Writing RUBY: fun facts

Writing my latest book in the Emmie & Friends series, REMARKABLY RUBY, was…well, remarkably fun. This was a story that practically wrote itself. I love it when that happens because it rarely does. I really got a kick out of the two main characters and began to recognize many aspects of myself in them — some subtle, some glaring (like, really glaring).

When I write these books, I tend to add details from my own life. Sometimes they’re little tributes, like inserting the names of family and friends (hint: most of the first and last names of secondary characters are from real people). Sometimes they’re visual things, like Emmie’s hair, which I modeled after my daughter’s spiral curls from her childhood. Or the rabbi in BECOMING BRIANNA, who bears a strong resemblance to my own rabbi — and who inspired the selfie poses taken before Bri’s bat mitzvah. (Yes, our rabbi posed like The Hulk with both my daughters.) These details bring me closer to the characters and help make the process that much more fun and personal.

With RUBY, I went a little overboard. The book comes out in May, so here are a few personal details you can look for when you read it (don’t worry, no spoilers).

  • English teacher, Mrs. Winn (of “Winn Word of the Week” fame), organizes a club that meets in room 216. 216 is the area code of Cleveland, where I live (“In the 216” is even a local expression). It’s a little nod to my hometown.
  • Related fact: The middle school is named “Lakefront”, a tribute to Lake Erie and some nearby places, like a locally famous cemetery called Lakeview (fun fact: that’s where President Garfield is buried).
  • One of the main characters, Mia, loves dried mangos. That’s, in fact, MY serious addiction. I usually have a huge, Costco-sized bag of them in my fridge.
  • Mia has a boyfriend named Trevor. His last name, Enders, is almost my mom’s maiden name, Ender. Funny enough, “Ender” is a really common last name in Turkey (where my mom is from), but it means “very rare.”
  • In my first book, INVISIBLE EMMIE, there’s a lot of humor surrounding Emmie’s mom, who is a health nut. But I’m really poking fun at myself. I’m that mom, the one who tries to get her kids to eat quinoa and kale. In RUBY, there’s a short scene with a “healthy” vending machine. It contains snacks like tofu trail mix and okra nuggets. Most people would be disgusted by that, but I admit those are my dream snacks.
  • Mia references having a family game night of Rummikub, something my own family and I do. It’s one of our favorite pastimes.
  • The character Ruby suffers similar “medical” issues that I did when I was younger (I won’t ruin the surprise). So, of course, this endears me to her.
  • However, Ruby looks like the physical opposite of me when I was in middle school. Where Ruby tends to be taller and bigger than most of her peers, I was the tiny, skinny one picked last for gym.
  • Certain habits of Mia’s like thrifting, owning a record player, and being into anything “retro hippie” were (and are) habits of my own kids.
  • Ruby has much of my old shyness/awkwardness, but Mia is much like my adult self: Type A and mega-organized. It’s frightening.
  • In one of Mia’s chapters, there’s a locker decorated for a student’s birthday. The locker belongs to “Mol”: short for “Mollie,” my older daughter’s name. In POSITIVELY IZZY, there’s one decorated for “Nikki,” my younger daughter.
  • Finally, there is another school mentioned in the story: Rutter Elementary. This is named after my own elementary school growing up, Rutter Ave Elementary — which has since been torn down and turned into apartments (boo!).

That’s it for now! To pre-order REMARKABLY RUBY, just go here. And don’t forget to look back on this list when you do!

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