When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing novels in 2008 in my spare time. When I retired in 2009, I continued writing but still in my spare time. Okay, it’s all spare time, you say, when retired. Well, not exactly. I joined the Cape Cod Writers Center. I joined the Cape Cod Senior Softball League where we play two or three times a week. We bought a house with a big yard and lots of outside work to do. I played more golf. And I reconnected with family and old friends in New England, which increased our social life. I didn’t approach writing as a new career, but truly enjoyed it and the challenge of getting published.
What have you written so far?
I have four novels, I’m working on a fifth. The first three are murder mystery/thrillers featuring a police detective named Jack Contino. He’s based on a real life Boston cop, now deceased, I read about; he often had to deal with Boston mob boss Whitey Bulger and the mess he created with the FBI. That first book is set in Boston and is titledConnections. I kept Jack as my protagonist and decided to make a series with him. But in the second novel, Aberration, I moved him to Dennis, MA, on Cape Cod. The third novel is Calculation, also set on the Cape.
I decided to give Jack a rest and wrote Schmuel’s Journey, a story about a young boy who survives Auschwitz. The story jumps from 1944 to 1974 and is set in Henniker, NH, a small college town. Schmuel (Sam) wants to forget the holocaust, but a phone call changes his life. An old friend and fellow Auschwitz survivor tells him about a Nazi war criminal possibly hiding in plain sight in his town. There are some other unusual things going on, and a murder takes place. But Sam’s mission is not to solve the murder. His mission is to find the Nazi. Eventually, he falls in love with the Nazi’s unsuspecting wife, which complicates his life even more. I’m now working on a second Sam mystery.
Do you work to an outline or plot sketch, or do you prefer to let a general idea guide your writing?
I started out going with a general idea, but I found that it didn’t work for me. I wound up creating an outline for the remainder of the work after I ran out of gas. Now, I work an idea in my head and try to come up with a story and an ending, in general. Once I’ve done that, I write an outline for the whole thing. It’s not carved in stone, but it allows me to keep moving even when I think I’m getting stumped. The outline is my guide, but I can change the narrative as I go if I find a better way or need to create a new character.
Can you share with readers a little bit about your latest book?
Certainly. It’s a story about finding oneself despite great loss. Called Schmuel’s Journey, the story is about a ten year old boy who survives Auschwitz in 1944. The story jumps to Henniker, NH, in 1974. He is now called Sam and, having suffered the pain of the Holocaust, which includes losing his mother, he seeks a peaceful life in a small college town. But he finds that a Nazi war criminal may be hiding in plain sight under his nose. A former fellow prisoner calls him and tells him about this person and Sam reluctantly agrees to help find out if a certain Biology professor is a former assistant to the infamous Dr. Mengele.
Along the way, Sam falls in love with the professor’s wife, but she is devoted to her husband, not knowing what he really is. Another woman who works with Sam, a free spirit named Martha, develops a “friends with benefits” relationship with him.
Another thread in the story has a spouse swap club in the town, and the ring leader is a member of the college administration, someone prone to fits of temper and violence. When the college president is murdered, he is a suspect. But Sam learns of the murder victim’s interest in the Holocaust and wonders about the possible involvement of the Biology professor. With Martha at his side, Sam digs into his search, but finds himself being the hunter and the hunted.
Tell us more about your main character. What makes him unique?
Unlike most stories about Holocaust survivors, Sam does not want to remember the terrible ordeal. He wants to forget the suffering and move on with his life. He is reluctant to be a Nazi hunter, especially when he feels himself falling in love with the Nazi doctor’s American wife. She sees Sam as a friend, but he sees her (Carol) as much more. This makes it even more difficult for him.
Who is your favorite character in the book and why?
That’s easy. It’s the free spirit woman, Martha Sanborn. She’s bright, attractive and assertive. She has had emotional pain in her life and seems to keep herself from getting too close to men, although she has her fun when she wants it. Sam starts to grow on her, however, but she realizes that he loves Carol. So Sam and Martha are in the same boat when it comes to love. Eventually, she becomes Sam’s partner in his hunt and they both get in harm’s way.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I went to the real college in Henniker and worked for the school, New England College, 1971-73. I know quite a lot about the town and had fun bringing it to life in the novel.
What is your next project?
I’m writing another Sam and Martha Mystery. It’s based on a legend that is part of Henniker’s history, the legend of Ocean Born Mary. Mary was a real person born at sea in 1720 to Scots/Irish immigrants to Boston. Her family settled in New Hampshire and her sons both lived and prospered in Henniker. One son, Robert, built a fine house that, according to the legend, was where she lived out her late years after her husband had died. The house became legendary around 1930-1960, as a ghost house. It still stands but is privately owned and the legend has been pretty well debunked.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I owe a lot to several writer friends in the Cape Cod Writers Center, but I’d have to choose Hank Phillippe Ryan. I attend the wonderful mystery writers conference New England Crimebake each year. A writer can submit some work for critique by a major writer and for two years in a row, I drew Hank. She was very helpful to me and taught me important points about writing. We see each other at other writing events and she’s always got a hug for me. I’ve read a couple of her books and they’re great fun.
How can you discover more about Steven?
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