But I’ve never longed for it’s return. Especially not to watch a sovereign nation get manhandled by a second-rate Bond villain like Vladimir Putin: vain, inelegant, cheating his way through the high-stakes poker game played on the international stage.
I’m sickened by what’s going on in the Ukraine.
It feels all too familiar, yanking me back to the kitchen table of my 80s youth – a small black and white TV broadcasting the latest Soviet highjinks: the invasion of Afghanistan, the shooting down of Korean Airlines Flight 007, the propping up of puppet governments in Africa, Central America and elsewhere. My parents looked on in horror, while Sting crooned from my boom box, reminding us that the “Russian’s love their children, too.” As if that had anything to do with…well…anything.
It was scary then, uncertain, but at least it was better than the seventies – when it felt like we were meting out our lunch money to an assortment of class bullies everyday. What made it worse was that we didn’t even allow ourselves the moral high-ground. Vietnam had given us a complex, I guess, and we sunk deep into a piss-warm pool of moral equivalency. Like the cheating spouse who hates herself for having shagged her mechanic in the backseat of her Volvo. Even if her husband did call her fat all the time. And broke her nose after last year’s Christmas party.
My grandfather, a Czech Olympic hockey player who played in the 1936 Olympics (yes those Olympics – Hitler’s Olympics) cried when our boys won. For him, it was a spiritual victory. A moral victory. And he knew something about those.
For my grandfather – and all of my family – that win was nothing short of a light from above shining down on us. Reminding us that even though we are far from perfect, we didn’t need to be sinless in order to be right and good.
I wonder what he would have thought about our hockey win against the Russians this year. Not as big – that’s for sure. But perhaps a gentle nudge that things haven’t changed so much. A softer light pointing in the direction of right and wrong.
I don’t know what the solution is to the madness that’s going on in the Ukraine. I pity any president that has to deal with wars stemming from horrific terrorist attacks, and then lightning bolts of Cold War aggression from a Russian leader who’s been deeply embarrassed. First, by a string of twitter feeds detailing cartoonish misadventures in the Olympic village, then by successful protests in a neighboring country he thought he had by the balls (if you’ll excuse my French). In retrospect, given Putin’s propensity for flaunting his bare chest and slaying tigers and riding bears for heaven’s sake, we could hardly have expected him not to pull some grandiose act of thuggery.
I guess I just expected he’d wrestle a lion, or poison another spy, or shoot a journalist – the way he always does. Not threaten an entire people.
I usually don’t do this stuff quite this often, but this is my second week in a row participating in some sort of blog meme. To be honest, it’s come at a good time because I’m pretty busy with the launch of a book and haven’t had the usual Monday to devote to writing for Cold. So, I do hope you enjoy this question and answer format. It’s kind of fun. And certainly something a little different from what I tend to post.
But before we proceed, I want to thank Eden Baylee (and Billy Ray Chitwood) who involved me in this blog tour. Eden is a multi-genre author (erotica and mystery!) and her post is just great. It can be found here: http://edenbaylee.com/2014/02/17/learn-about-my-writing-process/
Billy Ray, unfortunately, had to bow out. Nevertheless, he can be found here: http://www.thefinalcurtain1.wordpress.com
And away we go:
1) What am I working on?
I am perilously close to the publication of my first novel, The Bone Church. It’s a historical spy novel featuring a Jesuit priest, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement and a gypsy with a dangerous sex life. It takes place in both 1943 and 1956.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
My work is very atmospheric and often blurs the line between illusion and reality. In The Bone Church, for instance, my Jesuit protagonist, Felix Andel, suffers from a series of extraordinary visions. Otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward Daniel Silva meets Alan Furst style thriller. I don’t stray too far off the reservation. I like my thrillers to be, well…thrillers.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Just take one look around this blog I grew up with a lot of drinking and smoking and storytelling at my dinner table. And these were crazy, dangerous, true-to-life James Bond-y stories told by eccentric, high-wire act people. I love those stories – those Cold War stories. Tales with real stakes that force life and death decisions. The kinds of decisions that aren’t neat or clean and can effect generations. I don’t see how I could have become a writer of, say, navel-gazing post-modern novels. I have no patience for those, actually.
4) How does your writing process work?
I sit down and type. If it’s morning, I have coffee. If it’s evening, I have rye whiskey – maybe a cigarette. Honestly, truly. I love to write. It has never been a process or a labor for me. I can’t wait to hit my keyboard in the morning and I’ve never had a moment of writer’s block. Not saying I won’t – just saying I haven’t.
Thanks so much for reading. I hope this has been in the least bit interesting or illuminating or you. And please join these three wonderful writers and bloggers next week for their turn:
Sheila Webster Boneham writes fiction and nonfiction, much of it focused on animals, nature, and travel. Sheila’s mystery novel Drop Dead on Recall (Midnight Ink, 2012) was named on the Top Ten Dog Books of 2012 by NBC Petside. http://sheilaboneham.blogspot.com/p/about-may-be-redundant.html
Jack Dougherty has for more than 20 years worked at the intersection of business, politics, news media and advocacy. His first novel, Corporate America, is a wild and wicked thriller that has been named one of Amazon’s best in its genre. http://www.Cocoh.net
Jill Weatherholt is a blogger and writer with a passion for books, perusing author websites, blogs about writing and most importantly, writing. http://jillweatherholt.wordpress.com/
Kate Loveton is a doll and her wonderful blog, Odyssey of a Novice Writer, is poignant, self-effacing, fearless, honest, lovely and at times laugh-out-loud funny. I feel honored to have been nominated by Kate, who I think does this blog stuff so well. If you have a minute – and since you’re reading this post I assume you do – please check out her blog, too: http://kateloveton.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/versatile-blogger-award/
So, this Versatile Blogger thing. Here’s what I’m supposed to do. First, I’m supposed to tell you seven things about myself. Good Lord, but okay. Then I’m supposed to nominate fifteen other bloggers who I think are the best thing since goulash. Now that’s something I can do no problem.
So, let’s get this show on the road.
And since brevity is the soul of wit, and pictures are worth a thousand words, I’ll get right to the point.
1. I love the full moon and honestly believe it has magical properties.
When I was a little girl, my grandmother told me that the moon was the closest thing to God’s face that I would ever see.
2. I would have made a lousy corporate executive.
Because I hate wearing pantyhose and all I want to do is stand around the water cooler and gab.
3. But I would have made a great spy.
Love dark sunglasses. Will do anything for a travel budget. And I come from a long line of liars.
4. I never thought I’d return to Catholicism, but I have.
See “A Short Explanation of a (Former) Atheist’s Faith.” (it’s under Faith at the top of this page) Can’t say it any better.
4. I found out my grandparents hid Jews during WW2 and when I asked them about it, they said, “So Vhat?”
They also said “So Vhat?” to feminism, cigarette warning labels and Richard Nixon’s shenanigans.
5. I know way too many holocaust survivors.
Which is actually only about five, but honestly, that’s a lot.
6. Never liked stuffed animals very much, but I loved my dollhouse.
I’ve always maintained that dollhouses are the thinking girl’s toy.
7. I’m glad that whole “Brazilian” grooming trend seems to have run its course.
As for fifteen blogs worthy of this distinction:
Please, have a look. It’s a motley crew – in the best way.
In honor of Valentine’s Day this year, I’d like to celebrate love in a slightly unconventional way if you don’t mind. Instead of waxing poetic about how my love is like a pair of cashmere socks, a 25 year-old single malt whiskey, the best chicken pot pie I’ve ever tasted, I’d like to pay tribute to a great Slavic love story that blooms not like a rose, but a fistful of perfect daisies: the love between a grandmother and her grandchildren.
Enter my friend Christoph Fischer.
Christoph and I have a lot in common. We’re both writers, for one. We share a Slavic ancestry, for another. And we know what it’s like to hail from crazy Eastern European families where the solution to grudges, disagreements and soul-sucking entanglements is to have everyone move in together.
We remember the smells of garlic and marjoram in our kitchens, we regard spaetzle as far superior to pasta, and we used to eat chicken skins fried in butter as our afternoon snack (my kids still don’t quite believe me on this one). As children, our storybooks were by Božena Nemcova and Josef Lada. As we got older, we read Milan Kundera and Bohumil Hrabal, then immersed ourselves in Czechoslovak New Wave films like Closely Watched Trains and Loves of a Blonde. These were the Czech versions of books like Green Eggs and Ham and Where The Wild Things Are, of the novels of William Faulkner and John Irving, and of movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and The Graduate.
Despite our mixed heritage (all Czechs are “little Germans” as they will admit only in private) we have complicated relationships with both Germans and Czechs. And even more complicated relationships with Russians. In short, we know what complicated means and have had the distance, the good fortune, and the luxury in our lives to be able to try and make sense of it all – in our books, our stories, and on our blogs.
Our parents and grandparents were just trying to make it through the day.
Christoph recently made my day by sending me the story below. He was feeling nostalgic and a little blue. It was the anniversary of his father’s death and that’ll do it to you.
He got to thinking that day not just about his dad, but his wonderful grandmother, or “Babička” as we say in Czech. Please sit back and savor it. Then, if you’re so inclined, read Christoph’s wonderful Three Nations Trilogy.
My “Babička” and her Ćevapčići by Christoph Fischer
Like some of the characters in my book, THE LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS, my babička found herself in a new world after WW2. Sudeten-Germans were expelled from Czechoslovakia and she was forced to live with Bavarians with whom she had little in common and who were not exactly keen on her either.
She brought my father and us grandchildren up with a sense of nostalgia for anything Czech, Bohemian and Eastern European. On Sundays, she spoke the Czech language with my father and often cooked our favourite dish, her delicious Ćevapčići – a skinless sausage made with three kinds of meat (pork, beef, and lamb) and plenty of garlic.
As a vegetarian, it is one of the few meat dishes I truly miss.
In 1976 I went to school and was amazed that outside of our home people thought little of the East. The Cold War was ramping and “East” was a dirty word. I found it hard to reconcile those two impressions.
I assumed our logical allies in that sentiment would have been the members of the Bund der Vertriebenen, the Association of expelled Germans and I was surprised when I learned that my grandmother and father distanced themselves from this group. Little did I know the Bund blatantly lobbied to reclaim territories and properties for Germany and they had no interest in the Czech culture or people. They wanted back what they had lost when they either fled the Red Army or were forcefully expelled by the people they had formerly oppressed.
My grandmother and my father made enemies by not joining those associations and by refusing to socialise with their members.
“You can’t live in the past,” my father used to say. He was living proof because in 1945 when he was only 12 years old, he got beaten up by Czechs just for being German. However, he learned to get past this event, saw it for what it was and continued to love the land and the people regardless. In the 1970s he organised “art historic and cultural study” trips to Prague from our home is Rosenheim and somehow managed to get approval from the Visa Offices in Czechoslovakia almost every year. He got to see his former home country frequently – despite the iron curtain - and was warmly welcomed as a Czecho-phile visitor.
Even though we were Germans living in Germany, our childhood was filled with music by Bedřich Smetana, with whimsical phrases from Czech fairy tales and children’s books, TV programmes like Pan Tau and even folk and pop music. My father directed amateur theatre and his favourite play was “The Good Soldier Švejk”. My father had a lot of friends who were painters and their work was everywhere in our flat, only I cannot remember their names. It’s a pity. Very few made it big, but their art felt so alive and beautiful to me.
Even my first music cassette was of Karel Gott, a Czech singer who was popular in Austria and Germany. His biggest hit was “Babička”, an homage to his wonderful Czech grandmother, which I could relate to because his lyrics conveyed exactly what my grandmother was to me.
Gott sang, “Stealing horses, peeling apples and telling stories, that was Babicka. She held us in the middle of the night and trucked us in well and tight…All her life she never gave in, only one was stronger than her, and He took our Babicka.”
My babička lived in an apartment building full of Sudeten Germans. Less diplomatic than my father, she would frequently get into rows over the rigid and bureaucratic cleaning and washing schedule: NO WASHING AFTER 7PM! (Which was almost impossible to adhere to for a single mother with a full time job.)
She lived her own daily cold war.
Every time we visited our grandmother, we had to go up three flights of stairs and get embroiled in her wars. When buzzed into the building, we children ran up as fast as we possibly could to get past one particularly vicious neighbour. The mere sound of the buzzer alarmed this woman and she would try to corner us every time – telling us off for being too noisy and rattling off one complaint or another. “Tell your grandmother to wash during the day like everyone else in this house!” or “Look, you didn’t wipe your shoes properly when you came in. I just cleaned the staircase, and now I can start again. You filthy lot you!”
One day, my grandmother heard the shouting and hurried down a flight of stairs with her apron on and a pan full of Ćevapčići still in her hand.
“Get away from me with that disgusting smell,” the neighbour screamed.
“Don’t drop the Ćevapčići!” my sister and I shrieked as my babička was getting more and more agitated and moving towards this nasty woman. My brother tried to wrestle the frying pan with its precious cargo out of my grandmother’s hand and in the heat of the action, the Ćevapčićis went flying!
One of them landed with a loud slap on the hated neighbours face.
“You and your damned Ćevapčići! I am getting the police!” the neighbour hissed, holding her cheek as if it was bleeding.
My sister and I were anxious and retreated into a corner while my peckish brother took the opportunity presented in the stunned silent seconds that followed to collect the precious Ćevapčići from the floor.
“You just wait,” the neighbour threatened.
“No, you just wait,” my grandmother said coolly. “You leave those children alone. And beware of my Ćevapčići, because next time they won’t be cold!”
The neighbour gasped for air.
But my grandmother smiled with bold triumph and we followed her up to her flat, where she put the pan back on the stove. When the Ćevapčići were good and hot, she let us devour our spicy, Cold War ammunition.
They never tasted better.
1 1/2 lbs ground pork
1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb ground lamb
1 egg white
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 onion, finely chopped
4 pita bread or 4 white bread or 4 roll
1. In a large bowl, combine the ground pork, ground beef, ground lamb and egg white. Add the garlic, salt, baking soda, black pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika. Mix well using your hands.
2. Form into finger length sausages about 3/4 inch thick. Arrange on a plate.
3. Cover with plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for one hour to one day, to let the flavors settle and the mixture become firm.
4. Preheat the grill, medium-low heat. Lightly oil the grilling surface.
5. Grill Ćevapčići until cooked through, turning as needed. The grilling usually takes about 30 minutes.
Serve with potatoes (mashed or fried), bread, sliced onion, chopped tomatoes and sour cream.
* Ćevapčići are for consumption only and not to be used as ammunition. Cold is not responsible for injuries resulting from the hurling, slapping, tossing or catapulting of Ćevapčići.
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he is still resident today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; ‘Sebastian’ in May 2013 and The Black Eagle Inn in October 2013. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.
Christoph’s Three Nations Trilogy is available on Amazon at these links:
When I was twenty-three years-old, I moved to Prague, Czechoslovakia. I could say it was to meet my extended family who, until a few short years before I bought my one-way ticket, had been trapped behind the Iron Curtain – and that would be true. I could say it was because I loved adventure and Prague was the place to be at the time and that would also be true. I could say it was to get a greater understanding of my own family, but I’d be giving myself way too much credit.
Mostly, I moved to Prague to get away from my family.
I wanted to escape a loving, but distant relationship with my mother, and a close, but blood-sucking relationship with my grandmother. And let’s not stop there. I wanted to get away from the rest of them, too: my biological father, my adoptive father, my brother, and even my aunt way down in Florida – already a good 3000 miles away from my home in Chicago.
Even that wasn’t enough.
It’s not that I wanted to erase them from my life – in fact, most of my family, including my mother and grandmother, visited me while I was in Europe and I was happy to see them.
A friend of mine suggested that perhaps part of me thought I could avoid a certain strain of bad luck that seemed to follow my family like that piece of grungy toilet paper that sticks to your shoe after a visit to a public restroom.
But in truth, I ran from their love.
It was crushing, complicated, and carried with it a dark cloud.
So, with a twisted logic – the kind of logic that only makes sense if you grew up in a Slavic family – I left my Czech family for Czechoslovakia. It was the place they’d run from, the seat of our misfortune and, I believed, my only salvation.
Czechoslovakia had risen anew, elected a playwright President, and was struggling to be what it might have been had the Germans never come and the Russians never stayed. That seemed like an apt metaphor for me.
My time in the old country was spent first as a tourist and later as a resident alien. I explored crumbling castles, worked in a Czech company, saw a full double rainbow on my father’s farm, crouched inside the dungeon of Countess Elizabeth Bathori – known as Countess Dracula because of her penchant for drinking the blood of virgin peasant girls (they claimed to be virgins anyway). I drank dark, caramel beer in a seven hundred year-old pub, observed midnight mass with a whisky flask in one hand and a vigil candle in the other, and on Christmas, ate carp soup made from a fish that had been swimming in my great-aunts bathtub that very morning.
Prague was and remains the place from where all of the good fortune in my adult life has come. I met my husband there, had my eyes opened to the world, and began my writing career. It was nothing short of magic.
Prague also grew me up and sent me humbly back into the folds of those who loved me – even if they didn’t always like or understand me. Even if their affections could be painful at times – even toxic. Three generations of damaged people living together and crossing each other’s boundaries on a regular basis is nothing to romanticize, after all. I knew what I was getting back into.
But I couldn’t, after walking to work on Political Prisoner Street, not think of my mother and her time spent under an unforgiving interrogation light. I could hardly visit my great-aunt, who had taken me in when I first arrived and who I had grown to love dearly, without seeing my grandfather’s melancholy blue eyes in hers.
When push came to shove, by running away, I had come closer to my family than I ever imagined possible.
And when I returned home, some three years and change later, I was ready to curl up in their laps, take a drag of their cigarettes, and let them in to my life in a way I had never done. I had also, happily, regained my sense of humor – the one I seemed to lose when I went away to college and became outraged about all the injustice in the world.
(Girl pictured not me. Although there is a strong resemblance)
It’s not all agony all the time here – just so you know. And to demonstrate that, I’ve decided there will be no droll, gut-wrenching musings on death or Nazis or curses this week.
But Cold isn’t straying completely off home territory as I welcome one of my favorite thriller writers both on and off the page – John Dolan.
John Dolan is fun. He’s dry, he’s politically incorrect – two traits that do it for me the way a pair of big breasts and a small vocabulary do it for some guys. In my review of his wonderful thriller, Hungry Ghosts (from his wonderful Time, Blood and Karma series), I wrote of John, “Dolan’s voice is that of an experienced traveler – world-weary, uncharted, but chasing the dragon of the next new adventure nonetheless.” Really, I gushed.
So, that’s why I thought it would be great to sit down and chat with John about one of my (our) favorite topics…The Thriller.
Now, lot’s of people will try to tell you how to write a great story, blah, blah, blah, the next bestseller, etc. But how often do two passionate thriller writers sit down and tell you how NOT to write a bestseller? I think that’s a topic worth exploring.
But achtung, babies.
Those of you who are faint of heart or have absolutely no sense of humor should stop reading now, if you haven’t already. While we’ll endeavor to treat this topic with the appropriate respect and decorum – you know, like the way I treat my husband’s slutty ex-girlfriends – our banter might be offensive to some.
Anyway, here goes.
First, this is John Dolan. Notice the rogue-ish hat and the way he refuses to be seduced by the camera.
Me: John – what do you drink? Can I get you something? I prefer rye whiskey nightly and wine…also nightly.
John: Can we talk first about women with big breasts and small vocabularies?
Me: Not until we’ve had a few drinks.
John: I can’t say breast milk, right?
Me: Sadly, no lactating women on the premises.
John: Well, I’m not a big drinker. The odd beer, a gin and tonic, and I’m happy.
Me: That’s better. Now about this thriller stuff, what do you think of ugly protagonists? Not deformed or anything – just unattractive.
John: Ugly people are intrinsically more interesting. I gravitate more naturally to people who look like they’ve been hit in the face with a truck. Especially women. Plus, they’re always so grateful. Ah, happy days. Where were we? Oh yes. I also like characters who have a certain amount of moral ambivalence about them, an element of ‘ugly’ in their personality. Nobody in real life is ever wholly good or wholly bad – with one or two notable exceptions from history I can think of. So an ethically ‘grey’ protagonist is more realistic for me. It also gives the reader something to think about: do I love this character or do I hate him?
Me: Do you believe there’s a formula for writing a thriller that is guaranteed not to succeed?
John: Yes, and I’ve already published two novels to prove this formula. Wanna know how it goes?
Me: Dying to.
John: One, make sure the pacing is like that of a snail… crawling… across… a very sticky… dead… badger. You know, like all those chuffing awful travelling scenes in Tolkein, the ones that want to make you tear your own head off. Lots of descriptive info dumps are great for slowing things down. Count the freckles on your hero’s nose, or list all the makes of dresses and shoes she has in her wardrobe. Pontificate endlessly on philosophical issues, making frequent reference to obscure Greeks. Better still, make up some quotations that sound authentic and giggle quietly to yourself as you imagine some poor sod trying vainly to find Sophoclitus on Google. So pace, or rather lack of it, is very important. The Russian writers were very good at this. I don’t know any Russians who need to take sleeping pills so long as they have something by Tolstoy to hand.
Two, make your characters as one-dimensional as possible. It is mandatory for your leading male to have chiselled abs and piercing eyes like deep pools of desire, or some such crap. For female characters they should either be slutty and brainless or American. Preferably both.
Me: Must be both! It’s the only way I write my women.
John: Or French.
Me: Even better. Or faking a French accent, but that implies some wit. Or at the very least some ambition.
John: They should only have sex when you run out of ideas. Everyone should dash about with guns, except when they’re walking slowly which should be most of the time (see point one, above). All baddies should be psychos, but they should like cats.
Three, make sure the book is annoyingly thick, so it can be used as a doorstop once it is clear it has no other useful purpose. This also cons people into thinking they are getting value for money, when what they are really getting is … well, a doorstop. If they buy the Kindle version, they’re completely screwed. But if writers follow this advice, it’s unlikely they’ll sell any books anyway so it shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re having trouble padding it out, just cut and paste sections from other Indie books, preferably those that don’t have many reviews. Nobody notices. I’ve done it in both my books and haven’t had so much as an email.
Four, give it a really, really awful title. Something to make folks gag. “The Blood of the Bloody Red Corpse with Ginger Hair”, for example, would be good, as would “Inferno”. You know, something employing tautology or so obscure nobody’s going to touch it with a ten-foot barge pole. If you can slip in a spelling mistake or wrong use of punctuation this gets you extra points, although so many people are doing that these days it might be considered a tad passé.
Five – and I cannot stress this enough – give your book a really appalling cover. If it’s going to be a home-made job and you’re worried that you might make a half-competent stab at it, like OJ Simpson did, then give it to your five year old daughter. A blurry photograph of something drawn with crayons will do nicely. If you don’t have any young children, tie a paintbrush to your dog’s tail. Bonus points if he poos on the canvas.
If you’re still selling your books after following these tips, you are a bloody genius who deserves to have his/her earnings taxed at the highest rates imaginable. Governments in the Western World are only too happy to supply you with this service. Just give them your name and address and they’ll take care of the rest.
Me: Your description sounds very post-modern now that I think about it. What would you think of the post-modern thriller as a genre? You know, a formula that goes something like this: a bunch of murders threaten to happen, but then don’t, and the protagonist just wanders around the story frustrated that he can’t afford to buy better shoes because his PI practice hasn’t taken off yet?
John: That sounds amazing. Or as a surrealist might say, fish. “Suddenly, nothing happened. Then it happened again.” I’ve often thought if Samuel Beckett had given his tramps an AK47 each, Waiting for Godot could have made it to Hollywood: Die Hard in a Bowler Hat. Mind if I steal that idea, by the way? I’m struggling with Book 3 in the Time, Blood and Karma series. It’s showing signs of being interesting and I’m keen to asphyxiate that at birth. I have my reputation to think of.
Me: Everyone Burns is such a great book. Really thriller lovers – it’s a top notch thriller (and I’m not being funny here). But John, if it were made into a very bad movie, which actors would you miscast as your main characters? For the rogue-ish, English PI, David Braddock, I’m thinking Nicholas Cage.
John: Nicholas Cage could kill any franchise. Actually, Victoria, you got it just right. He would be my number one choice for the actor I would LEAST like to play David Braddock. Even Pinocchio would be less wooden. I’d rather have Danny DeVito in elevator shoes. At least he can handle a line of dialogue. Maybe Judi Dench as the Thai femme fatale if Kathy Bates is not available.
Me: Thank you, John. You are the best.
Some more about John:
John Dolan “Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.”
John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between Thailand and the UK.
His novels Everyone Burns and Hungry Ghosts are the first two books in the Time, Blood and Karma series.
Everyone Burns Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Everyone-Burns-Time-Blood-Karma-ebook/dp/B008I6GXM2/ref=la_B008IIERF0_1_1_title_0_main?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390484943&sr=1-1
Read them or weep!
My mother, Jirina, or Georgie as she calls herself in America, is gorgeous and vivacious. She is a Bond girl with a thick accent and a touching sweetness. A woman with a spine of steel and a broken heart. James Bond would’ve loved her – but like all the women he loves, she is a tragic heroine. If she and James had ever crossed paths she would’ve ended up being fed to sharks by a villain with an even thicker accent then hers, or would’ve at least faced a tearful goodbye with her handsome spy, who couldn’t bear to be with her for risk of putting her in harms way.
These are the women of my family. They have fled across armed borders, hidden Jews, learned they were Jews, had guns held to their heads, have known how to double-cross and have known how to cross their legs to get you to notice.
So, it’s no surprise that I grew up with a touch of pain-envy.
The three-hanky movie played on at home while I went to Catholic school, staring out the window and dreaming about spies and adventure. To my family’s credit, they were far more interesting than any of the subjects in school, or even most of my friends for that matter.
And I was left recounting my family stories to my friends. It seemed important somehow.
At what we called “the swamp” – an empty church parking lot and hang-out for pre-driving rebels – I had a captive audience. A lot of my friends were punk rock wannabes who drew “tattoos” on their arms with red Sharpies and had no interest in realpolitik. But despite the Lucky Stripe cigarettes that dangled from their black lipstick-painted mouths, their defiant poses, and self-styled Mohawks, these were good kids who didn’t want to hurt my feelings.
As I grew up, my family’s experiences began to have a profound effect on the way I viewed my own life. When faced with the onset of middle school politics, I couldn’t help but think of what my mother’s seventh grade experience was like. There is something about the onset of 6th and 7th grade that turns sweet, if precocious young girls into monsters. Mean girls would taunt and torture me and I would retaliate in kind, hating them and myself during the process.
My pity parties, however, were always busted up by the knowledge that when my mother was twelve, the mean girls she contended with could’ve had her or her remaining family members arrested if she misspoke, and were egged on by her very own teacher, who openly called my mom the daughter of capitalist pigs. Pigs who loved the prospect of money in America more than the dream of building a socialist utopia in the Eastern Block. More than they loved her. Never mind that my grandparents didn’t leave their home country willingly. If they’d stayed, they would’ve been thrown in prison on trumped up charges.
Don’t get me wrong, my mother was never one of those mothers who told stories of her hard luck childhood in order to shame me or make me grateful for what I had. Maybe that’s why her stories were so effective. She told them out of pain and anger – when she told them at all – and in the process put a damper on my teen angst.
As time went on, she also unwittingly helped me shed any left-over traces of the pain-envy I’d experienced in my early teens. So much so that I grew to have a particular distaste for that affliction, even if I understood it all too well. Pain-envy breeds a sense of moral superiority within its sufferers, often accompanied by at least a trace of hypocrisy, and an uncontrollable desire to make the afflicted the hero in his own story – even at the cost of the truth.
I’ve seen it present in large portions of the populace – in places like San Francisco when we lived there. The fauxletariat – my husband actually coined that term – would walk around in their shabby clothes and $300 hiking boots aching for the hardship of a third world garment factory worker. Sure, they wanted to make the workers’ lives better, and that’s a great thing, but it was more than that. They coveted the depth they believed people who have suffered – really suffered – accrue.
And there is some truth in that.
Except for the pesky fact that for every person who has experienced pain with a capital P and becomes more sage, kinder, almost glowing in their life force, there is someone who, although also having been visited with agony, remains petty, mean-spirited, foolish, even downright silly.
We have plenty of both kinds in my family.
So, I leave pain-envy for the fauxletariat. The people with mostly intact (or intact-ish) families who didn’t grow up with moms obsessed by curses and “Red brain-washing.” Their moms, like the moms of my friends, worried about whether they wore helmets, if music needed a warning label on it for violence and sexual content, vitamin B-12. All good things – I’m not knocking them. I shopped for two weeks to find the best skateboarding helmet for my 9 year-old daughter.
Even if I know it’s mostly emotional busy work that gives me a mostly false sense of security.
But I indulge in myself all the fixations of a happy wife and mother just like my friend’s moms did. It is a privilege to have such small things to worry about. I know I will be lucky if my kids grow up only to envy pain.
But I do want to give them some balance – the kind I was fortunate enough to have.
I make sure to tell my children the stories I heard around my dinner table. I want them to feel close to those experiences and understand them deeply. I don’t want them to feel far away, the way the plight of an un-free Tibet feels to an earnest college student. I want those stories to engender a sense of curiosity in my children that stretches beyond borders and partisan political beliefs.
It was, after all, my own family stories that made me sign up for the Greece and Turkey program in college and go backpacking through Europe, even if I couldn’t really afford it. They were what inspired me to sell my car and move to Prague for 3 ½ years, start my own business, and ultimately decide I wanted to be a fiction writer – as if there weren’t enough of those in the world.
Those stories and the experiences they inspired in my own life showed me that pain wasn’t something to envy and romanticize. It’s an important building block of emotional and spiritual growth and I wouldn’t trade mine, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that as much as I once envied the clarity and simplicity of the problems my grandmother and my mother had faced – the bad guy with a gun, the dictator/homicidal maniac who is intent on silencing every dissident voice and trampling over every right a citizen of any functioning democracy takes for granted – I don’t want those problems – no matter how good a mind-movie they make.
I just want to write about them.