Jennifer is the author of the beautiful book Yellow Star, the story of a young girl during the Holocaust. It was one of my top favorites of 2006. Also be sure to read a favorite quote from the book. Visit her website at: www.jenniferroy.com.
How did you decide to write Yellow Star?
I would like to say that I wrote Yellow Star (YS) as a result of my deep need to do a free verse, Holocaust novel. However the reality is:
(a) My cousin Greg (Sylvia's son) e-mailed my twin sister saying, "Did you know my Mom was one of 12 surviving children of the Lodz Ghetto?" He had just found out and knew Julia, my sister, is a bigger e-mailer than me.
(b) Julia called me and said, "You should write about this!" I replied, "Why don't you?" (She's also an author.) Her: "I think you should."
(c) I called my aunt Sylvia - who lives in Maryland while I'm in upstate NY. She said, "Oh, Jenny-fer (European accent), I vas such a leetle girl. I von't remember any-sing."
Over the next year, she remembered virtually every little thing! And what a story. I recorded the calls, took notes on index cards, and by the end of the year, I had a stack of cards organized chronologically. I had to research the Lodz Ghetto. I didn't even know the difference between a ghetto and a concentration camp prior to my aunt's disclosure (after 50 years!).
What are some of the challenges of writing in verse, vs. writing in prose?
For me, writing in prose just didn't work. I was too detached and the story came out stiff. I started over in sort of a poetic freefall - and it flowed.
Do you want to write another novel in verse?
Some day I'll probably do more verse. I really loved the imagery, spacing, and emotion of it. However, it's not in my immediate plans.
Your twin sister is also a writer. Do you critique each other's work for one another?
My twin sister is Julia DeVillers. Her latest book, How My Private, Personal Journal Became a Bestseller, was turned into the hit Disney Channel movie "Read It and Weep" (now on DVD!). We don't so much as critique each other as cheer each other on. We are both so excited and appreciative of how hard it is to write/sell/publish, that every little good news is a TWIN celebration. Albeit long-distance. She's in Ohio. We talk every day and are very close. If one of us is stuck in our writing, we talk each other through it, but we are very much our own "voices" as writers.
What do you have in common with the main character in Yellow Star, Syvia?
Hmmm... that's a tough one. I think our tendency to worry. I wish I could say something more noble, but of course our childhoods were so different. I was happy and creative living in the suburbs and I was very social. And an obsessive reader, of course.
What are you currently working on?
I've been doing some YS promotion and book club appearances. This spring I'm doing 20 middle school visits! And the latest good news - I've signed with an agent and have a new book (middle grade) started. Let's put it this way - it's different from YS, and I feel very attached to it.
Also, I homeschool my 5-year-old son. That's my privilege and priority. As an aside, I am happy Cynthia Lord's Rules will be read by so many. My son is different from Ms. Lord's, but he does have Asperger Syndrome. He is very literal and rule-following! He's also snuggly and hilarious!
Tell us about one of your favorite writing-related experiences in your career.
My favorite writing-related experiences are ongoing. From meeting so many great people to actual writing time alone... it's just a big, nebulous blob of wonderfulness.
One moment that stands out is a book event where a 93-year-old World War II veteran searched me out for a hug. He read my book and was one of the liberators of Birkenau. Very emotional.
Another cool moment: I just listened to the audiobook of YS. I got chills! I love it!
Which authors have influenced you the most?
Madeleine L'Engle, E.L. Konigsburg, Sydney Taylor, Ellen Conford, Ruth Shew, Judy Blume, Chaim Potok, Jane Austen, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Joan Aiken, T.S. Eliot, Stephen King, Robert Louis Stevenson... where do I stop? Carolyn Haywood, Beverly Cleary, Lois Lowry, Lois Duncan... I'm out of control!
Two contemporary authors I love: Julia DeVillers (!) and Lisa Yee. (Millicent Min and my son could hang out.) There's many more, but special "shout outs" ("shouts out"?) to those two. We're also big fans of Scaredy Squirrel these days.
Another person who has a huge influence is my husband Greg. He is a transportation engineer / project manager for a consulting firm. Whatever it is he does at the office makes my writing life possible.
What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
My favorite thing about being a writer is being around people who read books and love books and talk about books and...
Many thanks for your time and answers, Jennifer!