spends years with the Resistance in the forests during the war. In the past years, my husband and I have begun touring our national parks. Literally, along the hiking paths, I would just stop and write a paragraph or so if something struck me.  Only there could I really envision Sarah searching for food, finding places to sleep on the hard earth, listening intently to the sounds of nature and what those sounds would portend. “And when she was alerted to the crunch of leaves, she craved her once innocent response of youth  . . . but now the crunch of leaves became the sound of fear.”

·         But back to civilization and more upscale touring. When I accompanied my husband to Manhattan for a medical conference and we stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria, I became enamored with the history there – and that was where I chose Taylor to stay upon his return from Europe.  While there, I walked the halls with paper and pad, taking notes and just feeling the story.  I remember starting to leave the hotel to go shopping, but I had to stop to write a few more paragraphs – because now Taylor was with me and I could see him interacting with other guest in the lobby in 1937.

·         On a trip to Berlin, naturally, I wrote many parts.  At the beautiful hotel where we stayed on the Potsdamer Platz, I would begin my day very early at the enchanting coffee shop (no surprise), noting every intricacy of the decor.  The description of that shop became the Paris café where Taylor and Sarah shared their first meal alone.

·         Although I had already written the basic story of Sarah and Taylor’s visit to Potsdam, it was on our train ride from Berlin to Potsdam that I graphically envisioned them sitting together – re-arranging their seats and their futures – as they shared their dreams and their passion grew.  (Now I do have to say that during this time my husband and I did not mirror their actions – He was captivated by our very animated guide reciting the history of the German empires.)

·         Of course, I would often visit my beautiful Art Institute of Chicago, and sit on the benches in the great halls of the Impressionist Rooms (sometimes along with the budding artists working on their renderings) and I would imagine Gerta and her family coming up the Grand staircase and perusing these rooms. Like Gerta, I always walked through my favorite halls and rarely ventured to find the secrets of the smaller galleries.

·         For a very brief period I tried using a Dictaphone, so I could “write” while fast walking outside.  And my timing was perfect, as during this time, I was walking along a rolling bike path by our home when the emotionally charged speech of Joseph Levin on the MS St. Louis just came to me – He was speaking to me (and through me) so quickly, and luckily I had the ability to capture it.

My advice to authors:

I believe that once you are totally immersed in writing your novel, you have created a world that will be with you around the clock.  You will create characters and then the characters will tell you what will happen next.  So be open to listening to them wherever you are, whatever you are doing—and with pen and paper in hand, be ready to give them a voice.

About the author:
As the leader of an established Chicago area Book Club, Deby Eisenberg challenged herself to write a novel that her avid readers could not put down and would love to discuss. With a Masters Degree from the University of Chicago, she is a former English teacher and journalist. Inspired by so many wonderful books and formidable authors, and drawing on her love of literary research, art, architecture, Jewish history, and travel in the United States and Europe, she tried to envision a multi-generational love story that would inform as well as entertain, that would broaden the mind and open the heart. Deby and her husband Michael, an obstetrician-gynecologist, live in Riverwoods, Illinois. They have three grown children and two grandchildren.

Her latest book is the historical fiction novel, Pictures of the Past.

You can visit her website at
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About Pictures of the Past

First-time novelist Deby Eisenberg hits the ground running with PICTURES OF THE PAST, an epic family and historical saga, sweeping through Chicago, Paris and Berlin, reliving events from pre-World War II Europe, but beginning in contemporary times.  An Impressionist painting, hanging for decades in the Art Institute of Chicago and donated by the charismatic philanthropist Taylor Woodmere, is challenged by an elderly woman as a Nazi theft.

Mary Lignor of Book Pleasures says, “This novel is one of the most intriguing and beautiful books that I have ever read.  The ending of this book will touch your heart… The writing is first class.”

Taylor’s story takes the reader to 1937.  Sent to Paris on family business, he reluctantly leaves his girlfriend, Emily, a spoiled debutante from Newport, Rhode Island.  But once in Europe, he immediately falls in love – first with an Henri Lebasque painting, and then with the enchanting Sarah Berger of Berlin.  After Taylor returns home, the Berger family becomes trapped in the Nazi web, and any attempts for the new lovers to be reunited are thwarted.

Interwoven with this narrative is the story of Rachel Gold, a beautiful and bright Chicago girl caught up in the times of the late 1960’s.  Pregnant and abandoned by her boyfriend Court Woodmere, Taylor’s son, she moves to New York to live with her aunt, a Holocaust survivor.  Years later, as the controversy surrounding the provenance of the painting becomes public, Rachel’s grown son is disturbed by his inexplicable familiarity with the work of art.  And it is only Taylor Woodmere who can unravel the complicated puzzle of their lives.
As a Book Club leader for the past sixteen years, Eisenberg came to understand the kinds of stories that grabbed her group and she challenged herself to write a novel that her avid readers could not put down and would love to discuss.
The result was PICTURES OF THE PAST.