With my new book, SOWN IN TEARS, now out and available, I was asked what made me interested in the setting of Russia, 1905. Before you focus on an idea for a novel, you have to be certain that you can live with that story for many months, for me, it’s years. Of course, if you get tired of the idea or it leads nowhere for you, you can always stop, put it away, throw it in the wastebasket. I’ve known writers who do most or all of a book and then dump it in the nearest compost heap. In my case, for this second novel, it was something my father said on a tape he made about growing up in Russia. I didn’t hear this tape until long after he had died. I learned about the conversation he had at his 65th birthday party, given by his nieces and nephews, when I was living on the west coast and unable to attend.
He talked about how during the influenza epidemic, which rocked the world in 1918, killing millions, his mother shuttled him from relative to relative in the area of Russia where they lived, trying to make sure he didn’t catch the disease. I had been lucky enough when I was growing up to know all four of my grandparents, so I was struck by the image of my Bubba protecting her youngest child from harm. That was the seed that burrowed its way into my brain and would not go away. At the time I had planned to write a more contemporary story since my first novel was also a bit historical, taking place during World War 2. But the time when Russian Jews lived in perpetual danger from both natural causes and the hatred of those in power kept haunting me. All of us are the product of immigrant stories which brought our families to this country, looking for a better life.
SOWN IN TEARS is totally fiction and not a portrait of my grandmother, except for the strength and tenacity that I hope my protagonist, Leah, shows in protecting her own two children. Everything else is a product of my imagination, fed by facts that I researched and a trip I took to Russia and the Ukraine.