Critically acclaimed novelist Rochelle Jewell Shapiro is an integral part of my life. I can't imagine the planet without her in it, both as friend, trusted reader, and totally mischievous partner-in-crime. But there's even more interesting about her. Her piece for the New York Times Lives, "The Medium Has A Message" reveals her whole other life as a psychic.
Her first novel, Miriam the Medium, published by Simon and Schuster, was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow award and on the list of summer reading at the Hartford Courant, and was highly successful in The U.S., the United Kingdom, Belgium and Holland. Her second novel, Kaylee's Ghost, a sequel, is just out now in paperback, and soon to be out as an ebook, and it already has a rave blurbs. Jillian Medoff, author of I Couldn't Love You More, calls it "whip-smart, funny and all too relatable." Dana Kennedy MSNBC correspondent and New York Times contributing writer, says it's "charming, warm and hilariously funny, filled with characters so memorable you expect them to come to dinner," and Robin Gorman Newman, associate producer of the play Motherhood Out Loud, says, Kaylee's Ghost is "heart-stopping, poignant and wryly comic."
About how far we'll go to protect our children, the nature of identity, and passed-on-through-the-generation gifts which may or may not turn out to be curses, Kaylee's Ghost is a perfect holiday gift. And even better, Rochelle will happily supply signed, hand-drawn book plates for anyone who would like one. Just message her through her website. Or message me and I'll make sure she gets your address.
Thank you so much, Rochelle, for being here!
What lessons did you learn in the writing of that book that spurred you on with Kaylee's Ghost?
From writing Miriam the Medium, I learned that I didn’t have to know the entire plot beforehand. I could write what came to me and later worry (and I mean worry) over what order to put the scenes in. Where to begin? To end? My mind delivers images that I need to go with, whether they end up edited out of the book or not. There is no such thing as “wasted writing.”
Your New York Times Lives column, The Medium Has A Message was about your life as a phone psychic, and how sometimes, as soon as you say that is what you do, people look at you as if you've dropped IQ points. Do you find that this attitude is changing?
It’s definitely changing. Today, everyone wants to be a psychic. If they find out I’m a psychic, I’m treated to long stories of how psychic they are. And I mean “treated.” It’s exciting to live in an era where a psychic can be proud.
How does being a psychic inform your writing?
When I’m working as a psychic, I receive images and associations, scents and sounds. I feel sensations in my body that turn out to be a hint at what’s wrong with someone else. If I see a wedding ring cut in half, I know the marriage will end or has already ended. If I smell lavender, I know my Russian grandmother, my bubbie, from whom I inherited my gift, is somewhere around me, because she always puffed lavender talc on her creased neck. Sometimes I hear messages, a faraway voice telling me, “She owes me plenty.” When I’m writing, I also use all my senses and when I get that aha moment of insight where I see how things fit together, I know my sixth sense is at work too. All insight comes from ESP, the awakened dreamer, like Newton getting the formula for gravity by being bonked on the head with an apple while sleeping under a tree.
What's your daily writing life like?
Gosh, I have to admit that I mostly write from 10:00 pm to 2:00 am. because all day I’m getting calls from clients or potential clients and or teaching a writing class at UCLA Extension. Late night is the bewitching hour for me.
What's obsessing you now and why?
The people left homeless from the storm, global warming that’s causing “the storm of the century” to occur twice in two years, the soldiers coming back with wounded bodies and psyches, whole countries subjected to tyrants and lawlessness, and my next novel which has been half-finished for way too long.
What question didn't I ask that I should have?
You didn’t ask where my material comes from. Like myself, Miriam Kaminsky, the heroine of both Miriam the Medium and Kaylee’s Ghost is a phone psychic who lives in Great Neck, NY and has a pharmacist husband. But there’s more to it than that. I am driven to write about the immigrant experience and the shifting bonds between family members--how each one fights to hold onto an identity, even one as ill-fitting as the before-you-gained-twenty pounds-sweater. And most of all, I’m driven by the relationship between ourselves and our ghosts.
Causes Caroline Leavitt Supports
The Writers' Strike Writers Against the War PETA