Monday, September 14, 2020

Blog Tour Q&A with Mitchell James Kaplan, Author of Into the Unbounded Night

Please join me in welcoming Mitchell James Kaplan to Let Them Read Books! Mitchell is touring the blogosphere with his new historical novel, Into the Unbounded Night, and I recently had the chance to ask him a few questions about researching and writing this story. Read on and enter to win a copy of Into the Unbounded Night!

When her village in Albion is sacked by the Roman general Vespasian, young Aislin is left without home and family. Determined to exact revenge, she travels to Rome, a sprawling city of wealth, decadence, and power. A “barbarian” in a “civilized” world, Aislin struggles to comprehend Roman ways. From a precarious hand-to-mouth existence on the streets, she becomes the mistress of a wealthy senator, but their child Faolan is born with a disability that renders him unworthy of life in the eyes of his father and other Romans.

Imprisoned for her efforts to topple the Roman regime, Aislin learns of an alternate philosophy from her cellmate, the Judean known today as the Apostle St. Paul. As the capital burns in the Great Fire of 64 AD, he bequeaths to her a mission that will take her to Jerusalem. There, Yohanan, son of Zakkai, has been striving to preserve the tradition of Hillel against the Zealots who advocate for a war of independence. Responding to the Judeans’ revolt, the Romans—again under the leadership of Vespasian—besiege Jerusalem, destroying the Second Temple and with it, the brand of Judean monotheism it represents. Yohanan takes on the mission of preserving what can be preserved, and of re-inventing what must be reinvented.

Throughout Into the Unbounded Night, Aislin’s, Faolan’s, Vespasian’s, and Yohanan’s lives intertwine in unexpected ways that shed light on colonization and its discontents, the relative values of dominant and tyrannized cultures, and the holiness of life itself—even the weakest of lives.

Hi Mitchell! Thank you so much for stopping by Let Them Read Books!
What inspired you to write Into the Unbounded Night?

I wasn’t particularly thinking about writing a novel set in the first century. Nor did I decide to do so prior to undertaking the research. I simply became fascinated with the period. The characters emerged from the world I was exploring.
What kind of sources did you use as you were researching the time period?
Any and all sources. Of course, I read lots of books. I went to Roman sites in the UK, Italy, Israel, and Turkey. Questions arise in your mind, and then questions beget other questions. Why did the Romans feel it was necessary to destroy the Temple of Jerusalem? What were the underlying differences (cultural, ideological, political)? Why did Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism diverge in the first century? etc. It’s like you’re trying to fit together the pieces of a puzzle.
Did you learn anything in your research that surprised you?
Everything I learned surprised me. I hope I managed to convey some of that wonderment in INTO THE UNBOUNDED NIGHT.
What were the most rewarding and challenging aspects of writing this story?
The most rewarding thing, for me, is learning from my characters. I find their stories so fascinating, enriching, and moving. 

What I find most challenging, when writing any novel, is to get outside of it, back into the so-called real world, where I try to spend as little time as possible. (But honestly, I don't think it's more real than the so-called fictional worlds.)
What do you hope readers take away from the story?
That we can learn a lot from these people: how they perceived the universe; what mattered to them; what mistakes they made; and maybe, what mistakes we’re making.
What are you working on next?
I’ve written a book called RHAPSODY, set in the 20s and 30s. It explores the jazz age and the brilliant love triangle that lit up that world—Kay Swift, George Gershwin, James Warburg. It also deals with race relations and a woman’s quest for recognition and dignity in a man’s world. (Kay Swift was the first woman to write a hit Broadway show.) Like my two previous novels, BY FIRE, BY WATER and INTO THE UNBOUNDED NIGHT, RHAPSODY is closely based on real people and events. It’s set to come out in March  2021 from Gallery Books / Simon & Schuster. Beyond that, I am currently working on a novel set in the present and in the 1960s.

About the Author:

Mitchell James Kaplan graduated with honors from Yale University, where he won the Paine Memorial Prize for Best Long-Form Senior Essay submitted to the English Department. His first mentor was the author William Styron.

After college, Kaplan lived in Paris, France, where he worked as a translator, then in Southern California, where he worked as a screenwriter and in film production.

He lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with his family and two cats.


Into the Unbounded Night is on a blog tour!
View the tour schedule 


During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two copies of Into the Unbounded Night! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends on September 25th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Unbounded Night


  1. Thank you so much for the opportunity, Jenny.

  2. What a great interview! Thank you so much for hosting Mitchell and his blog tour!

    HF Virtual Book Tours


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