Maxine Rose Shur is a multi-faceted, award-winning author. Many of her books for children bring to life many unexplored aspects of Jewish history. She is also the author of SAMANTHA’S SURPRISE, from the popular AMERICAN GIRL series. Maxine’s impressive list includes two Sydney Taylor Book Awards for DAY OF DELIGHT (1994, Dial books, Penguin) and WHEN I LEFT MY VILLAGE (1994, Dial Books, Penguin). I have been a fan of Maxine’s books for many years. I am honored that she was willing to take the time to share her thoughts with me.
Your books reflect many aspects of Jewish life, from traditional Torah stories like THE STORY OF RUTH to DAY OF DELIGHT, and WHEN I LEFT MY VILLAGE, which are stories about Ethiopian Jews. As a Jewish writer, do you think it is important to offer children books that reflect the diversity of Jewish culture?
Yes, that’s why I wrote The Circlemaker set during the Cantonist period in Russia in the 1850s and Sacred Shadows which revealed the life of Jews in Western Poland between the two world wars. I’m very interested in bringing to light the lesser known places and times in Jewish history. In Day of Delight and its sequel, When I Left My Village, it was also illuminating the life of little-known Jews as well. I think it’s an urge to show the great diversity of Jewish experience and rescue from oblivion the life of Jews in the pockets of place and time that have fallen through the cracks.
What inspires your stories?
I have to be emotionally moved by a story to write about it. Sacred Shadows is really a fictionalized story with a real setting and real people and events from my mother’s life. The Circlemaker was inspired by the main character who had appeared first in a short story I wrote and I was intrigued by him and wanted to know his past so I made it up. Day of Delight came to me full blown in a kind of poetic language. It still seems a mystery to me. Inspiration comes in so many sly and varied ways.
How important is research in your work?
I research a lot because you have to if you’re writing historical fiction and it can be quite painstaking such as researching whether they had matches in 1855? Research however is also very absorbing and inspiring and allows you to know the great context beyond your story and just knowing more than you write about makes for a richer story… I believe this to be true for myself anyway. Research also can help with plot as you find all sorts of interesting bits of information and anecdotes that inspire plot ideas and dialogue.
What are you currently working on?
My book, Places in Time: Reflections on a Journey was recently named the Best Travel Book of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association and so I’m busy giving talks about it.
I’m currently working on essays about France, its culture and style and history — all woven in with my personal experiences there. Also, I just finished a book about a dress-designer mouse who lives in Paris.
Can you share a few fun facts your readers might not know about you?
Hmmm? I used to be an actress in a soap opera and on the stage when I lived in New Zealand.
There is much more to learn about Maxine! Please visit her website at www.maxineroseschur.com.