Irene Kessler is the author of the new novel Mountain of Full Moons, which takes place in ancient Palestine. She worked as a psychologist in Florida for many years, and also has been an opera singer.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Mountain of Full Moons, and for your character Elisha?
A: Actually, I didn’t. I rented a place near Peekskill N.Y. for two months because the tropical summer rains give me bad headaches. My granddaughter, Shana, came to visit. I took her out for a little shopping spree, and we had fun.
The next morning, I woke up early. She was still sleeping on the futon in the living room near my computer. I didn’t want to wake her. I made my tea, sneaked in and grabbed a yellow pad and pen and climbed back into bed. Words came to me and I wrote four pages. Then I stood up and softly read them aloud.
When I finished, I looked up toward heaven and said, “Every sentence begins with she. What’s her name? They answered, “Elisha.” And that’s how she was born.
Q: What kind of research did you do to write the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?
A: I had to research almost everything – from what they ate to what they wore. I was in Jerusalem but knew little of the history. For instance, that they drank wine because they had to, the water was bad and boys were taught but not girls.
Q: At 85, what have you seen over the years regarding women's rights, and how do you see the novel's themes fitting in with some of today's issues?
A: I have seen so much change over the years. What has not changed enough is women’s place in society. Women are still being beaten and killed by men in some areas – some by men who supposedly love them. It is 5,000 years after this book took place. When will we be good enough to be equal with men?
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: We must stand together with the #MeToo movement and any way we can to elevate women’s position in the world and not give up until our great-great-great-granddaughters are presidents.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am working on the memoir of my unbelievable life, its ups and downs, its fortunes and misfortunes, its wonders and all it taught me.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: If you can’t tell, I’m a passionate person!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb