Gotham Ghostwriters Craft Interviews highlight the extraordinary talent of our writer community. Each month, L. M. Archer interviews a member of our network about one — or in this case two — of their books, delving into their inspiration and creative process.
This month, Archer asks writer David Tabatsky all about his new books, The Boy Behind the Door and Filthy Rich Lawyers.
You have two newly released books, The Boy Behind the Door, published by Amsterdam Publishers, and Filthy Rich Lawyers, published by Speaking Volumes. What was the impetus behind writing these books?
Regarding The Boy Behind the Door, the Foreword (here) explains it:
“Several years ago, I was introduced to Sanford Batkin, an American businessman living in Scarsdale, New York. He had been active in the Jewish community for a long time and had a special story he wanted to tell.
In the late 1970s, Sandy and his wife went on a vacation to Aruba, a small island in what is known as the Dutch Caribbean. They met Sal and Nettie Kool, a couple from the Netherlands, who were also on holiday. One day, while standing in the ocean, Sal poured out his astounding story to Sandy – how, as a young teenager, he had survived the Nazi occupation of his country during World War II. It was the first time Sal had ever shared this part of his life with anyone outside of Amsterdam, and Sandy was flabbergasted. The two men and their wives became friends. They continued to meet over the years and grew even closer.
As their friendship deepened, Sal’s story of survival continued to haunt Sandy. He urged Sal to share his entire ordeal, not just with his sons living In Israel but with a new generation who didn’t know much about what had happened during the Holocaust. Sandy encouraged Sal to write a book but Sal, a shy and private man, wasn’t too keen on the idea and did not know how to even begin.
That’s where I came in. Sandy asked me if I would go to Amsterdam and work with Sal to tell his story. I was fortunate to spend such a lovely and meaningful time with Sal and Nettie, as they hosted me for many meals, and Sal and I retraced his young life through the streets of Amsterdam, the city where he was born and raised and forced to escape before finally returning at the end of the war.
What follows here is the result of our combined efforts to tell this extraordinary story. All of it is based entirely on real events and real people.”
Regarding Filthy Rich Lawyers, I was initially hired by Brian Felgoise to write a proposal for a non-fiction book that explored the world of class action lawyers. Since it was largely based on cases from many years ago, including scandals at Halliburton and Enron, it has not yet found the right publisher. Meanwhile, Brian asked if he could hire me to write a novel, inspired by these real-life stories (his included) and based upon an outline he and I developed.
How long did the process of writing each book take, from start to finish?
The Boy Behind the Door required a trip to Amsterdam and a lot of research, so it took several months to complete. It was originally published in 2009 by KTAV, and a “new and improved” edition published in September 2022 by Amsterdam Publishers.
Filthy Rich Lawyers, Book One: The Education of Ryan Coleman, took five months to develop the outline and then write and edit the book. I am now working on Filthy Rich Lawyers, Book Two: In Due Time, which will probably end up taking four months to complete.
What were the biggest challenges you encountered while writing each book?
The biggest challenge with The Boy Behind the Door was making sure that everything was factually accurate and authentic to the time period and locations.
Filthy Rich Lawyers was way different because I was free to do satire and get as surreal as the story would allow. That said, it had to make sense!
Any unexpected lessons learned while writing each of them?
It’s tricky to blend in humor and animate the dialogue in a Holocaust story.
When it comes to novels, I think the lesson is go big or go home.
Any favorite book(s), chapter(s) and/or section(s)? If so, which one(s) and why?
I don’t have any favorites, really, in The Boy Behind the Door. Perhaps I’m most pleased with the dialogue throughout the book, which Sal Kool read and reported back to me that it sounded authentic and real.
How has your affiliation with Gotham Ghostwriters (GG) help inform your writing life?
I don’t mean to sound negative at all or ungrateful, but honestly, it hasn’t really informed my writing life, except that it’s good to know that there is a company treating writers with respect.
Where may readers obtain a copy of your books?
Anything else I haven’t asked you that you think is important for GG readers to know about your new books?
The Boy Behind the Door is “important” as it adds to the current library of Holocaust stories, and in this day and age of conspiracy theories and fake news, etc., it’s more vital than ever that young people especially learn the truth about what happened during WWII. In this down-to-earth tale of an ordinary boy who was not tortured in a concentration camp, as is the case in many Holocaust memoirs, his experience is perhaps even more relatable because it was not what we usually call extreme. However, if living on the run for several years, always uncertain of your survival, and then discovering at the end of the war that you entire family has been murdered is not extreme, then I don’t know what is.