Author's Interview

Author’s Interview with L. Bordetsky-Williams

As a “newbie” in the blog world and an independent author, I was excited when L. Bordetsky-Williams contacted me for the purpose of marketing her new book; but I have to admit, I vacillated before going forward. Why? In all honesty, it was because the scope of the author’s work differs greatly with the theme of my site. While the premise for my blog is Jewish Historical Fiction, this novel cannot be considered light reading and it certainly is not Austenesque. I therefore need to alert sensitive readers to the darker subjects discussed in the interview. Now that I’ve done my due diligence, allow me to introduce today’s guest!

L. Bordetsky-Williams is the author of the newly released historical novel, Forget Russia (Tailwinds Press), the memoir, Letters to Virginia Woolf (Hamilton Books, 2005,; The Artist as Outside in the Novels of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf (Greenwood Press, 2000); and three poetry chapbooks:  The Eighth Phrase (Porkbelly Press 2014), Sky Studies (Finishing Line Press 2014), and In the Early Morning Calling (Finishing Line Press, 2018). She is a Professor of Literature at Ramapo College of New Jersey and lives in New York City.

L. Bordetsky-Williams, author

Host:  It’s an honor to host such a prolific author and educator. The world of Jewish fiction encompasses a diverse field of narratives. Please tell us all about your current release. 

Guest: Forget Russia tells the story of three generations of Russian Jews, journeying back and forth from America to Russia, during the twentieth century, as they search for a home.  From before the 1917 Revolution to Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, this is a tale of unlikely heroes and the loss of innocence.  It is a story of love, murder, revolution, and betrayal. The novel is set to be published by Tailwinds Press on December 1, 2020.

Host: My own ancestors were fortunate to escape Imperial Russia prior to the revolution. What was your motivation in writing about this time period?

Guest: I wanted to understand the lives of my ancestors and how their lives intersected and influenced my own.  My great-grandmother was raped and murdered in a pogrom in a small Ukrainian shtetl by Cossacks shortly after the Civil War between the Red and White armies ended.  When the Red army finally was able to take over the Ukraine from the White and Ukrainian Nationalists, the retreating and defeated armies went into the Jewish shtetls and killed many Jews, who they equated with the Bolsheviks.  I wanted to understand how this initial trauma affected the subsequent generations of women in the family.  My grandmother came to America in 1921 after losing her mother in such a tragic and violent way.  She settled in Roxbury, where her father, who had deserted the family years ago now lived with a new wife and children.  It is not surprising that shortly after arriving, at the age of seventeen, she married a man approximately eighteen years her senior. 

Then, in 1931, she and my grandfather actually returned to the Soviet Union with my mother and aunt, ages five and three.  My grandfather, a carpenter, had come to America before the Revolution and had radicalized here.  Life became incredibly difficult here during the Depression. It had always been a dream of his to return to the Soviet Union, the land of his birth, and build the revolution.  While much has been written about Jewish Eastern European immigrants coming to this country, the experience of those American Russian Jews who returned to the Soviet Union to build the revolution in the early 30’s has been relatively unexamined.

Host: That certainly holds true for me. I have not read much about Russian Jews returning after the revolution. My paternal grandfather, zeide Manuel, always insisted the family supported the White Russians. My understanding was there had been hope for a democratic monarchy prior to the Bolshevik uprising. Childhood memories can only recall my grandparents’ gratitude for having been able to immigrate. Have you had the opportunity to visit the area yourself? 

Guest: Yes, I was a Russian language student in Moscow in 1980 at the Pushkin Institute.  When I was there, I had the opportunity to meet the Soviet Jewish grandchildren of the Bolsheviks.  Many of their ancestors had been imprisoned, killed, or exiled to labor camps by Stalin.  It was heartbreaking to see how their ancestors’ dreams for a better, more equal society had been betrayed during Stalin’s purges.  I also, for the first time, saw first-hand, how anti-Semitic Soviet society was.  On Rosh Hashanah Eve, we went to the only functioning synagogue in Moscow, and a car dashed across the cobble-stoned streets in an effort to intimidate and frighten the Jews gathered there.

My trip as a student to the Soviet Union truly changed my life.  I spent three and a half months there, and from the moment I returned, I struggled to find the right form to express the ways that journey changed me.  Finally, I realized the novel form would give me the freedom to intertwine the three generations’ stories.  I also wanted to weave in a love story with an epic, historical setting, so the novel was the best form for that as well.

Host: Did any particular character resonate more than others in your novel? 

Guest: My character Iosif, a young Soviet Jew, who has a photograph of Leo Tolstoy hanging in his room.  He is a true intellectual within a distinctly Russian and Soviet context.  While he hates the absence of freedoms in his own country, he sees America as a sick and decadent place and imagines Americans only talk about business. For him, America is soul-less in its materialism, and yet the Soviet Union is as he calls it a nightmare where nothing works, and everyone worries that life will get even worse after Brezhnev dies.

Host: Iosif sounds like a troubled soul, grieving for his country and mourning for humanity. As the granddaughter of Russian Jews, and a second-generation Argentine, I recently commemorated Thanksgiving Day by acknowledging my gratitude for living in the United States of America. Such a day gives one pause to reflect on the meaning of the words: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.  Had my ancestors remained in Russia, they would have had to suffer through the revolution and the tumultuous period thereafter. If they survived Lenin and the Bolsheviks, they would have faced the Nazis. The horror is unimaginable. And so, I gave thanks that my ancestors fled their homeland and that my parents had the wherewithal to leave behind the corruption— and destruction— of Peron’s Argentina. The courage that our ancestors demonstrated in their pursuit to survive is astounding. But I seem to have taken over your interview. Before I go off on a tangent again, let me take this opportunity to thank you for sharing your story with us. 

I understand you have an excerpt from Forget Russia. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Guest: Thank you, Mirta. Here are the links to my social media and website:

Forget Russia website:




Forget Russia Book trailer:

It was only five hours from Heathrow to Sheremetyevo. We flew through more than time zones. Outside the clouds obscured the sunrise. It seemed we were descending into a new realm, perhaps to seek advice on how to reach our destination. But before I knew it, the plane started to arrive, to dip down until I saw the trees through the small window—Russian trees, thickets of pine. The plane bumped down noisily onto the runway.

The doors opened and I stepped out of the plane into a dim, flickering passageway. I moved into a gray darkness. Military men in brown uniforms were everywhere in the Sheremetyevo airport, their rifles slung across their chests. The American students nodded wordlessly or else walked very close together, speaking in half-whispers.

The first stop was a glass partition where another man in brown sat and asked for my visa. He looked first at the picture stapled to the document and then at me, his eyes inspecting every aspect of my visa; he stared at my face and then the visa photograph over and over again. Just when I was expecting the military men to escort me somewhere, he nodded and returned the visa to me, so I could proceed with my suitcase to customs. I looked backward and saw the American students standing in a line, one by one, as they approached the glass divider, our first greeting in the Soviet Union.

In the USA, the group leaders had said: The Soviets may search your bags. Don’t bring in a Bible. Don’t bring in Time magazine. Don’t write addresses of Russian friends in a book that is easily read. The customs official only opened one of my two suitcases and looked quickly inside before closing it up. But one student, Barry Moskowitz, had all his clothes dumped in a heap for him to refold and squash back inside. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I wanted to help Barry repack, but we were kept moving in a line. No one dared speak above a whisper.

The driver of the yellow school bus waited for the American students outside the airport. Two by two we entered. It should be morning, my body told me, but I entered evening and when the bus began to move all I could see was highway and cement pavement.

I had come back to the land where my great-grandmother died, thrown off a boat into the Guilopyat River.  Her spirit, it seemed, was in the cracks of cement, in the wide streets and lights rising in the evening, in the thin branches of trees visible before we entered the highway. I wanted somehow to find her.

Darkness was falling on the outskirts of Moscow. I peered across the highway into the center of the city, where Cyrillic letters glittered across the tops of buildings, Power to the Revolution. As the bus ambled along, I saw a poster of a man in a dark suit, a torch raised high in his hand, a red hammer and a sickle behind him and the words, XXVI Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union above his arm. Then another one of Brezhnev—his slicked-back hair emphasized his widow’s peak, his wide face, and glasses; the circular hammer and sickle with a star hung above him and printed below, Following Lenin’s Course. There were no advertisements anywhere, no rugged Marlboro man, no Let Your Fingers Do the Talking, no Light My Lady Cigarette, no Coca-Cola Pepsi feuds or Minute Rice. I was relieved to get a break from all the flashy slogans everywhere in the USA, and yet the city looked so stark and austere without them.

I glanced up at the Hotel Rossiya, a rectangular building; its name lit up in all that darkness.

Author's Interview

Author’s Interview with Sherry V Ostroff

Sherry V. Ostroff, author

I have invited Sherry V. Ostroff, author of The Lucky One, a memoir, and award-winning Caledonia, a historical novel, for today’s interview. Sherry earned a Bachelor’s in education from Temple University and a Master’s in history from Millersville University. She taught all levels: elementary, secondary and college. Sherry devotes her time to writing, family, reading, and traveling. She lives with her high school sweetheart in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

I have had the pleasure of reading Caledonia. I was drawn to the storyline as it encompasses the history of Iberian Jews settling in, of all places, Scotland. The added intrigue of a modern-day woman, sort of floundering in her world of loss and mystery, connecting with her 17th century Jewish ancestor reeled me in. Throw in a couple of Highlanders and I was hooked! Let’s get started, shall we?

Host: Sherry, tell us what you’re working on these days.

Guest: My upcoming release is called Mannahatta. It is the sequel to my first historical novel, Caledonia. I expect the sequel to be out in the spring of 2021. Caledonia and Mannahatta are twin inter-generational stories covering two different time periods: 1696-1712 and 2205-2008. Both stories are in Scotland, Central America, and New York City.

Host: I am drawn to non-Holocaust, Jewish Historical Fiction. What motivated you to write about this specific time period?

Guest: This all started when I was drawn to an obscure historical event when the Kingdom of Scotland wanted to create a colony in the New World, in what is today, present day Panama. When I asked history teachers, history enthusiasts, and the Scots I’ve met on my many trips to Scotland, almost no one was aware of this remarkable event. I decided it was time for the world to learn about it.

Host: Why do you think Jewish Historical Fiction is an important, stand-alone genre?

Guest: Someone a lot smarter than me once said, if you follow the course of antisemitism, you, you will understand world history.

Host: Sherry, your books deal with heavy subject matters. I am curious. While doing your research, were you particularly moved by anything you discovered? Did anything come as a surprise?

Guest: It is important to me, as a historian, to keep the facts. I know this is historical fiction, but my writing weighs heavily on the history side of the genre. Thankfully, in my research, I always come across interesting bits of information. For example, on a trip to the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth, England, I learned that Admiral Nelson had a fear of dying at sea and his body tossed overboard. Therefore, he always had a barrel of rum set aside for such an event. When he died during the Battle at Trafalgar, he was preserved in the rum until the ship returned to England three months later.

This anecdote was brought to life in Caledonia by Cook Innes. This has happened many times while writing Caledonia and Mannahatta. My readers love these stories.

Host: Have you ever visited the locations you feature in your stories? 

Guest: For Caledonia, I have visited almost every place mentioned in the book and that includes most of Scotland. For Mannahatta, I have also been to lower Manhattan and have gone on tours which describe what the area was like in its early days. Since half of the book takes place at the end of the 17th and early 18th century, I try to visit places, like living history museums and historical societies that will help me understand the time. The only setting I couldn’t visit was Darien National Park in Panama. There are State Department warnings and restrictions because it is one of the most dangerous areas in the world. Therefore, I rely on the writing of others, those more adventuresome than me, and Google Earth is helpful.

Host: Which of your characters resonate with you most? 

Guest: The characters in my book are like my children. It is hard to say that I favor one over another. It’s interesting when a reader contacts me and tell me how much they hate arch-villain Nathan. I just smile because he’s also my creation, and I’m fond of him.
Some characters are fun to write. The one that fits that description is Cook Davey Innes. He befriends the main character, Anna, on a ship set for the New World. I didn’t mean for him to stick around. He was meant to bring some levity to the awful conditions on board, but his character kept growing and revealing more and more layers; a gift that kept on giving. And so, he makes a return engagement in the sequel, Mannahatta.

Host: Do you have a favorite scene or event in the book? Don’t give anything away!

Guest: In Caledonia, the scene that brought me to tears was the final chapter. It tied everything together: a man of integrity, a proposal, and a death bed. But one of my favorite scenes was the removal of the botfly that had infected one of the colonists in Caledonia. It was a gruesome description, but wonderful to write.

In Mannahatta, there are so many scenes. But I guess my favorites are two. Early in the book, the discovery of a 300-year-old artifact that was believed to be lost and held so much meaning in the book. Another favorite is at the end of the book, when the mysteries that started in Caledonia all come together in a very satisfying ending.

Host: Are you already onto the next project? Are you able to share what you’re working on and when we can expect to see it in print?

Guest: I have started the research for another project. Presently, I’m in the “read for enjoyment” phase. I can only say that my next book will be an historical novel. Again, it is something that not many know about.

Host: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Guest: I am available to meet with book groups and I offer 3 different book talks. They are not the usual kind of talks where the author reads an excerpt. These are discussions on the art of writing. One is called, “Fanning the Spark, The Creative Process.” This is about how an author gets an idea for a story and where they take it from until it is a book on a shelf. Another talk, my newest, is “The History Behind the Historical Novel.” In this talk I trace where the historical novel genre came from.

Host: I understand you are offering one signed book and one eBook (Kindle) each of Caledonia and The Lucky One. Readers, your comment, in the field below, is your entry in the giveaway. I will announce the winners next week, so stay tuned! Sherry is leaving us with an excerpt. Enjoy!

It was time. All my dad’s affairs were taken care of except for one last thing, a safe deposit box at a large bank in lower Manhattan. I put off emptying the contents because it was the final act of a tragic play with no encores. I feared if I wrapped up this last bit of business, I had accepted his death.

That’s how I found myself in a dank subterranean vault. I gathered up the contents of the box, balanced them in my hands, and walked out of the small room made available for the customer’s privacy. Wiping away a tear and sniffling quietly into a tissue, I handed back the nondescript key to the gray-haired bank clerk.

She eyed me sympathetically over her half-rimmed glasses attached to a chain around her neck, as I fumbled my possessions. “Miss Duncan,” she said, “maybe this will help.” She held out a plastic grocery bag. I guess she’d seen many come unprepared.

“Thank you,” I mumbled through my tears hoping she heard me.

I just wanted out of there. I ran up the steps and exited into the blinding sunshine, flipped on my sunglasses, and worked my way to mid-town and Penn Station.

My grandparents let me know beforehand what the box contained. There were no surprises, nothing of consequence: three $100 EE United States savings bonds, a copy of a title for a car sold years ago, a Boy Scout badge, a locket with my baby picture and a few strands of hair, and an envelope.

I held the plastic bag close and boarded the train that plied the northeast corridor of the New Jersey Transit. It would take over an hour and sixteen stops to reach the end of the line in Trenton. The train was full of people returning home after a day of working, shopping, or sight-seeing. A short elderly woman, who reminded me of my grandmother, sat next to me.
She smiled and complained at the same time, “My feet. These shoes are killing me.” She kicked them off and leaned back in her seat.

I nodded. I wasn’t in the mood for talking. Not today. Unfortunately, older people talk to almost anyone. The woman tried once more. “Hi, I’m Rose. Wasn’t today beautiful? If I had comfortable shoes, I would’ve done more shopping.”

I didn’t want to be rude, but all I could manage was a weak, “Hanna. Yes, today was nice.” What I wanted was to be left alone, lost in my thoughts remembering my dad and another perfect summer day that seemed to mock a national tragedy. On that day there hadn’t been a cloud in the sky to block out the sun or diminish the sky’s brilliant blue. For me, it was the coldest and dreariest day of my life. The day my dad was murdered.

The woman gave up, pulled out a book from her bag, and began to read. After a few minutes the train jerked forward. I settled in for the long ride home and tried to make myself comfortable even though there was never enough room for my long legs. Late arrivals scurried from car to car hoping to find a seat, only to be grateful to lean against a wall or a door. Some passengers were immersed in their phones or newspapers. Others stared blankly out the window. But the car filled with chatter as passengers discussed the latest gossip or the events of their day.

As the train lumbered toward its first stop in Secaucus, I clipped back my unruly hair, leaned my head against the cool glass, and gazed at the New York skyline. I would never get used to the missing twin towers. Their absence was like a gaping hole in a mouth full of teeth. No matter how you tried to cover it up, the smile was never the same.

A conductor collecting fares interrupted my thoughts. The snapping sound of his punch announced him, and quickly he was gone. The train continued southward to Newark, Elizabeth, and Linden while my thoughts returned to New York.

For twenty years my dad had worked at the World Trade Center as a senior accountant for one of the top firms on the east coast. He was well-liked and respected; he loved his job. He looked forward to going to work. Whether I was awake or not, his morning routine included a kiss on my forehead, a readjustment of my blanket, and a whispered, “Good morning, Sunshine,” before he slipped quietly from the house. He always arrived at his desk before anyone else, with a box of glazed doughnuts and fresh coffee to share with the overnight cleaning crew finishing their shift. His routine ended on September 11, 2001.

No one saw it coming, totally out of the blue, like the sky that morning. Everyone was in a state of shock. For me, it was the worst pain I had ever felt in my life. Although four years have gone by, I’ve still not accepted it. The gut-wrenching part — my dad wasn’t even supposed to go to work that day.

As the train arrived in Princeton, a taped voice on the train’s intercom continually reminded departing passengers, mostly college students, to “watch the gap.” They jostled their way to the exits and quickly disembarked. The elderly lady, my co-traveler, left without a word taking her lemon scent with her. After the first few stops the crowd thinned, and I had the luxury of the entire row to myself.

The next stations were Hamilton, then Trenton. From there it was only a half-hour on the Trenton Line to Philadelphia. If I had a few minutes to spare, I’d call my grandparents. They were anxious about my trip to New York.

Dad’s parents were my only remaining family. My mother’s parents died before I was born, and I lost my mother when I was very young. My grandparents became my guardians for a few months after my father was killed. They were good to me but were a bit overwhelmed with the shock of losing their only son and assuming a parental role once again. I vowed that as soon as college was completed, I would go out on my own but live nearby, so we could visit often.

I exited the train, mindful of the gap, and tucked the plastic bag under my arm. Fortunately, the Philadelphia train was waiting at the platform. I entered, quickly grabbed a seat, and continued to think how different my life would be today if events had been altered.

Dad had helped me move in the weekend before the start of classes. By the time we were halfway down I-95, I realized I forgot my new cell phone. He offered to return in two days with the errant phone. It was a great opportunity to spend the day together before I got too busy with classes, papers, and friends. He checked his schedule to confirm the day.

“Hanna, Tuesday works for me. My new assistant, Carly, can manage the workload. I want to give her some space without always being there to get her out of a jam. She’s got to learn and gain confidence.”

“Great. Let’s go where you and Mom used to hang out when you went to school here. Show me some of the highlights of downtown Philly and the best place to eat in Chinatown.”

“Yeah, sure. I’d like that, Hanna. It will be our day, just the two of us.”

Just the two of us. I didn’t want to tell my dad I was homesick. But then, maybe he already knew. I looked forward to our day together.

I was so disappointed when Dad had to cancel. He was expecting some important client, and Carly wasn’t experienced enough to handle it alone. The parents of my roommate Jess lived near Dad and were coming down to replace a broken monitor. They offered to bring my phone and save my dad the four-hour, round-trip drive. Yeah, saved my dad the trouble, but it hadn’t saved him.

Thinking about the “what-ifs” really gets me down. What if there had been just one minor fluctuation in the order of events leading up to 9/11? What if Jess’s parents couldn’t make the drive, or if Carly had more experience? My father used to tell me that hindsight is twenty-twenty. In this case, exploring all the possibilities was especially painful. There are no satisfying answers to the “what-ifs.” There are no do-overs — period.



Coming soon in 2021
Author's Interview

Author’s Interview with Michelle Cameron

I am pleased to introduce today’s guest, Michelle Cameron. Michelle is a director of The Writers Circle, an NJ-based organization that offers creative writing programs to children, teens, and adults, and the author of works of historical fiction and poetry: Beyond the Ghetto Gates, which won the 2020 Silver Medal in Historical Fiction in the Independent Book Publisher Awards (IPPYs), The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz, and In the Shadow of the Globe.

Michelle Cameron, author

She lived in Israel for fifteen years (including three weeks in a bomb shelter during the Yom Kippur War) and served as an officer in the Israeli army teaching air force cadets technical English. Michelle lives in New Jersey with her husband and has two grown sons of whom she is inordinately proud.

Host: Michelle, that is quite a fascinating bio. I’m excited to learn more of your work. Please tell us about about your latest project.

Guest: My Jewish historical novel, Beyond the Ghetto Gates, was published this past April. It tells the story of the 26-year old General Napoleon’s military campaign through Italy in 1796-7. When he reaches the harbor city of Ancona, he first encounters locked ghetto gates, and sends his Jewish soldiers to demolish them and emancipate the Jewish residents. Beyond the Ghetto Gates is also the story of two women – Jewish Mirelle, who must choose between her duty to her family and faith or her love for a dashing French Catholic soldier and Catholic Francesca, who is trapped in a marriage to an abusive and ultimately murderous husband.

Host: Why were you motivated to write about this time period?

Guest: My earlier historical novel took place during the rise of antisemitism and, as it included blood libels, book burning, torture, and more, in many ways it was a difficult book to write. I was explicitly looking for that rare beast – a joyous moment in Jewish history.

Host: Ah. Now you are speaking my language! Tell me more.

Guest: While reading about the Jews of the French Revolution, I happened upon Michael Goldfarb’s nonfiction book, Emancipation. In it, he describes the scene of Napoleon’s happening upon the ghetto gates. This highly dramatic moment had “novel” written all over it. One of the themes that runs through much of my writing is the tension between assimilation and safeguarding religious belief, which is why I was motivated to write about this time period. It also intrigued me because it was a historical episode many readers (and this writer) had never heard of before.

Host: I appreciate authors who weave accurate history throughout the storyline. In particular, I enjoy discovering, and highlighting, the beauty of our Jewish heritage. While doing your research, were you surprised at your findings?

Guest: While I could anticipate much of what I found in my research, there were actually two substantial surprises, both of which contributed mightily to the plotline.  The first was discovering that Ancona, Italy, was the world center of ketubah (Jewish marriage certificate) making during this time. The artisans of Ancona were the first to illuminate these documents, and the ketubot (plural) had a highly distinctive shape. This shape – called an ogee arch, a rounded top culminating in a peak – allowed me to recognize when a ketubah came from Ancona in such far-flung exhibits of Judaica in Toronto, Edinburgh, and New York. It also gave my heroine a purpose and a desire: to contribute to her family’s legacy, as makers of these exquisite documents.

The second surprise was stumbling on the story of the miracle Madonna. In June, about eight months before Napoleon arrived, a portrait of the Virgin Mary in Ancona’s Cathedral purported to turn its head, smile upon the congregation, and weep. This was all documented in a Vatican recounting of the event, which included the fact that Francesca Marotti and her daughter Barbara – both characters in the novel – were the first to see the miracle.

Part of Napoleon’s campaign was the systematic looting of Italy’s artwork and religious artifacts. An anecdote tells of him denuding the cathedral in Ancona and seeing the miracle portrait. According to the story – which may be fabricated – something he saw as he stared at the painting shocked him. I couldn’t resist adding this scene! I should add that everything that happens to the portrait after Napoleon sees it is purely my invention. But the portrait itself became a critical plot device.

Host: Which of your characters resonate with you most? 

Guest: I think in many ways both of the main characters have a bit of me in them – Mirelle in her feeling toward her family and conflicting desire to accomplish something that is nontraditional, Francesca in her internal sense of rightness.

Host: What is your writing process? Do you know how it will end, as you get started?

Guest: Because research is such a critical part of my novels, I begin with a three-month “deep dive” into the material, just to get my arms around it. This is when I discover what parts of the story can be derived from the research. But since I love historical research so much, I make myself limit it to that three-month period. Otherwise, I might never emerge! But I do still keep researching, of course, as I hit the many, many times when I arrive at a scene where I don’t know what I need to know – and even consult my books and other research materials when I’m in the midst of revising.

In fact, I revised Beyond the Ghetto Gates more than I’ve ever revised any other novel. I thought I did know the end when I started – but my beta readers convinced me that I didn’t! In fact, I changed both the beginning and the end of the novel multiple times. The end itself is somewhat unusual, and many of my readers have been surprised by it. (Frankly, so was I!)

Host: How long have you been writing? When did you first consider yourself an author?

Guest: I’ve been writing since the fourth grade and always wanted to become a writer. It didn’t come easily. My first three novels never saw the light of day – thank goodness! When the third was rejected, I decided that I had tried and failed, and took a hiatus from writing. It was my youngest son whose love of writing brought me back to it – which is one of several reasons that Beyond the Ghetto Gates is dedicated to him. I first considered myself an author with the publication of my first work – a verse novel about William Shakespeare and the Globe theatre, called In the Shadow of the Globe.

Host: Are you already onto the next project? When will we see it in print?

Guest: Yes, I’m already deep in research for the next novel – a sequel to Beyond the Ghetto Gates in which Napoleon does something unexpected: takes a military expedition to Egypt and Israel. So we’ll be continuing with the same cast of characters. This novel took me about three years to write, so my earnest hope is that the next book will be out in 2023 – or earlier. But we’ll see.

Host: You are certainly keeping busy! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Guest:  Here are the links to my website and social media:

Website: Facebook Author page: /michellecameronauthor
Instagram: @michellecameronwriter
Twitter: @mcameron_writer
In addition, Beyond the Ghetto Gates can be found at all online and brick-and-mortar booksellers, including: ​| Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Kindle | Books-A-Million 

Host: Thank you, Michelle, for spending some time with us today. I believe you are leaving us with an excerpt. I know we will all enjoy the read!

Guest: Yes, the following is from Chapter Two.  Thanks so much for this interview, Mirta!

Tall buildings loomed on either side of the street. Mirelle was used to the narrow space, but today the air seemed more fetid than usual, the close-packed homes more menacing. The buildings—many built centuries before and precariously expanded upward—were crumbling at their foundations. Apartments exuded the smells of a hundred cooking pots, paint curling under the sweat and filth of packed living.

Toddlers played in the streets, ignoring the refuse running down the center sewer. Housewives stopped to gossip, straw baskets crushed against their sides. The market was bustling, with vibrant oranges and lemons piled into pyramids, cut citrus samples sharp in the spring air, bundled chard and spinach, flowery clusters of cauliflower and broccoli, and long spears of artichokes piled high. Crusty breads, fruit-filled flans, and boxes of biscotti wafted enticing odors. But today all Mirelle felt were the centuries of dirt and sweat trapped inside the enclosed ghetto. The walls pressed in on her, making it difficult to breathe. On impulse, she decided to visit a different market—the one outside the gates, where she could feel sea breeze and sunlight on her face.

During daylight hours, the ornate, wrought-iron gates at the ghetto entrance were flung wide. Because her friend Dolce often designated them as a meeting spot, Mirelle knew their every nook and curve. As she’d wait, she’d run her fingers over the peeling patterns, twisting and curling. From dawn until nightfall, ghetto residents moved freely through the stone archway into the city of Ancona. As the sun dipped behind the horizon, however, city guards slammed the gates shut and chained a heavy padlock to the bars. The clang of the closing gates always raised the hair on the back of Mirelle’s neck.

It affected her generally carefree brother even more. Jacopo often railed against being imprisoned inside the ghetto.Just once, I want to see what the sea looks like under the stars,” he’d said one night as they stood outside, straining to see more than a few inches of night sky. “Just once, I’d like to walk freely out the gate and not have someone stare at me because I’m Jewish.”

Something had stirred in her chest as he spoke. A whole world existed outside the ghetto. If only they could both walk out of the gates freely!

But they were trapped. Day or night, whenever the Jews left their homes, they were required by law to don the yellow hat and armband that branded them as different. For as long as she could remember, Mirelle had covered her brown locks with a yellow kerchief before walking in the streets. She always wrinkled her nose in the mirror as she adjusted the badge of her faith. They make us wear yellow because it is the color of urine, she’d think distastefully. And of cowardice.

Her brother might feel caught inside the enclosure of the locked ghetto gates, but she felt doubly trapped—as a Jew and as a woman.