Lorraine Zago Rosenthal is the author of the incredible new novel, Other Words For Love. If you haven’t already got a copy, you must, must check it out. Lorraine was nice enough to let us steal some of her time for an interview (as well a great guest post which you can read here).
You have a B.A. in Psychology, (which is very impressive!) what made you opt to take up writing as opposed to a career in that field?
Thank you! I began writing at a young age and had initially planned to major in English in college, but instead chose to study psychology because it was also a subject that interested me. I really enjoyed studying psychology, and this knowledge assists in fiction writing. To create believable characters, you have to consider their background, experiences, and everything else that affects them emotionally. I never planned to work in the field of psychology, and I later went on to earn graduate degrees in education and English. Throughout my education I was always writing and hoped to become an author.
Other Words For Love is incredibly heartbreaking but also moving and a story a lot of people can learn from and relate to – what inspired you to write it?
I’m a character-driven writer, and the characters were what came to me first. Ari and her family were in my mind for quite a while before I fully understood Ari’s story and began to write it. When that story crystallized, I just wanted to tell it and to share it with readers. Ari was my inspiration all along.
Most reviews I’ve read for OWFL have been incredibly positive, many with a 5 star rating, were you surprised by the response?
I was hoping for a good response but because fiction is so subjective, I knew that not all readers would give my novel five stars. I have therefore been pleasantly surprised and very grateful for the immensely positive response.
It was so interesting reading a book set in the 80s which has barely been touched on in YA Fiction, why that decade?
There are a few reasons why I chose to set the story during the 1980s. As you mentioned, the 1980s are a neglected era in YA fiction. The only other YA novel I know of that is set during this decade is The Carrie Diaries. There is YA fiction set in the 1800s, 1920s, etc., so why not the 1980s? This decade is as valid historically as any other, and I believe that no time period should be restricted from the YA genre. There are stories to tell from the viewpoint of young people in every era.
I thought that if teens could identify with historical fiction—time periods with cultures and values so different from now—then they could easily relate to a time period that they didn’t live through but wasn’t all that long ago. The ideals of the 1980s weren’t exactly the same as today, but they weren’t completely different, either. I also thought that adults who read YA fiction and lived through the 1980s might connect with the story.
But the main reason I set Other Words for Love in the 1980s is that the story wouldn’t work in the present day. As I mentioned, culture and values weren’t radically different then, but they weren’t exactly the same as today. For example—in the novel, Ari’s sister has a baby when she is seventeen years old, and although teen pregnancy isn’t encouraged now, I think it has less of a social stigma than it had during the 80s. There was no “Teen Mom” on MTV back then! Ari is more embarrassed about her sister having been a teen mother than she might be today, and Evelyn’s choices are extremely disappointing to her parents.
Also, the issue of AIDS is prevalent throughout the novel. Although AIDS unfortunately still exists, it is better understood than it was during the 80s, when it was new and many people didn’t fully comprehend how it could be contracted. There was an undercurrent of hysteria when AIDS first appeared, and this is present in Other Words for Love.
Finally, although Ari is intelligent and mature, she’s also more innocent than most girls her age would be today—for various reasons. For example, the internet didn’t exist during the 1980s, so teens didn’t have as much access to information as they do now. The 1980s were more conservative than the present time—just take a look at how teens were represented in the media back then as opposed to now.
What’s your favorite thing about the 80s?
I would say my favorite thing about the 1980s is the music. There was a lot of great music back then, especially from English artists who had a very distinctive sound.
Thanks Lorraine! You can follow Lorraine on twitter – @lorrainezr
Check out our review of Other Words For Love here.