Welcome to the four hundred and thirty-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with memoirist Yvonne Bornstein. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Yvonne. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Yvonne: Hello. I was Yvonne Weinstock (now Bornstein) when, on January 6, 1992, I landed in Moscow on a business trip. I had just left the airport when I was ambushed, kidnapped, tortured and held for ransom for 11 horrifying days in a dilapidated country house by a gang of Russian “gypsies” who were in reality far more cold-blooded conspirators in a sinister plot that joined the Russian Mob, ex-KGB agents and early al-Qaeda operatives looking to fund terrorism, no matter the cost of human life.
Against all odds, the FBI and Russian intelligence agencies joined forces for the first and only time in history. It took me more than ten years after the traumatic experience to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.
I write from the heart about the devastating impact of the kidnapping on my marriage and my life, and share my new-found appreciation for the simple, meaningful things I had come to overlook in my drive to the top of the corporate business world lessons in life that apply to all of us. I currently reside in Australia.
Morgen: Wow. They say truth is stranger than fiction and what a story you have to tell. What have you had published to-date?
Yvonne: “Eleven Days of Hell”, published by New Holland Publishers, Sydney, Australia.
Morgen: Is your books available as an eBook? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Yvonne: My book is available via Ebooks and Kindle. I generally prefer turning pages.
Morgen: Most authors I’ve spoken to say the same. I like both although I read paper books at home because I have so many… my shelves would look odd without them. Did you have any say in the title / cover of your book?
Yvonne: Yes, I chose the title and assisted with the cover of my book.
Morgen: Now you’ve written and published your book, do you still write?
Yvonne: I blog as often as I can, referring to different aspects of kidnapping and trauma along with the aftermath of such an experience.
Morgen: Do you do any research ongoing?
Yvonne: I am always researching comparative stories, utilising this information for cathartic purposes. Not a day goes by when I am not transported back to that ghastly event.
Morgen: You sound a very strong lady, I’m not sure many people could do what you’re doing. I’m not sure how relevant this question is but do you enter any non-fiction competitions?
Yvonne: Yes, I entered an Independent competition in NYC for which I became a finalist.
Morgen: Congratulations. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Yvonne: An agent is helpful, however, they often are mailed / emailed too many submissions with which to cope therefore brilliant writers often are pushed aside for the commercial read. I have an agent in NYC who is attached to Macmillan Publishers.
She approached me after I had written my biography and requested my permission to assist in writing a fictional novel based on “Eleven Days of Hell”. The book is titled “Burned” by David Hagberg who lives in Florida and has written more than 70 books. David is a former CIA military cryptographer.
I also have a movie agent who lives in California who has been attempting to sell my life rights which may lead to a feature film. My story is complex – it has an international flavour which would create an interesting plot.
Morgen: I’d say so, absolutely. You have a publisher and agent, how much of the marketing do you do?
Yvonne: I blog as much as I can, with limitations, however, I am often approached by documentary organizations. I have recently recorded an episode for the BIO Channel’s “I Survived” series which should air in the next couple of months. This could be the perfect conduit to the making of a feature film or mini series.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Yvonne: Keep writing, keep searching for a publisher.
Morgen: As the saying goes, ‘a successful writer is one who didn’t give up’. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Yvonne: Brilliant question…
Morgen: Thank you very much, it’s one of the most recent.
Yvonne: Oprah Winfrey (5 seconds in an interview with her would make a career complete)
The panel from “The View” – Barbara Walters is empathic beyond belief
Jon Stewart – “The Daily News” – he really does have a serious side
Dinner? All home made: Chicken soup for the soul, Gefilte Fish, Pavlova for dessert – it’s an Australian Icon!
Morgen: Being the other side of the pond, and not a watcher of much TV, I don’t know Barbara Walters or Jon Stewart but I’m with you with Oprah. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Yvonne: “Never, ever, give up! I would not be alive today had it not been for that.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Yvonne: I wrote my book “Eleven Days of Hell” in reportage style – it helped set each individual scene.
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Yvonne: I have often thought about it, but have not ventured down that road.
Morgen: Not yet then. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Yvonne: Oil painting, singing – confidence abounds a plenty.
Morgen: That’s so great to hear. Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Yvonne: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
Morgen: Me too (and a few others). I love ‘meeting’ so many people online, although I probably would have got more writing done pre-internet… but then the marketing would have been harder. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Yvonne: The general public in the western world are addicted to a fine read. The future is plentiful if one has a fascinating product.
Morgen: Absolutely. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Thank you, Yvonne. I hope we ‘meet’ again.
I then invited Yvonne to include an extract of her writing…
As I walked to the Mercedes, I had an uncomfortable pang in my stomach that something was not quite right here. That feeling probably had a lot to do with Oleg, whom I found absolutely disgusting. Oleg, with his beady, slit-like eyes, just seemed to be full of hatred. Not wanting to sit next to him, I slid into the back seat. Grigory, the manager of our Moscow office, sat in the back seat to my left. My husband, Danny then climbed into the front passenger seat beside Oleg, who started the car and pulled away from the curb. As we turned out to the exit road, I looked out the window at the landscape of Russia in winter. It was very different, very depressing. A veneer of steel gray replaced those bright colors of summer and autumn. It was not a terribly cold day, maybe around 30 degrees, but the wind was howling, the sky was pale, and patches of dirty snow littered the ground. Something else was different, too. I watched for the usual turn onto the main road yet Oleg bypassed it, staying on the outer ring road that took us in a different direction. On previous trips, we had driven right out into heavy traffic. Now, no other cars were on this road. Oh well, I thought, Oleg must know a shortcut. I sat back, my eyes closing. Some five minutes later, I heard Oleg mumbling something. I opened my eyes and saw his face in the rear-view mirror, wearing a look of concern. Although the ride seemed smooth, he was acting as if he were fighting the steering wheel. He said a few words in Russian to Grigory, who said there was a problem with a tire. Oleg yanked the car onto the right shoulder of the one-way road and stopped. Then, with not a shred of warning, our world was turned upside down. With dizzying suddenness, a long and baleful-looking black sedan, crept up behind us and screeched to a stop. By all appearances, it was a Zil – a Russian-made automobile that for many years were hardly ever seen except on the highways around Moscow, in the so-called “KGB lane,” that could only be used by KGB agents. Little wonder that the Zils send shudders down the spines of Russians everywhere. Now, the shudders went down my spine, more so when I saw five men inside the Zil who looked and dressed much like Oleg all jump out and come right at the Mercedes. One of them pulled open the unlocked door beside me and he and another man reached in. Too stunned to react, I felt myself being dragged out of the car by my arms like a rag doll. I was screaming now. I tried somehow to dig my heels into the asphalt of the road to break the momentum of my upper body but could feel myself being manhandled, my feet merely scraping the pavement as I was carried along and quickly forced into the back seat of the Zil. With no control of my body, it was as if I was a spectator watching myself in a movie. I could hear my voice pleading and crying, feel hands holding me down, but my brain couldn’t process it all fast enough to realize that this was actually happening to me. I could also see, as if through a tunnel, that Danny had been pulled from the front seat of the Mercedes and was now in the back, flanked by two men, one of whom had a vice-like grip on the hair at the base of his neck – and Oleg turning around in the driver’s seat and waving his fist just inches from Danny’s face. I tried calling out to him but nothing came out of my mouth. And in the next instant, the Mercedes had driven off with a great roar. I looked to follow its path down the road but almost immediately lost sight of it. I was alone. Danny was gone and all I could see were two grotesque men holding me down, all I could smell was their foul breath. What was going to happen to me? Was I about to be killed? Raped? Dumped on this isolated road? And why was this happening at all? What the hell was going on?
Yvonne Bornstein has been a corporate executive, a wife, a mother and a kidnap victim. She is an author of “ELEVEN DAYS OF HELL – A Terrifying True Story of Kidnap, Torture and Dramatic FBI and KGB Rescue” – her first book. The book was published by New Holland Publishers, Sydney, Australia.
Yvonne has co-written a second book – “BURNED” which has been published by Macmillan Tor/Forge in New York City. She has co-written with David Hagberg – a former CIA Military cryptographer and author of more than seventy books.
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