Thursday, November 10, 2016

Talking Books with Eric Joseph & Eva Ungar Grudin

Eric Joseph and Eva Ungar (Grudin) were teenage sweethearts in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, who set a wedding date when they turned 15. The last time they saw each other they were 21 years old. Three years ago they reunited, around the time of the 50th high school reunion. Although their book is a work of fiction, it's about a couple like them, who fall in love again, almost instantly, via email.

Eric is in public health, a consultant/educator at hospitals and clinics, concentrating his career on Native American health services across the country. Eva is an art historian who taught at Williams College in Massachusetts for 40+ years. She specialized in African and African-American art; the history of European painting: also Holocaust Studies - memorials and museums; In addition, she has performed in and written Sounding to A, a multi-media work about inheriting the Holocaust. It premiered at the Ko Festival of Performance in 2004.

Learn more about Eva and Eric and their history together by visiting - At the website you'll find memories about their time together in the late 50s, early 60s, as well as interviews from today.

Their latest book is the literary fiction, Save The Last Dance.
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Title: Save The Last Dance
Author: Eric Joseph & Eva Ungar Grudin
Publisher: Hargrove Press
Pages: 360
Genre: Literary Fiction
A tale of the power and peril of first love rediscovered.
Adam Wolf and Sarah Ross were teenage sweethearts who grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in the late 50’s and early 60's. They set a wedding date when they turned fifteen. The day came and went. For most of their lives the two were out of contact.
With their 50th high school reunion approaching, Adam and Sarah reconnect. Email exchanges - after the first tentative "hi", then a deluge- five, ten- by the end of the week twenty emails a day. Soon Sarah admits, "All my life I've been looking for someone who loves me as much as you did".

Written entirely in email and texts, Save the Last Dance allows the reader to eavesdrop on Sarah and Adam's correspondence as their love reignites. It also permits the reader to witness the reactions of significant others, whose hum-drum lives are abruptly jolted by the sudden intrusion of long-dormant passion. Can Sarah and Adam's rekindled love withstand the pummeling they're in for?

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Thank you for this interview! What do you do when you’re not writing?
Eric still works in public health-management and education. 
Eva is an art historian. She lectures and writes about art, and visits museums with Eric - for instance, the recent exhibition of American art 1930s, and the great new Kara Walker show at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
In what's left of our free time, Eric is an avid skater and hockey player, and is a full-fledged fan of Film Noir. Eva likes to exercise with a form of movement called NIA. She loves to read, hang out with friends, and stay in touch with many former students she's taught over the years. 

When did you start writing?

We both wrote a great deal of fiction and poetry, even as kids. When we were together as teens going steady, we read each other's work. Eric wrote movie reviews (for himself) starting at age ten, and a novel when he was fifteen. Though we published many articles and books in our own fields, Save the Last Dance allowed us to return to our first love, fiction.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

Our own reunion after fifty years was the catalyst for our writing a novel. Within a few weeks of reconnecting, we saw that our emails had a literary flair and wondered if we could write an entire novel based on emails and texts. The pivotal point came when we decided we could do it - and gave each other the courage to go ahead.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

Actually, for our next book, we're going to spend a lot of time in Washington D.C. digging through government files. We're planning to write a novel, based on a true story, about a kid who discovers his father is a double agent. Anyway, Washington's a great place to hang out.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

If we had four extra hours today, we'd spend two hours writing and the other two hours erasing what we wrote and starting over.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

Currently we're storyboarding a novel that starts in the locked psychiatric wing of a Chicago medical center.

Back to your present book, Save the Last Dance. How did you publish it?

On the recommendation of writers we knew, we first sent our book to one of their agents. She told us she loved Save the Last Dance, but explained that an intimate exploration of people's lives, doesn't suit the big publishing houses these days. Following an enthusiastic Kirkus review, our novel was picked up by a small start-up press.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

We've lived in many of the places that appear in the novel - Chicago, Cleveland, La Jolla. We were able to revisit them via the internet to get up-to-date and precise information. For example, we went online to find out how the rooms at the Del Coronado look now, and what their dinner menu offers.

Why was writing Save the Last Dance so important to you?

In our day we had always wanted to be writers. When we rediscovered each other, we also rediscovered our passion for writing.  Working collaboratively was actually part of our own re-bonding. Granted we're late bloomers, but we believe you stay young by never thinking you're too old to revisit your dreams.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

By working together we're able to identify and develop our best ideas. Our goal in writing is authenticity. In collabotating, we often explore episodes from our own lives and together decide if they'll fit the narrative.

Any final words?

While Save the Last Dance is for all adult readers, it speaks especially to the parents of many reading this blog. People closer to our generation might be uplifted by a story of first love rekindled. And our book may help people of all ages find the courage to change.

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