Jacob M. Appel: Perseverance the Key to Writing Success

Jacob M. Appel, the author or editor of 19 books, including his most recent short fiction collection, Winter Honeymoon: Stories, shares how perseverance leads to writing success, what he believes all writers unconsciously try to do with their writing, and more.
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Jacob M. Appel is currently an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Education at Mount Sinai's Icahn School of Medicine, where he is Director of Ethics Education in Psychiatry. He is also the author of four literary novels including Millard Salter's Last Day (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, 2017), nine short story collections, an essay collection, a cozy mystery, a thriller, a volume of poems and a compendium of medical dilemmas. 

Jacob M. Appel

Jacob M. Appel

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Prior to joining the faculty at Mount Sinai, Jacob taught most recently at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, at the Gotham Writers' Workshop in New York City, and at Yeshiva College, where he was the writer-in-residence. Learn more at www.jacobmappel.com.

In this post, Appel shares how perseverance leads to writing success, what he believes all writers unconsciously try to do with their writing, what readers get out of all his books, and more!

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Name: Jacob M. Appel
Literary agent: Jill Marr
Title: Winter Honeymoon: Stories
Publisher: Black Lawrence Press
Release date: September 15, 2020
Genre: Literary Short Fiction
Previous titles: The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up (Cargo Publishing); Weeping Wipeout (Cozy Cat Press); The Biology of Luck (Elephant Rock Press); Scouting for the Reaper (Black Lawrence Press); Phoning Home (University of South Carolina Press); Einstein's Beach House (Pressgang / Butler University); Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets (Black Lawrence Press); The Magic Laundry (Snake Nation Press); Coulrophobia & Fata Morgana (Black Lawrence Press); The Topless Widow of Herkimer Street (Augsburg University); Mask of Sanity (Permanent Press); The Liars' Asylum (Black Lawrence Press); Millard Salter's Last Day (Gallery/Simon & Schuster); The Amazing Mr. Morality (Vandalia/West Virginia University); The Cynic in Extremis (Able Muse); Amazing Things Are Happening Here (Black Lawrence Press); Surrendering Appomattox (C&R Press); Who Says You're Dead?: A Book of Medical Dilemmas for the Curious and Concerned (Algonquin Press)

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Elevator pitch for the book: A clairvoyant woman accompanies her sister to Rudolf Valentino's funeral; an aggravated son tours nursing homes with his father in pre-Katrina New Orleans; a young Jewish boy finds himself apprenticed to an Iranian-American tailor as the hostage crisis unfolds in Iran. In his 10th story collection, psychiatrist Jacob M. Appel covers wide swaths of history and emotion to address the question: How much control do we have over our own destinies?

What prompted you to write this book?

The honest answer (keeping in mind that I am a psychiatrist) is that I believe that all writers at some unconscious level are trying to "right the wrongs" of their childhoods, reshape their histories the way they want them to read, etc. Of course, this is much easier to do if one transports the setting to a Rudolf Valentino's funeral or makes the protagonist a Persian tailor… For writers, it doesn't take a pandemic to bring out the masks.

Did the idea change during the writing process?

I always decide upon the shape and ending of my stories before I start writing. It's like planning a vacation with children: You can just start driving and see where you find yourself, but your kids will be much happier if you just book a hotel at Disney World and travel there directly.

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Were there any surprises in the publishing process for this title?

Since this is my 19th book, I hadn't expected any surprises. I've already published five other collections with Black Lawrence and they do a first rate job in all regards. However, the book was initially scheduled to appear in the spring, and none of us anticipated a pandemic.

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

Unfortunately, there were several places where my squid ran out of ink, so I had to condense accordingly. And once the goose wouldn't yield any feathers for a quill, which also set my writing back my several days.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

Each book is actually a cover over hollowed-out pages with a bottle of alcohol inside.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

In the hospital, we have the expression: "Don't die on one doctor's opinion." Writers should not be discouraged by negative feedback. The key to writing is perseverance. Winter Honeymoon may be my 19th book, but I've also received 21,000+ rejection letters.