Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Interview with novelist, playwright, actor, sous-chef Joel Fishbane – The Thunder of Giants

Please welcome to the blog Joel Fishbane, he's here today talking about his debut novel, The Thunder of Giants.
Check out Joel's eclectic background and some details about this fantastic new novel that's available today!

  • ISBN-13: 9781250050847
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/14/2015
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 288


The year is 1937 and Andorra Kelsey - 7'11 and just over 320 pounds - is on her way to Hollywood to become a star. Hoping to escape both poverty and the ghost of her dead husband, she accepts an offer from the wily Rutherford Simone to star in a movie about the life of Anna Swan, the Nova Scotia giantess who toured the world in the 19th century.
Told in parallel, Anna Swan's story unfurls. While Andorra is seen as a disgrace by an embarrassed family, Anna Swan is quickly celebrated for her unique size. Drawn to New York, Anna becomes a famed attraction at P.T. Barnum's American Museum even as she falls in love with Gavin Clarke, a veteran of the Civil War. Quickly disenchanted with a life of fame, Anna struggles to prove to Gavin - and the world - that she is more than the sum of her measurements.
Both meticulously researched and resounding with the force of myth, Joel Fishbane's The Thunder of Giants blends fact and fiction in a sweeping narrative that spans nearly a hundred years. Against the backdrop of epic events, two extraordinary women become reluctant celebrities in the hopes of surviving a world too small to contain them.

Joel Welcome to The Reading Frenzy. The premise of your new release is fascinating, could you please tell us a little about it?
It’s 1937 and Andorra Kelsey – nearly eight feet tall and just under 320 pounds –escapes to Hollywood after she is hired to play Anna Swan, the real-life Nova Scotia giantess. Anna Swan’s own life unfolds even as Andorra is seduced by Hollywood’s glamour and must decide whether to return to the family she left behind. The two stories are actually connected and Anna’s story eventually impacts Andorra’s, even though the women lived fifty years apart.

I had no idea that Anna Swan was a real person.
How did you learn of her and what brought the idea of your protagonist Andorra
s story to you?
I was reading “Struggles and Triumphs”, P.T. Barnum’s autobiography (a bestseller of the late 19th century) and he has one paragraph where he discusses Anna Swan. “She was an intelligent and by no means ill-looking girl,” wrote Barnum. I was intrigued so off I went to the computer – the Internet did the rest.
As for Andorra, she’s like most of my characters – a composite of several characters I was in the midst of creating. I get ideas all the time and I’m always trying to amalgamate them (I like to be efficient!)

Joel of all the characters you brought to life in Andorras story is there one character that intrigued you enough to have him/her star in their own story?
I’m actually thinking of doing something with Rowena, Andorra’s daughter. I think that it would be interesting to revisit her in twenty years (around the end of the 1950s) and see where she’s at. Also, I think being the daughter of someone like Andorra would have a really interesting effect on a person – and not just because of Andorra’s size. The book does not deal with Rowena’s reaction to Andorra’s role in the death of Rowena’s father – that would be a good starting place. I imagine Rowena would have a very unique take on the world.

Joel as a successful playwright: why did you choose this medium of bringing your story to the public and not a stage production?
Different stories demand a different medium – as Stephen Sondheim says, “content dictates form.” The story I wanted to tell was so big in scope that a theatre production would be incredibly impractical. For me, the best theatre involves stories that are focused on a singular relationship (think Romeo and Juliet, for instance). The Thunder of Giants is about a lot of different relationships – Andorra and Nicholas, Andorra and Rutherford, Anna and Gavin, Anna and Martin, etc.) A theatrical play would be sprawling and unfocused – which is, incidentally, how I see Henry V, the play that Nicholas is in. Henry V would have made a much better book, but I doubt the idea would have occurred to Shakespeare, since novels weren’t exactly a popular artform back then. (You could argue they hadn’t been invented yet, but we’ll save that debate for another time).
I also think there’s a great advantage in the fact that when you read about Andorra and Anna, you can forget their size and consider them simply as people. Literature can often be a great equalizer: a person’s appearance doesn’t define a literary character as it does a cinematic or theatrical one. A book is the perfect place for Anna and Andorra because it’s the one place where they can have what they’ve always wanted: a world where their size becomes a characteristic rather than a definition.

On those same lines, since this is your debut full-length novel, once you turned in the final edits and the final copy was off to the printer.
Was there anything about the
writing a novel process that surprised you?
This is my first published novel, but it’s not my first. There are six others which are sitting in the depths of my computer, never to be seen. I’m not sure anything surprises me about the process – different mediums require a different type of work, but it all boils down to rewriting, re-reading, time, distance, more re-writing, more re-reading, more time, more distance - and then you repeat it all again. It’s pretty much the same whether it’s a play, a poem, a short story, etc.  You write until it’s done – and the fact that the word “done” is so open to interpretation is what makes the job so exciting.

Joel, your bio is extensive and eclectic, from sous-chef to occasional clarinet player with many talents in between.
So if the writing bug hadn't bitten you which do you think would have been your main career choice?
I’m still an actor and actually went to theatre school for many years, so I imagine that acting would be my next choice. I also imagine I would have gone into law so I could do entertainment law and help all my actor friends with their contracts. But if I really couldn’t do anything connected to the performing arts, I’d probably choose something really random and be a fireman or a champion fencer or maybe just learn to fly a plane.

Ok so in your bio it states that you almost always wear a hat. So I have to ask, is it a fashion statement, bad hair day cover, or something totally different?
Hats used to be a part of everyday fashion – I don’t know why they fell out of favor. It amuses me that people are actually suspicious of hats now – like you, they assume it’s just to cover bad hair. It’s not. I just really like hats. I’m sort of hoping I can be the singular force that brings them back into style. Hmm. That goes back to your last question. Scratch the thing about being a fireman. I would be the person who is responsible for the resurgence of the hat.

Joel will you be touring with this book?
Are the events listed somewhere?
Nothing’s planned as of yet, but we’ll keep you posted! Find me on social media for the latest updates.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. Good luck with the new book.
Will there be another novel sometime down the road?
From your mouth to God’s ears, as my mother would say. I’m almost done my second novel and already researching my third. I’ll keep you posted on that as well!

From the Publisher
"Take equal parts Peter Carey, Michael Chabon and Erin Morgenstern, throw them in a blender, and serve in a glass with a seven-foot, five-and-a-half-inch Krazy Straw. The colossally entertaining result is Joel Fishbane's the thunder of giants." –Myla Goldberg, New York Timesbestselling author of Bee Season and The False Friend
"What an exuberant, double-stranded celebration of the extraordinary. In Anna and Andorra, Fishbane has conjured wonders indeed."—Stacy Carlson, author ofAmong the Wonderful
"As it turns out, the biggest thing about these amazing women is their hearts." —Booklist
Connect with Joel Website- Twitter- Goodreads

JOEL FISHBANE, author of The Thunder of Giants, is a novelist, playwright, sous-chef, actor, trivia host, amateur boxer, occasional clarinet player and general man about town. His various plays, short stories, articles, critiques and literary musings have been published, performed, honored, and otherwise applauded in Canada, the United States and Europe. He lives in Toronto and almost always wears a hat.

Today's Gonereading item is:
Alice in Wonderland Book Poster
Click HERE for the buy page


  1. Wow this sounds fabulous! I love that their stories impact each other even though they lived 50 years apart. This is so interesting Debbie! Thanks for putting it on my radar.

    1. Thanks Ali, It really captured my interest as well and it's like all the rest waiting on my tbr pile LOL
      Thanks for the comment

  2. You have out done yourself with this interview. This sounds wonderful, i watched a history channel show and they touched about these characters.

    1. Wow really. I was totally flummoxed by the fact that this was based on a real person. Thanks Kim

  3. Excellent interview Debbie! And what an interesting premise. I loved the summary, this truly sounds like amazing and unique story.
    Thank you Debbie, good work!