Thursday, July 14, 2011

Author Interview: Lorraine Zago Rosenthal: Chatting w/Buckeyes

Please help me welcome Young Adult writer Lorraine Zago Rosenthal to A Buckeye Girl Reads. We're talking about her book, Other Words for Love and all things Ohio as apart of my ongoing Chatting with Buckeyes Series, where I interview a different Ohio author each month.

1. Can you tell us about your book, Other Words for Love?

OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE is about a middle-class high school girl (Ari Mitchell) from Brooklyn who becomes involved in an intense relationship with a wealthy college student (Blake Ellis) from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and her struggle to deal with equally intense emotions when things turn out differently than she had planned. The story also delves into Ari’s family interactions—especially with mother, her older sister, Evelyn, and her relationship with her beautiful and popular best friend, Summer. Additionally, Ari deals with the feelings she has for her sister’s handsome husband, Patrick.

2. What made you decide to set it in the 80s?

There are a few reasons why I chose to set the story during the 1980s. It seemed to me that the 1980s were a neglected era in YA fiction. The only other YA novel I know of that is set during this decade is The Carrie Diaries. There is YA fiction set in the 1800s, 1920s, etc., so why not the 1980s? This decade is as valid historically as any other, and I believe that no time period should be restricted from the YA genre. There are stories to tell from the viewpoint of young people in every era.

I thought that if teens could identify with historical fiction—time periods with cultures and values so different from now—then they could easily relate to a time period that they didn’t live through but wasn’t all that long ago. The ideals of the 1980s weren’t exactly the same as today, but they weren’t completely different, either. I also thought that adults who read YA fiction and lived through the 1980s might connect with the story.

But the main reason I set Other Words for Love in the 1980s is that the story wouldn’t work in the present day. As I mentioned, culture and values weren’t radically different then, but they weren’t exactly the same as today. For example—in the novel, Ari’s sister has a baby when she is seventeen years old, and although teen pregnancy isn’t encouraged now, I think it has less of a social stigma than it had during the 80s. There was no “Teen Mom” on MTV back then! Ari is more embarrassed about her sister having been a teen mother than she might be today, and Evelyn’s choices are extremely disappointing to her parents.

Also, the issue of AIDS is prevalent throughout the novel. Although AIDS unfortunately still exists, it is better understood than it was during the 80s, when it was new and many people didn’t fully comprehend how it could be contracted. There was an undercurrent of hysteria when AIDS first appeared, and this is present in Other Words for Love.

Finally, although Ari is intelligent and mature, she’s also more innocent than most girls her age would be today—for various reasons. For example, the internet didn’t exist during the 1980s, so teens didn’t have as much access to information as they do now. The 1980s were more conservative than the present time—just take a look at how teens were represented in the media back then as opposed to now.

3. What do you like best about Ari, the books heroine? 

What I like best about Ari is that she has flaws and insecurities, and that she is a good person who grows, learns, and becomes stronger and more confident in herself through dealing with adversity. 

4. What sets Other Words for Love apart from other YA books?

There are so many wonderful YA novels out there, but what sets my novel apart is its realism and intimacy. Ari has a very personal story to tell, and she tells it honestly. 

5. Do you have any other books in the works?

I’m currently working on another YA novel that is also set in NYC.

Ohio Questions

1. What is your favorite season in Ohio?


2. Do you have a favorite place to visit in Ohio? If so, where?

I’m a city girl, so I really love downtown Cincinnati.

3. Do you have a favorite food or drink that is native to Ohio?

Graeter’s ice cream

4. Name something that surprised you most about moving to Ohio...

I really knew nothing about the Cincinnati area before I moved here, so I was surprised by how much I liked it!

Where to find Lorraine on the web: 

When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York--and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn't think she stands a chance, but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari's family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future.

When misfortune befalls Blake's family, he pulls away, and Ari's world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love . . . or something else?