Blog Tour & Interview: Seeing Green by #Annabel Hertz

Seeing Green
Book Blurb:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Drawing on clever social commentary and her own experience in the political realm, author Annabel Hertz will get readers “Seeing Green” in no time.

 

Her new book “Seeing Green” (April 15, 2014) steps into the world of cutthroat politics and environmental policy as seen through the eyes of a young multicultural woman whose personal life seems to parallel her professional life as an activist on the frontlines of Washington D.C. in the ’90s. Never afraid to articulate her personal convictions, Hertz’s modern day heroine is strong and profound, yet humorous and relatable.

 

“Seeing Green” is Hertz’s first endeavor in historical fiction, reviewed on The Huffington Post as “timely, energetic and witty.”

 

Much like the protagonist she introduces in “Seeing Green,” Hertz has delved into the world of politics with organizations involved in international relations and sustainable development. More recently, she served as a policy consultant, adjunct professor at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations and Global Governance Fellow at the World Economic Forum.

 

“Seeing Green” is Hertz’s debut novel. She holds master’s degrees from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and San Francisco State University, as well as a bachelor’s degree from the University of California where she studied politics. Hertz is currently pursuing a doctorate in international relations at American University in Washington D.C.

 

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Q&A with Annabel Hertz

Arcani Kirsch, the heroine in “Seeing Green,” is a multicultural woman with a Native American and Jewish background. What role does her ethnicity play in the book?

Arcani’s mixed heritage plays several roles in the book. First, it’s a fundamental source of her identity predicament in that she is trying, throughout the book, to relate to both sides of her lineage and draw upon and unify these heritages for inspiration—and for connections to her own life.

At the same time, she sometimes feels a bit in limbo because of this mixture, and even experiences tension around it—not to mention the friction she encounters, as a minority, within society as a whole, which causes her to wrestle with her identity as an American.

Her multiculturalism is also symbolic of all the other ways that she is divided in the story—between striking out on her own and staying close to her aunt, sticking up for herself and not making waves, getting ahead without sacrificing values, being a Washington inside and an outsider….carefree versus committed, east coast-west coast. And the list goes on.

So, as a result, like many of us, Arcani spends a fair amount of time trying to both assert and reconcile competing tendencies in—or parts of— herself.

Finally, her mixed heritage is—I think and hope—a source of humor in book.

 

What do you think makes Arcani such a relatable character?

The aforementioned internal struggles makes her relatable, including to men, which indicates some level of universality in her character. She is imperfect—as are her immediate work environs and personal life, so most people have had some experience with that, and can empathize with her and things not going according to plan, see her vulnerabilities and forgive her self-righteousness, such that they welcome growth that occurs during her various mini crises, and want her to succeed.

 

Are you anything like Arcani?

On one hand, almost everything that happens to Arcani has never happened to me. She really took on a life of her own—which I am sure is a typical for many writers. On the other hand, I channeled some of my views through her, and reinterpreted some specific moments or emotions I have experienced in scenes with her, and added my heritage to hers halfway into writing the book specifically to personalize the story (as well as to complicate things). So, I am sure there are some similarities between us— though some folks who are not overly fond of her are still friends with me! But I also put pieces of myself—so to speak—in the other lead female characters, and even in the male and secondary characters. Each character is partly a composite of various people—and partly a product of imagination.

 

“Seeing Green” is a work of historical fiction. What parts of the book are based on real events?

Presidential campaign events like the Democratic National Convention, the scene in Bryant Park, the Inaugural parade—those all occurred, as did of course the Rio Conference on Environment and Development, although the Earth Treaty is a gross over simplification of that conference’s outcomes.

The one-year follow up to Rio, the Ministerial conference in Paris, never existed. Some events are mixed—for example, the environmental inaugural ball occurred but its locale and the events in it were fictionalized, as was the politics on Capitol Hill and the hearing, though I drew from real hearings that were occurring at that time. References to international events—the aftermath of the Cold War, the Iraq war, Chernobyl, the Bosnian conflict—are all of course real. By establishing this broader context, I tried to capture the political zeitgeist of the early 90s. I also ended up showing how history—and particularly public and political debates—are cyclical. To me, the similarities and parallels were notable.

 

Do you have to know a lot about politics or environmental policy to enjoy “Seeing Green?”

Not at all. In fact, one of my goals was to personalize the politics and policy to the point that it was intrinsic to the stories about the characters and their motivations, personalities, and growth trajectories. I wanted to make politics more accessible. Some of what’s currently popular on television about Washington already does this, but I think Seeing Green takes accessibility to a new level because of the depth and multidimensionality of the protagonist and her struggles (which doesn’t normally exist in political fiction), and because of its focus on underlings and underdogs who may have linkages to power but are relatively powerless, and have their own dynamics.

 

How did you get interested in politics and international relations?

When I was 14, I saw a documentary at school called ‘The Last Epidemic’ about nuclear war and based on a conference held by Physicians for Social Responsibility. That was a life changing moment, much the way the cold war influenced the character Ginger in the 2012 film “Ginger and Rosa,” only in my case there was a delayed reaction—it wasn’t until college that I became active in the anti nuclear testing movement and interested in international disarmament. That was a formative and exciting time. I was inspired by Helen Caldicott, the Australian anti-nuclear activist, the Western Shoshone People, who were leading the charge in the US, and by Gorbachev and the momentum of Perestroika in Russia. Soon after, the Berlin wall was dismantled.

 

How did your experience in politics and policy shape your book?

My experiences provided a very healthy reservoir to draw upon when coming up with the narrative and sub plots. Although the book really arose from the sheer desire to create and entertain, the content seemed value added and an appropriate fit—and the perspective seemed unique to what’s already out there.

 

“Seeing Green” is humorous and entertaining, yet it serves as a commentary on some serious issues. What do you want readers to take away from your book?

First and foremost, I want them to have fun and be entertained—but ideally in a way that also feels nourishing and is perhaps thought provoking and maybe even moving. Some of my favorite films and novels combine these elements, and I worked hard to make the book read lightly, while still containing grit and ballast. In terms of take aways, the idea of being true to oneself both emanates and resonates. I thought that idea might inspire young women in particular—since Arcani is 25—but it’s a classic message that’s always had broader appeal. Also there is the green message—a de-emphasis on materialism—but this is conveyed through the plot and protagonist’s values, and is not intended to be preachy or overbearing, and I don’t think it comes across as such.

 

 Pen & Muse Interview:

Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!

 

I was born in Philly, third generation American, with roots in Central and Eastern Europe. When I was one, my parents drove to San Francisco in a Rambler station wagon (with our dog and me in the back) and that’s where I grew up—though I spent at least half of every summer on Long Island with my grandparents. In San Francisco, I was fortunate to be steeped in human diversity and to have access to the great outdoors, the arts, and the pioneering and open spirit of California.

 

Tell us about your book? How did it get started?

 

I knew I wanted to connect with—and entertain—people, and take on a challenging project, express myself. I would call it a creative drive, and fiction seemed like a good vehicle. But I was also considering a PhD. Funnily enough, as I was trying to decide which path to take, I picked up Amy Tan’s autobiography at the airport (I’d never bought a book from an airport store, nor have I bought one since), and on the plane, I opened it randomly to a page in which she describes being torn between doing a PhD and writing fiction and how she chose the latter. Talk about coincidence! I even wrote a note to her about it. It was like receiving a targeted message from “home”—since she is based in the Bay Area, and her work always feels familiar to me.

 

I still wasn’t sure about content at that point. But over the next two years, I worked alongside—and then taught— a lot of people who were at the beginning of their careers, leading me to reflect on my own experience at that time in life (which became the basis for the timeframe of my novel) as well as reinforcing the general desire to pass something on to the next generation.

 

How do you create your characters?

Each one is a composite of various people I have met— combined with characteristics I imagine—that take on a specific form based on the role I envision for them in the story. I never knew this could happen, but part of the reason I plan to write a sequel is I became rather attached to the characters and I want to see what they will do next!

 

 

What inspires and what got your started in writing?

 

I am inspired by humor and absurdity, love of ideas and people. I kept diaries as a kid and then wrote for my high school newspaper. As an adult, I wrote all the time for work but did not consider writing fiction until I was approaching forty— when the reality of “what do you really want to accomplish in your life?” really hit home. Ironically, as an undergraduate, I had taken a creative writing class and the teacher told me I could become an outstanding writer—but I didn’t think about fiction for another twenty years. My mother has written and performed plays, and my paternal grandmother wrote poetry late in life, but I never thought of that as a precedent until recently.

 

Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)

 

I generally write in cafes—the older and more beautiful, the better. I do need a certain amount of life and human interaction around me or I get too lonely. My café habit started in high school: at lunch, I would sip cappuccinos, listen to the classical music, and finish my homework for the next class. From then on, I always preferred writing in cafes, although as an undergrad, I studied in school libraries.

 

I prefer to have cappuccinos while writing. I also like to move around a lot—start the day writing in one place, finish in another. I would write outside if not for the glare on the computer screen. I would also love to write while hiking, but I think they call that dictation, and it’s harder for me to tell a written story when I cannot see the words.

 

How do you get your ideas for writing?

 

The idea for the novel came organically—I was looking for a combination of time period, cause, and protagonist. Once I learned that writing fiction involves writing what is essentially stage direction, I approached the story scene by scene. This was so helpful, because it broke down the story into manageable chunks and demanded that each scene move the story along but be entertaining as a stand-alone. This allowed me to focus on some aspect of political and/or personal life—and these snippets came easily from a reservoir of experience and imagination.

 

What do you like to read?

These days I am reading mainly International Relations and other theory, much of which I like very much. I love a good news read— New York Times, Financial Times, the Economist, the Atlantic, as well as to peruse foreign news and editorials, most of which I read online. I also love historical fiction with unconventional protagonists—like those found in a Sarah Dunant or David Liss novel—who are often ahead of, and stuck in, their times. I also enjoy political and satirical work (Mohammed Hanif and Carl Hiassen, for example) or emotionally moving stories (Russell Banks). More recently, I really enjoyed Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

 

 

What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?

 

-It’s never too late to begin writing, and start as soon as possible, because it takes some time and you have no time to lose.

-Figure out what motivates you to write and to finish projects, and do those things.

-Be willing to let go of parts of the story you love in order for the story to flow.

-If you cannot find a routine, but are still writing, then don’t worry!

-If you find writing a book very difficult—with little material reward—and you wish to do it again, you are definitely a writer.

 

Annabel Hertz
Author Links below:
Denise Alicea
the authorDenise Alicea
This blog was created by Denise in September 2008 to blog about writing, book reviews, and technology. Slowly, but surely this blog expanded to what it has become now, a central for book reviews of all kinds interviews, contests, and of course promotional venue for authors, etc

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