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Advice from IRDA Winning Author Mike Mizrahi: “Keep writing, even when it feels like nobody is reading.”

Indie Reader Discovery Award

The Unnamed Girl was the winner in the Historical Fiction category of the 2019 IndieReader Discovery Awards, where undiscovered talent meets people with the power to make a difference.

Following find an interview with author Mike H. Mizrahi.

What is the name of the book and when was it published?

The Unnamed Girl, published November 2018.

What’s the book’s first line?

The sun’s defiant rays poked through the clouded sky and the lingering smoke that still hugged the ground. A gold flash of light dared to answer.

What’s the book about? Give us the “pitch”. 

A battle-weary Confederate private combs a Virginia battlefield and discovers a gold case containing the image of a little girl. Jonathan “Woody” Woodard hears a whisper, “Find me and I will ease your burden.” A search later leads him to the widow Rebecca Johnston, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, who holds the key to the girl’s location. But the quest to find the girl’s family is delayed. In a turnabout, he accompanies Rebecca to Richmond, Virginia, to rescue a freedman and his son from a notorious slave jail. Love complicates everything. Woody must tell Rebecca, he’s not who she thinks he is.

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

After a battle in 1862, Confederate Private Thomas W. Timberlake found an ambrotype of a young girl lying between a Rebel soldier and a Yankee who appeared to have killed each other at the same moment. Timberlake picked up the image and kept it until his death in 1914, at which time his family donated it to the Museum of the Confederacy (now called the American Civil War Museum). In 2012 the museum held a national news conference to release this and several other unidentified images—unnamed, if you will—in the hope of identifying them. To this day, nobody has named the girl. THIS MUCH IS FACT. My novel’s fictional soldier, Jonathan “Woody” Woodard, picks up the photograph, and the fictional story that proceeds is what might have occurred over the following three years.

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

Woody is a man of principle, caught in a lie concocted to facilitate his search in Union territory for the family of the girl in the photograph. The deception, and the phantoms of war that haunt his sleep, might have been his undoing, if not for the woman who captures his heart. Woody reminds me of not one character, but the multitude of American soldiers who’ve fought bravely for what they believe in, the cause of their day, and who survive through the power of a photograph or lock of hair or pocket Bible. Soldiers like Thomas W. Timberlake. Soldiers who suffered battle fatigue, the malady we now call PTSD. In the Civil War, and every other war since.

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

I’m a sucker for a good rescue story. If you are too—read The Unnamed Girl.

If they made your book into a movie, who would you like to see play the main character(s)?

Jeremy Irvine, who appeared in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated War Horse.

When did you first decide to become an author?

Later in life, I’m afraid. I’d always been a writer—a journalist, business communicator, and even songwriter. While I’d always planned to write that “great American novel,” I didn’t really give it a shot until my wife and I returned from a mission trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012. Inspired and filled with words—too many, actually—I wrote my first fiction manuscript. I put that attempt on the bookshelf.  On June 10, 2019, I will publish Kabirizi’s Revenge…the shortened and better-written novella based on that first try.

Is this the first you’ve written?

No…my first published historical novel, The Great Chattanooga Bicycle Race, was first released in 2017. It takes place in 1895, when the “safety” bicycle, or “wheel” as came to be called, ushered in a new national pastime. Men rode, and in more progressive cities, so did women. Not so in the South. The main character in this story is a young woman from Chattanooga who turns that city upside by cycling the streets—in bloomers! Feminist Susan B. Anthony said at the time that the wheel had done more to emancipate women than anything else. I plan to re-release this novel in early 2020 to make way for its sequel, Hangman’s Noose on the Walnut Street Bridge later that year.

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

I had the privilege of retiring in 2013 after a 38-year corporate career.

How much time do you generally spend on your writing?

About four hours a day. My wife and I try hard to maintain a healthy work-life balance, although I will confess there are some days when I slip past my limit.

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

Best part: I get to wear two hats, author and publisher, and work at my own pace.

Worst part (although I believe this is true in the traditional publishing world): Having to spend so much time on marketing, promotion, and building lists.

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

Keep writing, even when it feels like nobody is reading. Study the craft: books, classes, conferences. Share your work/get feedback (yikes!). Build your platform and e-mail list (ugh!). Do it now, even before you publish.

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

I’d certainly consider it. Depending on the publisher and, of course, the deal, going traditional might well provide my work a broader audience.

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

C.S. Lewis. Or maybe James Michener. Or Kristen Hannah. Heavens…I dunno!

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