Last year, I spent several months interviewing refugees from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 on behalf of the American Hungarian Foundation. When I received news of J.E. Laufer’s account of her Jewish family’s escape, I was immediately intrigued. Following is The Whole Megillah interview with Choices author J.E. Laufer.
The Whole Megillah (TWM): Why did you write and publish this book now?
J.E. Laufer (JEL): Two things prompted me to write this book. As they say, timing is everything! First my mom was turning 87 and I wanted to complete her story as a gift for her 90th birthday. She is a very sharp women and I wanted to make sure I was able to capture the fine details while she was still well. At the same time, I reconnected with the women who had helped my family at this very desperate time. She was 16 then and now a grandmother in her 70’s. She was willing to give me her part of the story as well.
TWM: Did anything surprise you in your research?
JEL: Yes, several things surprised me. I knew many Hungarians had fled at that time but I did not realize it was 200,000! I always thought that my dad was the one who had instigated the idea to leave and discovered that it was my mom. This made perfect sense, when she explained that none of her family had survived, so she was leaving no one behind. My dad had a brother and mother who were still alive and chose to remained in Hungary.
TWM: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book? The most satisfying?
JEL: The most challenging aspect was the actual day-to-day writing and the constant re-write. The emotional attachment was sometimes difficult since it was my family not just any family. I would often feel the pain of what they had gone through and after certain chapters, felt drained and need to take a break.
The most satisfying was learning so many critical details to this amazing story and of course, completing the task and seeing it in print!
TWM: Do you have a critique group? Does anyone serve as a reader for you?
JEL: No, I don’t have a critique group. My husband and several close friends, helped with a lot of the critiquing and editing. I am fortunate to have a cadre of friends who are readers and many of them teachers.
TWM: What led you to self publish vs. seeking a traditional publisher?
JEL: I have already successfully published several children’s books and I like the ability to manage the project. I created my own publishing company several years ago. I am a publisher.
TWM: Are you promoting this as young adult, adult, or both? Why?
JEL: I am promoting it as both. It is what I would call a 13 and up book. I feel that young adults will relate to several characters in the story, especially the 16 year old girl and the young soldier. The book is written in style, language and vocabulary that crosses this age group. This book is the right length and I believe, has enough action to keep all readers engaged.