Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Q&A with Jean Meltzer



Photo by Lisa Damico


Jean Meltzer is the author of the new novel The Matzah Ball. A former rabbinical student and children's television producer, she lives in Virginia.


Q: How did you create your character Rachel?


A: Rachel is a character crafted after myself. I’m Jewish, a writer, and chronically ill, having been sick with ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/ chronic fatigue syndrome) since a freshman at college.


Though my father is not a rabbi, I spent five years in rabbinical school, so I have the benefit of an insider’s view of life in the clergy and what it means to be a “professional Jew.” It felt really natural to write Rachel because I was truly writing from my own background, memories, and experiences.


Q: What do you think the novel says about the celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah?


A: One of the jokes of the book is that Hanukkah is not Christmas. For Jews, Hanukkah is a minor holiday. But because of its prominence in our society, I think Christmas is a time of the year where many non-Christmas-celebrators feel left out.


My book isn’t actually trying to say anything about Christmas. But I am hoping to make space for more non-Christmas-centered stories on the shelves. A good place to start with that was Hanukkah.

Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I always know how my book will end before I start writing it. I’m a firm believer in outlining, and I love a well-crafted tale that builds to a big and swoony ending.


It’s one of my favorite things about storytelling—the hero’s journey and the three-act structure—and I always write wanting my readers to experience that same takeaway.


Q: So what else do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: Aside from just having a rip-roaring good time, I hope my readers learn something, too. Whether about Judaism, ME/CFS, or themselves, I hope they find that their time with my book was well spent.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on my second book, Mr. Perfect on Paper. I describe it simply by calling it an interfaith romance. But really, to quote a Yiddishism here, it’s about how “Man plans and God laughs.”


Like all my books, it will tackle some difficult topics. Once again, it is based on my real life. I was a rabbinical student, and deeply committed to my Judaism, when I fell in love with a man who was not Jewish.


Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I love hearing from readers. So please, don’t be shy! Feel free to connect with me on Instagram (@JeanMeltzer), Facebook (JeanMeltzerAuthor), or via my website,


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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