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Abstract Clarity: The Secret Life of B.W. Ginsburg:


(This is not B.W. Ginsburg)




The last twenty years have seen a seismic shift in the perception of authors. With the evolution of social media, Hollywood, Netflix and HBO deals, writers like Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin and Stephen King have weaponized their oversized cult of personality as a marketing tool. Tweeting their every opinion to their loyal followers, crisscrossing the country in a never-ending series of appearances and signings so intensive, you wonder when they find time to write. It's easy in this age of plugged-in personas to forget that this was not always the life of an author. There is, after all, a long, respected tradition of the reclusive writer steadily producing story after story with no desire in the world for a personal publicity. Octavia Butler, Harper Lee, the Brönte sisters, Elizabeth Barret Browning, and Elena Ferrante are all both well-known and enigmatic. Cleveland's own Bill Watterson is so reclusive and cautious of his privacy, he can waltz in and out of local bookstores, sign copies of his books, and leave with the staff none the wiser.


There are dangers in choosing to insert yourself into your work. Familiarity might create loyalty, but it also breeds expectation. Churning out cozy mysteries or formulaic thrillers for an audience enamored with your plot lines and your tweets is a bit of a double-edged sword. There is the danger of painting yourself professionally into a corner. When an author's public personality supersedes their work, they run the risk of alienating their audience as well. One need look no further than the cautionary tale of J.K. Rowling as illustration. Once social media's darling, her intolerant and polarizing tweets have effectively alienated her once-loyal core demographic: the millennials who grew up on her stories.


B.W. Ginsburg has gone the other way, far from the maddening crowd. Foregoing the sword for the scythe, Ginsburg has chosen instead to slowly and methodically clear her own secluded field, uncovering the warrens, debris, and foundations of long-forgotten themes. And she does so in private, a fascinating juxtaposition to contemporary mores. Her limited social engagement is charming but vague. She does not do personal appearances and prefers to keep her identity and appearance secret. I've had the pleasure of meeting Ginsburg and the impression that lingers is equally elusive: eyes that don't miss much, hands folded neatly, quietly absorbing everything around her.


Privacy gives an author a bit of clarity, a pure form of observation that breeds storytelling untainted by public opinion or worse, expectation. Ginsburg writes what she wants, ghost stories, startling speculative fiction, uplifting observational essays, each one a needle sharp journey into whatever delights or preoccupies her. I would not hesitate to compare her to Emily Dickinson, who retreated only to live a fuller creative life then she ever could have otherwise. It's easy to picture the classical author in the garret, feverishly writing page after page by the light of a solitary candle.


Her book of short stories, Abstract Clarity, reminds me of Angela Carter's work: wide-eyed graphic horror mixed with an almost schoolmarm sense of shock. The collection brilliantly poses the question: what if hell wasn't a place, but a time? More specifically, what if "Hell" was watching humanity's greatest mistakes and worst nightmares over and over again, with no hope of ever changing the outcome? What if Satan wasn't a goat-legged caricature, but History and Time themselves? The surprising use of an object or a concept as antagonist is a hallmark of Ginsburg's writing. Ginsburg's most recent release, Dearest Jay, is an epistolary deathbed confession about a childhood journey into an abandoned school. And once again, the antagonist isn't a human, but an object. And yet despite the distance Ginsburg puts between herself and her work, there is a quiet engagement with the reader that is both personal and intimate.




Interviewer

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?



B.W. Ginsburg

Publishing my first book gave me faith in myself. It made me realize that people really wanted to read my work and would actually enjoy it! I’ve gotten so many compliments on Rest in Piece and I am so grateful for them. I think publishing my first book made me strive to write and publish even more and to not give up on myself or my work.


Interviewer

What about your early life influenced your journey toward becoming a writer?


B.W. Ginsburg

I think the fact that I loved reading so much when I was younger inspired me to become a writer. I wanted to write my own books. As Toni Morrison said, “​If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” It wasn’t enough for me to just read books that other writers had written. I wanted to write as well.



Interviewer

Do you find that your work has a theme?


B.W. Ginsburg

While not all of my novels and short stories are centered around this theme, I think the idea of inanimate objects becoming animate is very interesting to me. The whole concept of giving the lifeless life is fascinating to me, I think it creates a whole new world of possibility. Also, when writing fiction, I think a great question to ask oneself is ‘what if’ and the idea of things that aren’t real being able to think, breathe, and even possibly truly live? It’s incredible!

Interviewer

How long have you been writing?


B.W. Ginsburg

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I remember in the first grade tracing random letters in the carpet with my fingers. My teacher commented on it. I believe I really began to have an appreciation for the craft in the third grade. It’s hard to say when I wrote my first story. I just know I’ve loved writing for a long time. I clearly remember starting to write a story with my childhood best friend. I also used to write a lot of poetry when I was younger. I do know for a fact that I was writing full length stories in high school and college; always wanting my teachers and professors to have a look and share their honest opinion. I’ve always been one for honesty, especially when it comes to being able to produce the best work possible.


Interviewer

Tell us about your new book.


B.W. Ginsburg

Dearest Jay: A Ghost Story is my most recent work. It’s a short ghost story and was written July 1st of 2020. It's a letter from a dying woman sharing her experience of when she was young and had to face her fears to discover the secrets of a haunted abandoned school.


Interviewer

Can you share the first line of Dearest Jay?


B.W. Ginsburg

“Dearest Jay, As I lie here on my death bed, writing for the last time, I realize that maybe I’ve been silly.”



Interviewer

What inspired you to Dearest Jay?


B.W. Ginsburg

For starters, I wanted to write something truly scary. It’s also based on a real life abandoned school that kids used to claim was haunted. Without giving away too much detail, the abandoned school was in Cuyahoga County.



Interviewer

How long on average does it take you to write a book?


B.W. Ginsburg

It really all depends on the length of the book. I don’t believe it took me very long to write Dearest Jay, but I wanted to get everything just right. As for my longer books, like Rest in Piece and Crimson Vows, those took a little longer. Maybe about a year or so?



Interviewer

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?


B.W. Ginsburg

I’m very into the concept of stand-alones. I’m not a huge fan of people needing to read the last book to comprehend the next. Sometimes I feel like that’s not fair to the reader. Not everyone has that kind of money to buy every book. Also, not everyone is going to like every single book by an author. Why should they have to read every book to understand the next?


Interviewer

What is a common trap for aspiring writers?


B.W. Ginsburg

I think a common trap is thinking that you’re going to make tons of money writing. I know in a perfect world that would happen, but that doesn’t mean it will. I’m all about positivity, but sometimes you have to get yourself into the mindset that you might not get rich off of your work, or even, make a lot of money. Heck, you might not make much at all. Also, there are going to be some readers that don’t like your work - that tear it apart and almost seem to enjoy doing so. I know that hurts, but it’s okay. Not everyone has to like what you write. What matters is that you like it and that you think it’s good.


Interviewer

What does literary success look like for you?


B.W. Ginsburg

To me, literary success is all about people buying your works and really enjoying it. It’s about people reading your work and thinking, ‘Man, I wish​ I ​wrote this!’


Interviewer

How does your environment shape your work? Does living in Cleveland play a role?


B.W. Ginsburg

While I’m not sure that Cleveland itself plays much of a role, I do think my environment does. I have parents that support my writing and know how much it means to me. My dad especially has been a huge supporter of my work and I truly believe I get my gift for words from him.


Interviewer

Do you believe in writer’s block?


B.W. Ginsburg

Definitely! There have no doubt been moments when I want to write something and nothing is coming into my head. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with it either. Sometimes it just takes time for a good idea to be created and for the juices to start flowing.



Interviewer

Does writing energize or exhaust you?


B.W. Ginsburg

I think a little of both. When I’m really on a roll and everything is working out, it energizes me. There are times when I’m writing or reading what I’ve written and think, “Wow, I’m good!” Other times, it can be exhausting. When I’m stuck on a certain spot and I don’t know where to go next or it feels like there’s just a huge block of nothing happening in my story. That’s when I think writer’s block hits and it gets tiring to even try to continue. However, if you love to write then you must continue and not give up!




Interviewer

How has your role as a reader informed your role as a writer?


B.W. Ginsburg

Reading has made me understand the definition of good writing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reading a really well written book and instantly felt inspired to write something of my own. If I would have never picked up a book, I would have never wanted to pick up a pen and create my own magic.


Interviewer

What is the title of a book that has really stayed with you?


B.W. Ginsburg

There are honestly a lot. My favorite books include: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill, Tell No One by Harlan Coben, and The Unwanted by John Saul. Another book that I think greatly inspired me was InkHeart by Cornelia Funke.


Interviewer

What is the title of the book you wish everyone would read?



B.W. Ginsburg

Well, honestly, I think every adult should read NOS4A2 by Joe Hill. The novel is unbelievably creative and while long, I couldn’t get enough of it. As for a book that’s more suitable for all ages, I think InkHeart is a good place to start (no, that rhyme was not intentional!). While I can honestly say, I don’t remember a lot of details about the novel, I know I found it full of inspiration. In fact, the cover photo itself is incredible!

Interviewer Your book covers are very distinctive. As an independent author, how do you approach cover design?


B.W. Ginsburg

The first cover was actually drawn by my mom. I had an idea for a design and I knew what a great artist she was. In addition to my mom drawing my first cover, I’ve asked a few friends I met through Instagram for help. Lilith Adams designed the special edition cover for Abstract Clarity, along with the cover for Hell’s Radio. Ginger Elinburg designed the cover for Crimson Vows. For Inspiration Unbound, I used photographs taken by my dad, which was fitting since he wrote the poetry in the book. The first cover for Abstract Clarity was something I designed.


Interviewer

What is the hardest part of being a self-published author?

B.W. Ginsburg

I think the hardest part of being self-published is getting the word out about my books and actually selling them. I don’t mainly write for the money, but it’s nice to have people buy and read your books, and yes, make a profit.


Interviewer

And the best part?

B.W. Ginsburg

I think the best part of self-publishing is being in control of your own work and not being rushed.

I started self-publishing after attempts of sending my stories to publishing companies and magazines. While some places accepted some of my poems, no one accepted my longer works. Honestly I was getting tired of waiting so long for companies to reply only to get rejected. It was tiring and disheartening. I didn’t want to give up on writing though. I wanted to be able to share my work with others. Writing means the world to me and sharing my work with others is one of the many things in life that make me happy.




B.W. Ginsburg is the author of Abstract Clarity, Dearest Jay, Crimson Vows, Hell's Radio, Rest in Piece, and Inspiration Unbound. Her titles are available across all major booksellers. You can follow B.W. Ginsburg on Instagram and on her website.


Dana McSwain is a bestselling author and principal at Webb House Publishing. @writersofcleveland is a project dedicated to amplifying the voices of Cleveland writers. 2021 All rights reserved.