I was honored to have been interviewed by Stacie Theis of BeachBoundBooks about writing and my book Life at 12 College Road. Stacie is an author of several children’s books, a book reviewer and interviewer, and a mother to four who lives with her husband in SanDiego.
BBB: What inspired you to become an author?
EM: First, I want to say that no one makes me write. In the professional positions I’ve held over the years, I have been required to file reports and write memoranda, even treatises, but I was never required to publish law-related articles, write poems, or, of course, author Life at 12 College Road. But I certainly did not write because I had nothing better to do. The time spent away from family and the activities that were sacrificed along the way attest to that. It was more often a feeling of being compelled to write. Not for others, although most writers do want people to read their work, but to feed a need or a desire coming from within. I’ve felt particularly driven to write about my experiences growing up. The writing is not really so much about me as it is about those feelings and emotions—joy, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, even loss—that each of us, in our own ways, inevitably encounters.
Through this writing experience, I have also come to recognize that even in the solitude of writing, we are not really alone. Our memories of loved ones, friends, and those we admire are always with us. Some are nearer to the surface of sentience than others, but they are there nonetheless.
And if we are really willing to listen, they have much to offer.
BBB: How did you come up with the idea for your book, Life at 12 College Road?
EM: I had not intended to write this book at all. I was on a mission to write an action/adventure thriller and was attending a writer’s retreat in Maine several years ago to do just that. But I wasn’t getting anywhere with it, so I decided to take a short nap. As fate would have it, the idea for Life at 12 College Road came to me while I was dreaming, or perhaps during that period of time just before awakening.
I recalled sitting at the dining room table where I had shared Sunday dinners with my family growing up. As I sat at the table, I realized the other three chairs had been tilted forward so that their ladder-backs rested against it. They were obviously no longer of use. And it was then that I remembered what had been bothering me: I was alone. You see, my mom, dad, and younger brother have all passed on without me. They are exploring new worlds and I have been left behind. Heck, even my dog is gone.
It was that realization, those memories, which provided the impetus for me to put my novel on the shelf and write Life at 12 College Road. The book is a collection of thirty-three “real life” short stories that, when taken as a whole, paint a mosaic of a time and place both familiar and distant. Although they fit together, each piece of the mosaic can be viewed and enjoyed on its own, and each provides a different glimpse into the world of growing up in 1950s and 60s America.
In time, I may get back to the novel, as every once in while I think I hear the characters trying to talk to me.
BBB: Tell us about your main character.
EM: As this is a memoir, I guess that makes me the main character. Without giving anything away, I would think that after reading the book one might come away wondering just how I could have survived. But I wrote the book, and am now answering your questions, so I am happy to report that I did. As I said earlier, the book is about growing up in suburban/rural New York in the 1950s and 60s. The main character, as a young boy and teenager, is confronted with many of the issues and concerns of that time. I think, however, that many of the concerns, questions, problems, and conflicts I encountered will be familiar to just about anyone, at any age.
The tools and knowledge at our disposal may differ, but as human beings we all generally go through the same stages of growing up and discovering what is really important. In reflecting on my past, I found that it was not the earth-shattering events that were most significant to me. Rather, it was the small things, many long forgotten until recently, that deeply and indelibly touched me. Sure, some of the memories involve fire trucks, police cars, and hospital visits. But most do not. And if their retelling can help the reader to connect with similar moments from their own life, well, that is special.
BBB: What are you currently working on?
EM: I would like to tell you that after I finished writing Life at 12 College Road I picked up where I had left off with the thriller. But that is not the case. I am now coauthoring a monograph and teaching supplement for the Education Law Association (ELA) with a colleague and friend, Ellery (Rick) Miller, on the subject of sexual harassment and bullying. It’s called Sexual Harassment and Bullying: Similar, but not the Same, and is due to be published in the fall of 2015. The monograph explores the current legal developments in the areas of sexual harassment and bullying K-12. It also examines strategies for developing and implementing policies and training to create an educational environment that allows each student to feel safe and secure, and to ensure a safe school environment conducive to learning.
Of course, when I am finished with this project I will have a discussion with the characters in my novel to see if it’s time to take them down from the shelf.
BBB: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
EM: If readers really want to know more about me they should read Life at 12 College Road.
They can also visit my website: http://www.ericmondschein.com. There you will find my musings on current events, commentaries on issues of import, poetry, and even some of my recipes.