Karen Goldman’s debut fantasy, Jordan and the Dreadful Golem, incorporates Jewish mythology and is a tale of friendship as well as the power of teamwork in the face of adversity. Karen lives in Jerusalem, Israel and spends part of her time in Northern California. The Mixed-Up Files caught up with her as she was hard at work on a sequel.
1) You drew your antagonist, the golem, from Jewish mythology yet the setting is contemporary. What aspects of golem from traditional mythology did you keep in your text?
Traditionally, the golem looked just like an ordinary man as my golem does. The golem created by the Maharal of Prague had a word written on his forehead. The Hebrew word TRUTH (emet). My golem has the word DREAD written on his forehead. When the Maharal of Prague wanted to destroy his golem, he erased the first letter of EMET, which left the word MET, which means DEATH in Hebrew. The children in my story erase the letter R from the word DREAD which leaves the word DEAD. Also the golem was supposed to be silent or not have the ability to speak. My golem is a man of very few words.
2) How did you go about making the golem contemporary and relevant to 21st century children?
I created my golem in the image of modern men. My golem wore the same clothes as all of the other men in Kfar Keshet. He was the security guard at the school, and he wore the security guard uniform. He wore a baseball cap always. It was to hide the word DREAD written on his forehead. He drove a Harley Davidson motorcycle. There is even one chapter where he has a coffee date with the nurse from the health center. All of these things made my golem feel very 21st. century
3) The story is a fantasy and yet set in present day Israel where you reside for most of the year. How much of the setting is real and how much is made up?
In Jordan and the Dreadful Golem, I tried to create a very plausible modern day Israeli environment. The children in my story are very much like the children living in villages all over Israel. They are encouraged to explore the outdoors and to know the country on a personal basis, hence, the unchaperoned camping trip. Brothers and sisters feel a big responsibility for each other. There is also a respect for the wisdom and advice of the elderly.
4) You have a fairly large cast of kids with special abilities. If could have a special ability what would it be and why.
I love all of the abilities of my kids: becoming water, night vision, cloud forming, spider webbing. I think the ability I would like is to travel at supersonic speeds so I could see people and places all over the world. Jordan, in my story, wants to be able to fly. I guess that would be my favorite.
5) You are now writing a sequel. When you conceived of Jordan and the Dreadful Golem, did you see always see a larger story?
Yes. My original plan was to have four sisters, four matriarchs in four different villages. In each village, the kids would have different types of skills. In one of the communities, the kids can speak to each other through their minds without using cell phones. Lavan, the evil man in my first book, is the brother of all of these sisters.
6) What has been the most unexpected pleasure in writing your novel?
My most unexpected pleasure was having the help of so many wonderful people who were willing to read my manuscript, listen to my ideas and add thoughts of their own. I was open to the suggestions of all of these people and I feel they made my book the success that it is.