I would like to say thank you to Mrs. Furstenberg for allowing me to interview her and giving me the opportunity to read and review her short story Joyful Trouble, I had fun reading it.
Q: When and where were you born?
A: I was born in a sunny autumn morning in Romania, not too long ago, but quite far away from where I now live. Not too long ago, yet long enough for me to wish to remember my childhood. Probably motherhood has this effect on people, makes them go back and ponder on their childhood. At least this is what happened to me.
As I now live in sunny South Africa it still feels strange to be celebrating my birthday in spring, when everything is bright, green and full of vigor.
Q: Who was your most influential person to you as a child and why?
A: Probably my mother. She is a hard working woman, very clever and ambitious. She had big dreams for me and I tried my best to fulfill them. At least until I found my own dreams.
Q: Do you recall any interesting stories related to you by any of your elder relatives that you have never forgotten and you think are worth telling this audience?
A: My maternal grandfather would tell my cousin and me fairy tales, but he would always put a twist in them. Prince Charming would do something out of character and so Cinderella would have to deal with this new situation. It was hilarious for us, felt almost forbidden! But I remember clearly how much fun it was, how we laughed ourselves silly – instead of taking our afternoon nap. We were lucky to grow up surrounded by grandparents.
Grade School/High School
Q: How would you describe yourself as a student, both academically and socially?
A: I was a very clever, hard working student, but I had a few close friends with whom I had lots of fun. Those were the times before cellphones came out. We would hang out and chat, face to face. Go to the movies. I grew up in Eastern Europe, during communist times, the Americanization and the Malls did not exist yet. We would stroll, meet and chat, go to the theatre, a lot! I was far from being a social butterfly; study was way too important to me. And funny thing, I wish now I have studied harder – don’t think it was possible though. *laughs*
Q: What would people you know find surprising about you as a teen?
A: Probably that I was wearing glasses and could roller blade.
Q: What does the word “family” mean to you?
A: Family is where my roots are and where my strengths lie. For me family means the people I know I can always count on and for whom I am always ready to fight. Family means love and unconditional acceptance for who you are.
Q: In what ways have your parents influenced you the most?
A: I grew up in a house filled with books. And when the communist regime was at its worst I didn’t mind much that we had only 2 hours of TV schedule a day, news included. Because I had books and I had my parents. They’ve always been there for me, together, and for a child this is what matters most. So I guess I have to thank my parents for the person and the parent I am now. I hope that my children will agree *laughs*
Q: Who was your biggest influence in your career?
A: I always go back to Agatha Christie. I was in awe over her books when I was a child and reading her book, ‘An Autobiography’; made it all click in place for me. Over the years, whenever I went to her writings, even to her online presence, her website, good things came out of it.
Q: In addition to being paid money, how else has your career created value in your life?
A: As an introvert, writing is the best way of expressing myself. Writing helps me put order in my thoughts, bring new ideas into light and discover new concepts. And, of course, there is no writing without reading. A lot of reading.
I’ve also met amazing people through my writing and discovered wonderful things about the people I already knew.
Q: What sort of stories excite you?
A: Children’s stories with unusual characters and happy endings! I think that children these days are exposed to a lot of negative information, an influx of data, through mass media and social media. I believe that children should slow down, be able to escape in a happy world where they can feel safe to explore. Where they can dream and imagine. Imagination is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children today.
When I don’t write, I enjoy reading historical fiction and conspiracy theories. Apart from Agatha Christie, Diana Gabaldon, Philippa Gregory and Dan Brown are some of my favorite authors.
Q: Was there a specific moment that made you start writing?
A: Perhaps entering the 2013-2014 ‘Write Your Own Christie Competition’ was such a moment. I had to show a lot of writing discipline for an entire year. And I did win two of the ten chapters *wink*. It was great to hear all the good words the judges, Mathew Prichard (Agatha Christie’s grandson), David Brawn of Harper Collins UK and Daniel Mallory of Harper Collins US, had to say about my writing.
Q: What is the most difficult and the most enjoyable thing about writing?
A: For me at least, finding enough time to write is the most difficult part. The most enjoyable part is moving forward through a maze of ideas. I know where I want to get, but getting there, although painful, makes me happy.
Now, to be honest, holding my paperback in my hands for the first time was a pretty awesome moment!
Q: What is your writing Kryptonite?
A: My unselfishness. We are often our biggest enemies, isn’t it? *laughs* But I wouldn’t change a thing, my family comes first.
Q: Was there a specific moment that made you start writing your story Joyful Trouble?
A: Yes. It was like a snowball effect, actually. And it all started with the heavy winter Europe experienced after Christmas 2016. Turkey, with a winter average of minus two degrees Celsius, saw massive snowfalls, heaps and heaps of snow everywhere. Everyone there were battling, but so did stray dogs and cats; and Turkey has plenty of them. Do you know what people did? They opened the Malls or their shops and allowed the dogs and cats to sleep inside, out of the blizzard. They even laid down card boxes for them, brought them blankets, water and food.
So I wrote a short story about this, Turkish Delight, for an Australian website I write for, Mypuppyclub,net. Then I began researching more true stories about amazing dogs and this had brought me to our own back yard and to an amazing Great Dane. This is how Joyful Trouble was born.
Q: What is your book Joyful Trouble about?
A: Joyful Trouble is based on the true story of the only dog enlisted in the Royal Navy during World War II (here, in South Africa). It depicts how this gentle giant had found his true calling – and not the one you would expect from a dog.
Joyful Trouble, a Great Dane, arrives in Simon’s Town where the Royal Navy headquarters are and before you know it he befriends every seaman. The whole town loves this friendly and helpful giant except… for the Railway Authorities, because Joyful Trouble often rides the train without a ticket. You can chase a dog out of a train, but you can’t take the love of travel out of the dog – if help is not offered soon, the Railway Authorities will put the dog to sleep.
The story is told from a witness’ perspective, now an affectionate and much loved grandfather to a girl and a boy. It is a story about the meaningful relationship between dogs and humans, but also between grandchildren and their grandfathers. It is a look at life through a child’s eyes, but also through those of a grandpa.
Q: How did writing your first book change your process of writing?
A: Writing may be an imaginative endeavor, a bit of a magician’s hat trick. You tap your laptop three times with your coffee mug, careful for spills, and… voila! Out pops a novel! *laughs*
For me, writing means discipline, tenacity and also a lot of support. My husband is my main source of support, my rock. And my coffee supplier!
Q: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
A: I don’t think it was much more difficult. I thought of people I knew and drew from there. I guess it was more difficult pretending to be a yellow elephant during the writing of my previous children’s book, Happy Friends. I don’t know many elephants. *smile*
Q: What was your hardest scene to write?
A: The scene in the last chapter. It is an emotional moment for Anna and I wanted to create a gentle scene that will be easy on the small children. Based on the reader’s reviews I think I got it wright.
Q: Do you believe in writer’s block?
A: I try not to. I try to motivate myself, if something of the sort even comes near me.
What works for me during such moments is to write something else, anything; but write. Or to try to have as clear an image in my mind as I can, of the scene I want to write about, and go on from there. What else works for me is to stop when the writing is good. Then I can’t wait to sit down and write again. The excitement seems to help.
Thank you, Samantha, it was a wonderful interview and I thoroughly enjoyed answering your questions!