Ear­li­er this week, Matthue Roth wrote about why kids love scary sto­ries. He will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

I was try­ing to fig­ure out how to get peo­ple to buy My First Kaf­ka from me direct­ly instead of, say, Ama­zon. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hap­py when any­one buys my book from any­where, but it’s a nice feel­ing when you actu­al­ly sell the copy your­self. (Also, you make slight­ly more than the 43 cents per copy or what­ev­er that you get from your pub­lish­er, but that’s a dif­fer­ent story.)

So I wrote this tiny mini-book. It’s a short sto­ry, and it’s called The Last Golem in Prague.” It was an eleventh-hour cre­ation in every sense. The books had just arrived in the mail, peo­ple were actu­al­ly buy­ing them, which I could­n’t (and still most­ly can’t) believe, and I had to send out some­thing. For months I’d sat in front of my note­book, page blank, won­der­ing what sort of sto­ry I should write for what­ev­er peo­ple might buy my weird chil­dren’s book. 

And then, at 11:59 or so, every­thing clicked together.

Here’s what I was­n’t think­ing when I start­ed writing:

a) I should write some­thing that sounds like Kaf­ka.
b) I should write a sto­ry for adults, since most­ly it’ll be adults buy­ing a copy for chil­dren and they deserve some­thing of their OWN to read, too, dammit.
c) I should read some­thing Kaf­ka would want to read.

…and a bunch of oth­er stuff, I wasn’t think­ing, either. What I was think­ing was how I used to live in Prague, in a stu­dent dorm that had a coun­try & west­ern dance club in the base­ment, and a con­vent sur­round­ed by vast woods next door. 

Now, I nev­er went down to the base­ment club (unfor­tu­nate­ly), and I nev­er went to the con­vent (even more unfor­tu­nate­ly), and just say­ing either of those things in a sto­ry is way too unre­al-sound­ing to be true. You can’t actu­al­ly write it because nobody will believe it. 

So I kept the details to myself, and I wrote a sto­ry that starts when I hear the pound­ing noise of the club and go down to inves­ti­gate. And I try to dance. I won’t tell you much more about the sto­ry, but it does fea­ture my two favorite themes in the world (loneliness/​isolation/​existential per­il and girls) and there is a golem involved. 

The Hid­den Track, Unfolded

I pulled back when I fin­ished. I real­ized that maybe I had­n’t writ­ten the sort of sto­ry that Kaf­ka would have writ­ten him­self, but there was more than a lit­tle bit of him that got sucked in. In the end, the sto­ry was­n’t about the place at all, but the feel­ings and the thoughts and the experiences.

Matthue Roths newest book is My First Kaf­ka: Rodents, Run­aways, and Giant Bugs. He lives in Brookyn with his fam­i­ly and keeps a secret diary at www​.matthue​.com.

Matthue Roth’s newest book is My First Kaf­ka: Rodents, Run­aways, and Giant Bugs, a pic­ture book, which will be released in June 2013. His young-adult nov­el Losers was just made a spe­cial selec­tion of the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion. He lives in Brookyn with his fam­i­ly and keeps a secret diary at www​.matthue​.com.