Author: Alan A. Winter
Island Bluffs is a story of love, forgiveness, and understanding the dark side of the human spirit. It explores the age-old question: are children accountable for the sins of their parents and grandparents? Carly Mason is a successful New York City forensic dentist. She and her widower husband, Gabe Berk, are trying to start a family. Thinking they had exhausted the options by consulting with all of Manhattan’s fertility experts, Carly and Gabe learn of an eccentric scientist who runs an exclusive clinic. The doctor commits to helping the couple conceive the baby they so desperately want, but only if they agree to what seems like an outrageous stipulation; Carly must carry twins, one biological and one that she is a surrogate for. Once the twins are born Carly has to surrender the non-biological twin to the doctor at birth, no questions asked. Further, should the old doctor die before Carly gives birth, she has to agree to give the baby the name chosen by the doctor. As required for treatment, Carly and Gabe move into a new house, which is within thirty minutes of the clinic. They soon discover that their new home and town, Island Bluffs, are far from ordinary. Carly and Gabe feel eyes spying on them at every turn. Gabe’s father, Yehuda, hears strange noises that only he can hear. Megan, Gabe’s rebellious sixteen-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, is attracted to the son of a Neo-Nazi. The mysteries continue to deepen as a scavenger ship appears on nearby waters searching for sunken treasure along with glimpses of a lone swimmer lumbering through the waves of Barnegat Bay. Island Bluffs is a present-day town bound to the past by horrible secrets and pacts made long ago. Keeping secrets buried as some had hoped was no longer an option for the Berks. Their new and some thought long-forgotten home made that impossible by putting them squarely in the middle of it all. When the truths are revealed, the shocking twists and turns will challenge the very notions of what is right and wrong.
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Q: Please tell us about (insert book title here), and what inspired you to write it.
A: One day, a lawyer that I knew, gave me an unexpected answer when I asked how he was feeling. “Do you really want to know?” he asked. I assured him I did or I would not have posed the question. His answer astounded. “I had a rough time of it, last night. The ghost in my house kept me up all night.”
Boy, did that get my attention. I asked him to elaborate and when he did, the story he revealed was nothing short of amazing (to me) and right then and there, I knew I had to write about it. I used his true story as the basis for a book and that is how “Island Bluffs” came to be written.
Q: What themes do you explore?
A: “Island Bluffs” is multilayered. It plumbs the age-old question of forgiveness and explores how people can go on with their lives after having experienced horrific events. A unique part of this book explores this theme from three different viewpoints: an aged American GI who lost the love of his life during the WWII, a Holocaust survivor, and a survivor of the Mengele Twin Experiments.
Another theme explored in “Island Bluffs” delves into the question: are children and grandchildren responsible for the sins of their parents?
And lastly, “Island Bluffs” offers a unique twist on the Nature vs. Nurture debate . . . in a way that has not been tackled in any book to date.
Q: Why do you write?
A: I write because I am compelled to write. I need to write. It is part of me. I started writing thirty years ago and not only fell in love with the process of writing, but realized that it was necessary to keep my mind healthy. When I am not writing, I think about writing. My characters are always with me and even when I am in the midst of writing a new book, which I am now, I am already plotting and researching the next story. It is a switch that cannot be turned off.
Q: How picky are you with language?
A: I am not only picky with language (as I know it to be correct), but I am very in sync with rhythm. I try to make my sentences lyrical, I tried to have them almost be melodic. And by that, I do not mean musical. Rather, it is the cadences that are important to me. To do this, I read my sentences out loud to hear how they sound. I repeat this many times until I am satisfied that they not only work with language, but with the right amount of syllables and “beats.”
Q: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
A: I don’t feel it some times; I feel it all the time. For me, writing is channeling. I am comfortable starting a book and having no clue what the ending is going to be. Frankly, I never know the ending. What I rely on and have faith in is that my characters will guide me to the right ending. And in every book, including “Island Bluffs,” they have. You see, I trust my characters to be truthful . . . and truthful characters bring a story to the right conclusion.
Q: What is your worst time as a writer?
A: The worst time I had as a writer is when I realized that after proofreading my previous novel, “Savior’s Day,” many, many times and after having corrected all the typos, I found more than a hundred typos in the final version after it was in print. That killed me. I immediately pulled the book, hired editors (not one but two), corrected everything and then had the book republished.
Q: Your best?
A: My best time as a writer is when I am in front of my computer writing. Oh, I could turn a cliché and say that it was the first time I held a book in my hand, and it was just like holding a newborn child - and it is - but that is a happy time, a satisfied time, and time of accomplishment. The best time is every time I write.
Q: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
A: I do not say this lightly: dementia. Short of that, I cannot imagine anything stopping me from writing because I write for me, not for anyone else. My father-in-law wrote four books after he had a debilitating stroke, was completely paralyzed in his dominant hand, and could no longer speak. So physical handicaps are limitations to writing. They can present as huge speed bumps but they are not barriers that bring writing to a halt.
Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
A: Now that we are speaking about happy, I would say holding my first novel in my hand. That was quite a thrill.
Q: Is writing an obsession to you?
A: Writing is a passion for me, not an obsession.
Q: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
A: My stories are independent of each other, though I have had two different characters appear in subsequent books because they brought compelling skills that enhanced the new story. The stories, themselves, are in no way related. If I were to pick one writer that I most admire and am most like, it would be Michael Crichton. His works covered a host of subjects, that spanned different locations, and even different time periods. Mine follow those patterns.
Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
A: I would not use the phrase “drunk on writing” when it comes to separating the vagaries of everyday life from interfering with one’s literary abilities. Rather, I would say that writers need to compartmentalize their writing from their everyday activities. When I write, I do so in complete quiet and I don’t need to block out the world more than that. I find that I go into that zone necessary to concentrate on my writing without any additional effort.
Q: Where is your book available?
A: “Island Bluffs” is available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and on eBook.com
Q: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Yes. www.alanwinter.com has more information about me and all my books.
It started in 1982 when Alan made small talk with a patient about a sci-fi idea he had. She thought the idea was so terrific, she urged him to write a movie treatment about it. Alan dismissed her offhand. What did he know about writing movies?
The patient persisted. Each time she would visit his office, she would demand to see the finished movie treatment. Seeing she was serious and relentless, Alan agreed to hand her a treatment. But how? He had no clue where to start. Asking other patients for guidance, Alan was introduced to a young screenwriter who agreed - for a fee - to write the treatment. They worked together, produced a treatment, and shopped it around to a number of studios. One studio took the idea (without permission or payment) and turned Alan's treatment into a movie.
Alan experienced two revelations at the time:
1. Rather than waste energy being litigious, be flattered that a studio felt Alan's idea was worthy of turning it into a movie. Knowing a stranger valued his creativity supported all of his future projects. 2. Collaborating with the screenwriter gave Alan the validation he needed that if and when he chose to write a book, it wouldn't be foolhardy...not that it really mattered what others thought!
Still, Alan had no desire to write fiction. That changed in 1985. That was the year that Alan began writing his first novel, "Someone Else's Son," which was eventually published by MasterMedia, Ltd.
What prompted Alan to write "Someone Else's Son" is a story in itself. When Alan completed his periodontal training at Columbia, he joined a prestigious Fifth Avenue periodontal practice. Day after day, the well-to-do, prominent patients asked Alan if he was old enough to be a dentist. (He looked that much younger than the two senior partners). Trying to convince the patients that he was old enough to be a dentist and, therefore, experienced enough to treat them, Alan put his two sons' pictures on the treatment room wall. When his third son was born, he added that one, too. Every few months, he updated the photos.
But a curious thing happened on a daily basis. The patients kept asking why Alan had pictures of children on the wall. When he replied, "They're not just any children; those are my sons," no one believed him. They claimed the boys looked too dissimilar to be brothers. They joked that he must have taken the wrong one home from the hospital. Though this was not the case (at least he didn't think so), Alan wondered what he would've done had he discovered, years later, that he and his wife had brought the wrong child home from the hospital. The result was "Someone Else's Son."
While maintaining his periodontal practice, Alan has continued to write since he first took up pen to paper, although now he is very appreciative that his mother forced him to take typing in summer school after his sophomore year of high school. Boys just didn't do that back in the '60s, but it has been an invaluable skill over the years.
In 1999, "Snowflakes in the Sahara" was published by iUniverse. "Savior's Day," also published by iUniverse, was published in 2013 to critical acclaim. It was selected by Kirkus Reviews as a Best Book of 2013.
"Island Bluffs," Alan's newest novel, is published by KB Publishing to excellent reviews. He is at work on his next novel, "The Legacy of Izaak Wolf," about an adolescent with Asperger's Syndrome achieves the near impossible to save his family from a surefire calamity. Alan and Lori live in his native New Jersey. They have five children and five grandchildren.