Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview: Delin Colón - Rasputin and The Jews

This non-fiction work covers the famous or "infamous" Rasputin, documenting little known facts about his efforts to help the Jews of Russia at the time gain equal rights.

Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History

by Delin Colón

“Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History” is a work of historical non-fiction, debunking the myths surrounding Rasputin and offering a humanitarian image of him.  Rasputin, the spiritual advisor to the last Czar and Czarina of Russia, advocated equal rights for the severely oppressed Russian Jews who were deprived of all rights and were subject to torture and slaughter, at the whim of the military.

The book details specific incidents of Rasputin’s aid to Jews, as well as his efforts to persuade the Czar to grant them equal rights.  The Russian aristocracy was rabidly anti-Semitic and Jews were considered traitors.  Consequently, providing any aid to Jews was on a par with treason.  This was a major reason for the aristocracy’s campaign to discredit Rasputin.  In addition, he was anti-war, which was not a popular stance in a pro-war era.

Most books about Rasputin only briefly mention his aid to Jews, whether with admiration or derision, but this is the only book that focuses on the specifics, including his attempts to nominate cabinet ministers who were for equal rights for Jews and who were anti-war.  Several historians have noted that, had Rasputin been a noble, the aristocracy’s hypocritical accusations of womanizing and alcoholism would have been disregarded, since they themselves consumed French champagne and vodka by the case, as well as being rife with venereal diseases due to their own promiscuity.  It is unfortunate that the gossip and myths fabricated by the nobility and bureaucracy entered the history books, but it is an example of history being written by the powerful (and literate) and not by the common man.

Writing has always been a staple in my life, whether to express myself through poetry, short stories, articles, or opinion pieces.  Stream-of-consciousness writing has also been my method for resolving any personal issues or conflicts within myself.   I’ve been a technical writer for Sociological Abstracts, have edited other writers’ works, and once had a business pairing writers with clients, for commercial, creative, technical or industrial projects.  I also create minimalistic collage art.

Research, however, has equally been a passion of mine, which makes historical non-fiction the perfect genre for me.  The impetus for writing my book on Rasputin was spurred by having read the published memoirs of my great-great uncle who was Rasputin’s secretary.  It was the first time I’d read about his aid to Jews.  I felt the need to correct the historical view and my decade of research turned up a treasure trove of information substantiating his activities.

Writing historical non-fiction is, in some respects, easier than writing fiction.  The ‘characters’ and ‘plot’ already exist, so half the work is done, rendering verisimilitude a moot point.  All that is left is to present the material in an appealing narrative for the reader.  Writer’s block is also eliminated because the facts and focus are clear.  For someone like me who loves research and writing, it is more fun than work.

The process of writing is, for me, a solitary activity.  I don’t discuss it with others until it’s in finished form.  The research takes longer than the writing process.  As I read, I use post-it markers on pages with information I want to incorporate.  I create an index card for each bit of information, with the source, and file it under the one of the categories created by my chapter outline.  Before writing, I order the index cards in each category in such a way that each subject segues easily and logically into the next.  The narrative then flows naturally. 

I decided to self-publish because I didn’t want to spend months waiting for responses, and I felt, given the specificity of my subject, that I could easily target my audience for marketing and promotion purposes.  I chose Createspace, for the paperback version, because there is no cost other than the books you choose to purchase (at a very reasonable price), and because of their connection to Amazon.  I’ve been very happy with them.  Sales reports are updated with each sale and easily accessible.  And, they pay promptly.  Putting the book on Kindle and Nook was a no-brainer.  There’s no cost and it widens your market.

My first post-publication act was to garner as many reviews as possible.  Targeting Jewish periodicals, as well as local ones, my pitch was enough to pique the curiosity of a number of editorial reviewers.  In nearly a year that my book has been on the market, I’ve only received glowing reviews and was gratified, recently, to have Charles Weinblatt publish his review of my book in The New York Journal of Books which does not review self-published work.  Such book reviews, in addition to generous book bloggers, such as Ted Gross, have contributed to a steady sales record.

As, I think, most writers will admit, writing a book is a relatively easy and finite task, as compared to marketing and promotion, which are never-ending.  Selling the book is an ongoing task and requires a lot of perseverance.  It can be exhausting, consume your life, and prevent you from writing further works, if you don’t confine it to a finite portion of your day.  It’s best to outline your marketing goals, prioritizing your targets for reviews, interviews, author signings, speaking engagements, etc.  About half my work day is spent marketing; the other half is for research/writing.  I also share my leads with online communities of writers, who generously do the same. 

I don’t give advice to writers because it’s such an idiosyncratic process.  Everyone has his or her own method.  The only dictum I ascribe to is not to worry about the business of writing before one’s done with the process of writing.  The process requires total commitment and concentration. Fretting over publishing, marketing and sales can only distract from the process. There’s plenty of time for the business end, once the book is published.

The feeling of success, for me, came with holding the first published copy of my book. After a fifteen year journey, the book in my hands was a huge feeling of accomplishment.  The reviews and comments I’ve received since then are the icing on the cake.  Currently, I’m in the research process for my next book which, hopefully, won’t take nearly as long.  I seem to be on a mission to make the public more aware of little known aspects of history.

Delin Colón on:

Website: The Real Rasputin - http://therealrasputin.wordpress.com/
Facebook:     http://on.fb.me/uNAT7j
Twitter:          https://twitter.com/#!/delincolon
LinkedIn:       http://linkd.in/xMXCp8

“Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History” is available on:

Kindle:      http://amzn.to/udec9z
B&N Nook:  http://bit.ly/wAIBch

It can also be ordered through any chain or independent bookstore.

Books by Ted William Gross

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