Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How did you come to write "The Shadow of Silver Birch"?

     My novel is coming out in print and I couldn't be happier.  Yesterday, I was asked where the story came from.  These days with the popularity of memoir and the general belief that all writing is autobiographical in some way, it's not a surprising question.  I like to refer to an interview that Carlos Ruiz Zafon gave in El Pais when he said there were two types of writers- those who lived what they wrote about and those who imagined it.  I'd say the answer lies between the two ideas. 
      Years ago in Barcelona I met a Spanish nun whose mother was from Latvia.  How did her mother end up in Spain?  How was that possible?  I knew no Latvians that could travel in the days of the USSR and after the Second World War it seemed even less probable.  She had some letters from her mother that she had never been able to read since they were in Latvian.  I set about translating  them and my curiosity was piqued. 
    Her mother met a soldier from the Division Azul.  I began reading about the division established by Franco and found more questions than answers.  On one website, children of soldiers began to ask me questions though my knowledge was as limited as theirs.  One interesting fact stood out and that was some soldiers were sent to Russia to fight to avoid prison for their part in the Civil War.  Thus, my soldier, Juan, in the novel, was given a direction, an idealism, and a purpose.
      Though the figure of a nun became a minor character in the novel, I will always be grateful to Eva Ledero for sharing her story and providing inspiration for a large part of my novel.
      The aspect of what one has lived was the experience of growing up as a child of immigrants who never quite fit in- the outsider always looking in the window of a room she can't enter with ease.  It was that very lack of ease (in Spanish the word would be inquietude) which would bring me to writing. 
     So on this eve of the book launch I am grateful for this opportunity to share my work. I hope it can bring some enjoyment and food for thought.


  1. I'd like to read this and maybe post a review on my own site which is

  2. I ended up writing my comment twice...I thoroughly enjoyed your inspiration for your novel. author of Bamboo Ring and Ghost Orchid

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  4. Thank you dk! I look forward to seeing your work. Alex, I'd love it if you reviewed the novel. I'll send you an e-mail.