“This novel will help you survive this election season,” Greenpoint resident Michael Abramson, author of the political thriller, Rebecca Tree, writes. Set in the not-so-distant future, “The American political system is trapped in a death spiral. In an increasingly polarized country, rapidly rising seawater separates ‘wet’ states from ‘dry’ states. Parts of South Florida surrender to the sea as carcasses of once-chic beachfront hotels poke out from the ocean floor. ‘Guest’ agricultural workers from Mexico hand-pollinate fruit trees and vegetable crops in a desperate effort to maintain the country’s food supply. California’s once plentiful fruits are now as rare as caviar in post-Tsarist Russia.”
Out of this chaos emerges Rebecca Tree, the rebellious granddaughter of America’s most powerful politician, Merewether Tree. A successful inventor and businesswoman, Rebecca’s life is marked by a string of tragedies. Her parents died in a plane crash when she was two, and her twin sister Allison passed before her fourth birthday. Determined to honor the memories of the ones she lost, Rebecca’s personal pain propels her into a life of accomplishment.”
Released in March, the book has already garnered 4.5 stars on Amazon. I spoke with Abramson about what motivated the novel, the places in which it takes place (including our very own Greenpoint), and how he shaped his characters.
GP: When did you start working on Rebecca Tree?
Michael: I began it, having reached a nearly uncontrollable state of rage, in reaction to what happened in New Orleans and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I guess writing the novel was the only way I could work out that rage.
GP: What inspired the story?
Michael: The first draft was more of a politically, didactic assault on the politics of the day. I was also seeking a quirky heroine who hopefully readers could admire and relate to.
GP: How do you relate to the political environment of the book to our current political situation?
Michael: Unfortunately, the book tracks the political dysfunction of our time. When I wrote the book, I envisioned a four or five party system, with the country further divided into ‘wet’ states and ‘dry’ states and the border states (New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas) moving towards a state of civil insurrection led by anti-immigrant vigilantes. And then there is the evil John Spencer, who wants to deport all illegal aliens, so maybe Donald Trump was inspired by my character. Rebecca destroys John Spencer in the second presidential debate and indicates that she would welcome taking their dispute “to the alley.”
GP: Who can we liken Rebecca Tree to?
Michael: A mix of Jane Eyre, Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Elizabeth Warren, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and Hedy Lamarr (for her role in the ground- breaking invention of spread spectrum technology). And a bit of Wonder Woman.
GP: Where does your novel take place?
Michael: Boston, Washington D.C., Greenpoint, London, Montana, New Mexico, Nashville, Dallas, St. Louis, and at 40,000 feet in the air.
GP: Are there any landmarks Greenpoint residents will be familiar with?
Michael: The deli on Manhattan Ave. between Calyer and Noble. Also, I used street names of Greenpoint for very minor characters like Meserole, Calyer, etc.
GP: What was your writing process like?
Michael: At first, it was easy, as I seemed to write in a non-drug induced fugue state. But then I had to look at what I did, and figure out how to fashion a novel that hopefully people might want to read. Then it became tough, real tough.
There were periods where it would sit untouched and then I would re-attack it with fresh bursts of energy. The great resource of writing groups that have come out of the Word Bookstore in Greenpoint has been an enormous source of support, inspiration, and help.
GP: You received an award from Amazon for an earlier version of this novel, right? How did that come about?
Michael: Amazon used to run a yearly contest, supposedly taking in 10,000 entrants in fiction arranged by categories. I didn’t win, but got to the semi-finals which was helpful.
GP: What books or other writings have you published before?
Michael: I am a photojournalist. My photographic books include Palante: Young Lords Party (reissued by Haymarket); Inside Las Vegas with Mario Puzo; Roy Lichtenstein, Portrait of an Artist; Amy, the Story of a Deaf Girl; and Our Portion of Hell.
GP: What are you working on next?
Michael: For the moment, trying to see if I can build an audience for Rebecca Tree. I am thinking about what a sequel might look like.