The Last Way Station

And now for something completely different. In honor of Halloween, I have indie author Jon Riesfeld in the studio today to talk about his novelette focusing on one of the great monsters of history, a villain all the more terrible for the fact that he was completely human.

A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Jon Reisfeld has worked, most of his adult life, as a writer and marketer. He has more than 25 years combined experience in journalism, corporate communications, advertising and marketing.

At 23, Jon became the first writer ever to have a story start on the cover of Baltimore Magazine. (It was a piece about teenage suicide.) He later founded and published Housecalls, a Baltimore-based health-and-fitness magazine. In the mid 90s, Jon served as Director of Marketing and Communications for Duron Paints and Wallcoverings. He ran the half-billion dollar regional paint company’s 12-person in-house advertising agency for several years before returning to his private marketing consulting practice.

Jon’s eclectic interests run the gamut from cosmology, chaos theory, technology and sci-fi to social issues, politics, the economy, anthropology, marketing and writing. He began writing fiction in his 40s and enjoys reading, walking, cycling, attending the theatre and “most” new movie openings.

 

So let’s dive right in and discuss your book, The Last Way Station:

 

Q. Tell us a little bit about your book.

My book, The Last Way Station, tells the story of Hitler’s final judgment in Hell. Since I wasn’t there, it’s speculative historical fiction, but I’ve tried to keep it true to the character of Hitler, his crimes against humanity and the challenges involved in properly punishing someone of his particular character.

 

Q. What excites you most about your book’s topic? Why did you choose it?

I wrote the book because I wanted to know how people like Hitler, who kill, lie and steal on such a massive scale — and then avoid punishment by taking their own lives, or otherwise disappearing — might actually be made to pay for their crimes in the afterlife. I wrote it to address the issue of Hitler’s responsibility for the totality of the crimes committed by him, and in his name. I wrote it to investigate the issue of moral relativism created by an amoral regime, such as his, that co-opts virtually all public and private institutions that fall under its control. And I wrote it to attempt to answer the holocaust deniers and Hitler apologists who, to one extent or another, claim either that the holocaust never happened or that Hitler knew little, if anything, about it.

 

Q. How long did the book take you from start to finish?

The initial draft took me several months to half a year to complete, but I took a hiatus of several years from it when I was about halfway through. That’s because I originally had planned to include three vignettes in the story, but I had found the first one extremely painful to write and quite disturbing.

 

Q. What aspect of writing the book did you find particularly challenging?

I felt it was important to make the book as realistic as possible, and to identify, as closely as possible, with its characters. Not having personally lived through the holocaust, I had to rely on the body of holocaust literature I had read over the years as well as secondary research. Then, I used certain tricks, such as naming characters closely after the real names of friends and relatives, in order to aid me in identifying with them.

To better understand the ‘public’ Hitler, I decided to read Mein Kampf. What I learned, rather quickly, was how masterful a liar he was. Hitler would begin to expound on a rather pedestrian point, making a fairly dry exegesis about it, only to turn it, in the end, while feigning complete surprise at his own revelation, into an indictment of either the communists, social democrats or the Jews.

He attempted to create the appearance that all of his thoughts shared with the reader as he thought them. In reality, they were not ‘spontaneous’ in the least, but rather the result of deliberate, calculated effort. He also would attack such things as the tactics of his political opponents, even though he often co-opted, and perfected, those very same tactics, taking them to far greater extremes, than his opponents did, in his own quest for power. Reading Mein Kampf may have been a personal challenge, but purchasing it at a neighborhood bookstore was an extremely creepy experience.

 

Q. Did you seek the support of a writer’s group or class?

Nope. I didn’t show it to anyone until I had taken it through several drafts.

 

Q. What surprised you the most about the book writing process?

Two things. First, when writing holocaust “fiction,” I felt, as I imagine others do too, a a degree of presumption for even attempting to add to the body of “genuine” holocaust eyewitness literature. I also felt a deep sense of obligation to ‘get it’ right. Second, in this case, the act of writing created an “experiment” in which certain parts of the outcome were unexpected.

 

Q. What do you hope your readers will gain from reading your book?

I hope they gain the same things I gained: a deeper understanding of the true nature of Hitler’s evil and a better understanding of the thought processes, or ‘logic’ if you will, that informed his actions and explained certain contradictory aspects of his behavior. For instance, after reading The Last Way Station, the reader should be able to respond to Hitler apologists who argue that he “couldn’t have known about the holocaust” because, if he did, “he would have redirected the trains and resources mobilized to exterminate Jews to support, and further, his war effort.” Readers also should come away with a better understanding of Hitler’s peculiar nature and of what might constitute a ‘fitting’ punishment for super evil people, such as him.

 

Q. What projects are you currently working on?

Well, first, as a self-published author, I’m working on marketing this book, building awareness and sales! So, I encourage any readers who are so inclined to visit Amazon, Smashwords or Barnes and Noble and plunk down 99 cents for a copy of this ebook. Then, if they like it, I hope they’ll write a brief blurb about it on Amazon and recommend it to their friends. Word of mouth is king, in the self-publishing game.

I’m also expanding, and re-releasing, another book, The Reform Artists, from a novella into a novel. The Reform Artists tells the story of an underground group, formed by members of the U.S. intelligence community, who help innocent people being victimized by “the system.” It could become a series. The first book focuses on the group’s efforts to help Martin Silkwood, a man falsely accused of domestic violence by his estranged wife, get a fair hearing in divorce court. The Reform Artists should be out in mid-January. Then, I’m going to finish researching, and begin writing, a sci-fi trilogy that’s set on earth and spans several hundred years of human history.

 

Q. Is writing your sole career? If not, what else do you do?

No. When I’m not writing, I’m working as a marketing communications consultant. I hope to combine my knowledge of the two disciplines, soon, to help other indie writers market their books.

 

Q. What tips would you offer to anyone writing fiction for the first time?

Believe in yourself and your ideas. You’re going to need that belief to help you make it through the process of conceiving of your idea, breathing life into it, refining it and then getting out there and marketing it. And you’re going to need it to help you ignore the many naysayers who will try and shoot you down. Next, come up with a schedule and stick to it. And, finally, to avoid banging your head against the wall, endlessly, read a good book about how to do write long-form fiction, such as James Frey’s book, How to Write a Damn Good Novel. It’s a damn good book!

 

Q. How did you come up with your title?

I settled on “The Last Way Station” late in the game. Years after I finished the book. For a long time, the title was “A Greater Truth.” I got that title from Mein Kampf, in which Hitler discusses how the Nazi political platform represented a “greater truth” than the platform of its political opponents. In other words, to Hitler, “truth,” an absolute, is a completely relative concept. What made one “truth” greater than another, in his mind, it seems, was the likelihood that the public would embrace it. While I liked that title, I felt it was a bit too abstract. “The Last Way Station,” on the other hand, represents the second- to-last stop on Hitler’s soul’s journey to redemption. It’s the solitary holding cell where he must remain until his caseworker deems him ready to enter into the afterworld, proper.

 

Q. What books have influenced you the most?

Many. But when it comes to holocaust literature, the list narrows considerably. I would put Eli Wiesel’s books Night and Dawn at the top of the list, right along with House of Ashes by Oscar Pinkus and The Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart. In the “non- fiction” category, I’d include The Diary of Anne Frank, The House on Garibaldi Street by Isser Harel, The Last Jews in Berlin by Leonard Gross, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer ,and IBM and the Holocaust by Edwin Black.

 

Q. What can we look forward to in your next book?

My next book, The Reform Artists, will be all about life in the “here and now” with a few speculative sci-fi twists and courtroom drama.

 

Q. Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to include?

No. Thanks for a thorough, and I hope, interesting, discussion.

 

Thanks for coming in, Jon.   For more information about Jon and The Last Way Station, check out the links below:

 

Web Page: www.jonreisfeld.com

Blog: www.writeatyou.wordpress.com

Other Social Media addresses

www.facebook.com/fickshuneer

www.twitter.com/jonreisfeld

 

Book Trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoGRsL9lZEQ

 

Book purchase links:

Amazon Kindle:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZR9KSW

Smashwords:

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/58849

Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-last-way-station-jon-reisfeld/1103948511?ean=2940011335211&itm=1&usri=the%2blast%2bway%2bstation3a%2bhitler27s

 

Respectfully,

Arshad Ahsanuddin

 

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