ArtScroll: This is your third LifeLines volume, yet the stories are still so varied and intriguing. How do you keep them so fresh?
C. Saphir: It’s partly because I’m very selective about the stories I’ll write. I won’t write a story that is too similar to something I’ve already written. More fundamentally, though, people’s lives are fascinating, because Hashem is writing the script! No two people experience life the same way, and the world is constantly changing, so there are always new and intriguing stories unfolding.
AS: These stories are very popular and generate many comments from readers. Why do you think people are so engaged when they read them?
CS: I try hard to maintain the narrator’s voice, rather than inserting myself as the writer. I’ve heard readers say that it’s fascinating to meet a new person, talking in his or her own voice, in each story. Although I change identifying details, I keep the story authentic — which means letting events speak for themselves, rather than embellishing facts, including extraneous details, or pontificating. I trust my readers to glean the message themselves, without my being too obvious about it.
Also, as varied as the stories are, one thing virtually all of them have in common is that the narrators experience meaningful growth due to adversity they faced. That makes them seem very human and vulnerable — and therefore relatable.
AS: Your postscripts in this volume don’t seem to follow a standard formula. What kind of extras do you give us in the postscripts?
CS: In the postscript to the story about the young woman who married a quadriplegic, you’ll read about their lives, years after their marriage. In the postscript to the story about a couple that struggled with mild infertility, you’ll see that reader reactions to that story were the opposite of mild. In the postscript to the story about a rosh yeshivah who remarried, you’ll hear his thoughts as to why a second spouse is typically different from the first. In other postscripts, you’ll hear about some of the dilemmas I face in writing LifeLines, such as how to showcase people’s greatness of spirit without making them sound arrogant. Basically, the postscripts are my opportunity to step out of storyteller role and add spice to the story.