Every now and then a book comes along and takes the world by complete surprise. Dreams Delayed by Ariella Schiller is a good example. The book, printed by Israel Book Shop, holds a surprising cocktail of emotions, laughs, and introspection. It tests boundaries and breaks through preconceived notions. It’s been the topic of conversation at weddings, Shabbos tables, blogs, and Whatapp posts.
Here’s a few minutes with the 24 year old (!) author:
Where are you from? Where do you live now?
I grew up in New York and moved to Israel almost four years ago.
And what inspired you to write a book, specifically this book?
I came back from my year in seminary ready to take on the world, win Pulitzer prizes, write best sellers… I quickly snagged an internship at a local paper and became so busy interviewing politicians and counting up votes that it took me awhile to realize I was bored. I mean, I loved working for a newspaper,it was exciting, but honestly, I found the news boring. And unstimulating. So my mother, partly to just get me to stop complaining, mostly because she believes in me, told me to write a novel. So, with G-d’s help, I did. I wrote fifteen chapters, a chapter a day for two weeks, and then I sent it to the Jewish Press. They loved it and started serializing it.
A novel is a big jump from journalism. Why a novel? Has writing a novel always been an interest of yours?
I’ve been reading — well, consuming, really — books since the age of 3. I love to read, I love to escape reality for a short period of time, I love to visit other worlds. And I wanted to do that for other people.
What is the book about?
My mother, once again, is the one who gave me the idea. “Don’t write a story,” she told me. “Write a journey”. So I did. It’s the journey of a young girl dealing with tragedy, crumbling dreams, and then growth and perseverance.
Literature can be a powerful tool for reflecting on society, and as a tool to advance ideas. What is the message that you want people to get from the book?
I guess I want people to take home the message that Hashem has a Plan. And even if life is dark and hopeless right now, there is nothing that faith and direction can’t fix. Also about shidduchim! That Hashem is in charge, not shadchanim, resumes, or society. Someone can have everything, do all the right things, and their dreams might still not come true. You might think your bashert is one person, one idea, one preconceived notion, but when it comes down to it, Hashem can have an entirely different plan for you. It’s an extremely difficult concept to swallow, but I hope it comes through in the pages of my book…
When I first read the title and description, I thought it was a newspaper article. How was the plot and characters impacted by real life events?
The basic plot was based on a true story,of someone close to me who lost her chassan, but the rest of it was an amalgam of people and sorrows that I can imagine from just living in Yerushalayim these past few years.
What stood out to me from my friend’s pain was the limbo she was left in. She wasn’t a mourning wife, she didn’t receive the sympathy and leeway that came with that. She was a kallah; their future together had just been castles in the air, and now those dreams were gone, with nothing to show for them. And I wanted to depict that feeling, that “in between two worlds” haze.
Many people have ideas for writing books, but few go from idea to publishing. How did you do it?
Like I said before, I sent in my chapters to The Jewish Press, and they published it as a serial week by week. After it was over, I sent it around to several publishers. It was accepted by three different ones, but I went with Israel Book Shop. I guess I was just young and I believed in myself, and had a great team of confidence-boosting and supportive teachers, family, and friends.
The Piaseczno Rebbe a”h imagined the students who would read Chovas haTalmidim before each writing session. Who was your audience while writing the book?
I think when I began, it was targeted for young girls like me, in the shidduchim world, navigating the beginnings of adulthood. But as I grew, the book grew with me, and it spilled over into an ageless demographic, a readership of anyone struggling to find a light in darkness.
Are you in the process of writing another book?
I am. Silent Storms was serialized last year by the Jewish Press and will be hitting bookstores around Sukkos time, biezras Hashem. I’m also in middle of writing a serial for a different newspaper, and I have a monthly column in the Jewish Press about the life and legacy of my grandmother, Rebbetzin Dr. Jean Jofen, a”h.
Many authors love to discuss their works with readers. Have people reached out to you about the book?
Dreams Delayed is really a great read, and so many people — strangers and friends alike — have reached out to tell me that it’s the greatest book they’ve read in a long time. I love to hear feedback from my readers. Feel free to share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org