12 June, 2013

#GuestPost :: Midnight at the Taj Mahal by Brynn Olenberg Sugarman

Brynn Olenberg Sugarman is a native of New York City, but lives in Ra’anana, Israel. She visited India several years ago and fell in love with both India and the Taj Mahal. After being published in several poetry anthologies and writing the award-winning children’s book, Rebecca’s Journey Home, Brynn went with her feelings about the awesome Taj and wrote Midnight at the Taj Mahal, a Middle Grade/YA time travel adventure. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from SUNY Binghamton, and an MA in English Literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  Brynn is married with three children (the eldest of which is currently trekking in Northern India!) She also has a gregarious dog and an extremely vocal cat. When she isn’t writing, she teaches ESL to Israeli kids. She adores travel, animals, Indian and East Asian food, and her sun-filled, fun-filled Mediterranean lifestyle. Midnight at the Taj Mahal is the first volume in The Out-of-School Adventures series.


Guest Post

When I first saw the Taj Mahal, I was amazed by its beauty. Being a hopeless romantic, I was likewise mesmerized by the story of Shah Jahan’s love for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It begged to be written about, but by a different perspective than the purely historical. I have always been an avid reader. In addition to that, I am intrigued by time travel, and count The Chronicles of Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, Time and Again, and The Time Traveler’s Wife among my all-time favorite books. I am also a fan of travel, period, so the idea of combining a sabbatical year, where the protagonists encounter intriguing historical facts and exotic cultures, with a mystical twist, drew me in. 

My first book, Rebecca’s Journey Home, is about the adoption of my daughter, Rachele, from Vietnam. It is written from a Jewish perspective, and its message is that a person can be many things at once: in this case both Jewish and Vietnamese. It was published by Karben/Lerner, and won a Sydney Taylor Award. 

In spite of the success of my first book, when it came time to looking for a publisher for Midnight at the Taj Mahal, I realized that, thanks to the internet, the publishing industry had gone through a radical change in only a few short years. Going Indie was now acceptable, even laudable. In spite of my less than perfect technical skills, I decided to go for it. Amazon’s Createspace/KDP accommodated me and gave me a way to revamp my manuscript into both a paperback and an ebook. Later, I added my book to Smashwords, in order to diversify and reach out to a greater audience. 

Of course, the Beatles knew it well when they sang “I get by with a little help from my friends”. My husband, Dov, helped me with the technical aspects, and an old friend of mine in London, Adam Benjamin, was invaluable when it came to both technical know- how, lay-out, website construction, and graphic art. 

For my book’s cover, I went on elance and chose an illustrator, Dasguptarts, whose work fit my style vision. He is Indian: somehow there was poetic justice in hiring an Indian illustrator to work on a project about the Taj Mahal. I feel similarly about finding Debdatta, a blogger based in India: the Taj Mahal may be a world heritage site but it specifically belongs to India’s grand history and culture. Although India, in the book, is seen through the untutored eyes of American kids, it includes many Indian protagonists, including one who is Zach and Hailey’s age. I hope that Indian readers will be among those who discover and enjoy Midnight at the Taj Mahal. 

Social media has helped me to get the word out about my book: I joined LinkedIn and Goodreads, and made sure that my book has both a Facebook page and a website, midnightatthetajmahal.com.

And now for the story! 


Thirteen-year-old twins, Zach and Hailey, are on a trip around the world with their parents, history professors who photograph and write about famous historical sites. First stop? Agra, India! 

While Mom and Dad can only scrape at the past, Hailey and Zach dive right into it, by literally plunging into the pool at the Taj Mahal. They are two ordinary American kids on an extraordinary quest. Their Indian driver’s son, the brilliant Sushil, completes the trio. The story also includes Mogul ruler Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, and his daughter, Jahanara, as well as a cryptic bookshop keeper, a magical diary, and a series of time-travel feats with fluky consequences. With action-packed sword fights and a mutual crush between Hailey and Sushil, there is something compelling for both genders.

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Although the story’s plot is obviously the stuff of fantasy, the Taj Mahal is deservedly one of the world’s towering wonders, and the book demanded careful research. Young readers will gain jam-packed knowledge of the Mogul period in India, and the empire of Shah Jahan, whose agony at the loss of his wife led to architectural grandeur.

As for me, it became clear that Zach and Hailey’s adventures should not end with Midnight at the Taj Mahal. After all, their trip is a whole sabbatical year long. That leaves plenty of time for more time travel destinies and destinations. It was with this realization that The Out-of-School Adventures was born. 

Next stop? Jerusalem, Israel!

What are people Saying?

Once you pick up this book you will not want to put it down until you complete the adventure with the characters and even then you will be left with a great want to read the next installment. A must read young adult book for all ages. ~~  Angels R Kids/Furkids on Amazon

While reading about the journey of the kids in the story, we took tangents along the way to learn new things: where India was located, how to get to India from where we live, what the population is, what a rickshaw was, and, of course, time travel. Shhh, don't tell my son the book was educational! ~~ Sharon Farber on Amazon

Many historical novels have bored me but Brynn has written a novel that kept me engaged, and interested. I finished the book rather quickly and I stayed up late to finish it. I definitely recommend that you read this book and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series to be set in Jerusalem. ~~ Melissa on Amazon

Provides an interesting perspective on historical events not familiar to most Western audiences, with the promise of more to come in future adventures for Hailey and Zach. ~~ Jacob on Goodreads

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1 comment:

  1. I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect! Feel free to stop by my blog: http://penpaperpad.com.

    Tamara

    ReplyDelete

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