Illustration by: Aixa Perez-Prado
WNDMG Wednesday – Debut Author Interview
Hello everyone, and happy WNDMG Wednesday to you. I’m so excited to be able to introduce you to debut author Noa Nimrodi today. Noa’s new book is NOT SO SHY (Kar-Ben/Lerner) and it launches on April 4, 2023. NOT SO SHY was a great read – I truly loved her well-realized characters and her gentle exploration of tough topics.
Full disclosure–Noa and I are in the same debut author cohort, and we also share a launch date for our books AND an editor, the fabulous Amy Fitzgerald!
About Not So Shy
Twelve-year-old Shai hates everything about moving to America from Israel. She’s determined to come up with a plan that will get her back home. Maybe she can go back with her grandparents when they come to visit. Or maybe she can win the drawing competition that’s offering a plane ticket to any destination in the world as a grand prize. Meanwhile, though, she’s stuck in seventh grade at an American school, where she has to communicate in English and get used to American ways of doing things. Worst of all, she faces antisemitism up close for the first time.
But she also finds support and friendship where she least expected it and starts to see her new life with different eyes. Maybe home doesn’t have to be the place she’s always lived. Maybe home is a place in the heart.
Interview with Noa Nimrodi
I loved getting to talk to Noa about her book, Not So Shy, and I think you will enjoy meeting her and Shai as well.
HMC: What is the origin story for Not So Shy?
NN: Not So Shy originated from personal experience (as you probably guessed…). The fictional Shai is loosely based on my middle child ,who was twelve-years old when we moved from Israel to the US. I also shamelessly stole her name for my main character (with her permission of course).
Although the story is fictional, it carries many emotional truths and a few based-on-a-true-story bits.Although the story is fictional, it carries many emotional truths and a few ‘based-on-a-true-story’ bits.
HMC: So many important and wonderful themes in your book – being Jewish in the United States, music, learning to live in a foreign country, making new friends, and an exploration of the issue of genetically modified food. Can you talk more about what it was like to write Shai’s experiences dealing with antisemitism?
NN: The main incident of blunt antisemitism that is described in the book is based on a true event that happened to my daughter. Shaping and incorporating that experience into a work of fiction helped me gain insight and in a way, like with other issues I tackled in the book, it was a cathartic process. In real life, Shai kept this incident from me and my husband for years. I hope young readers will draw courage to speak up when caught in similar unfortunate situations.
Tackling Misconceptions and Skewed Opinions
HMC: The subject of food and science is important to Shai—can you talk more about how you became inspired to write about food science?
NN: As writers, what we’re concerned/intrigued/passionate about, finds its way into our writing, and such was the case with GMOs in this book. I’ve always been intrigued with science, my husband has been in the biotech industry for many years and my dad is a scientist.
I worry when important issues, which are too nuanced to be summed into infographics, are shared and reposted carelessly on social media. The ease in which information (and misinformation) is spread these days allows for misconceptions and skewed opinions to be regarded as facts. This goes for how we view new inventions in science as much as it goes for how some perceive the state Israel, so it made sense to me to tie in the controversies of GMOs into the book.
Bridging the Gap Between People
HMC: One of my favorite lines in the book is, “Music is my favorite language now.” Do you play trumpet like your main character, Shai? Do you love the language of music as much as she?
NN: I do love the language of music! I believe it can bridge the gaps between people of all backgrounds. When we listen to music we tap into universal emotions. Music has the power to connect people in a magical way.
(and it’s pretty cool that music notes are the same all over the world).
I myself never played an instrument (I wish I did…), but my daughter Shai played the saxophone in the school band, and she still remembers how in her first tough months when English didn’t come easy, she eagerly waited for seventh period Band, where she felt less of an outsider when immersed in the language of music.
The fictional Shai plays the trumpet since (research has taught me) it’s the easiest instrument to play with a broken arm. (For those who haven’t read the book yet, Shai breaks her arm before the beginning of the school year).
HMC: Each of your chapters has three words. Is there a thematic or symbolic reason for that choice?
NN: Hmmmm. Thematic or symbolic reasoning would have been clever of me… but admittedly, it was a happy accident. I first used the words for myself, just to sum up what happens in each chapter as I wrote it, later deciding (with the support of my critique group) that it does a good job at hooking the reader and hinting what’s to come in each chapter. I suspected this might be cut out at the editing stages, but it remained as an integral part of the book.
Including Easter Eggs
HMC: Authors often include so-called “Easter eggs” in their books—do you have any in Not So Shy?
NN: I love this question! There are some “Easter eggs” in the book. Very few are consciously intentional (the name of the middle school Shai attends, for example, is a nod to the middle school my kids attended, I deliberately slightly distorted the name). Other surprise eggs (which my kids claim to have found) were woven in unintentionally, and so far I have yet to admit otherwise… 😉
((Enjoying this interview on WNDMG? Read this one from our vault, with contributors Jonathan Rosen and Melissa Roske))
Finding Personal Resonance
HMC: What part of writing this book was for you personally, for Noa Nimrodi?
NN: A pretty big part… When I began writing this book from the perspective of my daughter Shai, I believed I was drawing from the experiences of my three kids (we moved from Israel to the US when they were seven, twelve and fourteen). But as I tapped deeper into the emotions of my main character, It dawned on me that I was also writing about myself (by the age of twelve I’ve moved from Israel to the US and back, twice). I realized in hindsight that subconsciously I was uncovering layers of feelings and emotions that were tucked away for decades. (Maybe I was writing for twelve-year-old-me…)
Writing the Next Book
HMC: Can you tell us anything about your next project?
NN: I’m working on a middle grade novel which is pretty different than Not So Shy, but in a way also reflects my concern with misconceptions. I’ll vaguely say it has elements of mystery, bits of magic, a pet pig, a sassy parrot, twin sisters who’s older sister mysteriously disappears and a misunderstood elderly Holocaust-survivor neighbor facing Holocaust denial in the gossip-driven town they live in.
I’m a slow writer, and my agent hasn’t even seen any part of this one yet, so you probably won’t see it on shelves anytime soon.
HMC: Bonus question! Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to share with us?
NN: I’d love to share how much it means to me to belong to the 2023Debut group. There is such a great sense of comradery in this group, and such heartwarming interactions of likeminded people all rooting for each other. I’m so glad I got to meet you through this group, Heather, and I want to take this opportunity to recommend your fantastic debut Indigo and Ida to everyone reading this interview— I loved it. I’m thrilled that our books are coming out on the same day! (along with another excellent debut— Good Different, by the talented Meg Eden Kuyatt! Looking forward to the triple book-birthday on 4/4/23 !!)
HMC: For those of us who plan to visit Israel one day (HMC raises hand) what is one thing you (or Shai) would tell us we MUST do?
NN: Oooo! This is a tough one! Just one thing? Ok, besides the obvious touristy musts (you don’t need me for those), I’d say take a walk on the beach in Tel Aviv and have an Israeli breakfast in one of the restaurants located on the waterline with your bare feet in the sand. Continue to Shuk Ha’Carmel and take in the sounds, the colors, and the flavors of this one of a kind market. Get a freshly squeezed cup of juice (orange, carrot, pomegranate, or a mix!), and if you’re not too full from breakfast have some falafel, or shwarma. Ok, I’ll stop here, I can go on and on, especially about the food, because food in Israel is seriously the best in the world (and Shai would say the same).
Thank you so much, Noa! Best of luck to you with your debut … and I look forward to reading more titles by you one day soon.
About Noa Nimrodi
Noa Nimrodi is an Israeli-American author/illustrator living near the ocean in Southern California. As a designer, oa worked on displays in bookshops and gravitated most to children’s books, sparking her passion to create her own. Two of her Hebrew-language books, one which she also illustrated, have been published in Israel. When not writing, Noa can be found reading a variety of genres, creating all sorts of art, and running on the beach in Carlsbad (with or without her two dogs).
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