Name: Bryna J. Fireside
(Originally published in my old website, Writester.net in 2005)
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Linden, New Jersey
Q: Can you tell us your latest book news?
A: Yes, I’m very excited about the 4th edition of CHOICES FOR THE HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE INFORMATION AGE. I am very lucky to have a new publisher for this edition, Ferguson Publishers was bought out by Fact-on-File two years ago, and the editor wanted me to do this new edition of my book. This book is aimed at both high school juniors and seniors, as well as graduates. I have interviewed dozens of young people who have stepped of the straight and narrow path of high school-college-career, and struck out on a more adventurous path.What is so exciting is that whatever the adventure, they all landed on their two feet, stronger and more focused. And Most of the kids have gone on to college or have found the right niche for themselves.
I like to interview young people a year or two after they have had that adventure. Some kids have taken time out to work. Others have joined AmeriCorps, taken a semester on a sailing craft, studied and interned on the Island of Crete. Other young people have skipped a year or two of high school and have gone to college after they had learned all they could from their home school. New in this edition is a chapter on the trades, and some new interviews with young men and women who joined the military, including one young man who saw action in Iraq. In all, there are 24 new interviews in this edition.
Q: How old were you when you first started writing?
A: I started writing for the Linden Observer when I was around 12 years old. I wrote two columns: The Girl Scout News under my own name (which was then Bryna Levenberg) and when the Boy Scouts complained they wanted a column, I wrote up their news under the name of Barney Levin. I made sure I had 30 inches for each column so I’d get paid the full $3.00 per column. Later, when i was in high school, I had a syndicated column in seven weekly papers called “The Teenager Looks Around.”
Q: When did you first realize you had the potential to be a writer?
A: The moment I saw my byline, I was hooked.
Q: What was your inspiration to write your first novel?
A: I don’t write novels. I’m basically a nonfiction writer, and I like to write for middle grade and young adult readers. The first book I wrote for middle grade kids was IS THERE A WOMAN IN THE HOUSE. . .OR SENATE? Again, I relied on my interview skills, and interviewed nine of the ten women I included in this book. (Jeannette Rankin, the first woman in Congress has already died, so I couldn’t very well interview her.) My inspriration for this was my interest in women in politics. At that time there were only two women in the Senate, and very few in the House. Although out of print, it is still available through iUniverse.
Q: Is there anyone or anything that inspired you to write?
A: Jane Yolen has been not only an inspiration, but is one of those very special authors who encourages others every chance she gets. I first met her at a conference on children’s literature at Temple University, even before I’d had any books published. I was working on a master’s degree in children’s literature at Cornell University, and was researching the image of the Jew in children’s literature. Jane was talking about the Cinderella syndrome, and we had some very interesting discussions. She inspired me to bug the children’s book editor at the New York Times Book review to write some reviews (”Give him a list of books you’d like to review,” she said.) It worked, and I did a number of reviews for that editor back in the 80’s and 90’s. It was through Jane that I became a member of the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators.
Q: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
A: I think I was born with a political activist spoon in my mouth. (Not something my parents always appreciated.) However, one of the perks of growing up in a small town is that you often have opportunities to try out you writing skills in a safe environment. My editor at the Linden Observer thought it was very amusing that I wrote two columns for them. He always encouraged me. And my father was always encouraging of my writing, too.
Q: Do you have a specific writing style?
A: I like to think that I write in a simple, easy to understand style. In addition to Choices and Is There a Woman in the House or Senate?, I’ve also written several books for Enslow Publishers on the right-to-die issue, and most recently on the trial of the four cops who shot and killed Amadou Diallo.
Q: What genre are you most comfortable writing?
A: I’m most comfortable writing for young people.
Q: How do you come up with the title(s) for your book(s)?
A: Sometimes I come up with the titles, other times the publisher does.
Q: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
A: In Choices, I want young people to understand that they have only one life, and there are myriad things out there for them to try. Even if one thing doesn’t quite work out, they will learn from the experience.
Q: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your life?
A: Choices grew out of the fact that our own three kids were always full of surprises.
Q: What books have most influenced your life?
A: I love books that make me cry! When i was a kid, I wept my way through “The Little Lame Prince” and “Little Women.”
Q: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
A: Sidney Offit. He was my writing teacher at The New School University and was the first author/teacher to call me “a writer.”
Q: What are you reading now?
A: I read at least two murder mysteries a week.
Q: What new author has grasped your interest?
A: There are simply too many to list
Q: Is there anything additional you would like to share with your readers?
A: Take yourself seriously. If you don’t no one else will.