Interview with Patricia Averbach, author of Dreams of Drowning

Patricia Averbach began her writing career at sixteen as literary assistant to Anzia Yeszierska, Jewish-American author of the immigrant experience.

 A native Clevelander, she’s a former director of The Chautauqua Writers Center in Chautauqua, New York. Her upcoming novel, Dreams of Drowning (Bedazzled Ink, 2024), was a finalist for the Tucson Festival of Books and Chanticleer’s Somerset Award for Literary Fiction.

Previous novels include Painting Bridges (Bottom Dog Press, 2013) and Resurrecting Rain (Golden Antelope Press, 2020) which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry chapbook, Missing Persons, (Ward Wood Publishing, 2013) was cited by Times of London Literary Supplement (November 2014) as one of the best small collections of the year.

She lives with her husband in a suburb of Cleveland when she’s not visiting her daughters in Toronto, Maui and Peru or hanging out in a virtual world called Second Life.

In a chat with Mru's Books and Reviews the author tells us about his journey as a writer, her favorite books, her writing schedule, her books characters and so much more. 

How many bookshelves are in your house?

My husband bought five matching bookcases for my old office that covered an entire wall of our old house. We filled those bookcases plus all the bookcases in the family room and my daughters’ bedrooms and there were more books in boxes in the basement.

We had a lot of books. And then we sold the house and moved into a condo that meant leaving a lof of things, including most of our books behind.

We still have several bookcases filled with our old favorites, but I’ve learned to let go and to let the books I love live in memory and the library.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

During my years as director of The Chautauqua Writers Center I had the opportunity to spend my summers with some of the finest writers working today.

Many of them taught workshops through our writer-in-residence program or through the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival and I was able to learn from all of them. That said, the four writers who have helped me the most are the not so famous members of a writers group I’ve been part of for the past eight years. Although we meet online in a virtual world we’ve come to know one another well and have each produced three or four novels over our time together. Two members, not me, have completed PhDs in creative writing during that time as well.

One of us is a publisher as well as an author, and one of us, again not me, spent most of his career writing for television before starting to write novels. The fourth is a poet and a Sikh who has spent most of his life in Australia, Singapore and India.

Our voices are diverse and each of us produces work that is distinctive and unique, yet we’ve come to rely on one another for comments and advice. I don’t know if I’d have ever completed anything without their encouragement.  

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?

Each of my books stands on its own, although I toyed with the idea of setting my second novel in the same small town where the first novel took place.

The first book was set in the mid-seventies, the second around forty years later so I thought of having the young characters in my first book make cameo appearances as old codgers in the second, but the story went in a different direction so that never happened.

Maybe I’ll go back and write a sequel one day, but probably not. I’m always chasing the shiny, new object in front of me.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t listen to your mother. I told my mother I wanted to be a writer when I was in college and she told me that if I had any real talent I would already be famous – or words to that effect. Even then I knew that was crazy, but I felt deflated and defeated anyway. Writing as a career is tough and it takes time to learn your craft and to find your voice. You’ll almost certainly need a day job or some other career to sustain you until your writing starts to make more money than it costs. But don’t give up. The journey itself is worth the effort and you’re never too old to begin. 

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

Nothing, since I don’t base my characters on particular people. When I’m asked where I get my characters I always answer, “They aren’t based on anyone I know. They’re based on everyone I know. They’re all composites of actual people, fictional people, people I read about in the newspaper and people who populate my dreams.

Describe your writing space.

I’d love to say that I’ve created a writing sanctuary in a garden overlooking the sea, or in a snug cabin in a pine wood, but that would be a lie. I work out of a walk-in closet that’s been outfitted with a desk, a chair and a bookcase. I try to ignore the laundry drying on the rack behind my head and my husband talking on the phone in the next room.

How do you deal with the emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?

I’ve found that there is an aspect of writing that is very similar to acting, except that an author plays all the characters. I’ve definitely wept real tears when writing a sad scene or felt my heart race when I’ve put a character in danger, but I love when that happens. That’s my body telling me that the story’s come alive.   

Do you have a favorite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.

There’s an elderly gentleman in my newest book named Jacob Kanter. He’s a retired archaeology professor who’s dealing with failing health, the loss of his wife and a son who wants him in an old age home. But even in his eighties, even as he approaches the end of life, his spirit remains vibrant and alive. He’s funny, wise and adventurous to the end. I can still hear his voice in my head and I’d love to go on talking to him.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

I’m working on another novel right now. Not to give too much away, it takes place in Cleveland during the build up to World War Two, and involves a Jewish family living in my grandmother’s old neighborhood. The family includes a young girl, her spinster aunt, her grandfather and a ghost. I’ll say no more.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

What book is currently on your bedside table?

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese and I’m loving every minute of it. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s one of those books that you wish would never end.

Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.

At the risk of making myself seem goofy, I spend quite a bit of time in a computer generated world called Second Life. There’s a vibrant writing community in that virtual world and I’ve made good friends and valuable contacts in there, plus I always look great and never have a bad hair day. In fact, my avatar was on the cover of Lilith Magazine the year they published my article about the Jewish community in Second Life. Imagine, being a cover girl at my age.

Where can readers purchase your books?

My books are available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, Google Play and through my website:

Where can readers find out more about you and your books?

You could start with my website: or just google Patricia Averbach, author.

Thank you to Patricia Averbach for this wonderful opportunity to  interview her. And Best Wishes for your future writing from all the readers at Mru's Books and Reviews. 

Happy Reading!! 

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