Welcome to the five hundred and twenty-fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with memoirist and non-fiction author Rodica Mihalis. 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, Rodica. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Rodica: Hello. My name is Rodica Mihalis and I live near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I am originally from Romania. I hold a B.A. in English and Romanian from the University of Bucharest, and I haven’t become a writer, rather writing has been part of me for as long as I could recall. Writing, telling the truth, having the freedom to do so, are the elements that motivated my defection in 1981 from communist Romania. To me, The Gypsy Saw Two Lives is not just a book I wrote, it’s the essence of my life contained in a few hundred pages.
Morgen: I love hearing when authors say they’ve always been a writer. I came late (late 30s) and initially wished I’d not missed all the years but I have all that experience to write about. You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Rodica: The Gypsy Saw Two Lives is a memoir. Life’s events decided for me. As far as other writings, I write about what I love and know. For instance, presently I am blogging about a recently-rescued puppy, Lolla, at www.lifewithbblola.wordpress.com bb stands for beautiful and brilliant. I cook homemade treats for my dogs and share recipes and ideas with other dog lovers. Pictures are the best part.
Morgen: My dog’s just pricked his ears up. What have you had published to-date?
Rodica: My essay “This Year’s Gift” was published in The Christian Science Monitor, years ago. In 2005 my short-short story, The Confidant, was selected and performed at Interact Theatre in Philadelphia, as part of the award winning show WritingAloud. Several of my poems won awards, and my memoir, The Gypsy Saw Two Lives, was released in December of 2011 available in both paper and epub/Kindle:
Morgen: Speaking of eBooks, do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Rodica: Yes, I read ebooks.
Morgen: It’s great having the choice, isn’t it. Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Rodica: I believe titles and covers are of utmost importance, as they are the first thing someone sees, and first impressions are essential. Not only did I choose the title, but my two daughters actively worked on the book. Eva edited the book and Natalie designed the front cover. The palm on the cover is my own palm showing the two life lines the gypsy saw when she told my fortune.
Morgen: It’s very striking. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Rodica: Several projects. I could only mention the blog about Lola www.lifewithbblola.wordpress.com, but I am also researching a subject which will require courage and perseverance to complete. I am mysterious about it…
Morgen: Wow. Perhaps you’d like to come back for an author spotlight when that comes out. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Rodica: I blog at least every week. I only have writer’s block if I think of writing, not if I start writing, so I just do it! I am still a person of gut feelings and when I try too hard it doesn’t work for me. It needs to flow.
Morgen: Best plan, and before I started my blog I’d heard it recommended to blog at least once a week… I’ve got a bit carried away (3-4 times a day). Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Rodica: On my posts I do no editing. On the published materials I have an editor, as I find editing to be an art in itself. I do not have that talent…
Morgen: It’s one of my least favourite aspects (finishing off my sixth, and final, edit of my 102K chick lit novel). You write from life but do you have to do much research?
Rodica: Everything I write is very well documented. Yes, I research my writings unless it is a personal experience, in which case it is all perception.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Rodica: Some writings are stepping stones to the writings that do see the light and they are necessary for the process. Even if a writing doesn’t see the light, it doesn’t mean it was not necessary for the process.
Morgen: Do you pitch for submissions and / or are you commissioned to write?
Rodica: Haven’t done it in the past, but who knows what the future holds?
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Rodica: Yes, as any respectable author I had rejections. How do I deal with it? I will answer with a statement about the work I used to do as an insurance sales person, when 100 calls were necessary to get one appointment. So… it’s not personal, it’s statistics!
Morgen: I have had some authors say they’ve not received any rejections but then they’ve usually either not written much and been successful with those or they’ve not submitted. I’m still below 30 (on short stories and novels) as I rarely send anything out. I’m planning to change that. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Rodica: Turns out I do all of it
Morgen: We have to these days but the upside is that we get to ‘meet’ our readers. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Rodica: Favorite aspect is the process of writing. Least favourite the marketing part.
Morgen: Most authors say that I’d agree (and add editing to least favourite). There’s nothing quite like coming up with something new. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Rodica: Networking, belonging to a writers’ group are of utmost importance.
Morgen: It is, I run / belong to four. 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)?
Rodica: I never thought of it before, but how cool would it be to have Vlad Tepes (Famous Romanian King known for his cruelty ‘Vlad The Impellor’), Eugene Ionesco (famous author) and Constantine Brancusi (famous sculptor) at the same table and serve them a Romanian dish, mamaliga (yellow corn meal). Although they belonged to different times and worlds, they ALL must have eaten mamaliga at some point.
Morgen: That would be an interesting dinner. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Rodica: Never say never!
Morgen: Absolutely. Do you write fiction?
Rodica: I don’t write fiction. Life always beats the book.
Morgen: But never say never! Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Rodica: I don’t plot my stories, they plot me.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Rodica: I prefer first person. I have tried third, but am not as comfortable with it. Never tried 2nd person.
Morgen: I enjoy writing fiction in it. Some poets have told me that they use it but I’d not recommend it for longer works. It’s hard reading. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Rodica: I am finishing my Master’s in Counselling and Clinical Psychology and am involved in writing numerous professional papers.
Morgen: Psychology would be great for understanding characters if you do ever come to writing fiction. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Rodica: I am always thinking of my daughters, Eva and Natalie, who live far from me, and how much I miss them. I am a lover of animals and take care and enjoy living with three rescued dogs and a parrot.
Morgen: My dog’s a rescue, and I have a parrot (an African Grey called ‘Baby’) in the aforementioned chick lit novel. Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Rodica: I found the most useful joining www.linkedin.com, which in turn will take the reader to a wealth of writers’ groups.
Morgen: And probably how we met. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Rodica: Networking is valuable if used appropriately. Not too much and not too little. I found it invaluable, especially Linkedin. I also belong to facebook and numerous writers groups through linkedin.
Morgen: They can all be very time-consuming can’t they? I find it hard to resist the ping of a new email (especially as I get so many). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Rodica: The opportunities are as never before, but so is competition to have your message be heard in a sea of talented authors, a majority of which have meaningful messages. The choices are there as never before and so are the opportunities. I believe the future is in ebooks and electronic communication. That being said, I am still one that loves to turn the pages of a real book, and use a funky bookmark to remind me where to start reading again.
Morgen: Few of the people I’ve spoken to prefer eBooks over pBooks to the point where they’d stop reading paper and many, like me, read paper at home but take a device (iPad in my case) when away. As for the sea of talented authors, you’re absolutely right. I never imagined when I started this blog that I’d be so inundated (over 700 authors booked in with another 900 replies to come back). Where can we find out about you and your writing?
The book is also carried at Barnes and Noble and in 7-9 bookstores on line.
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Rodica: I would like to thank my friends, Nick and Cassandra Ludington, Mark Stein, the author of How The States Got Their Shapes, and my daughters, Eva and Natalie for all the support in making The Gypsy Saw Two Lives a reality.
Morgen: How lovely. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Rodica: I have surfed your site and there is such a wealth of information and diversity. I was wondering if you have help or how do you manage such an enormous task?
Morgen: <laughs> no help, just a wonderful Word document and lots of copying / pasting. I manage it by doing little else which isn’t good for me (I go to bed far too late) but I’m grateful that so many people want to be involved. Thank you, Rodica.
I then invited Rodica to include an extract of her writing…
“She (my mother) listened to my confession and responded: “You have been seeing him in Bucharest and didn’t tell me? He is older. You are lucky to be alive. Where did he touch you? Did he touch your breasts?
I kept silent, shamed.
“Oh! He did touch your breasts! Why do you think he touched your breasts? You are an idiot!”
She told me to never see him again. I wanted to ask her why was he touching my breasts. I had no idea and she seemed to have the answer.
On our following date, sitting on a park bench, he kissed me as he always did. Slowly, his skilled hand made its way to my breasts.
I backed off and held his hand in mid-air. I looked him in the eyes.
“Why do you want to touch my breasts?”
“I thought you liked it, he answered slightly annoyed.
“I would like to know why are you touching my breasts, not whether I like it or not.”
He looked stunned. He was silent for a while, as if my question required intense thought. He answered at last, “I guess I am touching yours because I have none of my own.”
That was our last date. (page 48-49 –The Gypsy Saw Two Lives)
and a synopsis of her book…
This true story is a fast-paced and entertaining memoir. It shows the determination of the human spirit, but also the questionings and struggles with unimaginable obstacles along the journey of life. Is there a plan that a Higher Power has for us? Do we understand it, or accept it on faith?
The title was inspired by a gypsy fortune teller who read Rodica’s palm as she was dashing to catch the train that would take her to freedom. The gypsy said, “I see two lives.”
Once in the “Land of Freedom”, Rodica’s life didn’t turn out as expected and it continued to have many twists and turns making space for events hard to accept but which in real life one must overcome and continue on. We have no control over what happens around us, but we have a choice over our attitude.
Rodica is the single mother of two adult daughters, and currently lives in Central Pennsylvania with her three rescued dogs and an African Grey parrot. She holds a B.A. in English and Romanian from the University of Bucharest. She has worked as a translator and executive assistant at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest before defecting from Romania in 1981. In the U.S. she showed her entrepreneurial spirit by owning several businesses, including Rodica’s Natural Therapies in Wyncote, PA. As challenges continue in her personal life, she is currently finishing her Master’s in Counselling and Clinical Psychology, and hopes to graduate by the end of 2012. Her work focus is on Grief and Loss. Rodica’s websites are:
- http://www.rodicamihalis.wordpress.com: the birthplace of The Gypsy Saw Two Lives, under the name of ‘Memoirs from My Two Lives’. Rodica then started to post practical ideas which are being well-received.
- http://www.lifewithbblola.wordpress.com: is about Rodica’s puppy Lola and the other two rescued dogs who are my companions and also Max, my super intelligent African Grey parrot. (Morgen: I feature an African Grey in my novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping List)
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