Authors & Illustrators
L.B. Schulman is the author of League of Strays, published by Abrams/Amulet in 2012. She lives in San Rafael, California. lbschulman.com.
A Conversation with L. B. Schulman
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
A: Twenty-some years ago, I heard an interview on NPR with a Holocaust survivor. A decade later, I stumbled upon an age-progressed photo of Anne Frank that imagined how she would look today if she had lived. Those two things combined in my mind to form the idea. I didn’t start writing the novel until five years ago, because I didn’t think I was a good enough writer to handle the concept. When I finally felt ready, I started by interviewing a Holocaust survivor. I was struck by his altruism in telling his story over and over again. I could only imagine how painful that would be. That’s when it hit me that in a short time, we wouldn’t have any more firsthand witnesses. Louis Schloss knew how important it was to share his story with everyone he met. It’s a powerful loss to only learn about history through textbooks.
Q: Why do you like to write for teens?
A: I love the adventures teens have. Many aren’t yet as risk-averse as adults or bogged down with too many responsibilities (at least not in literature). It’s an intense, trying, and memorable stage in life. So much is felt deeply, from joy to pain.
Q: Are any parts of Stolen Secrets autobiographical?
A: My stepfather was an alcoholic. Fortunately, he became sober when I was 13. I know all about how children of alcoholics take on the parenting role, and how complicated the relationship can be. I had one incident where my stepfather was driving me home from school drunk. I thought I was going to die. I used that in a scene with Livvy and her mom. There are definitely parts of me in Livvy’s character. We both resort to organizing to deal with chaos in our lives. When I am the most unhappy, my house is the cleanest.
Q: Who is your audience?
A: I don’t really think of Stolen Secrets as only for teens, even though it’s a young adult novel. Of course, many adults love to read young adult books, but even for those who haven’t discovered the genre, Stolen Secrets is a complex look at mature and timely subjects that I believe adults will enjoy, too. I recommend it for ages 11 to 110.
Q: Do you think the book reflects current times?
A: Years ago, when I wrote this, I worried that the part about the neo-Nazis coming to a liberal city like San Francisco might be too farfetched. Today, a month before its release, San Francisco is struggling with a decision to allow a hate group to rally on a family beach. We have all seen the damage that these people have caused lately. Everyone must do our part to speak louder than the haters about peace, understanding, and respect for each other. In large part, it’s up to the younger generation—the readers of this novel—to knit our communities together again. Kindness and love is the only way to heal the world.