An Interview with Yona Zeldis McDonough
Thanks to Yona for taking the time to chat
with us briefly. This interview is part of the contest Yona ran on
RTR in May of '05.
1. Tell us about
yourself – where you’re from, where you are now, your family etc.
I am a
Brooklyn girl through and through. Though not born in Brooklyn, I was
raised here and after some years living in Manhattan, my husband and I
bought a 19th century brick row house in Park Slope, which is the
neighborhood where DAHLIA is set. We have lived here for past 12 years.
I have two children—a son, almost 14, and a daughter who is 9.
2. You’ve been writing
for 20 years, publishing articles, short stories and essays. How and
why did you move to longer format fiction?
I had always been writing fiction,
and although I had many short stories published, I did not have a novel
published until 2002. So I had been working on fiction all along; it
was not a departure, but a continuation. I continue to love short
fiction, but novels really allow a writer to settle deeply into a
subject and a set characters.
3. On that vein, what are you working on now?
Another novel, also set in Park
Brooklyn. It’s about a woman in her forties, widowed early, who raised
her son by herself. Just as he’s about to go off to college, she
discover that he’s gotten his girlfriend pregnant—and the girlfriend
does not want to have an abortion.
4. You’ve published 2 novels so far, THE FOUR TEMPERMENTS, which came
out in 2002, and IN DAHLIA’S WAKE, which is coming April 2005. Both
deal with a family going through extraordinary grief or upheaval. How
do you get inside a character who is in such turmoil?
In the beginning, I hear the voice of
character speaking to me, telling me his or her story. So it’s almost
as if I’m transcribing rather than writing. I don’t know how or why this
process takes place, but I’m always grateful that it does. Novels give
us the chance—both as readers and writers—to experience what the life of
another person is like. I love that about both reading and writing
them. So the novels I have written give me a little glimpse into the
lives of other people. And those lives contain their sorrows, like all
lives do when you begin to examine them.
1. Your children’s books look fascinating. They deal with Mozart,
Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank and others, which are not your usual
children’s books topics. Tell us about those.
I love writing for children, and
deeply believe that children are equal to reading and hearing about all
sorts of subject matter. Even when the subjects are difficult to deal
with—Anne Frank’s short tragic life, Nelson Mandela’s long, heroic
one—children seem to want to grapple with the material. I feel I am
fulfilling an important need, and bringing attention to important issues
and lives filled with true accomplishment.
1. Is there a medium you haven’t written in yet that you want to? Can
you see yourself writing other genres within women’s fiction?
I have a strong interest in writing a book set in another time and
at the beginning of the 19th century, Germany at the close of it.