The photo above is of me, Erndell Scott, as a child.
I am often asked if Otto and I share similarities. Many readers remark on how smart and intelligent Otto was at such a young age. They accept this in him but they do find it interesting, if not surprising.
I think when you spend as much time as I did writing Otto you form a bond and you can’t help to put yourself into your characters. We share the same curiosity and the same innocence about the world in many respects, but as far as intelligence I think Otto has me beat!
Otto is far more advanced beyond his years because of many things; his culture, faith and the era in which he lived in regard to value place upon education. Otto was of German origin of the Jewish faith. These characteristics, among many things, breathed of discipline, which influenced children to act accordingly, obeying rules, doctrines and behaviors. Unfortunately, you don’t have these disciplines and parental controls and systems of guidance in our country any more.
Supporting Otto’s culture and faith, was education, which in Europe was very advanced. This is the truth. Children were highly regarded, thus, education was an instrumental part that nurtured and developed their personalities, characteristics and intelligence. It’s a basic innate biological stimulus: teach your young to live so you may continue to survive as a species. I write of Otto and his family many times, about how they placed the arts, music and learning at the forefront. We even learn about Joseph’s upbringing and the values his parents, for good or in many cases ill, placed upon him. Otto and Joseph’s intelligence is believable because it’s based upon truth.
Lastly, Otto was forced into many adult themes and situations during his captivity throughout the war; he had to become smarter than his enemies and his environment so he may survive.
With this understanding, it is not surprising to see how Otto could be so well advanced, playing adult roles in adult themes. But you will also note that his childish nature rears its head often, because in the end, Otto, when not surviving in an adult world, is just a child.