Editor’s Note: This exchange is part of a series of brief interviews with emerging writers of recent or forthcoming books. If you enjoyed it, please visit other interviews in the I’ve Got Questions feature.
- What’s the title of your book? Fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry? Who is the publisher and what’s the publication date?
My novel is Ripped Away, published by the Fitzroy imprint of Regal House Publishing, release date February 8, 2022.
- In a couple of sentences, what’s the book about?
Ripped Away explores the real experiences of Jewish refugees in London during the Jack the Ripper hysteria. A fortune teller sends Abe and Mitzy through time and space to the London tenements in the midst of the Ripper spree. To get back home, they’ll have to save a life and survive the antisemitic xenophobia that the Ripper murders sparked. Along the way, young love may bloom.
- What’s the book’s genre (for fiction and nonfiction) or primary style (for poetry)?
This is a time-slip novel geared for middle-grade and early YA readers.
- What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about the book so far?
“Ripped Away is a rare, eye-opening novel that seamlessly blends fantasy, contemporary and historical fiction to illuminate the challenges teens face today and the horrors of the little-known blood libel brought upon London’s East End Jews during the time of Jack the Ripper. It’s a bold story few of us would ever know without Vernick’s meticulous research, masterful storytelling, and her fierce determination to share truth and make sure that antisemitism is not omitted or erased from that history.” ~ Liza Wiemer, author of The Assignment, a 2021 Sydney Taylor Notable YA novel and 2021 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults nominee.
- What book or books is yours comparable to or a cross between? [Is your book like Moby Dick or maybe it’s more like Frankenstein meets Peter Pan?]
Ripped Away is like When You Reach Me (Rebecca Stead) meets 11/22/63 (Stephen King).
- Why this book? Why now?
Intolerance is rampant in our country and in the wider world. I wanted to write a compellingly entertaining story, based on true events, that would illustrate the dangers of bigotry and xenophobia.
- Other than writing this book, what’s the best job you’ve ever had?
I mentor aspiring novelists who are currently serving prison sentences. These individuals are motivated to tell stories that can both captivate and inspire future readers, and it’s an honor to be part of their process.
- What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I want two things. I want readers to think, “Wow, great story!” Secondly, I hope readers will be moved to avoid pointing fingers, in the absence of evidence, when something bad happens.
- What food and/or music do you associate with the book?
I think about simple Jewish food like herring and dark bread, which, incidentally, I was raised on. For music, I keep hearing that old Animals song “We Gotta Get Out of this Place.”
- What book(s) are you reading currently?
I like to alternate between fiction and nonfiction. Currently, I’m reading the novel The World Before Us by Aislinn Hunter. Next up is the science book The Soul of an Octopus – A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness.
Learn more about Shirley at her website.