Release Notes is happy to feature Jerome Charyn, the author of Back to Bataan, in a "In His Own Words" segment. I hope you all enjoy this great interview.
1. What are your thoughts on the explosion of popularity concerning the YA genre?
I think it might very well be that it started with Harry Potter, that young adult writers are trying to tell good stories and adults have moved into that kind of dream.
2. You are the master of writing across a realm of different genres, what excites you about connecting with different audiences?
I’m not so sure that these are different audiences, I think we all love stories, whether we’re children or great-grand and when you move from genre to genre you are still telling a story like Scheherazade and the king is always waiting for the next tale.
3. Your writing is so precise, yet evocative - how do you work at crafting your unique style of prose?
Everything begins and ends with the word, with the music of the sentence and as Tolstoy once said, “I’m always composing.”
4. Being a published author for nearly 50 years, what do you think of eBooks?
I think that this is a kind of logical step as we move from the internet into eBooks.
Publishing is changing even as we speak. I think there now will be a more complicated dance between the eBook and the printed book, and as we’ve seen recently, successes in eBooks allow the author to move into print.
5. What would be your advice to young people who aspire to a literary career?
It’s not worth the money – only write if you’re absolutely in love with it.
6. How much of your life is in Back to Bataan? How did you personally experience New York during World War II?
I think so much of the source of my writing comes from my childhood, I grew up during the War - so many of the terrors and the magic of certain films have remained with me. And all of this appears in the character of Jack.
7. Your older brother was a detective. Did your experiences with him influence the plot?
Not really, I think all writing is crime writing. And Back to Bataan is a crime novel with a very original twist.
8. Why did you decide to include the fascination with the famous as a theme - Gary Cooper, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.?
These people were heroes to me as a child, particularly Eleanor Roosevelt, who was one of the most extraordinary women who ever lived, and of course as a child I fell in love with Gary Cooper’s face and with his very slow drawl, that seemed so exotic to me.
9. Jack finds acclaim through his writing, yet feels guilty for exploiting other people (Mrs. Fink). How does a writer starting out work to bridge this gap?
You’re always cannibalizing other people and writers when you start to write, so it’s natural that Jack should be a young cannibal.
10. How important is the New York Times in your own life? Why did you decide to make it a form of connection between Jack and the Leader?
As a child, I didn’t even know that the Times existed – I grew up in a neighborhood without newspapers and books, so that when I first fell upon the New York Times, I was very very greedy, and wanted to include it in Jack’s middle-class life.