Author of the Month

Montreal media icon Tommy Schnurmacher’s touching tribute to his mother receives high praise and acclaim

Montreal broadcaster and author Tommy Schnurmacher is receiving major publicity for his new memoir Makeup Tips from Auschwitz: How Vanity Saved my Mother’s Life. He’s been featured in Canadian Jewish News, The Suburban, Global News and the Montreal Gazette.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

His book has sold out in all the Montreal bookstores carrying it. It’s the #1 consignment book at Paragraphe Books, and all 104 copies at Chapters sold out in 90 minutes during a book signing. Way to go, Tommy!

We recently sat down with Tommy to ask him about all the attention his book has been getting since its release.

Q: What inspired you to write this book? 

A: The inspiration for the book came from veteran Canadian broadcaster Gord Sinclair, who was the news director at radio station CJAD in Montreal where I was the mid-morning talk show host. During commercial breaks, I would tell him stories of my childhood and my family dynamic when we first came to Canada from Hungary as immigrants. I remember him saying, “One of these days, Tommy, you are going to have to write a book.” I had often told the stories and I would write notes just for the fun of it, but the day Gord was talking about finally came and I finally sat down and wrote the book.

Your book has received high praise and acclaim. You’ve been featured in the Montreal Gazette, The Suburban, Global News and the Canadian Jewish News. How does it feel to receive so much positive attention for your book? 

A: It is very gratifying, of course, to see that people are enjoying the book. Many people can relate to having a special relationship with their mother. They can also relate to the immigrant experience and to taking care of parents who once took care of them.

Q: How are you promoting your book? 

A: Publicity does not happen on its own and books don’t just fly off the shelf. I use the “five in five” method. I do five things a day, five days a week to promote the book. It could mean writing a press release, sending an email, making a phone call or flipping through a book blogger directory. Every bit counts. Every bit helps. Some will pan out, some will not, but you just have to keep at it. 

Q: Why was it important for you to tell your mom’s story?

A: I felt that she was a fascinating woman and it just did not seem right that I should be the only one to know that and to see the impact that she had on my life

Q: Your mom, Olga Schnurmacher, passed away last year. What do you think her reaction would be to the book if she was still here?

A: I think she would love it and would be amazed that so many people could relate to what she went through in her life. She had a positive outlook despite Auschwitz. 

Q: Was there a part of the story that was the most difficult or heart-wrenching to write?

A: It was difficult to talk about the time we had a falling out and did not speak to one another. Of course it was very difficult to write about her passing.

Q: How did you use Facebook to get attention for your book? What was the reaction?

A: Having worked in radio and the newspaper, I was accustomed to daily deadlines imposed by others. When I started to write my memoir, there were no deadlines to meet. Since I had precious little discipline, I became a master procrastinator. Then suddenly while browsing at the tiny Argo bookstore in downtown Montreal I had a major epiphany.

I needed a muse. Many muses. So on May 27, 2018, I made a major public promise on Facebook.  I wrote, “Starting Monday, June 4th, I will write a minimum of two pages (400 to 500 words) every weekday. On any weekday you check my Facebook page you will know that by noon at the latest – you will have something to read. Please hound me if I so much as miss a day.”

I kept my promise. The reaction was overwhelming.

Writing in the Montreal Gazette, Bill Brownstein wrote Schnurmacher’s “memoir…is highly moving, yet highly amusing, as well as particularly revealing. No surprise he has a cadre of hooked readers who hit their computers weekdays at noon for the latest installment.”

Q: Tell me something not in the synopsis.

A: I came to Canada as a refugee from Hungary at the age of 6. I reviewed restaurants on TV, I worked as a society editor and gossip columnist for the Montreal Gazette for whom I covered the Oscars live for 13 years in a row. I played the role of Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine in the feature film 2001: A Space Travesty opposite Leslie Nielsen. I have written three other books, a humor book The Golddiggers Guide: How to Marry Rich in 1985, Canada is not a Real Country, 1996 and Are We on Yet: Insider Secrets on How to be Interviewed, 2012.

“I devoured MAKEUP TIPS FROM AUSCHWITZ in two sittings. Each brief segment is like popcorn, making you say to yourself, ‘OK, I’ll read just one more…’ It is a tale of attachment and ultimately, of letting go.”

– Roy Doliner
Best-selling author of The Sistine Secret

“A deeply affecting memoir at once tragic and very funny. Well written, an addictive read.”

Anna Porter
Award-winning publisher and author

Q: What’s next for you?

A: I will be adapting the book to the stage as a one-man show. I will play both myself and my Mom.  I will premiere it in Montreal but hope to take it across Canada and the U.S. My dream is to perform it at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan where Sandra Bernhard is a New Year’s Eve regular. 

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

A: Yes. If your Mom is alive, call her right now just to say hello and tell her that you love her. If she has passed away, write down some of the memories you shared. You never know. It might just end up in your memoir.  

Connect with Tommy on his website, Instagram, Twitter and Goodreads

Buy the book in Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo

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