It’s launch week for Darcey Rosenblatt’s LOST BOYS! I’m here to kick things off with an interview with Darcey’s wonderful agent, Erin Murphy.
LOST BOYS is the tale of twelve-year-old Reza, who has no interest in joining Iran’s war effort against Iraq. But in the wake of a tragedy and at his mother’s urging, he decides to enlist, and unfortunately soon finds himself held in a prisoner-of-war camp in Iraq. This book is based on historical events from the 1980s, and is a story of friendship, heartbreak, and survival.
Onto the interview:
1. What first piqued your interest about Darcey Rosenblatt’s debut, LOST BOYS?
Well, the first thing that piqued my interest was Darcey herself. We’d crossed paths several times over the years at conferences, and I thought highly of her from those meet-ups and from things I’ve heard from EMLA clients who know her. I’d even read a much-earlier version on submission years before, and had reluctantly passed on it because I didn’t quite get a shivery feeling when I read it.
When I read it again three years ago, WOW. It had sharpened and had such a sense of immediacy. I loved Reza, the protagonist, from the first page. I especially loved that Darcey showed a spectrum of Muslim believers, from devout to moderate to questioning. Darcey says in the book’s author’s note, “I’ve always been interested in the journey we take from the religious ideas and practices of our parents to owning our own beliefs.” I have, too, and I was intrigued to see that explored with Islam in particular, which we have seen so little of in American books for children.
2. Darcey has talked about all the research that went into this novel. What is something you’ve learned from this story that you didn’t know about before?
The Iran-Iraq War began when I was an eleven-year-old kid living in Arizona, and I hadn’t had cause to explore the history before, so the entire context of the story was new to me. I most definitely didn’t know there had been child soldiers who had volunteered and who were used to clear minefields.
3. What was your thought process like when submitting the manuscript for consideration at Henry Holt?
I had met with Sally Doherty, the acquiring editor, shortly before I went out on submission with the manuscript. She’s someone I adore working with but had always thought of for picture books, easy readers, and young chapter books, so I had been surprised when she mentioned particularly loving historical fiction and multicultural novels. The timing was perfect. When Sally wrote to me after reading it, she said, “Just finished this, and I LOVE it! Wow. Is this really the author’s first book?” Exactly the kind of reaction we dream of! Too, I think Macmillan, which Holt is a part of, has a great presence in the school and library market, which is key for this title.
4.What is your favorite thing about working with Darcey?
She somehow manages to be both grounded and giddy. It truly is hard to believe this is her debut, as she is SUCH a pro—handling things on her own but always looping me in and completely open to course correction and advice. The best kind of partner! I think she found six or eight sensitivity readers for this project so she could do as much as possible to be sure she hadn’t wrongly portrayed key details, nuance, or big-picture things that only Persians would know. Even when she got positive feedback, she kept going—several of these readers were found after the galley went to print, she was so determined to do everything she could, as someone writing out of her own culture, to make sure she hadn’t missed anything. When we approached her publication date, the way she juggled all the details of upcoming launch events, teacher’s guide planning, and publicity was so incredible that I actually took an email that she sent to her editors and publicist at Macmillan and shared it with the other EMLA agents as an example of how to effectively collaborate with a publishing team.
5. What experience do you hope readers have with this novel?
I hope they find this to be a riveting story that is hard to put down, as I did! I hope that readers who find themselves alone and in desperate circumstances, whatever those might be, will see in Reza a friend who found his way through a war and emerged in a place of hope. I hope they are inspired.