Today I’m welcoming Olga Godim, author of Lost and Found in Russia, a contemporary women’s fiction story, encompassing the exploration of mother-daughter relationships and a self-discovery tale. Thank you for stopping by, Olga!
All about Olga…
Olga Godim is a writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. Her articles appear regularly in a local newspaper, but her passion is fiction. Her short stories have been published in several internet magazines, including Lorelei Signal, Sorcerous Signals, Aoife’s Kiss, Silver Blade, Perihelion Science Fiction, Gypsy Shadow and other publications. In her free time, she writes novels, collects toy monkeys, and posts book reviews on GoodReads. You can find her there: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6471587.Olga_Godim She also participates in a group blog Silk Screen Views: http://silkscreenviews.wordpress.com/
1. How did your life as a writer begin?
I became a writer pretty late in life. By education, I’m a computer programmer. I worked with computers for three decades. I’m also a daydreamer. Since I remember myself, I always made up stories and played them in my head, like a one-woman theatre, but I never told anyone about my daydreams. They were my secret, and I didn’t write them down. To tell the truth, I was a bit embarrassed, afraid of ridicule. I was a serious professional woman, a single mom with two children. I never thought I could be a writer but I couldn’t get rid of my daydreams. They felt like relics of my childhood. And like a child, I loved my dream-world’s heroes and heroines. Sometimes, they felt more alive and precious to me than the living people around me.
As my children grew up, I grew dissatisfied with my computer job. Then, in 2002, I got breast cancer. Obviously, my case was successful, but during the long recovery months, my daydreams became more persistent. They swarmed me, they wanted to be told. So I decided to be brave, stop resisting, and at last let my daydreams out. Cancer has that effect on some people. I started writing a story, the first writing I did since high school. I didn’t know if it was a short story or a novel. I didn’t know anything about publishing. I just wanted to write.
Everyone in my family was flabbergasted: they hadn’t known about my daydreams. But I didn’t care. Writing liberated me. I felt like I finally woke up from a long hibernation, free to explore my stories and myself. I felt happy.
I also discovered that I didn’t know how to write, how to translate my daydreams into the written words, plot, conflict, and characters. It took me years to learn: I read writing textbooks, took classes, enrolled in workshops. I’m still in the process, still learning and enjoying every minute of it. I don’t think I’ll ever stop: there is so much to learn.
The idea for my novel Lost and Found in Russia came from my daydreams, my personal experience, and the people I met. When I was young and poor, I often thought: what if someone showed up at my door and said that I had been switched at birth, and my birth family was rich. And they’re looking for me. What would I do? What would my mother do? And – here was the tricky question – what would my other mother do? Would she want and love me as much as the mother who raised me?
From that daydream sprouted 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’s raised but she wants to find her biological daughter too. 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. Sonya’s story unfolded in my mind after I met an amazing woman Irina in Montreal. An immigrant from Russia, like Sonya, Irina came to Canada with nothing and accomplished much. I was inspired by her optimism and determination. She told me about her life and her struggles to find her place in a new country. Awed by her courage, her indomitable spirit, and her lovely soul, I adopted her as a model for my Sonya. After meeting with Irina, the novel practically wrote itself.
3. What is your favorite scene in the book? Why?
My favorite scene happens in chapter eight, where Sonya performs a strip dance for Jane. Sonya is one of the protagonists of the novel. She is a 34-year-old Russian immigrant and a former professional dancer. She was a successful performer in Russia. Dance and music were her life, her avenues of self-expression, but she wanted to whisk her young daughter out of Russia, away from the country’s notorious politics and lack of democracy. After she immigrated to Canada, she was resigned to losing her dancing. She was already over 30 and thought at first that it was too late to establish a new dancing career in a new country. But dance beckons her. She misses it bitterly, although she works as a caregiver for a disabled woman Jane. When Jane demands to see Sonya dancing, Sonya complies. The scene is not exotic or sensual, it’s rather mundane but it reflects Sonya’s need of dancing, her joy in her body moving with music. It’s a turning point. After this scene, Sonya becomes determined to recapture her dancing. I might write another novel about Sonya, and in that novel she will dance again.
4. What do you have in store next for your readers?
I recently signed a contract for my second novel with Champagne Books. The book is scheduled for release in January 2014. Its working title is Almost Adept. It’s a fantasy novel, a part of the series I’m working on. The heroine is a young and very powerful magician. Unlike most fantasy characters, she is not a poor orphan. She is a beloved daughter of a noble family and much spoiled by her indulgent parents. To prove her Adept potential, she embarks on her first magical quest. As a girl used to money and privileges, she expects a glittering foreign escapade, but instead, she ends up in a conquered land rife with poverty and violence.
Shocked by the clashes and confusions of life outside her hitherto sheltered existence, she is learning to navigate reality. A local outlaw becomes her only friend and ally. Together, they survive an explosion, a treacherous incarceration, and a daring escape. Sparks of interest ignite between them, but before she can explore her growing attraction, she discovers blood magic ruining amok in the city. Now her priorities must change. As an aspiring Adept, she is duty-bound to find and eliminate the evil blood mage. She can’t allow her budding romance to distract her, or the vile blood magic will taint the entire land. No matter the cost—her life or her heart—she can’t let the enemy win.
5. Who is the one author that you would love to meet someday and why? / 6. What is in your To Read Pile that you are dying to start or upcoming release you can’t wait for?
I would combine these two questions into one, because they have the same answer: Sharon Shinn. She is my favorite writer of fantasy romance and one of my favorite writers in all literature. Her new novel Royal Airs is coming out in November; and I can’t wait to read it. So far, I’ve read and enjoyed everything written by Shinn. I own most of her books and re-read them occasionally. They’re exceptional in engaging the reader’s emotions.
I love best her Samaria novels about angels; her concept of angels is unique in the fantasy genre. It has nothing to do with biblical angels and everything to do with the writer’s boundless imagination. She created a charming race of angels in her stories, angels I desperately want to believe in. They are arrogant and talented, decadent and dedicated to their duty, truly the people of contradictions.
Royal Airs is the second book in Shinn’s new series Elemental Blessings. The series started with Troubles Waters, a novel as deep and sparkling as the waters that gave it its title. I love its heroine Zoe and I’m eager to explore Zoe’s world again in the upcoming novel.
Shinn is one of a very few writers I use as a self-teaching aid. Whenever I’m stumped in my own writing, I would ask myself: how would Shinn handle such a conundrum? I would open one of her books at random and page through a dialog or a narrative bit to see what she does. It often helps.
I’d like to meet her in person one day to express my admiration. I don’t write like her but I wish I could.
7. What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
I have a favorite quote – my motto in writing:
“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”
― William Feather
That would be my advice to any aspiring writer. Persevere. Don’t give up. If one route to publication doesn’t work, try another. If nobody wants your novel, try to write for a newspaper or a magazine, even if they don’t pay. Blogs don’t count; your friends are already reading your blog. You need to find readership that don’t know you. You need to convince people who are not interested that what you write could be interesting for them. And write, write, write.
A writer friend I met online once said: you can only consider yourself a professional writer after you’ve written one million words or more. It’s true. An average novel is about 60,000 to 100,000 words. If I toss in all the writing and re-writing I’ve done for all the short stories and novels, plus my newspaper articles (I’ve been writing for a local newspaper for over five years), I’m somewhat over one million mark now. And I finally got my first novel published in February.
8. Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
Many writers admit that they dislike revising, but I love revising and editing as much as I like writing the first draft, maybe more, and that was a big surprise for me. When I write the first draft, I’m in a rush. I use the first, most common word that comes into my mind just to get my idea across. But when I revise, I play with words and expressions, search for the best ones, use a thesaurus, juggle paragraphs. I love that process, even deleting pieces, when it improves the story. It feels like I’m a gourmet at a feast of words. I rejoice in every word, every clever turn of phrase. I add a pinch of this and a dollop of that, and the resulting brew becomes better.
Although I must confess, I keep everything I delete. Sometimes, I reuse those snippets of text in another story. I’m a hoarder, I don’t discard anything.
On the other hand, the hardest thing for me to write is a villain. I write a lot in the fantasy genre, and fantasy plots usually require a baddy of some sort, or at least a strong antagonist. I always have trouble with these guys. I don’t understand their thought process. Villains traditionally hanker for power, or world domination, or some such nonsense. But why would anyone want to rule the world, or even a village, is beyond me. It’s so much hassle.
On a more serious note: I’d say conflict is the hardest for me. I like my heroes. I don’t want them to suffer, but conflict is essential for fiction, so I have to go against my nature to create problems for my characters, pit them against wicked odds.
Another tidbit: I use a pen name for fiction – Olga Godim. My newspaper articles all have a different byline. When I started submitting my first fantasy stories to magazines, I was still working at my computer job and I felt slightly embarrassed by my fantastic tales. Women of my age and profession didn’t entertain themselves with tales of sword and magic. Or so I thought. So I decided to use a pseudonym. Olga is my first name, and Godim was my father’s first name. He died before I published my first piece, before I even started thinking about writing, but I wanted him to be a part of my writing life, so I chose his name as my nom de plume. Now, he’s always with me, a witness to my successes and failures as a writer. And I think the name sounds good, like a small cheerful bell.
My recent novel Lost and Found in Russia was published in February 2013 by Eternal Press. The book is a contemporary women’s fiction, encompassing the exploration of mother-daughter relationship and a self-discovery tale.
After the shocking revelation that her daughter was switched at birth 34 years ago, Canadian scholar Amanda embarks on a trip to Russia and Israel to find her biological daughter. Intertwined with the account of Amanda’s journey is the story of Sonya, a 34-year-old Russian immigrant and a former dancer, currently living in Canada. While Amanda wades through the mires of foreign bureaucracy, Sonya struggles with her daughter’s teenage rebellion. While Amanda rediscovers her femininity, Sonya dreams of dancing. Both mothers are searching: for their daughters and for themselves.
Connect with Olga Godim
You can buy the book in various formats from the publisher’s website, Amazon, B&N, and some other online vendors: