To celebrate the paperback release of the amazing and emotional read, “Mischling,” I got a chance to ask author Affinity Konar some questions about the novel. I am a big fan of her debut work so I am thrilled to share her answers with you!
And if you haven’t read the book yet, go get a copy; you won’t be disappointed.
Why was this subject important for you to write about?
It was so important to me actually, that I wanted to not write it. My family left Poland in 1932, and were harbored safely in America, so while I was growing up I always felt pulled back to the period, and to what could have been, if my ancestors weren’t offered this refuge. I think it’s necessary to live with that warning in the back of your mind, especially today, to let it echo in remembrance. When I was a teenager, I found the story of the twins in Children of the Flames by Lucette Lagnado, and so many of the testimonies approached questions of to how to retain one’s own humanity, how to survive, resist, and attempt to restore oneself after unimaginable trauma. After I read that, I couldn’t stop imagining a conversation between a pair of twins whose bond was their refuge, their means to survival.
How did you find the balance between such a dark subject and an ultimately uplifting story?
The trickiness of finding that balance is one of the reasons that the book took so long to write. One doesn’t want to impose any kind of veneer that might lessen the trauma of a very real experience. But I wanted to pay tribute to stories of incredible endurance that I can’t help but be inspired by, specifically because they arose out of the extreme darkness of Shoah. So managing this element came down to voice for me, in the end. The imagery that arises out of the voices of Stasha and Pearl may be charming, but they function as veils for horror. It was my hope that the very necessity for these veils–or the fact that the girls would resort to such transformative thinking–would magnify the true peril that they endure.
What is your advice to aspiring authors?
I have to quote Sarah Manguso from “300 Arguments”. “I’ve written whole books to avoid writing other books.” That was my life for a long time. Nothing that came out of that avoidance was very good. So I’d say that honoring your desire to write about what scares you most is important. If it’s not terrifying you on a certain level, if might feel necessary enough to bring out the best you have to offer as a writer. Also, oatmeal is cheap and nutritious when times are lean, dogs are good for getting you out of the house, and you should read everything you can, whether you’re drawn to the text or not, because it all informs the kind of stance you’ll take on the page
What are you working on next?
It feels odd to talk about this, because this book has felt like my life’s work, and I honestly never expected to finish it, much less start another. But I have found myself writing in hotel rooms while touring, so I guess I won’t be stopping any time soon? It’s currently in chaos, but it’s a chaos centered by a search for meaning and restoration, and I suspect that this is an element that will always be afoot in whatever I attempt to do.
Affinity Konar was raised in California. While writing MISCHLING, she worked as a tutor, proofreader, technical writer, and editor of children’s educational workbooks. She studied fiction at SFSU and Columbia. She is of Polish-Jewish descent, and currently lives in Los Angeles.
She dearly misses writing about Pearl and Stasha, and is grateful to any reader who might find the company of the twins.