Meet the Author: Jacqueline Dembar Greene

Photo: Courtesy of Jacqueline Dembar Greene

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

I grew up in rural Connecticut, and always wanted to be a French teacher. After college, I began teaching at a high school in Boston. It was a huge change for me to teach city kids who had little interest in learning a foreign language. I loved the adventure of introducing the language and showing my students how French words and culture permeated their daily lives. After completing graduate school, I began a second career working as a reporter. Eventually, my feature writing led me to attempt my first historical novel and my first picture book. Researching the backgrounds for my books allowed me to use my journalistic skills, as well as indulge my love of discovering hidden stories and places.

What inspired you to become an author?

I never considered becoming an author until I began writing newspaper features. I was drawn to the people I interviewed and loved writing each article in a way that made the subject leap off the page. My first historical novel, The Leveller, grew from a short news article I wrote about Tom Cook, a legendary figure who lived in Westborough, Massachusetts during the 1700s. At first, I wrote a short story about Tom Cook and shared it with a former professor at the University of Connecticut. She challenged me to delve into the story more deeply, and devote my time to creating a novel for young readers. From that time forward, I left journalism behind and concentrated on writing books. And the rest is “history!”

Where and when do you write? Do you have a writing routine?

My desk faces an orchid-filled bay window with views of gardens, meadow, and woods. It’s a perfect spot to let my imagination wander. A hawk may land on a nearby branch, a family of wild turkeys might strut by, or perhaps a deer or a tawny fox will saunter through. Sometimes it’s hard to keep my mind on my work! After an early morning exercise routine and a fortifying cup of coffee, it’s time to settle down. I spend the entire day writing, and when facing tight deadlines, often work well into the evening, and on weekends…in fact, what’s a weekend?

How long does it take you to finish a novel?

Each novel has its own schedule. So much depends on researching the setting and historical time period, the book’s length—and whether or not an editor has set a deadline. Every book, whether fiction or non-fiction, begins with extensive research. I can happily spend three or four months sleuthing out everything I can learn about food and clothing, cultural practices, speech, pastimes, and historical events of the time. I begin by trolling the library and bringing home armloads of books. From there, I narrow down my focus and take copious notes. Often this background research sparks ideas of what would be important to my main character, what impediments or hazards she or he might face, and incidents that can bring the time period to life. Next, I write lengthy character sketches and a detailed plot outline. Story lines and characters may change or evolve a bit as the plot progresses, but I always know where my story is headed.

For longer books, I have often spent one to two years before a final draft satisfies me. There are continual rewrites. For shorter novels, especially those with tight deadlines, I may work on the research at the same time I am writing, and complete the first draft in about six months. It can be all-consuming!

Which authors can we find in your library?

I have hundreds of books arranged by topic, rather than author. So if I’m looking for a book on Jewish history, or Native Americans, or a favorite novel, I know just where to find the appropriate section. For my personal reading, I am particularly fond of historical novels, and within that category am drawn to stories about artists, authors, and events that changed the world. Some of my favorite writers include Susan Vreeland, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Christina Baker Kline. However, I can’t be pinned down to just a few favorites. I am a voracious reader and constantly have a pile of books that have captured my interest.

What advice would you give an aspiring author?

My advice depends on the age of the person asking! For young people, the best way to prepare for a writing career is to be a great reader. It’s the perfect way to discover favorite types of books, as those will likely become the genre they will most enjoy writing. Reading also introduces lots of exciting vocabulary that will help them craft the story they want to tell. I also encourage aspiring writers to jump into as many experiences as they can. Learning to ride a horse, going camping, or taking music lessons, can all become sources of future background information for a great story.

For both adults and young writers, I recommend keeping a journal. Describe interesting people you meet, places that catch your attention, and jot down your thoughts and feelings about things that happen in your life. One day, those pages will give you some terrific book ideas, or characters and scenes that you can bring to life.

Where can our readers purchase your books?

My books are available through book stores or online. I always recommend that anyone looking for a book support their local indie booksellers whenever possible. I also have copies of my titles and am happy to sign and mail a book to anyone who would like to purchase a book directly from me.

My most popular novels with Jewish themes include the award-winning companion novels Out of Many Waters and One Foot Ashore (1654), and American Girl’s Rebecca Rubin series (1914). My newest historical novel is Walk Till You Disappear, set in Arizona Territory in 1872. Picture books include The Secret Shofar of Barcelona and Speak Up, Tommy!

Please go to my website,, for a more complete listing and description of each of my books. And you can contact me directly at [email protected].

On which Social Media channels can our readers connect with you?

I don’t maintain a regular presence on any social media. However, my website includes a wealth of information, and a direct link to my email. As soon as in-person author visits resume, I will enjoy meeting readers in real time. I answer all emails and letters as soon as possible. So send me your questions, comments, or requests, and I will respond!

Photos: Courtesy of Jacqueline Dembar Greene

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