On February 10, author Gavriel Savit visited Leesville Road High School and spoke to several English classes.
Savit, both an actor and a writer, spoke to the students about his new book, Anna and the Swallow Man, and life in general. He told the assembly of students about his experiences in both of his professions, mentioning how he finished his part in his very first Broadway musical, Amazing Grace. He also played parts in Beauty and the Beast, Oedipus Rex, and Oklahoma!, along with a handful of other plays and musicals.
Anna and the Swallow Man is Savit’s first book, and it focuses on the life of seven year-old Anna and her lanky, quiet friend The Swallow Man. The book follows their effort to escape the grip of Nazis in WWII-era Poland.
Mycenaean staff had the privilege of conducting an interview with Mr. Savit. (Mycenaean questions are marked with an M, and Mr. Savit’s responses are marked with an S)
M: What inspired you to write the story about Anna and the Swallow Man in particular? Did you take any inspiration from any other books like Night or Milkweed?
S: So, there are a lot of things that go into the writing of a book it’s… people like to ask what the idea is behind a particular book, and it’s always a funny question because it feels like there are five thousand ideas that go into a book…so It’s hard to say, like what one single inspiration might be. I will say in terms of your other question, whether other books influenced it, particularly when I’m writing a book covering a certain subject material or area, I actually do my best to try and not read other things that might be similar, because you never want to sit down and you have a really good idea, and you write down the idea, only to come to realize two weeks later that you’ve stolen it from someone.
M: Your website says you’ve been in many plays. Which was your favorite to work on?
S: Oh boy, that’s always kind of hard. I will say, I was very lucky, I recently finished my very first show on Broadway, it’s a new musical called Amazing Grace, that we just wrapped up at the end of October. So, you know, it’s always hard to say what a particular favorite is, but it was certainly a very important point in my career, and the cast recording is coming out February 26, so that’s…which is funny, because that’s a month to the day after my book came out, so “26” seems to be a good day.
M: How do you juggle with your acting and writing careers?
S: It’s always a little hard, you know, I mentioned Amazing Grace, and I worked on that show and I thought “I’ll have a show that I can do at night, and I can just write during the days”, but the thing is that eight shows a week is a pretty…pretty heavy responsibility, and it takes a lot out of you. The good news though is that in theater, there tend to be a lot of sort of open gaps where you’re not doing a lot of work, so those are great for writing.
M: In class on Monday we read part of your book, and the part we read vividly described how Anna and the Swallow Man would go through border checkpoints. Why were you so thorough when you wrote various sections of the book?
S: So I feel strongly that, if you want to get universality, if you want to get something everyone can feel, the way to do that is through specific detail, because the things we recognize when we’re reading are always tactile and specific, you know, the smell in the air, or the feeling of the cloth against your skin, or you know those are the things, these specific things, these are the things that tend to get people really engaged personally in a story.
M: What are you planning on writing next?
S: Yeah, I actually just finished up the first draft of a new project the other day, about a week ago, so I’m excited about that project. It’s too early to say, but there’s definitely some new stuff coming down the way.
You can purchase Anna and the Swallow Man on Amazon as a hard copy or a Kindle edition, and you can read reviews of the book on Goodreads.