Greetings, and I hope everyone had a safe, happy Thanksgiving!
I recently was lucky enough to be interviewed by book reviewer Steve Johnson, who published the interview in two parts on his website, Book to the Future. His in-depth questions covered the inspiration behind Knight in Paper Armor, my writing process, the book’s connection to the Holocaust, how the part titles are related to the ten sefirot, and more. If you’re interested, follow the links below — and make sure to follow Book to the Future, as well, because it’s a terrific site for literary fans of all genres.
Knight in Paper Armor has been with you for a long time, how long has this story been formulating in your writerly mind and what were the specific inspirations?
The first inklings of the concept – and the title – came to me all the way back in 2010, actually, before my first book even saw print. It took me a long time to figure out how to write it, however. Every time I tried to draft it, it felt like I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t crack the code. Most of these drafts had very little in
common with the finished novel, but there was always one core element that remained—the idea that, basically, there’s something wrong with the world, and there’s this boy—Billy—who, through his strange powers, feels the pain of everyone out there, and wants to help.
Here’s the thing. What is this “pain of others,” exactly? As a writer, with a concept like that, you have to decide whether you’re going to be vague, for the sake of not polarizing readers, or if you’re going to be upfront, honest, and forthright about the brutality, inequalities, and unfairness of the real world. Explicit parallels felt necessary […] READ MORE.Interrogation of Nicholas Conley by Book to the Future: Part I
How has your Jewish heritage influenced this book in particular, and can you give a bit of an explanation of why you chose the titles of each part to correspond with Ancient Jewish mysticism?
Ah, thanks so much for asking this. So much about this book is rooted in my own Jewish background, on so many levels, but the most immediately apparent is in the character of Billy, and how his story is meant to reflect the nature of the Jewish diaspora, I.E., the exile and spread of Jewish communities, scattered across the globe, into distinct regional groups. For instance, you have the Jewish population who came to America as refugees in the 20th century, fleeing from antisemitic oppression, and for them there was often a concentrated effort to “blend in” and be “less Jewish,” or to emphasize one’s identity as an American, first and foremost, to the point of changing Jewish-sounding names to more American ones. This was my own family’s background. Growing up, I always knew I was Jewish, but because my connection to these roots was largely secular and deemphasized, I felt separated from my own “Jewishness,” by time and space, and had a deep longing to connect more deeply to my cultural heritage. Later, as an adult, this is what drove me to embrace the deeper, spiritual connection I now feel with Judaism, and as a parent, the power, love, and cultural elements of these traditions is something I deeply value and carry with me on a daily basis.
Anyway, with Billy: though he faces antisemitism from a young age, he’s a kid who is lucky enough to be surrounded by Jewish culture and traditions—at first. That changes quickly, when he’s violently ripped away from his family, and dropped into a gentile bubble. He never even gets a Bar Mitzvah. He still deeply connects to his inner Jewishness, and it’s something he values tremendously, but situations have caused him to feel unable to reach out and be fully connected to it. This represents the diaspora […] READ MORE.Interrogation of Nicholas Conley by Book to the Future: Part II