Sometimes the stories we are meant to tell take us out of our comfort zones. That was certainly the case for Darcey Rosenblatt as she was nudged to write what became her debut novel, Lost Boys, (Henry Holt). I am proud to shine the spotlight on Darcey and her book today!
Based on historical facts, my debut novel LOST BOYS tells the story of Reza, a 12-year old Iranian boy who lives for music and hanging out with friends. Then the Revolution of 1979 and the Iran/Iraq war take away not only his music, but too many people he loves. In his despair and at his mother’s urging, he signs up to fight. Reza ends up in an Iraqi prisoner of war camp where he must find a way, through music and friendship, to forge his own path.
The idea for this story came to me like lightning — complete with one of those spine-tingling, goose bump-filled moments that writers learn not to ignore. Host Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air was interviewing P.W. Singer about his book Children at War which is about the global use of children as soldiers. The story of what happened to a generation of Iranian boys took only a few minutes of an hour-long interview, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what it must have been like to be a boy in Iran in the 1980’s. I’d read the wonderful graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, which tells the story of this period of time through a young girl’s perspective. My first thought was, “Someone needs to tell this story from the boy’s perspective.” My second thought was, “That someone isn’t me.”
I’m not Muslim. I’d never been to Iran or Iraq. But I spent my formative years as a Jewish girl in Salt Lake City with many Mormon friends, so I am hyper-aware of the journey we take from the religious ideas and practices of our parents to owning our own beliefs. That journey is a complicated but common right of passage. Reza’s case is a severe example of this coming of age experience: he is expected to want to die a martyr. I felt strongly it was a story that needed telling.
For months after hearing this interview, I tried to work on other projects, but I found myself researching what happened to these young boys. My research brought me several first hand sources that convinced me that 1) no one else was telling this tale and 2) with the help of people who had lived through these times, I could take on the challenge of telling a story so outside my personal experience. Over the course of writing this book I had the help of several additional readers of Iranian descent who read and commented on my work in progress.
It took me over a decade to write and sell this book. I was working full time and being a parent, but I think it was also waiting for the right time and the right people. I was able to sign with my dream agent, Erin Murphy, and she brought me to the wonderful folks at Henry Holt who, like me, wanted to get this story into the hands of readers, young and old. Find LOST BOYS at a store near you and I’m thrilled to say it’s will be out in paperback next summer!
Darcey Rosenblatt writes for middle grade and teenage people because she believes for them stories can be life changing – they were for her. Her debut novel Lost Boys (Henry Holt for Young Readers) was released in August 2017. Darcey is a cofounder of the annual Better Books Workshop for middle grade and young adult writers. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her fabulous husband and daughter, some fish, and the best dog in the world. You can learn more about Darcey at her website.
Awesome interview! What a great challenge to undertake. A writer who did hide from the muse!
I love Darcey’s insight into the ways her experience had unexpected connections to others’ experiences.