Literarily Speaking with ‘Save the Last Dance’ Eric Joseph and 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 hargrovepress.com – 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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About the Book:
Title: Save The Last Dance
Author: Eric Joseph & Eva Ungar Grudin
Publisher: Hargrove Press
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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Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Eva and Eric! Tell us where you are from?
Well, originally we both grew up in Cleveland, Ohio – first in the city, then in Cleveland Heights. Eric: After high school, I went to the University of Chicago, and Chicago has been my home ever since. Eva: For many decades Massachusetts has been home for me – Williamstown, in the Berkshires.
Q: How did you come up with your title?
We liked the title, Save the Last Dance, because the song belonged to our era. As teenagers in love we danced to it. And the lyrics suited us too. This novel tells a story, like our own, of teenage sweethearts reunited after fifty years apart. We have “danced” with many other people over the years, only to realize that we wanted the last dance to be with each other. The title also lets you know the characters are still whirling, far from old, despite the years.
Q: They say you can judge a book by its cover. Can you tell us a little about your cover and who designed it?
The cover of our book was created by Maureen Nicoll, a prominent collage artist. We believe she subtly captured all the themes of the novel’s complex and flawed romance. The cover is subdued – a worn baby bootie – blue with blushes of pink. There’s also an arm with a tattoo of two love birds holding hands as they fly free of a cage. We’re delighted that Ms Nicoll created such an elegant and evocative cover.
Q: Can you tell us something about your book that would make me run out and buy it?
Our novel is unique and powerful. To date it has received 23 five star reviews on Amazon. No other novel has a full set of characters and plot unveiled entirely through emails and texts. Readers seem to enjoy eavesdropping on the lives of characters caught in an extraordinary situation – the return and power of first love.
Q: Are there any messages in this book that you want the reader to know about?
Yes, there are a few messages we sought to convey.
– First love may be the most powerful bond between two people.
– The pull of first love likely to disrupt the course of your life and the lives of those around you.
– A person should be open to take chances at any stage of your life.
Q: What was your most favorite chapter to write and why?
Eva: My favorite chapter was the first. There the main characters, Adam Wolf and Sarah Ross, reestablish their love before the rest of the world has had chance to find out and intrude.
Eric: I think my favorite section was the one that described the fiftieth high school reunion. Much of what Adam recounts is a caricature of my own fiftieth reunion. In the novel, Adam Wolf speaks sarcastically. Not the author. I, the author, had an enjoyable time, but the organizers of my reunion are unhappy with me. Could someone tell them Save the Last Dance is fiction?
Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book?
Reconnecting after fifty years was the catalyst for our writing a novel. Within a few weeks of corresponding, 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.
Q: Now, some fun questions – What deep dark secret would you like to share with us?
In our novel the main characters talk about how their fathers mistreated them when they were children. These stories are factual. Until we wrote this book, we had kept these episodes secret, even from each other.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Eva: Gee, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Iceland, the pace of life there, the physical beauty of the country and the good people who live there. That’s where I’d like to go.
Eric: I would like to return to the Hopi Mesas in Arizona. I believe it’s the most beautiful place in the world.
Q: Are you a morning person or a night person?
Eva: I’m definitely a morning person and, except for my parents, have never been in a relationship with another morning person. I’m filled with ideas in the morning and ready to jabber as soon as I wake up. My friends and family beg me to let them wake up first, to have their coffee. They say they need time to shake of their sleep. So I keep quiet, but I do a lot of writing in the morning. By lunchtime my brain gets mushy.
Eric: I guess I’m neither a morning person nor a night person. My most productive time, if I don’t eat too big a lunch, is from 1:15 -3:10.
Q: Are there any members in your family who also like to write?
Our children are extraordinary writers. Eric: My 30-year-old son, Logan, is probably the best writer I know. Eva: And I can say the same about my 30-year-old daughter, Sophia. She has that remarkable ability to describe something with originality. She once labeled my tone of voice as one of “preemptive exasperation”.
Q: As a child, were you a dreamer?
Eric: I’m still a dreamer. Some dreams have come true, most have not. Completing this novel was a long-held dream that was finally realized.
Eva: Certainly our reunion was a dream, a quiet fantasy I carried with me all my life.
Q: Last but not least, the magic genie has granted you one wish. What would that be?
Eric: I wish to see the day when peace reigns, racial and gender equality is achieved and humans walk on the surface of Mars.
Eva: I wish to see our country work together, intelligently, again. And, I’d sneak in another wish to the genie. I’d wish our book to be picked up by Oprah.
Thank you so much for this interview! Do you have 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.
Thanks so much for this interview. We loved your questions.