Saturday, November 19, 2022

Q&A with Elana Rubinstein




Elana Rubinstein is the author of the new early chapter book A Donut in Time, the third in her Saralee Siegel series. She lives in Los Angeles.


Q: This is your third book featuring your character Saralee Siegel--do you think she's changed at all over the course of the series?


A: I love writing about Saralee. And yes, she has definitely changed over the course of three books! Saralee is fiercely loyal, determined, and loving. She's learned to be open to new friendships and how to use her special ability (a heightened sense of smell) to her advantage.


In A Donut in Time, Saralee discovers the origins of her super-nose, and this knowledge reframes how she views both her family and her own identity. I love the challenge of finding new ways for Saralee to grow and change in each book.


Early chapter books have very few words-- but it's so important to me that Saralee's character deepens in every novel. 


Q: What inspired the plot of A Donut in Time?


A: Writing this book has been...different! In the beginning of the process, I was totally blocked. I couldn't think of a single good Saralee Hanukkah plotline.


After weeks of frustration (and sending terrible ideas to my editor at Apples and Honey), I had a random flash of inspiration in the middle of the night. I literally ran to my computer and wrote an entire outline in just one hour. That's never happened to me before, and I'm not sure it ever will again. 


I can't be sure where the inspiration for this book actually came from, but I think the core ideas were stewing inside me for a long time. I've heard so many family stories about my strong grandmothers and great-grandmothers! 


My Grandma Roz, born in the 1920s, set out to become a chemist at a time where women were discouraged from the science field. My great-grandmother Golda was a businesswoman and a single mom.


And my Grandma Sue (who is the inspiration behind Zadie's character) was a beautiful artist who encouraged my brother and me to work on our creative pursuits and never give up. It's because of Grandma's belief that I am a children's author and my brother is a sculptor and digital artist.


When I finished writing A Donut in Time, it became clear that this story was a tribute to these three special ladies! 


Q: What do you think the book says about family traditions?


A: In A Donut in Time, Saralee sees how her life is directly impacted by her ancestors. She sees the connections between the events of the past and the present day. Family traditions are so important-- they help connect us to the people we love, even if they're not with us physically. 


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


A: Yes, I knew exactly how the story would end. Little details changed along the way, but most of my first draft actually made it into the final book. I had a very clear vision of the last time traveling scene-- it's actually my favorite scene I've ever written! 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on so many book projects right now: a picture book, a secular middle grade, a potential new chapter book series... I can't stop! Many of these projects don't yet have a publishing home, but I'm hopeful for the future. My heart is filled with stories, and I hope I can share them all with readers one day. 


However, I do have some exciting Saralee news. The fourth book in the series, The Royal Recipe: A Purim Story, will come out in February of 2023. Also, I'm currently working on the fifth Saralee book (Passover) which will release in 2025. Saralee will always be such a special character to me, and it's my goal to write seven books about her! 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I just want to say that I love being an author. Thank you to everyone who has picked up a Saralee book! I appreciate you so much.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Elana Rubinstein.

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