Whatever possessed you?

I am often asked this question by a reader: Whatever possessed you as a man to write a novel from the point of view of an 18-year-old Jewish girl living in Montreal in 1951?

Possessed is the right word. Every morning, I had coffee in a café where I read a book to unwind after commuting to my job in Boston. Riva Weiss, an elderly woman who also stopped at the café before work, introduced herself and asked me what I was reading. Over several years, we discussed authors we liked and swapped favorite books.

When I told her I was retiring, she asked about my future plans. I said I wanted to write short stories “and maybe a novel.”

Rebecca WisemanRiva began telling me several stories about her childhood in Montreal. When I said they would make great short stories, she encouraged me to ‘write them up.’ I jumped at the chance.

One morning, soon after I finished writing two stories, Riva noted that I enjoyed literature with ‘dark’ themes. When I agreed she said, “Well then, I’ve got a story for you.” Over the next half hour she talked about her engagement when she was 18 years old to a young, wealthy man in Montreal in 1951. I was astounded by her story and couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Front Cover for Echo from Mount Royal

She graciously offered me the chance to ‘write’ it up. Immediately I was fascinated but knew that this was more than a short story. Riva was surprised when I brought in chapter after chapter for her to read. “I thought this was going to be another short story.” Like the apprentice’s broomsticks, the chapters kept coming. “But you haven’t even got to the proposal yet!” Even I wasn’t prepared for the final length: 90,000 words. “We’ve got a novel,” she said.

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Autobiography

Dave Riese -smallerBorn in 1946, I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts. In 1958, I moved to Toronto, Canada for three years, when my father was relocated by his employer.

Attending school in Canada for three years provided two valuable lessons: I looked at the United States as an ‘outsider’ and I lost my Boston accent. My seventh-grade teacher gave me an impromptu pronunciation lesson when I told him, “My fatha had an idear.”

College

I attended Bates College in Maine, majoring in English literature. During my junior year, I studied at Oxford University and travelled to Russia, France, Italy and Greece during vacations. I graduated in 1968.

Military Service

I enlisted in the Air Force one step ahead of my draft board’s kind invitation to join the army in Vietnam. For no apparent reason, the AF assigned me to hospital administration. I married Susan, my high school girlfriend, during leave between tech school and my first posting to the Philippines at Clark Air Base. During my final two years in the military, my wife and I lived outside Washington D.C. near Andrews Air Force Base.

Graduate School and First Job

After my military discharge in 1972, I attended Boston University for a Master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism. The following summer, the University of New Hampshire hired me to script and film videotapes about government social programs for the elderly. In those days, a portable video camera was heavy and attached to a bulky machine which recorded images on reel-to-reel tape in black and white. During the recession of 1976, the grant was not renewed.

A Career in Information Technology

Luckily at that time, companies were eager to hire people for their data processing departments. Liberty Mutual Insurance hired me to attend their three-month training course in computer programming. I learned later that the major reason I was hired was my writing and communications background. I’ve often said, “This goes to show an English degree is a valuable asset!”

During my 35 years in information technology, the industry evolved from punch cards for mainframes to personal computers using the internet. I retired from Mass Financial Services in the spring of 2012.

Retirement

Before retirement I told himself, “You call yourself a writer, but you’ve never made it a priority and done the hard, daily grind.” Since then I spend 3 – 4 hours, 5 days a week, writing, usually in a local coffee shop.

My wife and I moved north of Boston in 1974. We have two children: a daughter and a son. Jessica lives in Ireland with her husband and two daughters. Jeffrey and his wife are pediatricians practicing in Providence. They have a son and daughter.

I am a member of:IBPA Logo

IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) is an organization that provides programs and support for independent publishers and self-published authors.

NWU LogoThe Boston Chapter of the NWU (National Writers Union) is the only labor union that represents freelance writers.

ALLi LogoThe Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is the professional association for authors who self-publish, offering contacts and campaigns, education and collaboration.

 

 

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