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Talking Shop: An Interview with Dima Novak

Below is an excerpt from an Interview with the author, as published originally at the IndieReader website.

What inspired you to write the book? A particular person? An event?

I raised a dark-skinned, exceptionally intelligent son — not unlike my protagonist — in Jackson Heights, New York. I was inspired by my kid’s experiences growing up, and playing chess, in what is reputedly the most diverse neighborhood in the US.

What’s the main reason someone should really read this book?

PUSHING PAWNS paints a picture of racially diverse urban kids that departs markedly from stereotype. These characters are smart, funny, highly verbal, and fascinated by the world and what it has to offer. The reader, I hope, will know them, love them, and share their dreams.

What’s the most distinctive thing about the main character? Who-real or fictional-would you say the character reminds you of?

Moses Middleton is a thoughtful, sensitive kid learning to negotiate the challenges of a tough and rapidly changing neighborhood. His voice, I like to think, is unique but plausible. He’s a multiracial Holden Caulfield.

When did you first decide to become an author?

When I was a kid, I ran out of good reads in the juvenile section of the library and for a while I wasn’t allowed to check out books for grownups. This infuriated me. I remember thinking that if I couldn’t read the books I wanted, I’d have to write them.

Is this the first book you’ve written?


What do you do for work when you’re not writing?

For many years I ran the content side of the website of a major public university. I have very recently managed to swing early retirement.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

About four hours a day. Like Graham Greene, I try to write 500 words in the morning and take it easy for the rest of the day.

What’s the best and the hardest part of being an indie?

The best part is the feeling of complete freedom to write the sort of fiction I enjoy. The hardest part is finding ways to get the book into the hands of my ideal readers.

What’s a great piece of advice that you can share with fellow indie authors?

Invest in a cover you love. You’ll be living with it.

Would you go traditional if a publisher came calling? If so, why?

Yes, because traditional publishers have superior resources for drawing attention to a book. You may have created an instant classic, but it won’t have an impact without an audience.

Is there something in particular that motivates you (fame? fortune?)

I wanted above all to write the kind of book that I would have loved when I was a kid. I thought that if I could give some bright teenager a few hours of stimulating, atypical entertainment, I’d have done something very much worthwhile.

Which writer, living or dead, do you most admire?

Victor Hugo, for his willingness to risk everything in defense of justice.

Which book do you wish you could have written?

Peter Temple’s brilliant spy novel Identity Theory. His style leaves me seething with envy.

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