Today we are chatting with Stacy Nockowitz, author of The Prince of Steel Pier!
Read on for more about her, the book, and a giveaway!
Meet Stacy Nockowitz
Stacy Nockowitz is a middle school librarian and former language arts teacher with more than 25 years of experience in middle school education. Stacy received her BA from Brandeis University and holds Master’s Degrees from Columbia University Teachers College and Kent State University. She is also an MFA candidate in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Stacy received a PJ Library Writer’s Incentive Award in 2020 for her debut novel THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER, coming in September 2022 from Kar-Ben Publishing. An unrepentant Jersey Girl, Stacy still teases her hair and uses plenty of spray. When she’s not writing or matching great kids with great books, Stacy can most likely be found reading or rooting on her beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Her kids have flown the coop, so Stacy lives in central Ohio with her husband and their cat, Queen Esther. Find her on Twitter @snockowitz or at www.stacynockowitz.com
About the Book: The Prince of Steel Pier
A young teen falls in with the mob, and learns a lesson about what kind of person he wants to be
In The Prince of Steel Pier, Joey Goodman is spending the summer at his grandparents’ struggling hotel in Atlantic City, a tourist destination on the decline. Nobody in Joey’s big Jewish family takes him seriously, so when Joey’s Skee-Ball skills land him an unusual job offer from a local mobster, he’s thrilled to be treated like “one of the guys,” and develops a major crush on an older girl in the process. Eventually disillusioned by the mob’s bravado, and ashamed of his own dishonesty, he recalls words of wisdom from his grandfather that finally resonate. Joey realizes where he really belongs: with his family, who drive him crazy, but where no one fights a battle alone. All it takes to get by is one’s wits…and a little help from one’s brothers.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
When I was a little kid, my grandparents owned the St. Charles, a kosher hotel on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. My family spent a lot of time at the hotel, and while I don’t remember specific events there, I do remember a lot about how I felt when I was there. I wanted to recreate those feelings in The Prince of Steel Pier. I thought Atlantic City was a wonderland at that time of my life. My brother and I spent so much time out on the Boardwalk, in arcades playing Skee-Ball and pinball, on the rides at the piers, on the beach. We always stayed at my grandparents’ house for the weekend, and I tried to recreate that house exactly as I remember it in the book. My big, Jewish family had a huge influence on me– my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, not to mention my parents and my brother. I tried to give the book the flavor of my family and that time period in that specific setting.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
It’s hard to pick just one! I love the four brothers a lot, especially Simon. When the idea for the book first came to me, Simon’s character was a lot more sinister and mentally unstable. I like him as he is now, the rebel who doesn’t really stray too far from home. Simon has rough edges, but he’s very smart and emotionally vulnerable. I could probably write a whole book with Simon as the main character. He’s complex; he comes across as impulsive, but he’s actually quite calculating. He could have some great adventures…
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I think I’m most proud of the scene where all the adults are watching Joey play Skee-Ball and are betting on his rolls. That was such a fun scene to write, but there is so much going on! I had to incorporate a lot into a small space. The reader sees the dynamics among Artie’s crew for the first time and the hierarchy that Artie has established. It’s also a scene that creates a vivid contrast between Joey’s real family and his new “family,” and where Joey sees himself fitting in with both. Finally, the tension keeps ratcheting up as Joey rolls each ball, and that action is exciting. I visualized the scene like something from a movie as I wrote it, and I’m proud of the way I incorporated so much characterization into it.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
I’ve learned to be patient. The world of publishing moves much more slowly than I ever imagined. The process from writing to revising to acquisition to publication is neither quick nor smooth. The same goes for the revision process itself. Revising a novel means digging into every word you’ve put on the page, over and over again. You can always find a way to say something more elegantly or more succinctly or with more power. You have to learn to be determined but also forgiving of yourself and the other people who are helping to shape your book.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
The artist, Alisha Monin, did a brilliant job with the cover! There are so many things I love about it: the menacing hands closing in on Joey, the authenticity of the Skee-Ball alley, the tension in Joey’s body. The color palette has a great 70s vibe to it, and the title font gives that old arcade feel. One thing I particularly love is how we see Joey from the back, as if we are facing what he is facing. I think that point of view creates an immediate connection between the reader and Joey, like the reader and Joey are in this together.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2022?
I’m part of a 2022 debut novelists’ group, and I’m looking forward to all of my friends’ books coming out this year! My pal Erik Slangerup’s middle grade debut, Molly and the Machine, comes out June 7th, and I hope everyone will read it. It’s an action-packed adventure set in the 1980s. I’m also really looking forward to Michael Leali’s The Civil War of Amos Abernathy and Melissa Dassori’s J.R. Silver Writes Her World, two other middle grade debuts.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
I absolutely loved Brian Selznick’s Kaleidoscope. I think it’s a very special book. Kaleidoscope is a collection of interrelated short stories that have recurring motifs and themes. There’s a narrator. And there’s the narrator’s friend, James, who is a young boy or an adult, who is dead or is not yet dead. Plus, there are giants and ships and tunnels and snakes, and time may or may not be linear. And the whole time you’re reading the stories, you’re experiencing these moments of discovery and moments of grief and moments of uncertainty. And it is a Brian Selznick book, so there are fabulous illustrations. Kaleidoscope is more of a journey than a book, really. I wish I could read it again for the first time.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I am working on revisions of my next book now. This one is also a middle grade historical, but it takes place in the 1950s in the Bronx. It’s about a 12-year-old boy named Danny who is facing some very real dangers of that time, like antisemitism, blacklisting, and challenges to our First Amendment freedoms. The subject matter and themes are very relevant to our world today.
YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this book?
The Prince of Steel Pier contains lessons about strength and faith and identity. The main message of the book is that there are lots of different ways to be strong, and might doesn’t make right. Joey learns that true strength comes from love and family, not from brute force and intimidation. Joey is also undergoing a loss of innocence as the book progresses. The things he used to see through a child’s eyes (Atlantic City, his grandparents’ hotel, his grandfather) he begins to see through a different lens. These things are changing, aging; their time is passing, and he must come to accept that. Joey wrestles with the idea of faith throughout the book, too. What does it mean to have faith, especially in yourself?
YABC: What advice do you have for new writers?
The advice I’d offer is two-fold, or maybe opposite sides of the same coin. And it begins with this: Writing is a craft. There are certain people– experienced writers and mentors– who are so good at the craft of writing that you can learn incredible lessons from them if you’re willing to seek them out, listen, and take in what they say. On the other side of that, there are a lot of elaborate systems of writing that some people say you should follow to the letter. But if you do, what you’ll end up with is the most prescribed piece of writing possible, one that hits all the right beats but has no soul. So, my advice is to be very careful as you choose who to listen to and what path to go down in your writing. Seek out the experts who can help you understand and hone various aspects of craft, not the ones who want to sell you a step-by-step story writing methodology.
Book’s Title: The Prince of Steel Pier
Author/Illustrator: Stacy Nockowitz
Release Date: September 1, 2022
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Genre: MG Historical Fiction, Coming of Age
Age Range: 8-13 yeas
One winner will receive a copy of The Prince of Steel Pier (Stacy Nockowitz) ~US ONLY
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*