What inspired you to write Incantation? I realized that I knew almost nothing about the Inquisition. I became intrigued by the idea that history so often gets reworked and lost. I tried to create a feeling of what life was like for people who came before us, to honor those by remembering their history. Incantation is also a story about mothers and daughters, which I think is a theme many teens can relate to.
Where did you do your research for Incantation?
I traveled to the Netherlands and saw the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam that was founded by Jewish refugees from Spain. I also took a number of books out of the library when I got home.
Why are secrets so important in Incantation?
As outsiders, Jews have had very good reasons to be wary and keep secrets. Secret worlds are still part of today's life. I recently met a woman from Puerto Rico who could not figure out why her family went to church on Friday nights and Sundays. Then she learned she had a Jewish grandmother. Old customs may reverberate in today's life, but perhaps they lose the meaning of their origins.
What were you like as a child?
I was a reader! In our working-class neighborhood, my mom was the only one with lots of books in our home. Those books changed who I was.
What books did you love to read as a young person?
I loved reading anything about magic or dogs--all the books by Edward Eager, Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers and The Borrowers by Mary Norton. Later, I read all of Ray Brad bury's books. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank made me want to be a writer.
Was Judaism important in your family? We weren't observant, but being Jewish was extremely important. It is a huge part of who I am and my personal history. In my family it was more a cultural Jewish history, Jewish foods, my grandparents' past--they were born in Russia.
Why do you choose to write novels for middle schoolers in addition to those for adults?
The books you read at 11, 12 and 13 really can stay with you. I wanted to have a connection like that with young readers, and I hope to write the types of books I would have liked to read when I was that age.
Do you have a writing process or rituals?...