My guest author today writes with a strength of purpose many do not employ. Please help me welcome Talia Carner to the interview hot seat! Let’s take a peek at her bio and then find out more about her writing process and inspiration.
Talia Carner worked for Redbook magazine and was the publisher of Savvy Woman magazine. A marketing consultant to Fortune 500 companies, she taught at Long Island University and was a volunteer counselor for the Small Business Administration. A committed supporter of global human rights, she has spearheaded projects centered on the subjects of female plight. In 1993 she was sent twice to Russia, and participated in the 1995 women’s conference in Beijing.
Hailed as “an author who enters arenas no one has entered before” for her award-winning five novels that expose society’s ills, Ms. Carner has keynoted or co-paneled over 450 civic and cultural events with 100 to 500 attendees—and over 300 Zoom presentations.
Ms. Carner is a board member of HBI, a research center for Jewish women’s life and culture at Brandeis University. She is also an honorary board member of several anti-domestic violence and child abuse intervention organizations and supports organizations that work toward Israeli causes.
Talia Carner’s addictions include chocolate, ballet, hats—and social justice.
She lives in New York and Florida.
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Talia: Inspired by Shalom Aleichem’s short story, The Man from Buenos Aires, I reinvented the story of one of Tevye’s daughters as the family flees a pogrom and meets this mysterious, shady man. Duped by this member of Zwi Migdal—the real legal Jewish union of pimps that operated with impunity for 70 years—she is shipped as a sex-slave to Argentina, where prostitution is legal. THE THIRD DAUGHTER is tribute to the estimated 150,000 Jewish girls and women whose voices haunted me and have propelled me to activism against today’s sex-trafficking.
Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?
Talia: To continue to trust myself and let the story flow out of me.
It was also fun to take the character and language of Tevye and continue the story way past the point where Sholem Aleichem had left it. It tested my ability to channel that illustrious author. Readers instantly recognize Tevye, although he has a different name and every scene is freshly created and written by me, not by Sholem Aleichem.
Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?
Talia: THE THIRD DAUGHTER is a very difficult emotional journey. I crawled under the skin of a teenager to experience her world—her kidnapping and enslaving—through her eyes, ears, body, and heart. It was hard late at night to turn off the PC and fall asleep, hoping for sweet dreams.
Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?
Talia: Each of the secondary characters presented itself to me fully formed, especially the other sex workers in the brothel—each girl making a different choice within the framework of what life has doled out to her. The more complex person, though, was of Yitzik Moskowitz, the pimp who lured the protagonist to Buenos Aires. He was evil, yet he saw himself as an entrepreneur, a businessman who helped the economy of Argentina—and a savior of the women he entrapped from a life of hardship and pogroms in the shtetls of Eastern Europe.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Talia: Once Google generated the name of the organization, Zwi Migdal, I found a tremendous amount of information available in translated documents, nonfiction books, and academic publications.
In the last couple of decades, I had been to Buenos Aires three times, but I didn’t know Spanish. Armed with photos from the time of the novel, the late 1800s to early 1900s, I hired two freelance researchers in Argentina, and they helped me better understand what I was looking at. If Batya walked from point A to point B, my researchers verified the names of the streets 120 years earlier. For finer texture, I presented both researchers—a man and a woman—with the same questions about clothes, food, and architecture, and was able to extrapolate more nuanced details when crossing their answers.
For historical accuracy, I consulted the director of Jewish archives in Buenos Aires, who, thankfully, knew English. She also read the final manuscript.
Once the protagonist, Batya, started dancing tango, what choice did I have but to learn it myself? I needed to write with authenticity about this complex dance—and the passions associated with it. For almost a year I took private tango lessons and occasionally spent an evening at a milonga in close embrace with total strangers (also my reason to quit tango once my research was done).
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Talia: Probably about 30 to 50 rounds of revisions and editing.
Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?
Talia: This novel was the shortest in terms of overall time—from concept to submission to the editor—only about two and half years. Usually, it takes me about five years. The reasons could be that the story poured out of me almost as it turned out at the end, and also it was told in a straight like, from one character’s point-of-view.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Talia: None. I call it TIC—Tush In Chair. Just sit down and write.
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Betty: I guess it’s not “every author.” I am well aware of “writing ticks” and my inner editor is at work while I write and steers me away from them. On the other hand, lately, in my new novel-in-progress I noticed that in my protagonist’s range of responses, her stomach never reacted, so I had to enlarge her repertoire of the physical manifestations of her emotions.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Talia: I have a wonderful office in each of my homes. I have a comfy editing chair—or I go to the beach when I go over a printout.
Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?
Talia: I’m a full-time fiction writer. I had left my previous career in marketing in order to write.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Talia: The social issues I bring to the forefront of readers’ awareness—and giving voice to those without one.
As an outcome of my first published novel, PUPPET CHILD, I introduced The Protective Parent Reform Act, that passed in four states and clauses from it were used by twenty others.
Also, I was privileged to address in 2007 the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women for my novel CHILD DOLL about infanticide in China—the first time in UN history. (I was invited again for May 2020 to present the subject of sex trafficking, but the event was cancelled due to COVID.)
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Talia: Literary fiction about uninterested characters doing nothing, yet I can’t put the novels down….
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Talia: When I sat down to write my first novel on November 3, 1993 at 2:48 PM, I had no thought regarding where it would lead me. I didn’t consider the poor odds of getting published. All I wanted was to write a particular story about the Russian women I had met when I taught them entrepreneurship shortly after the fall of communism. (Twenty years later, that maiden raw material was recaptured in my novel HOTEL MOSCOW.)
After almost thirty years of writing, when I look at the body of work that I have produced through five award-winning novels (and the sixth in the works,) I am proud of having brought so many hours of enjoyment, thought-provoking, and educational ideas to tens of thousands of readers.
During that time, I also developed the skill of public speaking. I had keynoted and addressed about 450 in-person events (not counting small book clubs) before COVID. Once we were hit with COVID, I turned to Zoom and instantly had audiences of hundreds eager to engage with my talks. I have given over 320 Zoom presentations.
Success for me has been defined in reaching small realistic milestones rather than a big, yet unnamed and an elusive one in the far future. Together, those milestones carried me farther than I had imagined.
THE THIRD DAUGHTER is a frightening journey into the New World of the late 1800s, told by a trusting young woman lured from Russia and forced into prostitution in Argentina. When succeeding in the nascent art of tango, Batya finds courage in the face of danger and hope in hours of despair—and bravely struggles to free herself from bondage while bringing down the powerful pimps’ union.
The novel breaks the silence on a most shameful chapter—the legal sex-trafficking union, Zwi Migdal, that operated in South America with impunity for 70 years, from the late 1800s until WWII. Luring estimated 150,000 young girls from the shtetls of Eastern Europe with false promises of jobs and marriages, it then sold them into brothels.
Inspired by Shalom Aleichem’s story, The Man From Buenos Aires, author Talia Carner reinvents the story of one of Tevye’s daughters after the family flees a pogrom and meets this mysterious, shady man.
THE THIRD DAUGHTER is tribute to the victims, whose voices the author could not silence, and who propel her to launch her campaign against today’s sex-trafficking.
I’m impressed by the number of rounds of revisions you do as well as by the fact that you know precisely when you sat down to write your first novel. That’s organized! Thanks so much for stopping in, Talia, and sharing with us more about your books and your mission.
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.
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