What made you choose a YA story?
I hadn’t intended it as a YA story originally! I’ve always pursued picture books, but in grad school I began writing this as an adult story. It was my agent’s idea to make Gerta a teenager, and when I took that chance, the story practically wrote itself. When the character’s right, she tells you her own story!
Can you say in a few words what it was like to visit the concentration camps and the impact they had on your story?
It was difficult, of course, but necessary. It’s one thing to read about a place, or listen to someone tell you about it, but when I was in the physical places (Bergen Belsen, Terezin, Auschwitz), it felt like I’d been entrusted with something tangible to bring back to my readers—like a trunk of a loved one’s belongings, each with a story attached. These are places that change you. They’re terrible to go to, but anyone who can go, should.