Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Q&A with Gila Green




Gila Green is the author of the forthcoming novel With a Good Eye. Her other books include Passport Control. She is based in Israel.


Q: What inspired you to write With a Good Eye, and how did you create your character Luna Levi?


A: I've been wanting to write a novel that explores the impact of mental illness on children from such homes for about 18 years.


Specifically, I wanted to delve into the consequences of PTSD on children whose parents have served in the military and the effects of having a parent with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder). The term "narcissist" is more common now than when I initially conceived this idea.


I attempted to write this story on and off for many years but I couldn't quite get it right. Beta readers founds issues with the parents and siblings in the story, often considering them too mean or abusive.  Sometimes I even doubted I could write this story.


After numerous revisions, I sent about 100 pages to Canadian editor Pearl Luke. Her feedback was instrumental; she suggested splitting the book into two novels. This change made everything fall into place and I eventually completed the novel in about a year. I then went on to write the second novel, but I'll discuss that later.


Luna Levi is an amalgamation of various characters in my mind, women I've known with different personality traits. She started this way and gradually evolved into her own distinct person.


I used mood boards thanks to Pinterest, for both Luna Levi and her best friend Aiden Betel. I even shared images of Aiden's clothes with my beta readers to ensure that my vision matched what was on the page.


Like Aiden, I wanted to save Luna, but I had to restrain myself; she had to save herself.


Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The title, "With a Good Eye," is closely related to the hamsa symbol--an eye embedded in an open hand. This symbol wasn't familiar to me growing up but I learned about it after moving to Israel.


I chose it primarily because it's a Sephardic Jewish symbol, which aligns with the Mizrachi background of the family and characters in the novel.


On a deeper level, I wanted to infuse the novel with the idea that the hand of God, Fate, or the Universe--however one prefers to describe it—plays a role in our lives.  


We can't control everything as much as we'd like to think we can. Sometimes, we have to let go.


Luna, in her time of need, receives a necklace with this symbol from her friend, which helps ground her and connects her to her Jewish Yemenite roots.


On a personal note, I used to be uncomfortable with the symbol as I associated it with a Muslim symbol while growing up in Canada. However, I had to learn to claim it as a Jewish symbol, just like the Stars of David and Chais I grew up with.


Q: How would you describe the relationship between Luna and her mother, Judith?


A: Luna is an adultified child. She's treated as an adult, and her parents don't consider her incapacity for the roles they thrust upon her: housekeeper, business partner, protector of their secrets, participant in their business dealings, and guardian of her older brother.


This dynamic is most evident in her relationship with her mother because her mother is more physically present in her life and is her female role model.


Luna often feels sorry for her mother, but this empathy becomes an inappropriate burden. Consequently, it leads to role reversal, emotional manipulation and an unhealthy dynamic causing Luna to be overwhelmed by her mother's problems and neglect her own needs.


Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: The very last chapter is an addition that came about after my agent sent the manuscript to a feminist-horror publisher. Their feedback led me to reconsider the ending and write what is now the conclusion. I added another chapter that reveals more about the antagonist's anti-Semitism.


So, there were two new chapters added after I thought the novel was complete.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: With A Good Eye is part of a two-book deal with the publisher, and the second novel, The Inheritance, is planned for 2025. The second book centers on my neurodiverse heroine Layne Bristol, who has distanced herself from her dysfunctional family.


She's in Toronto, working as an English teacher and seeing a therapist, while dreaming of marrying her romantic boyfriend, who lives on the other side of the world.


However, that stable life comes to an abrupt end when she receives a desperate text message hinting that if she doesn't return home immediately, the worst is yet to come. This novel explores familial ties, betrayal, workplace harassment, and elderly abuse. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: My short story, "Messianic Games," is coming out in the fall issue of Arts & Letters; another short story, "Roller Coaster," appears in One for Each Night: The Greatest Chanukah Stories of all Time (New Vessel Press). My nonfiction essay "Satisfaction" is a finalist for the Iron Horse Literary Review's "Unlawful Acts" theme. 


I've recently launched an Instagram page called "Cooking with Gila" where I'll be sharing videos of some of my characters' favorite recipes, as well as my families'.


These recipes are all easy-to-make, homecooked dishes perfect for families who love good food. It's a collaborative project that I'm working on with my son and one of my daughters. 


After successfully publishing five novels, I felt the need for a change of pace and, to be honest, an outlet for my creativity. Many other authors I know have creative hobbies like photography, drawing, or painting as a way to take a break from the pressures of writing, publishing, and marketing. I felt like I lacked this kind of outlet for a long time.


Then, during a discussion with someone I met online, they pointed out the significant presence of food in my novels. It struck me that I had even published two recipes this year in "The Nosher."


Initially, I hadn't given it much thought beyond the submission and editing process. However, this conversation sparked a realization –perhaps, I do have an outlet after all. I had been so focused admiring everyone else's creative pursuits that I hadn't recognized my own.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb