Award Winning Long Island Teen & Children’s Author Selene Castrovilla. She is a local Momee of two teenage sons: Michael (19 years old) and Casey (14 years old).
I got the joy of meeting Selene at the Connetquot Literacy Luau in May. She was one of the Long Island authors I met amongst many that I really enjoyed speaking with. I knew I needed to find out more about her, so I decided to spotlight her and share the information I learned about her with all of you.
What would you say is your passion and your reason for writing?
Selene: “My reason for being is writing and sharing words with the world. My passion is history and the humanity in it. “
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
Selene: “The minute I picked up a pencil I knew how to use it. However it was not till I had my kids and I was in my 30s did I become a writer.”
Tell me about the book Revolutionary Friends (which is your latest book)?
Selene: “Kids have been reacting very well to the book Revolutionary Friends since it came out earlier this year. The concept is friendship and caring. Kids can relate to relationships (friendship) and especially using historical figures I need to reach them with the humanity of the characters.”
You can purchase Revolutionary Friends—> click here
“In the story Revolutionary Friends I talk about the relationship between George Washington and Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. Lafayette was from France and when he as 2 years old his father died fighting the war in Germany. Lafayette came from a family of money and when he was 19 years old he decided to move with a cause to America; he wanted to be glorious. Even though the King of France said no, Lafayette built a boat and got a crew and sailed for America to help them during the Revolutionary War. When he arrived to America he stopped in Philadelphia ( where they did not want him at first). Lafayette met with Washington right when the British were about to attack and he instantly thought of him as a son. Washington was not very kind to people and did not form relationships very quickly with people. The only other person he liked as much as Lafayette was Benedict Arnold ( which we know from the history books ends up becoming a trader). The book continues with a heartwarming story of Washington and Lafayette’s relationship during a significant part of U.S. History the Revolutionary War.”
* Any child can use the book Revolutionary Friends as a resource in writing an essay. The story is fact and would be a great reliable resource to assist in their writing.
When writing a history based book for kids, is it difficult to come up with one they will find interesting?
Selene: ” When writing a history book for kids you first have to make sure the entire story is true but you are also have to make it exciting. When writing I include the human aspects, psychology and how they feel. Kids can relate to relationships and they appreciate people and what they did for us. We wouldn’t be a country without these guys. We don’t really get to know them in the history books. It takes me a long time to write the books because I have to make sure all my facts are truth and then I have to turn the facts into a story. Also it is harder for me to write picture books.”
Can you tell me about how you chose to write about By the Sword?
You can purchase by the Sword —> click here
Selene: ” The story takes place the August after the Declaration of Independence was signed. The main character in the book is Benjamin Tallmadge who was a teacher. During the Revolutionary War, Tallmadge was teaching in Connecticut and decided to enlist in General Washington’s Army. He brings his faithful horse to with him to Brooklyn (Battle of Long Island) the story shows the humanity of a soldier during this time.”
Selene used the memoirs of Tallmadge to write this story and she did a great job of adding a human face to a war that is part of our Long Island history. Click here for teaching guide.
As Selene tells me about her first two history based children’s books I am so intrigued to learn more. Her passion for history is very apparent in how she describes the characters in her book. What is amazing is that these are real characters and she has a great sense of their personality and does a great job of expressing their human story during a time of war. I am amazed being raised on Long Island and learning about history in school that I had no idea that these events occurred here. I think if you can put a relationship based story like Selene has done with her books then kids would be more interested in the history and how much involvement Long Island did have during this time in history. I think her writings can get more kids excited about history and I applaud her for that.
So your first two stories sound wonderful can you please tell me about Upon Secrecy?
You can purchase Upon Secrecy—> Click here
Selene: “I was talking with a friend of mine who told me that there were spies in Setauket during the time of the American Revolution. She told me about a woman who would hang her clothes on a clothes line a certain way as a message to help Washington. I was so intrigued to learn more about this and could not believe that there was a Spy Ring here on Long Island. The “spy ring” was thought of by Washington and he called upon Long Islanders to be spies and find out as much as they could about the British Military plans because at that time we were living among the British. In the book I talk about Abraham Woodhall ( a long Island farmer), Robert Townsend from Oyster Bay ( who was a Quaker at the time who went against his religion to be a spy) and Major Benjamin Tallmadge ( a Setauket native) who Washington called upon to organize what was called the Culper Spy Ring. For nearly two years these spies risked their lives and the story speaks of the war and how Long Island spies were a crucial part to the war. It is exciting and interesting to read about and I enjoyed writing about it.”
You not only right about history you have written two young adult novels geared toward teenagers. What do you like about writing from a teenage perspective that they can relate to?
Selene: ” There Is nothing more human than a teenager” This is a time of tough transition from child to adult. They are trying to find their identity and this can be a time of loneliness and they can feel like an outsider. I can relate because I had a rough time as a teenager where I felt like an outsider. I look back now and what I thought were “truths” may have not have been the truth. I want teenagers to know that they need to take a step back and realize that they are really okay!”
When writing the book Saved by the Music what connection did you have to the book?
You can purchase Saved by the Music—> click here
Selene: ” When writing Saved by the Music I had a tough time because it is hard to write from a personal perspective (for me). Willow (the girl character) was me as a teenager. All her emotions and struggles I went through during my teenage years. The story takes place in the Summer and is about an unusual friendship formed by two self destructive teenagers. The barge where the story takes place is an actual place that my aunt switched from a coffee barge to a floating concert hall. An unlikely romance starts between the two main characters, Willow and Axel as they also try to find their own identities.”
When we met in May, you and I spoke about Shakespeare, what would you say is your favorite quote/ tragedy he had written?
Selene: ” My favorite Shakespeare quote is “Things won are done, joy’s soul lies in the doing.” As for my favorite tragedy it has to be Macbeth. I learned to love and respect Shakespeare when I was in high school. My English teacher Mrs. Israel who taught English at Lawerence High school in Atlantic Beach where I grew up defined my life. She was my inspiration and one teacher I will never forget.”
Lastly, can you tell me about the book The Girl Next Door?
You can purchase The Girl Next door —> click here
Selene: ” I actually wrote this story based on a dream I had. At the time I was writing my thesis on the Catcher in the Rye. I woke up saying Jesse is dying and began writing the book. The main theme of the book is: Death can never rob us of the love we give away. Focus on love and the good things in life.”
I really enjoyed interviewing Selene and I can not thank her enough for taking the time to speak with me. She is so interesting and a joy to talk to. She has inspired me to look further into Long Island history and continue a relationship with her to learn more. She is full of knowledge and heart. She is a long Island author who writes about humanity and does a wonderful job doing so and it shows through her books.
and visit her website: Selene Castrovilla Author
- Revolutionary Friends: General George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette (bataviapubliclibrary.typepad.com)
- Author Spotlight: Dorothy McPartland (momeefriendsli.wordpress.com)
- Author Spotlight: Yvonne Capitelli (momeefriendsli.wordpress.com)