Interview with Author Devika Fernando

Note: This post was written in collaboration with my friend Elena from eLitere.ro

Social Media is an amazing tool to promote your business, book, art project or blog if you know where to look and how to use it. We’ve come to meet even more amazing people, and discover books or films that made us happy or broke our hearts. We bring you a new interview today, with a lady whose name was mentioned before on eLitere and on Alina’s Bookish Hideout: Devika Fernando. She is the author of  contemporary romance and paranormal books such as When I See Your Face: A Second Chance at Love, Kaleidoscope of Hopes: A Second Chance Workplace Romance and the book series Fire Trilogy (Elemental Paranormal Romance), Romance Round The World and Forbidden, a romantic thriller series written in collaboration with American author Mike Wells, writer of Lust, Money & Murder series.

When was your passion for writing born?

Devika: When I was seven years old. I was always being read to and reading books, and I really wanted my own story too. It was a very short, short story. The real passion for writing arose during my teenage years, though it was mostly poems in English and novel ideas (just a few chapters here and there) in German. In 2013 I decided to really make my dream come true and become a romance novelist.

What inspires you the most?

Devika: I react very powerfully to pictures like fantasy art, romantic photos or even places that I can imagine as the setting for a novel. Sometimes new items or a book I read might spark an idea. Ultimately, I regard everything and everyone in life as an inspiration for writing.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Devika: I don’t suffer from it. If I ever feel a little reluctant to write, I just push on and write anyway. Even if I might not be satisfied with what I’ve written, it’ll still have taken me a step further. If I get stuck, I sometimes switch to a different story or chapter or just read what I’ve written and fall back on track.

How has literature shaped the way you look at the world?

Devika: That is a wonderful question that I’ve never been asked before! I think it has made me observe more, and understand more, especially emotions and how they are sometimes hidden or unconsciously portrayed. And it has made me believe in love more because romance novels show that ultimately true love can overcome almost any obstacle.

“Artists instinctively want to reflect humanity, their own and each other’s, in all its intermittent virtue and vitality, frailty and fallibility”, said Tom Hiddleston in an interview some years ago. What are your thoughts on fandoms, on the way artists and their fans can interact nowadays?

Devika: It’s such a beautiful and meaningful quote, with which I heartily agree, being an artist myself. I think fandoms offer many benefits. They can bring people together, even if they might live on opposite sides of the globe or would otherwise never meet or talk, but are passionate about the same thing and will never run out of a topic to discuss. I’ve found three of my closest friends through a fandom. I also think being an ardent fan of someone or something brings out our creativity. It can give us strength to go on, things to look forward to, joy in hard times.

And with the internet, the possibilities seem endless. We have the chance to get to know a little more about the artist or even interact, and that in turn might make us understand and appreciate their work even more. Then there’s fanfiction. I know some people have very strong (negative) views about it, but I can’t see the harm in it. Some have discovered their inner writer through it or practice and end up writing wonderful books or even opening the door to success.

The only thing that makes me a bit weary of fandom is the ‘fanatic’ aspect. With the internet, some fans have started stalking artists or posting inappropriate stuff and totally ignoring privacy.

What would you say to those who are just discovering your novels? Why should they read your stories?

Devika: Another good question, thanks! I’ll give them three reasons: firstly, my characters don’t just fall in lust, kiss after the first page, and enjoy romps between the sheets, but really fall in love with each other. Secondly, I try to explore exotic settings in my novels that add to the fascination. For example, you can take a virtual trip to Sri Lanka in my multicultural romance novel Saved in Sri Lanka and you’ll find out a lot about Iceland in my upcoming paranormal romance novels Dancing with Fire and Living with Fire. Thirdly, there is always an aspect of the heroine (and hero) not only finding love but also finding themselves and learning to love themselves.

You can follow Devika Fernando on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads and Amazon.

Review: The Real Midnight in Paris by Paul Brody

A History of the Expatriate Writers in Paris That Made Up the Lost Generation

Title: The Real Midnight in Paris

Subtitle: A History of the Expatriate Writers in Paris That Made Up the Lost Generation

Author: Paul Brody

Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Literature, Literary Guide

First Published in 2012

Published by BookCaps Study Guides

Imprint: HistoryCaps

Rating: 4/5 stars

Several months ago I wrote a Romanian review for Woody Allen’s film, Midnight in Paris, which is one of my favourite movies of all time. Due to this amazing film and also to my fascination with the City of Lights, I bought a short literary guide in e-book format entitled The Real Midnight in Paris, written by Paul Brody.

The author explains who the expatriates were and why they settled in Paris after the Great War ended instead of returning to their homeland. “This group of young artists, most of them born between 1895 and 1900, would become known as the Lost Generation. In 1920s, Paris, they were all between 20 and 30 years old and eager to test the boundaries of life” (page 1). As the previous quote already suggests, these young people had a strong interest in arts, especially literature that brought them together as well as “the seismic shift in culture that signalled the painful birth of the Modern World” (Idem).

Perhaps, no one anticipated then that the First World War and the Second World War would change dramatically the way people used to live, their culture in general, politics, mentalities and so on. The Great War was also the first historical event where most of the men belonging to the middle class had to fight. We should mention here writers such as Ernest Hemingway or Wilfred Owen, who died in the line of duty. Thus, traumas, disillusions and frustrations linked to the war not only left their mark on the young survivors’ minds, but they also influenced and shaped the works they created.

Moreover, these intellectuals, who came from restrictive and conservative countries, saw Paris as the refuge they needed, due to the “climate of intellectual freedom and experimentation was unlike anywhere else in the Western world” (page 2). Because of this, thousands of American and European expatriates flocked to the City of Lights, where they could experiment, share and debate with other artists their outstanding ideas in the now famous literary salons, cafes and publishing houses. Besides the modernity and freedom for artists and their arts, Paris also reminded them of the Old World, with its charming boulevards and the ornate buildings of the 19th century, which became the cliché image of the Romantic Paris, which some of us love and others hate.

In the first two chapters, you will read about the historical background of the Great War, the post-war effects that led artists and writers like those who will establish the Avant-garde movement to move to Paris, the most important Salons, Cafes and Bookshops – such as Sylvia Beach’s bookshop Shakespeare and Company and “Gertrude Stein’s Saturday evening salons” (page 13). In such gathering places, literature and art radically deviated from the traditional norms and principles thanks to the outburst of various movements we still recognise today: Cubism, Dadaism or Surrealism. Next, you will learn which historical factors put an end to the Lost Generation and then Paul Broody gives you some essential information about the Forerunners of the Lost Generation such as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce. Later on, in the chapter entitled Primary Representatives of the Lost Generation, you will read about Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and other writers and artists. The final factual chapter ends the study with the Critical Reception regarding the works of the Lost Generation.

Before I go, I must add that this study was pretty good. Some would say it is too short, but I think that, for a beginner, it is a guide that gives you a taste of the 20s and if you are longing for more, you have the seventh chapter where you can find enough titles for further reading, such as the works of the main writers of the Lost Generation. If you need to better understand this literary period, but don’t want to read too much, this guide may be the book for you.

Review: One Summer in Montmartre by Teagan Kearney

Title: One Summer in Montmartre

Author: Teagan Kearney
Genre: Commercial Women’s Fiction

First Published: 2014

Self-Published

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book so I could give an honest review.

One Summer in Montmartre is a commercial women’s fiction novel written by British author Teagan Kearney and it comprises of two alternating stories set in two different time periods, but they contain many similarities, both in theme and problems the characters have to confront with.

The first and main story revolves around Anna Seeger, an Englishwoman, a freelancer in graphic art, faithful wife and devoted mother. She is struggling with severe depression caused by the loss of her son Jeremy in a car accident and also the lack of communication with her workaholic husband Gregory and her remaining child, the independent and rebellious eighteen-year-old Ingrid. Though Anna was always a submissive wife because she wanted to avoid conflict with her dominating husband, Jeremy’s death increased the gap between them. They didn’t talk about serious issues as they should have; instead, they had plain conversations as if they were two strangers trying to be polite to each other.

The event that determines Anna to do something else than mourning and living in the past is the discovery of an old letter hidden in the back of the frame of an impressionist painting she and Greg received as a wedding gift from her father-in-law. This painting that depicts “a large bunch of flowers in a vase on a windowsill” (Loc. 86) was very dear to her because it gave her tranquillity in the hardest moments of her life and it fascinated her every time she looked at it.  The letter was written by Luc Marteille, a less known Impressionist artist, and it was addressed to a woman named Hélène, who was his love interest. Anna wants to find more information about this French woman, the artist and whether they had an affair or not. This powerful wish will determine her and Ingrid to go to Paris and find the truth. However, the City of Lights is full of surprises and unexpected experiences for both mother and daughter, especially when the young handsome painter Jean Paul and his ironic uncle François enter the scene.

The second story brings us back to a different Paris – in the summer of 1873 – where we meet Luc Marteille, an Impressionist painter who is beginning to gain recognition from other painters of the same movement. He is a family man, who loves his two children and his sick wife (she supports him both materially and mentally). However, his values will collide with his sudden passion for a beautiful peasant girl, who came to Paris to pose as a model in her cousin’s place. Will Luc resist his heart’s calling or will he take Hélène as his mistress? Will she forget the fact that she is betrothed to a farmer from her village and about to get married? Read and you will find out!

The two stories are fast-paced, easy to read, the characters are relatable – reflective, impulsive, ironic, conscious of their regrets and mistakes. Whether it’s Anna or Luc, they are caught between their inner desires and the shame of being unfaithful to their spouse, but they also compare the person who set their heart on fire with the husband or wife with whom they’ve spent so many years together. How similar people are when they fall in love, desire someone or think about the consequences of an affair! They make me realise that costumes change as centuries go by, but people remain pretty much the same.

People are either on their best or their worst behaviour on holiday. An exotic, different location can bring out our finest qualities, or it can remove normal restraints and barriers.” (Loc. 1070) One Summer in Montmartre makes you meditate on life, loss, love, routine, happiness and where the barriers among them start to break. Enjoy!

Review: Blue Sun Yellow Sky by Jamie Jo Hoang

Title: Blue Sun Yellow Sky

Author: Jamie Jo Hoang

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Travel

First Published in 2014

Published by HJ Publishing

Rating: 4/5 stars

A few months ago I received a message from an indie author who spoke about her debut novel on Twitter. I was so impressed with the subject of the book that I really wanted to read it, but I was also wondering whether it was going to be a heavy/emotional read or if it was going to be counterbalanced by something else. Here are my thoughts on it.

Blue Sun, Yellow Sky is a contemporary novel written by Jamie Jo Hoang, that revolves around the life of Aubrey Johnson, a twenty-seven-year-old painter, who was recently diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a disorder which will gradually affect her sight and make her go blind in a matter of weeks. We learn that Aubrey is an independent woman who struggled to make a living as a young artist and now she will be forced to overcome her fear of going blind and of losing control of her life in order to keep her career going.

As it usually happens when someone receives bad news regarding their health, Aubrey realises that the clock is ticking and she regrets that she hasn’t explored more of the world’s wonders until now. She accepts to go with Jeff Anderson on a one-way ticket around the world. The two childhood friends re-encounter one another by chance after years of growing apart, which is a great occasion to bring back funny and heart-breaking memories and to catch up with each other’s lives.

I really like how Aubrey and Jeff’s friendship is revived, though the two seem to be opposites. Aubrey is a strong and independent person, she has mood swings as artists usually have, she is a little self-absorbed, and she sometimes needs to be alone to paint or just to meditate on her life and future. Jeff has always been a mature person, who chose reason over feelings, but that didn’t stop him from being a caring and generous friend. Aubrey can rely on him and be quirky around him. Things get a bit complicated along the way and the two will be forced to face their true feelings sooner or later and to reveal the secrets they were afraid to share with each other. I think that it’s somewhat easier to overcome life’s obstacles when you have a friend by your side and Jeff reappeared in Aubrey’s life when she needed help the most.

The pacing of the story is a bit slower than in other books I read, but it’s not a bad thing, because it symbolizes Aubrey’s wish to stay a little longer in the present, in order to capture as many details as she can and mentally reconstruct the places she visits, in order to use them as inspiration for her paintings. I adore the chapters about Aubrey’s travelling experiences, the descriptions of each of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the emotions they trigger, the local food and culture, the friends they meet or re-encounter, and the tensions which appear between Aubrey and Jeff or the internal conflicts within the protagonist’s heart and mind. I liked the writing, even the technical parts which are linked to painting, architecture and photography because they helped me connect with Aubrey’s work and creative process. There are also flashbacks showing the past, whether it is Aubrey’s, Jeff’s or someone else’s backstory, something which adds meaning to the story piece by piece.

Before I wrap this up, I want to add that the message of this book was empowering, it brought me hope, as weird as this may sound, and I began to accept myself as I am. I feel more motivated to pursue my dreams, to accept self-doubts, but to keep them under control, and it made me wish to explore more of the magnificent places Aubrey visited. In the end, I think that we don’t need to wait for something life-threatening to happen in order to realise how precious life is.