Janet Ruth Heller is the author of the new children's book The Passover Surprise. She also has written the children's book How the Moon Regained Her Shape, as well as three books of poetry and a work of literary criticism. She lives in Michigan.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for The Passover Surprise, and why did you incorporate the Passover holiday into the story?
A: The Passover Surprise is based on a real-life problem that I had when I was nine years old. I did not ask adults or friends for help. I was deeply hurt by favoritism within my family. However, I wanted Lisa to get help from wise adults in my story.
I set The Passover Surprise during Passover because it is a time of miracles and reversals of fortune: slaves get freed, but masters get smitten with plagues. A small miracle happens for Lisa when she persuades her father to listen to her perspective.
Q: You've written different types of books for children and adults. Do you have a preference, and can you describe your writing process?
A: I like writing for both children and adults. Poetry is easier for me to write than fiction. I revised The Passover Surprise 15 times with the help of my writers' groups. I started writing stories for children when my oldest niece was a toddler.
Q: Who are some of your favorite children's authors?
A: I love the work of Robert Louis Stevenson, A. A. Milne, Jane Yolen, Oscar Wilde, and Rudyard Kipling. Their poems and stories for children are imaginative and full of wonderful details.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm writing a memoir and revising more stories for children.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I also write one-act plays. Many of these concern the friction between Jews and Christians in the modern world.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb