Eve Tal published two Middle Grade/Young Adult novels about Jewish immigrants, Double Crossing and Cursing Columbus, which won numerous awards, picture books in Hebrew (A New Boy was published in the U.S. in a dual language edition), a study of English and Hebrew children’s fiction about the Holocaust for librarians, parents and students, A Truth to Tell, as well as articles about children’s literature in scholarly journals and encyclopedias. Eve holds a M.A. in children’s literature from Hollins University as well as a M.Ed in special education.
When did you decide to become a writer?
Writing has always been a part of my life. As a child I wrote poetry. My elementary school teachers made me read them in front of the class and on the public address system, something I hated. I gave up writing poetry after taking a writing class in my senior year of college. I recognized that one of the students in the class was a poet, while I was just writing poetry. I still love to read poetry, however.
After that I wrote short stories for a while. When my first son was born, I realized that I wanted to write for children and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
So, what have you written?
My major opus consists of unpublished manuscripts, many typed on a manual typewriter on brittle yellowing paper in the pre-computer days. No one will ever read them and yes, I did submit them all to publishers but they were rejected.
My first publication was my Hebrew picture book The Runaway Carriage which I wrote soon after the birth of my youngest son, who has Down Syndrome. It was followed by three more picture books in Hebrew.
My first published novel, Double Crossing, was written after I had decided to stop writing. Following years of rejections, I decided I was wasting my time. But my love of children’s literature led me to the Children’s Literature M.A. program at Hollins University where I was tempted to take a creative writing course and began the story that became Double Crossing.
Double Crossing is based on my grandfather’s immigration experience to America. Cursing Columbus, the sequel, continues the story of the main characters as they cope with immigrant life at the turn of the 20th century.
I’ve also published a non-fiction book based on my MA thesis: A Truth to Tell: Novels About the Holocaust for Young Readers which explores the differences between English and Hebrew language fiction about the Holocaust and the literary tools authors use to present the Holocaust to young readers.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a novel set in the late 1960s, working title “Runaway.” My protagonist winds her way through the Summer of Love, the movement to end the war in Vietnam and the fringes of the radical left. It’s a coming of age novel whose issues I hope will resonate with today’s teenagers and make them question their own lives.
Why do you write historical fiction?
I loved reading historical fiction as a child, particularly stories about ancient Greece and pioneer America – they were definitely my escape from growing up in boring suburbia. Maybe I write them today too as an escape from living in a country whose reality is so difficult. But the underlying reason is probably pragmatic: I can’t write about contemporary American kids because I don’t know them, their school life or their culture first hand.
How much research do you do?
Too much. Writing historical fiction involves reading tons of history books, novels about the period, memoirs – anything I can get my hands on, plus interviews when possible. I find the process fascinating and a source of ideas for my story, but it’s addicting and hard for me to stop. The challenge for me is to strike a balance between story and his-story. Too often history takes over my story, threatening to suck the life out of it.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To publish the novel I’m presently working on. And the one after. And the one after that…
Do you have a special time to write?
I’m a morning writer. I start the day with a cup of green tea in front of the computer. I read emails that have arrived overnight and the headlines in Hebrew and English. I read a poem online. Then hopefully write for a couple of hours. This may sound ideal, but because I work from home, the demands of my “real” work often mean I don’t make the time to write because I have to meet a deadline, make phone calls, answer emails or otherwise. (I work as Resource Developer for a Bedouin women’s non-profit organization which is both fascinating and challenging: www.desert-embroidery.org)
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read classic children’s literature and contemporary literature. When you find a book you really love, dissect it to find out what makes it tick and use what you learn in your own writing. I’ve been to two SCBWI conferences and if I lived in the U.S., would go to many more. Join a writers’ group or make writer friends who can give you honest but positive criticism. Most of all, rewrite. I call myself a rewriter, not a writer.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
I love to travel, hike in beautiful places and learn how other people live. I often collect picture books and take pictures of children on my travels.