MGM: The characters in your book are so authentic, do you have a similar person in your life, like a Bubbe or Uncle Sol?
A: My grandparents on my dad’s side were somewhat like Joey’s bubbe and zeyde. They were immigrants who had come to America in the 1920s, escaping the persecution of Jews in Russia. My bubbe was strong, tough. Zeyde was sweet and gentle. And my uncle Danny was definitely the model for Uncle Sol; he was very devoted to our family, but also tough. I think there are people in every family with strong, distinct personalities. For me, the key to writing those authentic voices is to visualize that person’s most extreme reactions to things and then dial it back just enough to make the voice real. It’s actually kind of fun!
MGM: The dialog was really fun to read. How did you research the dialect of the 1970s?
A: Research it? I lived it! Haha! I went from age 3 to age 13 in the 1970s, and I have clear memories of the decade, at least the latter part of it. Of course, I did do research, too, on 70s slang and teen-speak so as to not accidentally slip some 80s verbiage in there! I also watched a lot of old TV shows to recapture the feel of the decade in my dialog– Good Times; Welcome Back, Kotter; Sanford and Son– shows like that.
A: The hardest part was getting all the historical details right. I constantly had to look things up. For example, Joey carries around his arcade prize tickets in a bag. Originally, I wrote that as a plastic grocery bag, but then a friend pointed out that plastic bags may not have been used in grocery stores in 1975. So, I had to research that, and lo and behold! Plastic bags hadn’t yet been introduced into grocery stores in 1975! Also, Joey’s little brother mentions the movie Jaws, but I had to make sure that Jaws came out in the summer of 1975, not ‘76 or ’77. All of those little details may seem insignificant, but historical accuracy is extremely important for well-written historical fiction.
MGM: Can you tell us what projects you have planned for the future?
A: I’m in the process of revising another middle grade historical novel, this one about two kids whose fathers are caught up in the Communist Red Scare of the 1950s. There are a lot of parallels between what was happening in the country during that time and what’s happening today, with teachers’ freedom of speech in classrooms. The other project I’m working on is a historical novel-in-verse about a shooting outside a synagogue in the mid-80s. That’s very loosely based on a real incident that took place in St. Louis.
That sounds amazing! I can’t wait to read it.