Author Interview: April Lurie on Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds

April Lurie on April Lurie: “I’m a Brooklyn girl. When I write, I’m back in my old neighborhood reinventing my teenage life. But for the past fourteen years my husband and I have been raising our kids in Austin, Texas–a fabulous city with a vibrant and supportive children’s and young adult writers’ community.”

You last spoke to Cynsations in 2002 about your debut novel, Dancing In the Streets of Brooklyn (Delacorte, 2002). Could you fill us in on your writing life since that time?

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs since my fist novel was released. For two years (maybe more, I lost track!) I wrote and revised a summer camp story that never came together.

I’m very stubborn, but when I finally let it go I decided to take a risk and write a story about a shy, Scandinavian girl who gets mixed up with the Italian Mafia. I sent my editor the first three chapters and she loved it! I wrote Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds in nine months and during that time I think I found my voice. At least, I hope I did.

After that, I decided to try something different and write a story from a fifteen-year-old boy’s point of view. It was great fun. That book–The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine–will be coming out in May 2008 with Delacorte. I’m very excited.

Congratulations on the publication of Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds (Delacorte, 2007)! Could you tell us about the story?

Thank you! Sure. The year is 1977, and fourteen-year-old April Lundquist lives in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, home of the Colombo and Bonanno crime families. April has always felt safe in her neighborhood (who’s going to mess with the mob?), but when Salvatore “Soft Sal” Luciano, approaches April with a business proposition she can’t refuse, things begin to change.

Not only is April finding hundred-dollar bills in her school books, but now her older brother, Matt, is in serious trouble for dating a crime bosses daughter.On top of this, her long time crush, Dominick DeMao–bad-boy rocker and heart-breaker–is suddenly interested in her.

It’s a bit of a roller-coaster ride, but in the end, April learns a little about family, friends, and choosing the right guy.

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I really put myself out there because this story is partly autobiographical. I grew up in Dyker Heights and several mobsters lived on my block. When I was a kid I thought it was totally normal (doesn’t everyone live this way?), but as I got older I began to realize what a unique experience I had. Finally, I figured, hey, I should write about this!

What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Well, let’s see. It was quicker this time around! I began writing the story in early 2005, and finished by the end of the year. I have a wonderful editor at Delacorte who was kind enough to read parts of it along the way and offer advice. The only problem was the cover art. It was difficult to find a concept that worked. Then, right before the catalogs were about to be printed, my editor sent me a jpeg of the final art. I loved it! Definitely worth the wait.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

I was a teenager in 1977, but I still had to do quite a bit of research about the time period, i.e., fashion, movies, music. It was kind of like a refresher course. I read books about the Mob and watched all my favorite gangster flicks–“Goodfellas,” “Donnie Brasco,” “The Godfather”–which was very enjoyable. Of course, growing up around the Mafia helped a lot–I basically knew about their family life, what cars they drove, what clothes they wore, the lingo, the gestures, but of course the challenge was making it real for the reader. Hopefully, I did.

What do you love about the writing process and why?

I love coming up with an idea that excites me, and I love finding the voice of my protagonist. Writing is very solitary and sometimes I get lonely, so I enjoy the whole process of getting to know my characters so they seem like friends. I love working with my editor, who always seems to know how to make a story better.

What about do you wish you could skip and why?

The first draft can be daunting. Staring at the blank page when you’ve had a bad week and would rather be out having lunch with a friend is tough. But I wouldn’t skip any of it, really. Writing is a long, messy process and I suppose even the bad times are necessary.

How about publishing? What do you love about it? What do you abhor? And again, in both cases, why?

Hmm, publishing. Yes, I suppose we do have a love/hate relationship. I’ll admit, having a book published is a fabulous feeling. Kind of like giving birth. But then there are reviews and marketing pressures and (sometimes embarrassing) book signings. The highs and lows can be hard to deal with, especially when you are trying to be creative!

If you could go back in time to your beginning author self, what would you tell her?

Relax. Don’t worry so much. Take your time and enjoy life.