The Practice of Creativity

Guest Post: Olga Godim on ‘My Next Big Thing’

Posted on: November 27, 2012

I’ve invited Olga Godim to discuss her new novel! Enjoy-MTB

Hi, I’m Olga Godim and I’d like to thank Michele for inviting me to participate in her blog hop ‘My Next Big Thing.’ My new novel, recently accepted for publication by Eternal Press, is definitely my next big thing. I’m very excited. Here are the answers to Michele’s questions.

1.  What is the working title of your book?

The working title of my novel is Lost and Found in Russia.

2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?

When I was young and poor, I often thought: what if someone showed up at my door, a lawyer maybe, and said that I had been switched at birth and my birth family is rich. And they’re looking for me. What would I do? What would my mother do? And – here was the real question – what would my other mother do? Would she want and love me just as much as the mother I knew and loved?

From that dream came the idea for one half of the book – the story of Amanda, a mother who discovers after 34 years that her daughter was switched at birth, by mistake. Amanda loves the daughter she raised but she wants to find her biological daughter too. She wants to share her wealth and her heart, and her search takes her around the globe, first to Russia, then to Israel.

The second part of this novel is about Amanda’s birth daughter Sonya. She is a dancer. I always loved ballet. Although I never danced myself, I admire dancers: their passion for beauty on stage and their resolve to sweat and bleed for that beauty. It’s hard for them to stop dancing, even when they age. I’ve wanted to write about a dancer for a while, a dancer who can’t dance anymore, for whatever reasons, real or imagined. I wanted to explore how much does it hurt her not to be able to dance. What would she do, what would she sacrifice, to resume dancing? I knew from the beginning that Sonya would be a dancer, even though I didn’t know most of her story at first. I also knew she would be a poor immigrant. The juxtaposition between rich Amanda and poor Sonya was irresistible. And then there is another symmetrical line – between Sonya and her teenage daughter Ksenya – that I think enriched the book.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?

My publisher, Eternal Press, will produce this novel under the category Contemporary Women’s fiction. You might call it mainstream too. It’s not genre fiction but not literary either. Plot and characters drive it.

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I don’t really know. I can’t name any famous actress to play either of my heroines.

Amanda is a Canadian with British ancestry. She’s tall, dark-blond, with grays eyes, sophisticated. She is also rich and looks the part: expensive clothing, smooth skin. She is not very emotional, used to concealing her feelings.

Sonya is her daughter – so the same ancestry but different upbringing and different values. She is a dancer, slim and dainty. I based my visualization of her on the Vancouver Symphony violinist Karen Gerbrecht. You can see her portrait here (http://www.vsoschoolofmusic.ca/faculty/faculty-bios/karen-gerbrecht/), although Sonya is younger.

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript?

It’s not as much a synopsis as a subtitle: Mother-daughter minuet, Russian style.

When Amanda discovers that she has a birth daughter somewhere in Russia, she travels to Russia to find her. She doesn’t even know the name, just the date and the location of the hospital in an ancient Russian town. She needs to find her blood daughter, but she is not ready to give up the daughter she knows.

Should she share both daughters with another mother? Who is the real daughter? And who is the real mother? How do you define mother’s love? What about daughter’s love? The characters dance around these questions, trying to pick and choose and changing places like in an old, courtly minuet. Hence the subtitle.

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My publisher is Eternal Press.

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft probably took about 8 months. Then I revised it – I don’t know, endlessly I think. At least 3 major revisions. Then I enrolled in a novel writing workshop with this novel, and my mentor, Nalo Hopkinson, helped me to make this novel much better. I owe Nalo tremendously; she is a great teacher.

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within the genre?

Several wonderful writers wrote novels about mother-daughter relationships. Amy Tan is one. Lani Diane Rich is another, but there are many more. Nalo Hopkinson, my mentor, also wrote a fascinating story about mother-daughter dynamics, The New Moon’s Arms, but her novel falls under the magic realism category.

9.  Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Sonya’s story, if not her identity as a dancer, was born after I met Irina in Montreal. Irina is a unique woman, an immigrant from Russia. She came to Canada with nothing and accomplished so much. I was smitten by her optimism and determination. She told me about her life and her struggles to find her place in her new home. Her courage inspired me so much that I based Sonya on her – not the appearance or the profession but her indomitable spirit and her lovely soul. After my meeting Irina, the novel was practically alive in my head before I even started writing it. Had I not meet Irina, this novel would’ve been different or perhaps not written at all.

I also have to mention that the relationship between Sonya and her daughter Ksenya sprouted from my own experience with my daughter Liza. At the time, Liza was a teenager, prickly and rebellious like many teenagers. Now she is a young woman, bright and loving. I’m grateful to her for the inspiration, but I could’ve forgone the rebellion. I would’ve had fewer gray hairs then.

10.  What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Amanda’s quest is much more than a geographical search. It’s also a story of her self-discovery, or maybe a discovery of her second wind: she is 60 after all.

Sonya’s story is mainly about her relationship with her daughter – on the surface. Deep down, it’s about an artist’s inexhaustible yearning for self-expression. Sonya was a dancer in Russia. Her body was her artistic tool, her own embodiment of beauty. When she immigrated to Canada, she was over 30 and didn’t think she should even try to establish a new dancing career. As an immigrant, she worked low-wage, mindless jobs to pay the bills. But the dancing wouldn’t go away. It beckoned her. She needed it as much as she needed food. She is rooting for her daughter’s trust and love but simultaneously she is also discovering her new, or rather old, artistic self.

I think artistic self-fulfillment, especially after the first bloom of youth faded, is an important aspect of this tale, and many middle-aged readers might be drawn to it.

And for more writers participating in the blog hop later this week check out:

Kiersi Burkhart, http://prolificnovelista.com/, on her next BIG thing

Posting NOV 29

AND  Edith O Nuallainhttp://inaroomofmyown.wordpress.com/ on  ‘The Artist’s Daughter’ (or an update about how the novel she is writing for the National Novel Writing Month contest is going)

Posting NOV 30

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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

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