Giveaway: For the first two winners: Leave a comment on my Facebook page, Twitter page, or website, and mention that you saw this interview. Give me a way to contact you and I'll send you a copy of The Ninth Day. I'll also send an autographed copy of The Ninth Day and Blue Thread to the first person who sends me an email describing in detail the cookie—and what it links to—on my website.
AUTHOR: Ruth Tenzer Feldman
BOOK TITLE: The Ninth Day
GENRE: Young adult historical fiction/fantasy
PUBLISHER: Ooligan Press
BUY LINK: Please support independent bookstores: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9781932010657-2
But if you can't, there's always Amazon:
Please tell us about yourself.
I've been enthralled with character and points of view since second grade, when I had an eye narrate my science report on vision. After studying international relations (lots of viewpoints there) and law (there, too), I crafted a career as a legislative attorney for the U.S. Department of Education. I practiced sounding like several different presidents when I drafted bills and documents to send to Congress. My only other contribution to the national political scene has been an airing on NPR of my food parody of the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise."
While working for the government, I started writing articles and nonfiction books, finishing the last two books after leaving the law behind. My first novel, Blue Thread, won the Oregon Book Award for young adult literature in 2013. My newest book, The Ninth Day, is a companion novel that entwines the Free Speech Movement in 1964 Berkeley, the aftermath of the First Crusade in 1099, and LSD.
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?
That's a good question. I have no other outside employment now, so I can devote as much time to writing as I wish. In practice, though, I rarely write more than three hours a day. I used to write primarily in the mornings, working an hour or so at a stretch. Now I write in shorter chunks throughout the day. Staying on task is easier when I'm revising rather than when I'm writing new material.
When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?
Mt. Rainier inspired me to write under my own name, instead of pretending to be the President or Secretary of Education. It was 1992. My family was spending a year in Seattle, far from our home in suburban Maryland. I fell in love with the magic of a mountain that made so much of its own atmosphere that sometimes it appeared in the sky and sometimes it vanished. Every day I'd check to see if the mountain was "out." I decided then and there to put some of that magic into my first published articles, even though they were nonfiction. The real world is a wondrous place! Many articles later, I was asked to submit ideas for a children's nonfiction history book, which later became Don't Whistle in School: The History of America's Public Schools. I was hooked.
What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
My favorite non-writing activity is walking around the downtown section of Portland (we finally moved to the Pacific Northwest). I listen in on snippets of conversations and peek at tattoos. I people-watch like crazy while riding the streetcar in my disguise as the innocuous older woman with the library book on her lap.
Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
I sometimes suffer from Writer's Kvetch. That's when an annoying editorial voice insists on telling me that everything I am putting on the page is slop. When this happens, I try to shut off the voice by patiently explaining how she'll have a chance to complain during the revision process, if only she'd leave me alone during the first draft. If that doesn't work, then I sulk and eat way too many chocolate chip cookies. At that point one of my current characters usually starts talking in some scene or other, and I have to write down what happens, and Writer's Kvetch stomps off in a huff.
Please tell us your latest news.
I'm in the lo-o-o-ng process of writing another story involving the time traveler featured in Blue Thread and The Ninth Day. This third book is currently called (drum roll, please)…Book Three. Oh, well. My writers' critique group, Viva Scriva, and I will come up with a better title eventually.
How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
Hello out there. I'm tucked away in social media at:
Facebook: Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Tell us about the current book you're promoting. What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
The Ninth Day centers on Hope Friis, a shy, stuttering teen who is scarred by an accidental LSD trip in 1964, and who meets a time-traveler claiming that Hope must find a way to stop a father from killing his newborn son in 11th century Paris. I aim to have readers enjoy accompanying Hope through nine days of her life. If they learn something from either time period, that's a bonus. If they take away from the book a sense of confidence in their own voice, then that's even better.
Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?
Research? Oh, yes, indeed. Tons. The Ninth Day involved research on 1964 Berkeley, the Free Speech Movement, the Jewish community in 11th century Paris, and the First Crusade. The main character stutters, which I did as well at her age, so I could write from experience. My biggest surprise came while reading about ergotism—a disease that in the Middle Ages was called Saint Anthony's Fire—and its link to the Salem witch trials and to LSD.
Is this your first published children’s work? What other types of writing have you done?
I started by writing articles—dozens and dozens of them. The Ninth Day is book 12, but only my second novel. The first ten works were nonfiction books, in history and biography. I'm fascinated by history. One day I had the urge to stretch the truth on a biography of president Calvin Coolidge. Calvin loved to play pranks on his Secret Service guards, and I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the guard. I figured that was a sign to try writing historical fiction.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Historical fiction demands a balance between history and fiction, between authenticity and artistry, between what really happened and what happens in the story. I always find that balance tricky.
Describe your writing space.
My writing space wanders. Have laptop, will travel. Still, there is an official place for me—an 8' x 10' nook crammed with shelves and made comfy with a "Persian" (likely Turkish) rug. Dominating the wall is a poster of a tiger's head, eyes fierce, mouth opened wide to show four huge fangs, and a thick red tongue…and a writer typing away on his laptop. Has the writer conjured up the tiger? Or is he so caught up in his writing that he is oblivious to the tiger? Either way works for me. What do you think?
What has been your favorite part of being an author? What has been your least favorite?
My least favorite part is stopping when I don't want to and continuing when I'd rather be doing something else. Sounds selfish, but there you have it.
Excerpt from The Ninth Day
[From the first day: Berkeley, November 29, 1964]
Sylvester scratched my arm.
“Ow!” I picked him up mother-cat style by the nape of his neck. “W-what’s with you tonight, you cuh-razy beast?”
He went limp. I tucked my hand under his bottom. “You’re b-banished until you can behave.” I put Sylvester in the hall leading to the bathroom and the workroom/garage, and started to close the door.
That’s when I heard a woman’s voice behind me, coming from the direction of the open window. “Miryam Tikvah, I come in peace.”
She stood by my desk, holding out her hands and beckoning me to come closer. She looked about Dagmar’s age—bronze skin, gold-flecked hazel eyes highlighted with white eyebrows and nearly invisible eyelashes. No make-up. No jewelry. She wore a floor-length beige wool robe and an ochre headscarf that hid most of her white hair. Maybe she was part of a cult. Maybe she was from some exotic country.
Miryam Tikvah. How could she know my Hebrew name? And how had she opened the window and closed it so quietly? Maybe she wasn’t really there. Oh, God, not another flashback!
I took a breath and stared at her, waiting for her to start glowing or turn into some bizarre creature.
She didn’t change.
Keeping her in my sight, I dug into the pile at the foot of Dagmar’s bed and closed my hand around one of Dagmar’s clogs. And I let it fly.
She caught the clog a second before it would have slammed into her stomach. Her eyes widened in surprise. “I have done nothing to harm you. I come in peace. Why do you insult me with the throwing of a shoe?”
I felt my shoulders relax. Better to be visited by a stranger than a flashback. “First of all, my name is Hope. Second, I threw the shoe to see if you were really here. And third, get out of my room.” The words gushed out of my mouth without a glitch. Weird.
She sat on my bed, put Dagmar’s clog on the floor, folded her hands in her lap, and beamed at me. “Then I, too, shall call you by this name in your place and time. Hope.”
I inched closer to the bedroom door, ready to escape. There was something really off about this girl. She was probably one of Dagmar’s friends, maybe someone from our temple, which was why she called me Miryam Tikvah. Her voice had a guttural quality to it. Israeli? She was probably stoned or worse—on LSD, which should be illegal in California but isn’t. Lysergic acid di-whatever. Since my first and only trip, I’d renamed it Lethal-Suicidal-Deadly.
“I’m going to bed now,” I said, pointing to my pajamas. “You’ll have to wait for Dagmar outside.” No stutter again, which sometimes happens when I am over-the-top angry. But I felt more frightened than angry, and fear usually makes it harder to push the words out. Crazy.
“I am not waiting for your sister Dagmar. I am waiting for you.”