Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Katie Specht is talking with A.M. Grotticelli, author of The Bond.
FQ: Your career is in journalism. What led you to decide to write a book?
GROTTICELLI: The Bond is a story that I have lived with for over 40 years. It was time to share it with the world. The hope is that it can bring some sense of understanding to a confused and frustrated foster kid like I was. My thesis: foster kids are people too.
FQ: Did you interview anyone from your past while you were in the process of writing this book, and if so, who?
GROTTICELLI: I interviewed all of my brothers and sisters for the book. This is their life too. It was important that I get the stories right, so I gave everyone a first draft and let them comment on specific stories I had recollected. If three of them agreed that the story was true, it stayed in the book.
FQ: What was it like transitioning from the type of writing you typically do for your career in journalism to authoring a memoir?
GROTTICELLI: The transition was not easy. As a technology journalist, my goal is always to be accurate and not fill my stories with opinion or biased observation. In writing a memoir, it was important to make the story interesting and to “show” what happened as opposed to “telling” what happened. That’s the biggest difference between the two disciplines.
FQ: The stories you share in your book are very specific. Were these experiences from your past easy for you to recall and write down?
GROTTICELLI: From a very young age I was obsessed with writing in my diary and I used some of that for the book. But I also have a good memory and can recall very specific things that happened long ago. Not every story made it into the book. But that’s what makes a good writer, I believe, having a good memory. There’s that and being a good yarn spinner, which I’ve often been accused of.
FQ: Were your siblings involved in any part of the creation of this book and if so, how?
GROTTICELLI: See Response to Question #2. It was important that they all knew about and participated in the creation of this book. Some of them wanted very little to do with it, as they felt it was better to leave bygones in the past, but most were actually happy that our story was being told—even if it was really my personal memory of it.
Sometimes three people can experience the same things and come away with three different reactions. When the story was not about me specifically, it was important to get those people that were directly involved to let me know if I got it right. I tried to find the general consensus and embellish it a bit.
FQ: Having seen the other side of foster care, would you ever consider being a foster parent to children within the foster system?
GROTTICELLI: I have three children of my own, so I didn’t consider foster care of another child. I have been involved in programs like Big Brothers of New Your City, as a way of giving back. Foster care was a bad experience for me, so I wasn’t anxious to get involved unless I was 100 percent committed. Fostering a child is a lifelong commitment that I wasn’t prepared for. I didn’t want to make the same mistake my biological father made: My own children came first.
FQ: It is a bit ironic that today you reside in the same city where you lived with Mr. and Mrs. Nelson. Can you explain a bit about why that is?
GROTTICELLI: I actually do not live in Huntington, NY any longer but I did live there for ten years (exactly the amount of time I spent in the Nelson’s house). It was interesting, however, and a bit fateful, that a home on the water in Huntington became available and my wife and I decided to buy it. The irony was not lost on me and moving to Huntington became the impetuous for actually sitting down and writing the book. During the writing, I would often drive over to the old house on Bryant Drive and sit outside to refresh or summon memories.
I didn’t plan to live in Huntington, ever again, but there I was. I didn’t resist it I was re-invigorated by it. Life is funny that way.
FQ: I can imagine that writing a story this personal must have been emotional. Can you share a bit about your experiences while writing your book?
GROTTICELLI: It’s interesting that my wife tells people I was an emotional (moody) wreck during the writing process, but I don’t remember it that way. I was laser focused on getting it down on paper and sharing the story with the world. All of the bad feelings surrounding my fostercare experienced had long since passed by the time I wrote The Bond, or so I thought. In reading the book, one reviewer said, “There’s anger ion every page.” I never planned for that to happen.
FQ: How has living through such a tumultuous childhood shaped who you are as a parent?
GROTTICELLI: As I say in the book, the biggest effect it has had is that the Nelsons taught me how NOT to treat your kids. It helped me turn negative feelings into fresh, positive ones. There have been many times when a situation would come up with my kids and I would think “That’s how the Nelsons did it, but it’s not how I will.”
As a parent I’ve learned that everyone’s opinion counts. I might not agree, but we all have a say. You grow as a person by discussing problems openly with the confidence that someone is actually listening, That’s how you grow as a person and that’s what I’ve always given my kids, because it was never the case living in the Nelson’s home.
FQ: Could you offer any advice to a child who is currently in the foster system?
GROTTICELLI: Advice is a tricky thing to give a kid in foster care. They don’t want to be there and it was of no fault of their own that that are. Foster children often find themselves discarded, unwanted, abused, and malnourished, among other things. There’s a stigma attached to themselves that is difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. The Bond attempts to shed a light on what it means to be a foster kid, from my very personal perspective. When I was writing I was keenly aware that there are not a lot of books that let the foster kid express what’s on their mind, or ones in which kids are not looked at as a number (or a tragedy).
What I can offer them is the path that I took and how I came through it. It isn’t the same for every foster kid, but maybe if they see someone like them coming out the other side, that might resonate and give them the tools to be the happiest and confident they can be. Since the book has been available I have spoken with and emailed with several kids who have express their gratitude in my getting the story—their story too—right.