A visit with Nicole Dweck

ReadingNicoleDweck friends, I am so happy to welcome fellow novelist Nicole Dweck to the blog today. I had the pleasure and privilege of reading her debut novel, THE DEBT OF TAMAR for endorsement for its re-release (her story of getting published by a New York house is an exciting one!) and I fell in love with her style and voice. I have a copy of this lovely book to give away to one of you lucky readers; just make sure you read to the end to see how to get in on the drawing. Nicole Dweck holds a BA in Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Global Affairs from NYU. She lives in New York City with her husband and their son.  She and I are planning to get together for a cuppa when I’m in New York in February!

The story in a nutshell? It’s 2002, and 32-year-old Selim Osman, the last descendant of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, flees Istanbul for New York. In a twist of fate he meets Hannah, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and an artist striving to understand a father she barely knows. Unaware the connection they share goes back centuries, the two feel an immediate pull to one another. But as their story intertwines with that of their ancestors, the heroic but ultimately tragic decision that bound two families centuries ago ripples into the future, threatening to tear Hannah and Selim apart.

And now for our via email chat:

SUSAN: When people ask what this book is about, what do you tell them?

NICOLE: The Debt of Tamar is a multi-generational family saga that follows two families, one Jewish, one Muslim, from the time of the Spanish Inquisition and 16th century Ottoman Empire to modern-day New York City and Istanbul. Ultimately, it’s a love story that spans centuries and continents.

SUSAN: Where did the idea for this very unique story come from?

NICOLE: I have always been fascinated with history. Wanting to explore my own cultural heritage, I began researching Sephardic (Spanish Jewish) history and learned about the tremendous role Ottoman Muslim sultans played in rescuing persecuted Jews from the Spanish Inquisition. I wanted to illuminate this forgotten time period in history, when Jews and Muslims thrived alongside each other for centuries.

SUSAN: Where did your research take you? What was the most intriguing thing you learned while researching?

NICOLE: All over the world!debtoftamar
Since my book is set in multiple locations, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Istanbul, Tiberias, Venice and Paris. The most interesting part of my research was visiting Topkapi Palace in Istanbul where much of the action in my book takes place. It was amazing to walk in the footsteps of my characters, through the same gardens, halls, and chambers I’d envisioned them frequenting.

SUSAN: What surprised you most in the writing process? Did you know where these characters would end up at the end of the book?

NICOLE: I really did know where they would end up. In fact, the first two chapters I wrote were the first and the last.  I simply knew what had to happen. I suppose the journey to that end was the real adventure. What most surprised me throughout the process was how much I grew to love the characters I created. Some of them did things that made me cringe, but in the end, they were like real people; complex, capable of both good and bad, shaped by all they had experienced, and deserving of compassion and empathy rather than judgment.

SUSAN: Your road to getting picked up by St. Martin’s Press is so fascinating. Can you tell us how it happened?

NICOLE: I can’t really say I was goal-oriented throughout the writing process. For me, it was all about the journey. I had a story I wanted to tell, and the question of publishing that story was not really part of the equation. I wrote this book for myself. I suppose I published it for my audience. By the time it was complete, I went ahead and self-published it through CreateSpace. With a bit of creative online marketing, the book went on to become an iTunes.com, B&N.com, Amazon.com and USA Today Bestseller. Within a few weeks, I began receiving offers from editors at traditional publishing houses who had stumbled across the book and loved it. The Debt of Tamar was eventually picked up by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing.

SUSAN: Your cover is delicious. Did you have any input on that?

NICOLE: I worked with freelance designer Laura Klynstra, who completely understood my vision and created the beautiful cover that was used for the self-published edition as well as the newer, traditionally-published edition.  My editor at Thomas Dunne liked it so much, we stuck with it! As for what is next on the horizon, I am currently working on my second book, an adventure/mystery/love story which will transport readers from modern-day Brooklyn to the ancient Jewish community of pre-war Syria to WWII era Shanghai. I’ll leave it at that!

SUSAN: Thanks so much for stopping by, Nicole! I am huge fan of historical fiction with contemporary story threads thrown in. Readers, if you would like to get in on the drawing for a hardback copy of THE DEBT OF TAMAR, just leave a comment telling us where in the world you’d like to go to research for a book. You don’t have to be a writer to answer this one! Just pretend you are traveling with one. Ha! Which historical place would you visit? Post your comment by noon Sunday, Dec 6 PST. The winner will be chosen by random.org. Good luck and happy reading!



Author: Susan

This post has 17 Comments

  1. Colleen Turner on December 3, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Oh wow that is such a hard question! I hope to someday be able to travel the world, but I think my top place I would love to go and research would be London and the surrounding English countryside. So many of the novels I read and love take place around there, so I’d love to be able to experience it first hand.

    I remember when The Debt of Tamar first came out and I read a ton of great reviews. Thanks for a chance to win a copy!

  2. Nita on December 3, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    I would love to travel to Ireland for research, to dream what ancient history might have been for my Irish roots!

  3. Diane on December 4, 2015 at 12:16 am

    I would love to research the borders where France and Germany meet. My great grandmother was from a small French town on the border and I know very little about her or that area of the world.

  4. Camille Di Maio on December 4, 2015 at 12:25 am

    I would love to travel to Liverpool. That is where my novel is set, and yet I haven’t been there except through research. It would be great to see some of those places in person!

  5. Letty Blanchard on December 4, 2015 at 12:26 am

    This sounds like a great book. Would love to win a copy. I would go to France, England, Italy and Spain to do research. Thanks for the chance!

  6. Josephine Thompson on December 4, 2015 at 1:34 am

    This book sounds really good! I would go anywhere in Europe to do research.

  7. Sandy on December 4, 2015 at 1:39 am

    There are so many places, but I would choose Ireland, Egypt and Rome!

  8. Pam Warnock on December 4, 2015 at 2:31 am

    I would love the research to take me to the Greek Islands…Crete, Santorini, Corfu, Mykonos. …

  9. Karen Hoffman on December 4, 2015 at 2:45 am

    I would love to go to Scotland & Ireland; we have ancestry there. But I would like to experience some of the countryside that I have read about in historical fiction. Israel would also be on my bucket list. Thanks for the invitation to your blog.

  10. Barbara Khan on December 4, 2015 at 2:47 am

    I would love to do book research in Italy. I hope to do so for a book idea I gave about my grandmothers life.

  11. Mocha with Linda on December 4, 2015 at 3:00 am

    Sounds like a fascinating book, and of course it would remind me of you with the contemporary/historical threads!

    I have always wanted to go to England, and there is certainly plenty of rich history there! Although if I had a chance to go with any of my sweet author friends, I would happily go anywhere! LOL

  12. Sarah Jackson on December 4, 2015 at 4:06 am

    Ireland has always been my dream destination to learn more about it, but I’ve also wanted to travel through Europe. Either would work well to research for me.

  13. Charlotte on December 4, 2015 at 10:02 am

    Such a difficult question. There are many places of interest. I think I’d like to do research in Ireland foremost though. I enjoy books set there. Thanks for the interview and the giveaway.

  14. Susan on December 4, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I love all these places you are all mentioning; some I’ve been to, some I haven’t. The Greek islands, especially Santorini, are high on my list! (Pam, you and my mom and I should go!) As is China and someday (if the world ever gets calm) Egypt.

  15. Bethany on December 4, 2015 at 11:56 pm


  16. Gayle on December 5, 2015 at 7:22 am

    I would love to go to Scotland or Ireland and see the castles and heather. It would be a dream come true.

  17. Susan on December 7, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Congrats to Pam W! Random.org picked you as the lucky winner! Thanks to all who commented. Hope you will check out Nicole’s lovely book. Have a great week!

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