Interview with Elisabeth Amaral, author of 'Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup'

 Today's guest is Elisabeth Amaral, author of the memoir, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup: A Memoir of Marriage, Mime and Moving On.
Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I was standing in line at a Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City, waiting to pitch a mystery novel I was working on. With only one person in front of me I realized I couldn’t pitch that book. It was giving me too much trouble. I briefly considered leaving until I realized I could pitch the story of my life as a young wife and mother during the mid-60s and 70s. I had three minutes to discuss my marriage to a gay man during the sex, drugs and rock and roll era. The very first agent loved the idea, so I left the conference, almost running the few miles home, and began the journey. It was thrilling. I rediscovered friends from long ago, and their enthusiasm and memories added to my own adrenalin. 

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

It was both easy and hard to write Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup. Easy because the memories, both my own and those of contacts from decades ago, propelled me forward with enormous enthusiasm. The mid 60s and 70s were exciting, and so was my life. The hard part was
doing justice to past relationships while being honest. Specifically, it was difficult to describe my growing realization and dismay that my first husband, who was my business partner and the father of our son, was gay. That was when homosexuality was barely understood or discussed. He was completely supportive of the memoir and supplied most of the photographs in the book, including the cover shot of me and our ten-month-old son. We have remained close. And it was emotionally painful for me to relive old self-doubts which led me to make several bad life choices, one of which resulted in a distressing second marriage.

I don’t know what tips I could provide that would make a book like this easier for other writers. Every story is individual. Mine was made easier by the warmth and encouragement from renewed friendships.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I self-published with iUniverse. Originally I sent it to an agent who called my memoir a little gem, but said it wasn’t for her. Another agent told me what would have to be changed (recipes and photographs), but that was contrary to my vision for the book. Most important for me, however, was a sense of urgency that biased me in favor of self-publishing. I had a heart attack a month or so before I completed the book. I needed a schedule and terms more under my control.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

My first book was a short story collection called When Any Kind of Love Will Do and the process went smoothly from the beginning. They understood exactly the image I wanted for the cover. The finished product exceeded my expectations and was completed before the anticipated date. After the time and effort that went into writing the book, the publishing process seemed like a gift. 

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I have resumed working on a mystery novel set in New York City. The more I work on it, the more I realize how much work is left to do. An extremely optimistic date would be a year from now.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Aside from reading news sites such as The New York Times, Huffington Post, and BBC News, I enjoy Goodreads and Barnes and Noble. I also have pages on Facebook, Goodreads and my own website.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

To grab experiences. We’ve got one life. Don’t be reckless, don’t be stupid, but grab on and enjoy the ride. If it gets bumpy, just hold on tight.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

If you have something to say, say it. Write it. It’s the best feeling in the world to see those feelings and thoughts come alive.

About Elisabeth Amaral:
A native New Yorker, I have lived in the city for much of my life. My first jobs after graduating from NYU were jewelry design and case worker for the Departments of Welfare of New York City and Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was followed by co-ownership of a children’s boutique (Czar Nicholas and the Toad) and a restaurant (Duck Soup) in Cambridge near Harvard Square. I then worked as an industrial purchasing agent in New Jersey, and for the last 25 years have been a real estate broker in Manhattan, accumulating stories of the wonder and madness that is this city. I published a book of short stories (When Any Kind of Love Will Do), wrote two children’s books and a memoir (Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup), and am currently working on a novel.
For More Information
About the Book:
The mid-1960s through the mid-1970s was a heady, turbulent time. There was a lot going on back then, and author Elisabeth Amaral was in the middle of it all: the fights for women’s rights, racial equality, a music revolution, be-ins, love-ins, riots in the streets, the rage against the Vietnam War, and sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It was an amazing time to be young.
In Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup, Amaral shares her recollections of those times. She and her husband gave up their jobs in New York City, relocated to Boston with their infant son because of mime, unexpectedly started a children’s boutique, and opened a popular restaurant in Harvard Square. Most of all it is a coming-of-age story about herself and her husband as they embarked on an improbable and moving journey of self-discovery.
With sincerity and humor, Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup offers a personal and revealing account that reaches out to those who find themselves striving to make a relationship work that, by its very nature, may be doomed. But this story is also one of friendship—and of finding the courage to move on.

"A truly wonderful memoir that reads like great fiction.  The characters come alive on the page."  – Elizabeth Brundage, author of The Doctor's Wife and A Stranger Like You.

“The story of how Liz Amaral and her husband became successful at the epicenter of counterculture businesses near Harvard Square / Cambridge from 1967-1975 with their boutique and restaurant is told with humor and insight. Swirling around them are all of the entrapments of the era, the drugs and free love and betrayal, as well as the politics that defined the times.
With a fierce dedication to her son and husband, Liz Amaral triumphs in this stunning memoir where she discovers that, while love isn’t always what we think it is, it remains, in all its multi-faceted transformations, the driving force of who we are and how we live our lives.”  – P.B. O’Sullivan, writer and mathematician

“In her intimate and humorous memoir, Liz Amaral reveals the challenges of a young family establishing a home in Cambridge amid the tumult of the late 1960s. You will discover the disconcerting truth about her marriage and the painful path she takes to find herself again. A true adventure of the heart.” – Kathrin Seitz, writer, producer, and coach

For More Information

  • Czar Nicholas, The Toad, and Duck Soup is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

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