Today’s conversation is with Avraham Anouchi, engineer and author, who writes in both English and Hebrew. As part of the blog tour for his science fiction thriller, From TIMNA to MARS, I invited him to talk a little bit about himself, the book, and his background.
Infamous Scribbler (IS): Tell me a little bit about yourself and your work.
Avraham Anouchi (AA): I am an author, engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur. I hold a Master of Engineering degree from Harvard University. After serving as a Vice President at United Technologies Corporation, I founded my own high technology company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I grew up in Israel and I am fluent in English, French and Hebrew. My passion for history and archaeology was a factor that led me to write. When I find any spare time, I look for someone to play chess with.
IS: Your Goodreads description of “From TIMNA to MARS” describes it as a “scientific thriller for non-scientists.” Can you talk about this description, and what you meant by that blurb?
AA: A Pentagon alarming report in 2011 triggered my imagination. The dependence on rare-earth metals represented a potential crisis for the US military’s reliance on the supply of weapons such as precision-guided bombs, advanced fighter aircraft, night-vision goggles, and targeting lasers. They all depend on availability of rare-earth metals. The report addressed threats to oil refineries and consumer products from smartphones to hybrid-car batteries. Here was a real contemporary situation around which I could create a thriller by sending unmanned space vehicles to Mars to explore the possibility of bringing back the rare earths needed on earth. Being an engineer, I couldn’t just tell a story. I had to make it real by including scientific terms and processes, but it had to be done in a way which would be understood by readers who did not have a scientific background or education. That is how the term “scientific thriller for non-scientists” was born.
IS: You have an impressive biography and background in science and engineering, including several technical and professional publications. How did you get into writing fiction?
AA: I always wanted to write a novel. My father inspired me by translating over twenty novels from French to Hebrew. However, my professional career in America demanded the majority of my time and my writing was limited to articles on engineering problems and how they are solved. Eventually, I found time to write my memoir, “Igeret Hamassoret” in Hebrew, the memoir The Legacy in English and the historical novel The Hidden Scroll. My recent novel From Timna to Mars was published in June, 2014.
IS: On your Web site, you list entrepreneur and inventor among your other qualifications, both professions which require a certain clarity of vision or innovative spirit. How do the different aspects of your life intersect with the author aspect?
AA: This is a difficult question to answer. As an engineer, I always tackle technical problems by defining the goal of my task and preparing a chart of steps and milestones needed to achieve that goal. I research to find out how other engineers tackled similar problems and try to be innovative with new ideas to solve mine. I used the same technique in writing my historical novel. I created a chart that included the actions to be taken by the main characters and the sequence of events in which they would be involved. Every writer has his or her own method of creating a story. I use my engineering experience to create my method and it works for me.
IS: Who are some authors who have influenced you as a writer? What is currently on your to-be-read pile?
AA: Although most are not novel writers, I admire the talent of Daniel Silva. He created a character of an Israeli spy who is also an art restorers. The same Gabrial Allon appears again and again in his new books. I created my hero Professor Avner Amram. He appeared in both novels I wrote and will be a prominent character in the one I am writing now.
I am now reading The Prime Ministers by Yehuda Avner and Life in Half a Second by Mathew Michalewicz. In between, I am reading – for the third time – Les Miserables by Viktor Hugo in French.
IS: What is next for you, fiction-wise?
AA: I am now working on another historical novel which I plan to call”The King is Dead – Long Live the Queen”. It is about Queen Salome-Alexandra who reigned in Judea before the arrival of the Romans.
IS: Anything to add?
AA: In my Haifa High School, my English teacher was from London. My favorite story is how I was introduced to American English in my Freshman year in America.
“You must submit your essay before Monday,” announced Mrs. Richardson, my English teacher.
Essay was a new word for me. In Haifa, they called it composition. I wrote an essay on archaeology. To my dismay, it was returned with three red marks for misspelled words. Upset for having submitted an essay with mistakes, I checked the spelling.
“I checked my dictionary. There are no mistakes in my essay,” I told Mrs. Richardson.
“Show me your dictionary,” she said.
She examined the Oxford I handed her.
“Throw it away and buy a Webster.”
“What’s a Webster?” I asked.
“Forget your British spelling. In America we spell the Webster way.” She ended the discussion.
I bought a Webster. I modified my essay by changing “COLOUR” to “COLOR”, “HONOUR” to “HONOR” and VIGOUR” to “VIGOR”. However, I never threw away my Oxford.
That was the day I decided that one day I’ll write about my passion for archaeology.
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