My inspiration for writing this book was, and is, my family. In my childhood apartment in Woodside, Queens, we danced on the living room linoleum floor. My mother taught me ballroom and my grandfather showed me Irish step dancing. This was supplemented by my extended family – neighbors – who invited me to join them in Spanish folk dancing, and later, into the world of Latin dance. I also took tap at a local school, but the real dance fever came from my family.
When I was writing Martina Ballerina, my little daughter Christina was just starting dance lessons. Even though I had just had a baby – my son Michael – I was already dragging the three of us to her lessons! I remember hefting the baby seat and coaxing the three-and-a-half year old up a steep flight of stairs to her class. Thank goodness it was just once a week!
But what else could I do? Dancing seemed like an essential – like swimming might be to those who live by the shore. It also had an allure that I felt from listening to my family’s stories. As a young woman my mother danced to live music played by Tommy Dorsey, his brother Jimmy, and their mother Pat. She danced to the Big Bands at places with names like the Tuxedo Ballroom. My grandfather performed at parties and dances in the old country before he came to America.
Naming the main character came from the natural inclination to rhyme. I considered Christina but decided to mix it with my grandfather’s name Martin.