Can you tell readers a little about OyMG?
OyMG is about fourteen-year-old Ellie Taylor who goes to a summer speech and performing arts camp determined to win a private scholarship—and discovers she’ll have to hide that she’s Jewish if she wants to win.
How did you come up with the story?
I knew I wanted to write about a Jewish girl challenged about her identity. Mostly, because I could relate. I grew up as one of the only Jewish kids in my school, so I knew how it felt to be different. I was proud of my faith, but at times (especially Christmas!) it was just plain hard. I wanted to be like everyone else.
Then something happened to me when I was Ellie’s age. I got fired from a babysitting job when the family found out I was Jewish. Of course that’s stayed with me over the years. It’s hard to understand hate like that—at any age. The question is how do we handle it? How far will we go to conform and fit in? What part of ourselves are we willing to hide? From that question, Ellie Taylor and OyMG came to life.
Who is your favorite character and why?
This is such a hard question to answer. I relate to Ellie, I have a crush on Devon, I love Megan, I want to be a good parent like Ellie’s mom and dad…. But if I had to pick one, I’d say Ellie’s Zeydeh (her grandpa.) He’s so wise and loving but also crazy and outspoken. And no, I don’t have a Zeydeh like him, but in some ways I think he’s an embodiment of my dad, who I still miss every day.
Like all great contemporary novels there is a gorgeous guy. How did you come up with Devon?
Devon is the guy I would have fallen for. Smart, funny, gorgeous…sigh. At first, I thought he might be English, which is why I named him for a region of England. But now that I’m thinking of it, it might have been a subconscious connection to my undying love and adoration for Mr. Darcy. (Yes, Darcy was from Derbyshire and not Devon, but who wants to read about a guy called Derbyshire?)
OyMG is funny and lighthearted but you touch on a very serious problem that affects everyone in society. If you had to deal with discrimination or racism as a teen or adult how would you handle it?
This is the big question. I’d like to think that I’d stand up and stand out—no matter what the consequences. But it isn’t always that easy. It’s hard when you’re faced with hatred, and the instinct for self-preservation can make you want to clam up and hide. One thing I’ve discovered is that it can be easier to be a voice for others. As a society, it would be great if we could be better about standing up for each other.
How did your life influence OyMG?
I’ve certainly felt the pull between fitting in and standing out. I’ve been proud of my differences but I’ve also walked into situations wondering if I ought to hide my Jewish star. I think my experiences have made me more aware and empathetic of minorities of all kinds. I hope that comes through in the book.
Can you share some of your favorite Yiddish phrases or words?
I had a grandma who would use the Yiddish word, farkakte. (Think stronger word for crap.) She would say things like, “You’re going out with that farkakte purse?” So that word is definitely a favorite, and one I couldn’t resist using in the book.
What is your next project?
I’m so excited to have a new book coming out next year! Audition and Subtraction will be out fall 2012, from Walker & Company. (Yay, I get to continue working with my editor!) It’s about fourteen-year-old Tatum who could suddenly lose her spot in District Honor Band—and her best friend—when a new guy transfers to her school. Friendships change and romance sparks in unexpected places.
You belong to Class of 2K11. What has that experience been like?
Life-saving. (And that’s an understatement.) I joined the group to help with joint marketing and promotion, but the members have become my friends and I’ve relied on them so much to share experiences, vent, learn, laugh, cry and basically survive this crazy thing called publishing. I think everyone should have their own version of a Class of 2k11—a group of people they can share their journey with—whatever that journey might be.
How do you do it to balance life and writing?
I’m not sure, LOL! My hubby deserves a lot of the credit, because he’s really supportive. Luckily, we’re at a place in our lives where I don’t have to work full-time and that’s really freed me up to write. I’m able to write during the day while my teens are in school and then I can be available when they get home. (Though they often hear me say, “Just let me finish this one thing…” And then I don’t turn up for another hour.) But it is a balance, and I try not to forget that.
Thanks Cari, for inviting me to your blog and for being such a great supporter of debut authors!