The Thrill of Family for Bestselling Novelist Brad Meltzer

Brad Meltzer, 45, is a bestselling novelist of thrillers like “The President’s Shadow,” and children’s books like “I Am Albert Einstein,” as well as a host for the History Channel’s “Decoded.” To research his thrillers, Meltzer has received help from fans like Presidents Bill Clinton and George HW Bush. His wife, Cori Meltzer, 45, is a lawyer and mediator at CFM Mediation. They live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with their three kids.

How did you meet and come to live together?

Brad: We started dating in ninth grade. Yes. Ninth Grade. She was the captain of the cheerleaders. I was a nobody who just moved to the school from Brooklyn. The first time I saw her, I looked at her and said to a friend, “I’m going to date that girl.” I was smitten.

Cori: Brad likes going after what he wants.

Brad: See, now you made it sound less romantic, more smutty.

How did you find your home?

Brad: We used to live in Washington, DC. Then we moved to Florida to be closer to family. This house was close to them, but not on top of them. We’re not crazy, y’know.

Cori: Brad works at home, so he needed a place where there’d be room for a home office.

Who takes out the garbage?

Cori: Brad.

Brad: I do. Though now my son is too. I started working when I was little, going to work at flea markets with my dad, who used to be in the shmata industry. It’s vital my kids learn what hard work is.

How are household chores divided among you?

Cori: I cook. Brad cleans.

Brad: I used to cook.

Cori: He cooked when I was working full time at an office. Now I’m home first.

Who makes breakfast?

Brad: Depends what day it is. One of use sleeps in on the weekends, the other gets up. During the week, it depends who has carpool.

Describe your typical week.

Brad: Chaos.

Cori: It’s not chaos.

Brad: It’s three kids, all of whom like their own thing. Though as they’re getting older, there’s more we can share together. Movies are key to help us unite. Especially old ones. “Ferris Bueller,” “Wayne’s World,” our kids still think it’s 1988. We also show classics like “I Love Lucy.” A point of pride: Our daughter knows who Harpo Marx is.

What’s the most unusual thing we’d see on your household budget?

Cori: Comic books. Brad reads tons of comic books.
Brad: Comics are one of the greatest Jewish traditions. Remember: Superman isn’t the most important part of the story. The most important part of the story is Clark Kent. Why? Because we’re all Clark Kent. We all know what it’s like to be boring and ordinary and wish we could do something incredibly beyond ourselves.

What do you love the most about the space you live in?

Cori: We built the interior to resemble our old 1918 house in Washington, DC. So it’s old DC mixed with modern Florida.

What’s the one story that gets told and retold in your home?

Brad: How we met.

Who was first to get up when a child started crying?

Brad: Cori was, when she was breastfeeding. After that, we’d take turns. I’d love those 3am moments though. As a friend taught me, it’s a moment that feels like it’s just you and your baby in the universe.

What would you serve at your ideal Sunday brunch?

Cori: Something cooked, not bought.

Brad: Good black and white cookies. You’d think in Florida, we’d have good ones. We don’t.

Do you have an ideal Sabbath dinner?

Brad: One with family and friends. All you need is that and some candles.

Who’s your favorite Jewish comedian?

Brad: Mel Brooks.

What is your favorite room in your home?

Brad: Family room. I love when all of us are on the couch, all together, all focused on one thing.

Cori: Whatever room is quiet.

What is your favorite piece of art or photograph in your home?

Brad: I love my Superman art, but nothing beats the three framed pictures my kids drew for my office. Love as art; art as love.
Cori: The photos Brad had taken of our kids’ favorite huggy dolls.

What is your happiest or saddest memory in your home?

Brad: My mom and dad dying. That sadness opened holes I didn’t know I had. And I know my holes. As for happiest, my son’s bar mitzvah brunch. All of our family and friends in one place. Perfection.

Describe your home life in three words.

Brad: Chaos. Funny. Loving. (Perhaps in that order.)

If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be?

Brad: I never thought I’d own a house. For my first 13 years, I was in an apartment, sharing a bedroom with my sister. My parent didn’t own their house until they were in their 50s. So I’m just thankful to even have a house.

If you could change one thing about your Jewish practice, what would it be?

Brad: To be more open on the regular days, not just on the crisis days.

Is there an active Jewish community near you? If not, how do you create your own?

Brad: Our synagogue isn’t far from our house. I buried my parents there and celebrated my son’s bar mitzvah there. It holds the best and worst of our days. I’ll always love it for that.

What’s one Jewish thing you do that defines your Jewish identity?

Brad: I say prayers every day. Every day. Every single day, I’m thankful for what I’ve been blessed with.

Does being Jewish distinguish you from others around you? If so, how?

Brad: I live in Florida. I can’t get away from fellow kvetchers.

What one moment stands out in your mind when you felt most connected to Judaism?

Brad: We took a trip to Thailand and it was during the High Holy Days. On Yom Kippur, we tried to find a synagogue. We kept asking taxi drivers, but none of them know what a Jew was. “Like Christ?” they’d ask. “More like Seinfeld,” we’d say. They had no idea. But somehow, in the middle of Thailand, we walked up to a door, opened it up, and a heavy guy with a New York accent said, “Come! You’re in time for food. Eat! Nosh!” Thousands of miles away and we were still home.

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