Already a successful software developer and bestselling writer in Israel, Yoav Blum decided to bring his work to a global audience through self-publishing. In 2010 he released an English translation of a short story collection and then, just last spring, offered his biggest Hebrew-language hit, The Coincidence Makers,to American audiences. The book follows a group of people working as literal agents of fate—trained by a large, supernatural employer to create coincidences and affect the future. Blum’s whimsical book turns serendipity into bureaucracy and transforms philosophical questions of free will into fantasy adventure. With positive responses from American readers and a glowing Kirkus review, Blum soon signed on at St. Martin’s Press and will see his book rereleased by the publisher in the States and 10 more countries early next year.
What drew you to fate and luck as subject matter for The Coincidence Makers?
The issue of fate vs. free will is a fascinating one for me. It connects with the big questions of what are we—is there a soul, and what exactly does “me” mean? It is a religious and a philosophical question, and it deeply affects the way we see ourselves.
Why did you decide to approach it as something institutional or even bureaucratic?
The problem of free will and destiny is very much related to the concept of causality. Do the rules of nature prevent the existence of free will? So, it felt natural to deal with rules, with an organization, as free will is connected to how we act in a world dictated by order.
Your collection Giving the Moon also has a similar blend of fantasy and the familiar. What attracts you to these kinds of stories?
I feel fantasy is a great place to ask the “big” questions while also creating an interesting and captivating world. Personally, I find realistic drama to be less interesting and repetitive in many ways. In my opinion, the greatest stories are stories about realities outside of this world.
Do you find inspiration for your writing in technology?
Writing code is also a type of “creative” writing—it creates something new in the world. In a way, I try to use my knowledge of software design and the tools I use to find programming bugs to better design plotlines and solve problems in my writing.
Are you working on anything new now?
At the moment I’m resting a bit after my third book was published in Hebrew about a year ago. In the past, it took me approximately a year to “recover” from the release of one book until a new idea started to take life, and I don’t think it will be different this time.
You first published The Coincidence Makers independently. Will you release other previous books yourself as well?
In Hebrew I didn’t self-publish at all. In English—after translation—I also self-published Giving the Moon. However, I felt it was published prematurely, and I unpublished it some time ago to go back and polish the stories and translation. Maybe I’ll rerelease them at some point in the future….
How did you find the process of transitioning to a traditional publisher?
Self-publishing is a great way for writers to get out there and find readers, and I received great reactions. But there are so many books out there that you need to work all the time to find potential readers. For me, that took away a lot of time from writing (or just living). With traditional publishing, I’m supported by a team of professional people who know what to do (better than I) at every step.
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.