Sunday, September 18, 2022

Q&A with Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo


Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo is the author, with Ndengo Gladys Mwilelo, of the new middle grade novel Each of Us a Universe. Her other books include A Galaxy of Sea Stars. She lives in Ellington, Connecticut.


Q: What inspired you and Ndengo Gladys Mwilelo to collaborate on this novel, and how did you create your characters Cal and Rosine?


A: Gladys and I met through IRIS-Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services where Gladys works and I volunteer. We talked about the idea for a hopeful story where two girls from opposite sides of the world meet, find connection, and form a powerful bond.


Like Rosine, Gladys was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She is one of the wisest, kindest, and most genuinely beautiful humans I’ve ever known, and I believe her beautiful spirit shines through the character Rosine.


Q: In your Author's Note you described your own family's experiences with cancer and how that affected your writing of the novel--can you say more about that? 

A: So many kids quietly suffer through struggles they hold tight inside—struggles they often believe they are completely alone in facing.


One of these struggles is having a parent who is facing a difficult health challenge. I think kids feel incredibly helpless in these situations because they don’t understand what is going on—often because even the adults don’t know what’s next. Both of my parents had cancer, and my own kids have had to cope with my own cancer battles--so I wanted to write a story that let kids know they aren’t alone.


Most of all, I wanted kids to be able to find their own strength along with Cal and Rosine, and to see that beauty exists in the most difficult of situations. 


Q: What are you working on now? 


A: I am working on two very different stories—both middle grade novels. One is a realistic contemporary story about a girl with a great deal of anxiety who is learning to heal through her work with animals. I am also working on a historical fiction set behind the Iron Curtain which is inspired by my work in Czechoslovakia shortly after the Velvet Revolution. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo.

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