Q: At least two of your heroes bear the label “troublemaker.”
A: Nelson Mandela’s given name, Rolihlahla, means “troublemaker.” You’re talking about the titles that start each hero’s entry in the book. I never designed the book to be read cover to cover, but bit by bit. The publisher pointed out that two of the heroes had the same title, “troublemaker.” But look which two are troublemakers: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. They are linked, I said.
Q: Did you have a hand in selecting the pictures in the book?
A: I picked every single one. We were trying to find the moment that made them great. But instead of picking famous pictures, we looked for ones that also show that these people are us. Instead of picking Albert Einstein with his tongue sticking out, I wanted to show him as one of us [relaxing on a porch]. The most important hero in this book is Teri Meltzer, my mother. When my publisher Rob Weisbach shut down, I called my mother and described what was going on. What she said to me is what I say to myself every day I sit down to write: “I’d love you if you were a garbage man.” I was writing this book for eight years. My mother died two years ago, and that really helped me to see what it needed to be. The most important pages in the book are the last two, which are blank so people can add their own hero’s story.
Brad Meltzer, author of “Heroes for My Son.” 7:30 p.m. Monday. Free. Marcus Jewish Community Center at Zaban Park, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. 678-812-4002, www.atlantajcc.org