Tuesday, February 18, 2014

2014 Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner Neal Bascomb - an interview

Today, I am so happy to welcome Neal Bascomb to Randomly Reading.  Neal and his book The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi have been named the winner of the 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teen Readers by the Association of Jewish Libraries.  The Sydney Taylor Book Awards are given annually to those outstanding works that authentically portray the Jewish experience.

Welcome and congratulations, Neal, on being given this award for writing such a fascinating account of the events leading up to capture of Adolf Eichmann.

First, I was wondering if you would share some personal history about yourself with us?  

Well, I was born in Denver, though I didn't live there long enough to learn to ski.  I was actually raised in St. Louis, where I spent a lot of time at the ice skating rink.  I loved reading and writing from an early age, and in 10th grade, a teacher inspired me to believe that I could make a career for myself as a writer (I just love those teacher who inspire).  I went to college at Miami University in Ohio, and later, I was a journalist in Europe (London, Dublin, Paris) and later, I lived in New York as a book editor.  I finally begann writing full time in 2001.  Now, I live in Philadelphia with my wife, two daughters and a Portugese Water Dog named Moses.

After a career in journalism, what made you decide to begin writing books?

For a long time, I wrote short-form journalism, mostly for magazines.  I loved the idea of committing to longer projects that I could spend months, even years researching, and really delving into my subject.  Thus, books!

Have you always been interested in history and biographies?  What motivated you to research and write about history?

I love stories.  Period.  They don't have to be historical or present day, just a great story, with rich characters - and it doesn't hurt if there's a lot of material to work from to really paint a full picture of the events as they unfolded.

You originally published the story of Eichmann's capture as an adult work entitled Hunting
Eichmann: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notoriaous Nazi.  What was the impulse or reason for you to undertake writing The Nazi Hunters for young adult readers?  And did you find it a difficult process?

The whole purpose of the operation to capture Eichmann was for education, specifically Ben Gurion, the leader of Israel, wanted the Nazi war criminal brought to trial so that the world would be reminded of the crimes inflicted on the Jewish population during the Holocaust.  That said, I was dim to the idea of turning my adult book on the subject in a young adult project until I received a call from a wonderful editor at Scholastic named Cheryl Klein.  She saw the opportunity - and all at once, I did as well.  And so, I sank myself headlong into the process.

Since young adult readers are beginning to have to do serious research papers, could you tell us what resources (i.e. museums, libraries, relatives) did you find most useful when researching this book?

I found all of these to be useful - everything.  I'm like a Hoover of information.  I gather as many resources across as spectrums as possible.  Sometimes, I start with the Internet, even Wikipedia.  They should never be your sole source of information, but it's a great launching pad for other sources, especially books, and then you look at their lists, and just keep going deeper and deeper into the topic.  I love primary material, original interviews or archival material that has not been seen through the lens of other historians or authors.

I know from personal experience that reading and writing about anything related to the Holocaust can be a very emotional experience.  But I was wondering how researching and writing this book about such a represhensible person affected your life?

This was a very difficult book to research and write, particularly when handling what Eichmann did over the course of the war.  Writing about his victims often left me with nightmares, but in a way, I was glad that it affected me so much, as I hope that I put that same feeling of horror and sadness into the pages related to his crimes.

Perhaps you could tell us what you find to be the most challenging aspects of your work as well as the most rewarding.

I once thought that the life of an author was glamourous (this was before I actuallly became one).  I thought that I would spend my days in cafes and work when I wanted, that I would vacation in Europe during the summer and never have a care in the world.  Well, that was a fantasy.  Writing, being an author, is work, everyday at your desk or coffee shop, whichever you prefer, bit it is work that takes committment, focus, and persistence.  That all said, I love it.  I love every part of it, both researching, hours spent in libraries or in archieves or interviewing people  And I love the writing, tough as the blank page is sometimes.

Could you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?

My next YA book from Scholastic is called SABOTAGE, and it's about Norwegian and British commandos who stopped the Nazis from getting the atomic bomb.  It's very much a "spies on skis" kind of tale, but one layered with science and history and the machinations of war.  I'm super excited about it.

Thank you, Neal, for visiting Randomly Reading and for the insight you have given us into your life, your work and your writing process.  I know I will be looking forward to reading SABOTAGE when it is published.  Once again, congratulations on winning the 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teen Readers.  I wish you all the best in the future.

Below is the schedule for the 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. Please follow the links to visit the hosting blogs on or after their tour dates, and be sure to leave them plenty of comments!
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2014
Renee Londner, author of Stones for Grandpa
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At The Write Stuff
Martha Aviles, illustrator of Stones for Grandpa
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Practically Paradise
Aline Sax, author, Caryl Strzelecki, illustrator, and Laura Watkinson, translator of The War Within These Walls
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
At The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, Research
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2014
Laurel Snyder, author of The Longest Night
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Geo Librarian
Catia Chen, illustrator of The Longest Night
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Holy Sparks
Robyn Bavati, author of Dancing in the Dark
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
At Bildungsroman
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2014
Neal Bascomb, author of The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
At Randomly Reading
Carol Matas, author of Dear Canada: Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
At Pen and Prose
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2014
Cosei Kawa, illustrator of Rifka Takes a Bow
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
At Jewish Books for Children
Elisabeth Leyson, contributor to The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible...on Schindler’s List
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
At The Interlace Place
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2014
Patricia Polacco, author and illustrator of The Blessing Cup
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
At Ann Koffsky's Blog
Blog Tour Wrap-Up with All Authors and Illustrators
At The Whole Megillah

1 comment :

  1. A fascinating glimpse into the life of a writer, thanks for sharing this Alex.

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