Archive | October, 2015

WIPs Conversation: Julia Hirsch on her work in progress

Julia Hirsh HEADSHOT - Version 2Julia Hirsch began her career in Hollywood where she worked for ten years as a story editor. Her book, The Sound of Music: The Making of America’s Favorite Movie (McGraw-Hill, 1993) sold over 100,000 copies.  She has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, and New York Magazine. After raising two children, she began writing and producing television commercials in the advertising field, winning numerous awards for her campaigns and commercials. She’s written two novels: WHITE RUSSIAN and MERMAID AVENUE.

Julia, in this excerpt from White Russian Sophie finds herself in a Belarusian prison cell for spurious reasons, where the fact that she’s American doesn’t easily provide a get-out-of-jail free card. Can you explain for readers how Sophie ended up such a predicament?

Sophie’s eighty-one-year-old father, Sam, was a proud American Communist in the 1940s and 1950s and remains an unreformed political agitator looking for one last fight. He travels to his homeland, Belarus, to join an underground political theater company whose goal is to overthrow the country’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. (This company is based on the “Free Theater of Belarus” who perform political plays all over the world to spotlight what is happening in Belarus.)

Sophie gets a call from Yelena, the director of the theater company, who tells her she has to come to Belarus and retrieve her father because his tactics are getting the theater group in trouble with the KGB (Belarus’ police still use that name), and Sophie has to bring her father home.

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Julia Antopol Hirsch: an excerpt from WHITE RUSSIAN


“You haven’t read me my rights! I want a lawyer! I want a phone call! I’M AN AMERICAN!”

“Na kaleni, suka!”

The guard smacked me across the face, and I fell back on my cot. My head still throbbed from the policeman’s initial beating at my arrest. I could actually hear my eyes move when I looked off to the side, like sand pouring out of a bucket. Now I felt a burning numbness on my cheek. My mind began to drift. Focus, focus.

I’d been falling in an out of consciousness since they brought me in. I remembered the beating at the demonstration, male voices holding me up while a pair of hands glided slowly over my breasts and hips in their version of a “body search,” and screaming for my belongings as they grabbed my purse.

I rubbed my cheek. The memories rushed back in bursts of motion, like pages in a flipbook.

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