People often ask me, “Where do you get your ideas?” It varies. One picture book, THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS HEART IN A BUCKET” actually came to me in a dream. DREAM FREEDOM was inspired by a seminar on modern day slavery in Sudan. ESCAPE FROM EGYPT came to me in the middle of night, the story of the Exodus, the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt as told in the Bible. THE SINGING MOUNTAIN drew upon some of my own experiences in returning to traditional Judaism. Often it’s an article in a newspaper that motivates me.
I begin a book with notes in my journal. Who are these characters? What are their names? What do they desire, fear, need? Where do they live, and how? These questions account for the many hours of research I do. Sometimes I travel to the place where the novel is set.
For ROOM IN THE HEART, dealing with the Nazi occupation during WWII, my husband and I went to Denmark, gathering first-hand stories and seeing the sites. For THE CURE, set in the middle ages, we went to Strasbourg, Germany, to see the countryside, the architecture and museums. Sinai was another destination, and London and Switzerland.
For my western books, CLEM’S CHANCES, THE NO-RETURN TRAIL and the NINE FOR CALIFORNIA series, I actually sat in a covered wagon, wore a vintage dress and bonnet for an entire afternoon to see how that felt. I read letters and diaries of pioneers, heard the songs, studied old cook books and prepared chuck-wagon meals. I even baked a goose berry pie like Amanda in Boom Town. For current novels I rely heavily on personal interviews, as for THE RETURN, the escape of Ethiopian Jews in a secret airlift to Israel.
I like to write about ordinary people facing extra-ordinary challenges. Ideas are everywhere. The trick is to catch them, mold them, and see what happens.