A Bookish Conversation with Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy
Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy worked as an actress and writer in film and television in the United States and Israel. Night in Jerusalem is her debut novel, which she has adapted to film. She lives in Ojai California with her husband and daughter.
She writes, “I lived in Israel in the 1960s, a naive twenty-year-old, hoping to find myself and my place in the world. The possibility of war was remote to me. I imagined the tensions in the region would somehow be resolved peacefully. Then, the Six Day War erupted and I experienced it firsthand in Jerusalem.
I have drawn Night in Jerusalem from my experiences during that time. The historical events portrayed in the novel are accurate. The characters are based on people I knew in the city. Like me, they were struggling to make sense of their lives, responding to inherited challenges they could not escape that shaped their destiny in ways they and the entire Middle East could not have imagined.
I have always been intrigued by the miraculous. How and where the soul’s journey leads and how it reveals its destiny. How two people who are destined, even under the threat of war and extinction, can find one another.
Israel’s Six Day War is not a fiction; neither was the miracle of its victory. What better time to discover love through intrigue, passion, and the miraculous.
Writing this story was in part reliving my history in Israel, in part a mystical adventure. I am grateful that so many who have read Night In Jerusalem have experienced this as well.”
WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:
Title: NIGHT IN JERUSALEM
Author: Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy
Publisher: PKZ Inc.
Genre: Historical Romance
A bewitching love story that is also an extraordinary portrait of Jerusalem, its faith, spirituality, identity, and kaleidoscope of clashing beliefs, Night in Jerusalem is a novel of mystery, beauty, historical insight, and sexual passion.
David Bennett is invited to Jerusalem in 1967 by his cousin who, to the alarm of his aristocratic British family, has embraced Judaism. He introduces David to his mentor, Reb Eli, a revered sage in the orthodox community. Despite his resistance to religious teaching, David becomes enthralled by the rabbi’s wisdom and compassionate presence. When David discloses a sexual problem, Reb Eli unwittingly sets off a chain of events that transforms his life and the life of the mysterious prostitute, Tamar, who, in a reprise of an ancient biblical story, leads both men to an astonishing realization. As passions rise, the Six Day War erupts, reshaping the lives of everyone caught up in it.
ORDER YOUR COPY:
Hi Gaelle! Can you tell us how you got started writing fiction?
I started writing at about 30, pretty much as soon as I got a sense of who I was. I had been working as an actress and knew the arts were for me. The thing that drew me to writing was that I could do it all myself without anyone telling me what my part was or where I had to fit in. I’ve always responded best to the beat of my own drum, which I can hear loud and clear most days! Night In Jerusalem is my first novel. Previously, I have written screenplays. They are, of course, visually-oriented and provide limited opportunity for the writer to describe the characters’ states of mind – everything has to be revealed on the screen. I was drawn to writing a novel because the canvas is so much larger –as big as you like – and the story does not have to fit a budget. However, the relationship with the reader is more intimate and complete, and there’s a challenge to meet there.
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
I have always been intrigued by the miraculous: how and where the soul’s journey leads and how it reveals its destiny; how two people who are destined, even under the threat of war and extinction, can find one another. Night In Jerusalem is a love story set during Israel’s Six Day War in which passion, mystical encounters and the miraculous come together to change the lives of everyone caught up in it.
How did you get the idea for the book?
The love story in Night In Jerusalem came to me on a movie set in Israel. We were filming on a blazingly hot day, dressed as lightly as possible while complying with the dress code of the location, which meant long sleeves, pants and skirts. One of the crew opened his shirt revealing his handsome, muscled chest. An orthodox woman in long black clothes and a wig kept coming out to look at us from her balcony. I sensed how strongly she yearned for contact. The gap between us could have been crossed in a few paces, yet we were centuries apart. I imagined what it was like to be her, what courage it would take for her to break free, how she might do it. Decades later I wrote the book. So far as setting the love story during the Six Day War, Winston Churchill wrote that there is nothing so exhilarating as when someone shoots at you and misses. When the Six Day War erupted. I experienced it firsthand. I spent days in shelters with other women, listening to Arab radio news reports proclaiming victory while we contemplated how we would end it for ourselves. It turned out, of course, that the war went the other way. We were to live! Jerusalem was re-unified. Now, that was exhilarating! At the same time, the search for peace, the endless arguments about what it should look like, and the courageous, impossible loves that thrived despite all odds – the themes of Night In Jerusalem – are questions that have remained with me vividly ever since.
Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?
Reb Eli. He came from an orthodox family in Germany. While still a child, his father, a prominent rabbi, arranged for him to be evacuated to England just before the Nazis slammed the door shut. He was taken in by an aristocratic British family and lived with them until the end of the war. Learning that his own family had been lost in the holocaust, he started a new life in Israel. His intimacy with suffering was matched by the illumination of his spirit, revealing a wisdom untrammeled by orthodoxy, even though he became revered as a sage and spiritual leader of Jerusalem’s orthodox community. His kindness is what makes him my favorite.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?
The sex scenes were the hardest to write. The book is an inspirational love story with a spiritual mystery at its core, but it is truly a love story!
What advice would you offer to new or aspiring fiction authors?
I studied creative writing at Columbia and appreciate the virtuosity of many writers, but I love novels that are told simply, where the writer is unobtrusive and the characters and plot say it all. I think it was Einstein who said it is easy to make things complicated, but it takes genius to make them simple. It is hard to write stories that are so clear and transparent you can see right into the souls of the characters. That’s what works for me, and it is what I strive for. I would say to aspiring fiction authors – get started! Let the characters show you the way, and don’t pay too much mind to anything else. If you get out of your own way and let the characters come alive, you’ll likely find yourself continuously and pleasantly surprised by where it leads you.