Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Sunday, June 26, 2016

An Inside Look #3 (Interview with Nora Raleigh Baskin)

An Inside Look - With Nora Raleigh Baskin 
Author of Nine, Ten a September 11 Story

*The "Inside Look" posts have become my new favorite aspect of the blog.

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" with them about their novel, their characters, and their thoughts about the story.

*The more I interact with authors, the more I realize how giving, generous, and kind they are.  They give us, the reader, so much that adds to our lives.

*Here are the links to my first two interviews...

Interview #1 with Elly Swartz (Author of Finding Perfect)

Interview #2 with Jeff Zentner (Author of The Serpent King)

*Through some Twitter conversations with Nora Raleigh Baskin, I was fortunate to receive a copy of her upcoming novel.

*I was expecting to see an ARC in the mail, but was pleasantly surprised to find that Nora had actually sent a hard copy of the "real" book that would be in bookstores on June 28th.

*See what I mean about the generosity of authors.

*I sat down with this book and didn't get up until I was done reading.  It was absolutely a beautiful and important story.

*Here are Nora's responses to my "Inside Look" questions...

Nora Raleigh Baskin's novel will be released on Tuesday, June 28th

How did you come to “know” Sergio, Will, Naheed, and Aimee? 

In any book I write, I not only have to “know” my characters utterly and completely (even the secondary ones,) but love them for their humanity and their flaws. Sergio, Will, Naheed, and Aimee are all parts of me, or rather there are parts of me in all four of them.   

Sergio has my most direct backstory, living with neither my mother or father as a kid, (I wish I had lived with a loving grandmother, but I didn’t) living in Brooklyn (although a different time), and being angry at a world that seemed so totally unfair. Yup, that was me! 

Will was the hardest for me in many ways. I modeled him more on my own sons, and a sense of how they would behave if their father had died saving someone’s life. (something my husband/their father would certainly do, as well.) I modeled Will’s mother on my over-protective, dotting mother-self.

Naheed, although she is Muslim and I am Jewish, was actually the easiest character for me to “know.”  The traditions, rituals, and history of both religions are very similar, and once I discovered this, I was able to understand her family and their fierce connection to their heritage. Naheed, also, has the “personality” probably closest to mine.

Aimee, might seem on the surface, most familiar to me -white, Jewish, middle class- but my connection to Aimee comes more from knowing what it feels like to move to a new school (I had gone to five different schools by the time I started 6th grade,) separate and out of place. And Aimee’s ultimate decision to distance herself from the social scene of middle school politics, was a chose I made early on, and have not regretted to this day.

What do you think is each of these characters most admirable quality?


And their ability to look at themselves and learn from their mistakes. What more can you ask of any human being?  I tell my own children, there is nothing wrong with making mistakes (even huge ones) if you learn from them; if you gain something, grow, change, and become a better person.

Is there anything you wish any of these four young people would have changed or done differently in their story?
Ha! That’s a funny question, since I am the writer and I could have made them do anything I wished.  In fact, I had them doing and making several different choices in earlier drafts of the book. I had Naheed NOT wear her hijab because of social pressure. I had Aimee in a much more complicated plot involving a Burn Book.  Will was actually out deer hunting with this friends.  Only Sergio’s story remained the same as I originally wrote it.

What do you think Sergio, Will, Naheed, and Aimee can offer to other children that have experienced similar situations as they did.  
Courage and the understanding that they are not alone.  The older I get the more I realize that everyone, EVERYONE, has some sensitive issue they are dealing with, but when you’re a kid you think you are the only one. When you read about someone who shares your insecurities, fears, flaws, situation, and yet, still has resilience and acts bravely in the face of those things. . .Well, you think, I can do that too!

How did you “research” these four characters and the circumstances they found themselves in?   

I did an enormous amount of research, as I’ve been doing recently with my later novels (my earlier books were mostly autobiographical) such as Anything But Typical, Summer Before Boys, Ruby on the Outside, and now Nine, Ten. 

I did personal interviews with the principal and several students who were in Shanksville in 2001, and with a first responder at ground zero.
I watched videos of CNN and local news footage from that day (which was disturbing well beyond my expectations. I cried quite a bit.) 
I also had several people read my manuscript, including two Islamic friends. 
 I looked at photographs, and I had to very carefully, study the 9/11 timeline.  You have to realize this is an event that has been analyzed and recorded down to the tenth of a second, and I was writing a countdown story where the timing was very exact. 

Do you and the four children share any similarities?  

They share their humanity, and all the things that human children share in this world; hope, innocence, and the ability to love. 

What was the hardest scene to write about in the novel?
The ending, when all four kids find themselves at ground zero for the first anniversary. But it was also the easiest.  I am being very truthful when I tell you I was crying as I wrote it (and I cry every time I read it) but not because I am remembering the event, or the trauma of it, but because I want so badly to believe in these children and what they represent: Goodness. Courage. Empathy. Understanding. Unity.

Who do you think was Sergio, Will, Naheed, and Aimee's biggest supporter and why?
Well, for each of them it is someone else. (But for all of them, it is me!) Sergio has a wonderful grandmother, pretty terrific principal, and now a kind and inspiring mentor.  Will has a loving family and a supportive small-town community. Naheed also has a loving family, and in the end of the book we see, she lives in a country with brave and courageous strangers who do not stand by and witness injustice. Aimee has her family, as well as a new source of inner strength and wisdom that was derived directly from her near-death experience.

From tragedy can arise new strengths. 

How do you think the human population was able to get through this tragic event on 9/11?  

Exactly the way these four characters have gotten through their personal and individual experiences, by leaning on those around them and discovering their own intelligence and resilience.  And ultimately, by coming together as one powerful and courageous “One,” standing up to the “bad guy,” to prejudice, racism, and divisiveness.  

What do you think Sergio, Will, Naheed, and Aimee are doing as this present time?  

Ha! Another funny question. I guess I don’t really think that way. If these characters exist for me, they exist in that time, in this book, in those moments that I wrote them alive. If they remain in the minds of my readers, then, you can decide and imagine what they are doing today.
I certainly hope they are doing well.
I hope their love and empathy and intelligence plays out in the children of today.
I dedicated Nine, Ten to “the children, our future” and I did not do that lightly. The children who will be reading my book are the future, and I pray that tomorrow brings more peace. Less violence. More acceptance. More courage and less fear. More love and less hate. More thoughtful discourse and less angry reactionaries.

Reading is one of the most powerful ways to create bridges of understanding. I hope I have added something to our world, toward making it a better place by writing this book. 

1 comment: