My Writer's Journal

Behind the Books: Gideon's People

October 19, 2013

Gideon's People, 1996
One summer in the 1990's I went back to my home town, Lewistown, Pennsylvania, for a visit. I no longer had any family there, my parents both long dead, and everything had changed so much over the decades that I could scarcely find my way around.

Nevertheless, one day I was wandering along Market Street, looking for anything that looked familiar, when I ran into an old family friend. Stanley Siegel had been my mother's lawyer, as his father had been before that. He suggested that we have lunch, and I agreed. I didn't know Stan very well, and I was curious about him and his family. Lewistown was a very small town with lots of German names, mostly "Pennsylvania Dutch"--my grandparents' name was Knepp--and only a small handful of Jewish families. So I asked Stan how his father had ended up there, of all places. And he told me his story.

His grandfather had been driven out of Europe and wound up in Philadelphia, where he became a peddler, traveling to Lancaster County every week with a pack on his back to sell his goods to Amish farmers. Stan's father, Harry Siegel, went with him. It was a good business relationship, Stan told me, because they had a nearly common language--Yiddish and the German dialect spoken by the Amish. They also were deeply religious, although not the same religion. Eventually, Stan's father went to law school, but at that time, many big city law firms didn't hire Jews. So he made his way to central Pennsylvania, to Lewistown, and established his practice there.

I was fascinated by this story, and of course the research was fun, searching for commonalities of which there were a lot. Not one of my most popular books, but one I really enjoyed writing.

Behind the Books: Drummers of Jericho

October 13, 2013

There's nothing like moving to a new city to stir up the creative juices. I had barely gotten settled in Texas when the '90s gulf war forced the return of my stepdaughter, Vered, from her school in Israel. She came to live with her father and me and enrolled in the local high school. It did not go well.

Vered wanted to play her flute in the marching band, but when she learned that the halftime program was based on Christian hymns played while the band marched down the field in the form of a cross, she rebelled and I called the ACLU. All that separation-of-church-and-state stuff didn't seem to apply in Denton. Things went downhill fast, and when the band was barred from performing their halftime program, our girl was targeted. Her life was made miserable. There was one boy--ONE BOY!--who came to her defense. It wasn't enough, and eventually she dropped out.

When I wasn't tearing my hair, I was saving articles from the local paper. The situation made national news, but when it all finally calmed down and life went on, I began to write DRUMMERS OF JERICHO, about a Jewish girl who is vilified, and a church-going boy who has the courage to stick up for her.

There's happy ending. Vered got her GED, graduated from college with a Fine Arts degree, launched a small publishing company in Alaska, and is now in grad school. One thing more: she published my HOTLINE series in e-book form.

Behind the Books: Rio Grande Stories

October 2, 2013

Original jacket: RIO GRANDE STORIES
The idea for RIO GRANDE STORIES was conceived in a fit of homesickness. We'd moved from Albuquerque to Denton, Texas, in 1990, and I was missing my old home--the friends, the family, the chile (both red and green), the mountains, the clear blue sky, the beautiful weather, the culture.

One evening, lying on the couch with a magazine that wasn't holding my attention, the idea for a book popped into my head out of nowhere: how about writing a series of linked stories about kids in a middle school in New Mexico who decide to write a series of stories about New Mexico--about La Llorona, and the walk to Chimayo on Good Friday, and Las Posadas on Christmas Eve. They'll write about bizcochitos and Indian pots and jewelry. There will be a dozen stories, and they'll put them into a book and sell copies to raise funds for their school. They'll call their book RIO GRANDE STORIES.

I was on fire with ideas for that book! But actually getting the book written was another thing entirely. My editor ("Archeditor Liz") wouldn't let me get away with any weak characters or second rate plots. I wrote and wrote and rewrote.

I thought it might have just local interest, and it has had that. But to my amazement, there are classes in middle schools from California to Virginia, for goodness sake, where kids are putting together their family stories, using RIO GRANDE STORIES as a model. I've gone to visit them, seen them for myself. It's a great feeling.

Fiction for Young Adults

Fiction for Young Adults
Dowdy Peggy White reinvents herself as a glamorous photographer, capturing memorable images during the 1930s Depression and 1940s World War II
Three gutsy girls go looking for adventure in the West in the 1920's
Anastasia and her three sisters are the privileged daughters of the richest man in the world, until their world begins to crumble.
YA Historical Fiction
What's it like to be the daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world? When Helen of Troy elopes with Paris, her daughter, Hermione, stows away on a Greek ship in search of her mother, hoping to bring her home--and perhaps to find a love of her own.
The future queen of England lives a life of privilege, but privilege comes with a steep price of isolation and loneliness--until she meets Albert.
She leaves Scotland as a child, is sent to France to marry the future king, returns to Scotland as a young woman to rule; a wild queen in a wild country.
First published in 1992, my first historical novel, has been reissued with a new cover.
Cleopatra has been chosen to be the next queen of Egypt, but she faces ruthless competition from her sisters. (Watch a video of Carolyn on this page)
The dizzying rise and horrific downfall of the last queen of France. Young Royals series
Who would not fall in love with--or at least have a mad crush on--young Will!
Marie van Goethen was a dancer in 19th century Paris and modeled for Degas's famous sculpture.
A fictionalized account of the early life of Charles Darwin, narrated by Charley himself.
Mozart's talented sister, Nannerl, struggles to achieve life she deserves--in music as well as in love.
Contemporary YA
Four characters, four big issues, four compelling stories: BECAUSE OF LISSA; THE PROBLEM WITH SIDNEY; GILLIAN'S CHOICE; THE TWO FACES OF ADAM

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