Jillian Cantor is the author most recently of the novel The Hours Count. It looks at the lives of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed for espionage in 1953, through the eyes of a neighbor. Cantor's other books include the novel Margot and the young adult novel Searching for Sky. She lives in Arizona.
Q: The novel's title comes from a Pablo Picasso quote about the Rosenbergs, which you include in the book. Why did you choose that as the title?
A: My editor actually found this quote and suggested it as a title. I was about halfway through writing the first draft at the time and I absolutely loved it.
I loved that it was a real quote about the Rosenbergs but also that it applied to Millie’s life as a mother. I never really understood the expression the days are long but the years are short until I had kids! (And you see this expression makes it into the book as Millie reflects on her own life as a mother to two boys).
I kept thinking about the fact that Ethel didn’t get to see her sons grow up, all the hours and small moments she missed with them, and how those are the things that really count as a mother. I think the title really gets at the heart of the motherhood aspect of the book.
Q: As someone who's written for adults and teenagers, is your writing process similar, or are there differences depending on your audience?
A: My writing process is pretty much the same, no matter what I’m writing. I’m most interested in the characters, their relationships and telling a good story. It’s the characters and their emotional journey that draw me in first and foremost.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I just finished revising my next historical novel. It’s about a fictional stamp engraver in Austria in the late 1930s and a woman in LA in 1989 who finds a letter with one of his stamps and begins to unravel his long forgotten love story. It’ll be published by Riverhead, sometime in 2017.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb