Friday, July 8, 2022

Q&A with R.M. Romero



R.M. Romero is the author of the new young adult novel The Ghosts of Rose Hill. She also has written the middle grade novel The Dollmaker of Krakow. She lives in Miami Beach.


Q: What inspired you to write The Ghosts of Rose Hill, and how did you create your character Ilana?


A: The Ghosts of Rose Hill was inspired by the summers I’ve spent in Eastern and Central Europe working to maintain pre-war Jewish cemeteries. These cemeteries are both extraordinarily beautiful and extraordinarily sad, because the communities that once cared for them no longer exist outside of memory. And memory is full of ghosts.


Ilana came from my own memories of being an artistic teen who was encouraged to choose something more practical to do with my life, as well as my background as someone who is biracial. Ilana’s love for her violin was inspired by a friend, who also helped me with finer points of the music that features so heavily in the novel. 


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, in part, “An ode to the Diaspora and to the many folktales and myths populating Ilana’s mixed heritage, Romero’s luscious work dives into dark, painful caverns and emerges in sprays of enthralling hope.” What do you think of that description?


A: I absolutely love it! Kirkus captured the very heart of the book and what I hope that readers will take away from it. Ilana enters very dark places in order to learn how to bring light to them and rekindle the light in herself using her music and her family's traditions, faith, and history.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Ilana and your character Benjamin?


A: Ilana and the first ghost she encounters in Prague, Benjamin, establish a soul-deep connection. They’re separated by life and death and over a century, but find common ground in their Judaism and their love of their art. The two of them are true kindred spirits!


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


A: I tend to know how a book is going to end fairly early on. I worked out Ilana’s last showdown with the villain not long after I wrote the scene in which they meet for the first time. They were always on a collision course and I wanted to weave that in through the story.


I also knew that the ending of Ilana's journey in The Ghosts of Rose Hill would be bittersweet and full of longing—as ghost stories often are. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: My next YA in verse, A Warning About Swans, is a queer fairy tale that’s forthcoming from Peachtree Teen in 2023. It’s the story of Hilde, a swan maiden whose magic cloak is stolen by a charming yet despicable baron, and non-binary Jewish artist Franz, who can see into souls whenever they hold a paint brush. 


I’m also working on The World to Come, a middle grade portal fantasy about a girl named Anne who travels to the flying forest of Bei Ilai to rescue her twin brother from an evil witch. I jokingly call it Jewish Narnia, because the magical creatures Anne encounters and the world she travels through are inspired by Judaism and Jewish folklore!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment