Author Spotlight: Yoni Palmer

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Author Spotlight: Yoni Palmer

In our latest Author Spotlight, we feature Yoni Palmer, whose profound experiences with depression shaped his recent book, “Depressed“. In this intimate interview, Yoni opens up about his unique writing process, the inspirations behind his work, including the pivotal role Rabbi Haber played, and the challenges he faced while weaving his personal struggles into his narrative. He also shares the joys of writing, his motivations, and how his faith and community work intertwine with his literary endeavors. Join us as Yoni discusses his journey through writing, personal growth, and his deep connection to his faith.

Inspiration and Writing Process

  • What inspired you to write your book?

It was actually Rabbi Haber himself. He’s our personal rav and once, when I was talking to him about how I was feeling, I joked that with me as a writer and he as a publisher perhaps I should write a book about depression. He said it would be so important for people to hear from a sufferer as opposed to an expert.

  • What was your writing process like?

I prefer to just let whatever is in my head pour out. I always have an idea of the basic structure in my head and then I just let my creative juices run.

  • Do you map an outline of your books beforehand? Why or why not?

I sometimes create a table of contents and then fill that in as I go along. I did that here by setting up some of the chapters. In my professional life, in tech writing, the only way is first with the structure.

  • What resources did you find helpful when you were writing your book?

Where I needed to refer to external sources or check quotes, etc., I would use Google. But I’m always careful to make sure that the sites I look up are themselves reliable and trustworthy.

  • Can you describe a moment where you felt profoundly connected to your writing?

It was part of my life for every moment of the writing. I was writing about my experience of depression as I was living it. In the good moments, I would think about how I could add that to the book.

Challenges and Enjoyment in Writing

  • What are some of the challenges you faced while writing your book?

Then biggest challenge for me was keeping my creative juices going while suffering from bouts of depression. It was such a struggle.

  • What are some of the things you enjoyed most about writing your book?

I enjoyed getting my story from my mind into black and white. And I think I was particularly motivated by the knowledge that the book could make a difference in people’s lives. So, every word I wrote, I felt I was on a mission.

  • Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Actually both. It just depends on whether I can get the writing juices going. If I can, then I can probably go through a “zone of writing,” but when I’m done, I’ll probably feel exhausted.

  • Have you ever had writer’s block?

Yes, very much so. Just sitting, looking at the screen, with no creativity coming and not knowing what to write. It’s tough. I’ll normally try and stop the writing process and take a timeout to do something that will take my mind off the block and maybe even bring back some creativity.

Personal Reflections and Experiences

  • Which three character traits have played a key role in your success?

Persistence, empathy, and responsibility.

  • Which opportunities or personalities played a key role in your career path?

A friend of my father’s, who believed in me and pushed me into the world of writing. Another friend of the family, who explained to me what a career in writing could look like.

  • What was a failure you experienced? What did you take away from that experience?

After I left university in the UK in 1992, I set up a recycling business. It didn’t work out as the recycling market back then took a nosedive. It did, however, teach me that I’m able to self-motivate, learn from mistakes, and keep moving.

  • What is the most inspiring feedback you’ve ever received? Did that impact what you did next?

It’s probably the feedback I received from Mosaica’s leader and my rav, Rabbi Yaacov Haber, after we published my book, Depressed. He said that it’s one of the most important books Mosaica has published.

  • Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

🙂 ha ha, no. I am who I am.

  • Could you share something about yourself that your readers don’t know (yet)?

In 1994, I was part of a lobby group that lifted British sanctions on weapons sales to Israel imposed since 1982.

  • How has your background influenced your writing style or themes?

Being a religious Jew means that my writing will always reflect that about me.

Lifestyle and Hobbies

  • What do you do to relax, recharge, or simply have fun? How do you make time for that, and how often?

Probably nothing or not enough. When I’m not working, I’m involved in my various communal activities. It doesn’t leave much time for free time.

  • What book (or books) are you currently reading?

Truthfully, since October 7, I haven’t been able to read anything, other than regular Torah learning.

  • What is your favorite mitzvah?

I’d have to say yishuv ha’aretz, living in Eretz Yisrael.

  • What are some of your hobbies or interests outside of writing?

I like plastic model making, gardening, volunteering as a firefighter, being active in my community, and helping run Keren Ohr, an amuta helping couples through the infertility journey.

Writing Community and Influence

  • Which other authors are you acquainted with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

There are many, both in the Jewish and secular worlds. I don’t know if I can say there is one particular author who comes to mind though as my inspiration. I think I just motivate myself to constantly strive to improve.

  • Do you read your book reviews? How do you handle positive or negative feedback?

I certainly did read my reviews. Let’s face it, who does like criticism? But deep down I know that it is important as it will help me to continually improve.

  • Which book (or books) have you given as a gift, and why?

There is an atlas of Eretz Yisrael published by Mosad Harav Kook that I like to give. It works through Tanach, showing the maps as the places are mentioned in pesukim in Tanach.

  • Which three books have greatly influenced your life?

Mesilas Yesharim, a Hebrew biography of the Lubavitcher Rebbe published by Yediot Achronot, and A Tzaddik in our Time.

  • What is your favorite sefer?

I think Tefillah K’Hilchasah. I’m a gabbai in my spare time and I constantly learn the sefer both for my own attempts to be more halachically compliant in my own tefillos, and to be able to run minyanim smoothly.

  • Who are some authors or thinkers you admire or draw inspiration from?

I’d say the Maharal, Rav Kook, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And, l’havdil, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, and Douglas Murray (long before his current fame).

Current and Future Projects

  • What are you working on next?

I’ve got ideas for some historical novels based on Jewish themes. I just need the time to get down to writing.

  • If you were granted an extra three hours per day, or a spare million dollars, what would you do with them?

I’d take the money and use it so I could devote my time to communal activities and writing the books that are only ideas for now.

Writing Practices and Routines

  • Do you see writing as a kind of spiritual or therapeutic practice?

Possibly therapeutic. It’s good to get the ideas swimming around in one’s brain and get them out. Ideas are so powerful for the good and the bad.

  • How did you celebrate when your book(s) reached completion?

Just expressed a massive sigh of relief. Though not a long book, it was a tremendous effort to get it out, having to relive a number of difficult and unpleasant experiences.

  • What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Actually, some background noise. It could be a radio (news-based) or a podcast, but it just helps me concentrate.

  • Do you write alone or in a public space?

I always write alone. Despite needing some background noise, I think I’d become too distracted in a public space.

Miscellaneous

  • What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

If you have the dream, just go for it. Stay at it and, b’ezras Hashem, you will fulfill your dream. And most important, don’t let people tell you that you won’t succeed or it can’t be done.

  • Is there anything else you would like to share?

I really enjoyed working with the professional team at Mosaica. They are so dedicated to the professional publishing of Jewish books.

  • Is there a story or a joke you enjoy telling, and why?

It’s this one: A man is stuck on a desert island. A speedboat comes by one day and offers to rescue him, and he refuses saying, “Hashem will save me.” The next day, a helicopter finds him. Again, he refuses to be rescued saying, “Hashem will save me.” The next day a cruise liner comes along, and he refuses to be rescued citing the same reason. A few days later, a tropical storm engulfs the island and he is killed. He arrives in Shamayim and he asks why Hashem didn’t save him though he had bitachon. Hashem says, “I sent a speedboat, a helicopter, and a cruise liner to save you.” One lesson for me is that Hashem is all around, in the mundane; we just have to see it.

  • What is one piece of advice you’ve received that has significantly influenced your career?

Something my father, z”l, once said to me: “Think big.” Never think that something is beyond you.

Click here to get your copy of Depressed by Yoni Palmer

 

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