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Donna Fletcher Crow

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Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more.

Fay Sampson

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Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick.

The Writing of UNLEAVENED DEAD, or, Why Everybody Needs a Rabbi

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ December 5, 2012

Donna:  My guest today is Ilene Schneider, author of the Rabbi Aviva Cohen mysteries Chanukah Guilt and Unleavened Dead and a rabbi herself.

First of all, Ilene, tell us about writing Unleavened Dead.

Ilene:  One day, I woke up and thought, "I'm going to write a book." I did. It got published. "Gee," I thought as I was counting all the royalty loot, "that sure was easy. I'll do it again." So I did. And as more money and kudos rolled in, I wrote a third. Wow, what a year that was!


If you're a reader, you may think what I just wrote is a true account. If you're a writer, you want some of whatever it is I'm ingesting.

The main thing I've ingested over the past ten years since I had that I'm-going-to-write-a-book moment has been frappachinos.

The truth is closer to: "Think I'll write a book," followed by months of procrastination, followed by months of staring blankly at a computer monitor, followed by months of deletions, followed by months of looking for an agent, followed by months of looking instead for a mid-sized publisher that doesn't require an agent, followed by months of looking for a small publisher that doesn't require an agent or a history of prior publications. Then comes the waiting for the proofs, the editing, the rereading and finding even more typos, the search for incomprehensible sentences or scenarios that make no sense at all, even to you, and you wrote them. And all the time, you are going to writers' conferences, speaking for free at local libraries, setting up a vendor's table at a local event. And you are blogging on your own sites and on friends' (thanks, Donna!). And designing a business card, after you approve the book cover. And soliciting reviewers. And asking other authors to read the book and write a blurb for the back page. And posting updates on the publication date on every social media site you can find. And ….

Writing ain't for wimps. Nor is it for introverts. Readers are not going to flock to you. You have to go out and beg, bribe, and coerce them. And it's no easier for book #3 than it was for #1 or #2.

So why do it? I recently met someone who wants to write a book. "I'm hoping it will give me some income, so I'll have a bit of a financial cushion." I tried to let her down easily, but had to be blunt: "Don't write because you think you'll make a lot of money. Or even a little bit of money. It may cost you money, because if you don't network, you won't get known, and conference fees, travel, and hotels are expensive. Write for one reason only:


Any other reason, and you'll be disappointed."

And that's why I write. I enjoy it. Even when I can't figure out what's going to happen next or how to figure out whodunit in a logical manner that won't frustrate the reader. And that's the only reason to write. 

Donna: What a great story, Ilene--and absolutely sound advice. Telling your story has to be the primary focus of writing a novel. And, of course, doing it through memorable characters. That's what draws me most to your books. Ilene--I love Rabbi Aviva and the impossible scrapes she gets into by just trying to do her job and help her congregation.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin is famous for saying "Everybody needs a rabbi," and I can tell you, if I were going to be involved in a murder, Rabbi Aviva is the one I'd want.Aviva’s friends, family (dysfunctional though it is), neighbors and synagogue are all blessed by her presence in their lives— as are Ilene's readers. Even Aviva’s first ex-husband’s life is better for renewing his acquaintance with her.

Here's my review of Unleavened Dead


Rabbi Aviva is back— and never in better form— if never more stressed. The pressure of Passover preparations with a wedding the night before, Aviva’s complicated relationship with her ex-husband and turmoil in her niece’s life should be enough, but then people close to Aviva start dying in suspicious circumstances. And then the mob shows up. As always, Schneider gives us a wonderful picture of life in a Jewish community— Chaim Potok with a wacky sense of humor.

You can get better acquainted with Ilene by visiting her here:                                                                              And you can buy her book here:                    

Donna Fletcher Crow (US) is the author of forty-some books, mostly novels dealing with the history of British Christianity. She is the author of The Monastery Murders series; The Lord Danvers Victorian True-Crime series; The Elizabeth & Richard literary mysteries, GLASTONBURY,A Novel of the Holy Grail and more.

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Reader Comments:

Thank you for being my guest, Ilene. It's easy to see where Rabbi Aviva gets her sense of humor!
-Donna, December 5, 2012

I agree, Ilene is one funny writer! And I love this advice--write because you have a story that must be told. As The Giving Tree says, Then you will be happy.
-jennymilch, December 5, 2012

Thank you for coming by, Jenny. I think the most perceptive question a reader ever asked me was "What drives you?" My answer was, the story.
-Donna, December 6, 2012

Thanks for this wonderful post, Donna. I have the great privilege of knowing Rabbi Ilene as a personal friend and fellow member of South Jersey Women Authors. She is a remarkable women with a zest for life and a sense of humor to match. Not to mention, she is a fantastic writer!

MaryAnn Diorio, Author
Harbourlight Books
-DrMaryAnn, December 6, 2012

Perfect explanation of the writing life, Ilene! As you know I loved Chanukah Guilt and Aviva, and just now have ordered Unleavened Dead!
-Radine, December 10, 2012

Wonderful interview, and I can't wait to read your books. Getting into writing for the money? hahahahahaha You hit it right on the head.
Marja McGraw
-Marja McGraw, December 15, 2012

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