Brynn Olenberg Sugarman
"Mediterranean Chic"

Publishing ‘Midnight at the Taj Mahal’

When inventing a dish, passionate chefs don’t need to wrack their brains for ingredients: the flavors suggest themselves. The same ideally holds for authors. So when it came to writing my first novel, the recipe begged for a hearty travel appetite, spiced with hours spent in time-travel reveries. I then added a dash of real time experience with kids, as both a parent and an educator. The result? “Midnight at the Taj Mahal,” a middle grade time-travel adventure story.

I visited Agra, India, as a newlywed, back in the 1980s. My husband Dov had just finished serving in the IDF, and we went off excitedly on our post-army travels. We called ourselves “youth in Asia,” but really it was anything but euthanasia, especially at the Taj Mahal. I was stunned by the beauty of the place, and by the story of Shah Jahan’s love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. That’s when I knew: It doesn’t get much better than this!

The Taj Mahal (image via Shutterstock)

I started writing “Midnight at the Taj Mahal” several years ago, putting it down, picking it back up, editing and revising. Although my picture book “Rebecca’s Journey Home” was published by Kar-Ben Publishing, by the time I was ready to look for a publisher for my second book, I realized that the internet had revolutionized the publishing industry. Going “indie,” or independent, was now considered respectable, giving the author significant control over the publishing process, readers a greater variety of choices, and the literary world a sense of democratization.

Exploring options, I found that Amazon’s Createspace/Kindle Direct Publishing provided just the format I needed to transform my manuscript into both a paperback and an ebook. Hard copies are printed on demand, so the financial risk to the author is minimalized. When it came to creating a cover, I turned to Elance, an internet-based virtual marketplace, and chose an illustrator from among a vast array of artists. I also contacted an old friend living in London who excels at both graphic skills and website construction. Social media is another industry brought to us by the internet: I joined LinkedIn, and made sure that my book has a Facebook page and a website,

The story’s protagonists are thirteen-year-old twins, the children of professors whose year-long mission is to travel the world, photographing and writing about fascinating historical sites. While Mom and Dad scratch at the past, Hailey and Zach plunge into it, by literally diving into the pool at the base of the Taj Mahal. They are two ordinary American kids on an extraordinary mission. Their Indian driver’s son, the precocious Sushil, completes the trio. The story also includes an imprisoned Mogul ruler and his princess daughter, a mysterious bookshop keeper with a magical diary, and a series of time-travel feats with fluky consequences. With action-packed sword fights and a mutual crush between Hailey and Sushil, there is something compelling for both genders.

The plot in the story is the stuff of pure fantasy. However, the Taj Mahal is deservedly one of the world’s great wonders, and the book required plenty of research. Middle grade readers will gain intimate knowledge of the Mogul period in India: the seventeenth century world of ruler Shah Jahan, whose sorrow at the loss of his wife led to architectural magnificence.

So…what is your literary recipe? Is it scholarly or fanciful, or, like mine, a combination of both? Concoct your own dish, mix and serve it up with a saucy touch: in the twenty-first century, anything is possible and your audience is waiting.

As for me, it became clear awhile back that “Midnight at the Taj Mahal” is not enough. After all, Zach and Hailey are off on a year-long trip around the world. That leaves plenty of time and opportunity for more time travel discoveries: it was with this realization that “The Out-of-School Adventures” series was born.

Next stop in the adventure? You guessed it: The City of David, Jerusalem!

About the Author
Brynn Olenberg Sugarman was born in New York City. She graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a BA in Creative Writing and from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem with an MA in English Literature. She is the author of "Rebecca's Journey Home," an award-winning children's book. She has also had both speculative fiction and children's stories published in a number of magazines. Brynn lives in Tel Aviv with her husband, Dov, where she enjoys writing and painting. She is passionate about Israel advocacy, travel, vegetarianism, animal welfare, the environment, archaeology, and literature.