It is my privilege today to introduce you to…
Talia, what and how have the experiences in your life contributed to your writing?
In the late 1980s-early 1990s, while running my marketing consulting firm for Fortune 500 companies, I was also a volunteer counselor for the Small Business Administration, specifically for women’s programs in New York. That’s how I was tapped in 1993 by the US Information Agency to fly to Russia to teach women business skills. After the fall of communism these were survival skills they sorely needed, and indeed, my first trip in May 1993 was an amazing, eye-opening—and very gratifying– experience. I met a highly educated group of women; many were doctors and engineers, who were essentially reduced by Soviet shortages to becoming “hunters and gathers.” Furthermore, with the fall of communism, the country’s legal system was obliterated. Women lost their minimum 1/3 quota of representation in the Duma, the Russian parliament, as well as social safety nets such as school lunches for children and whatever medical services had been available in a country that never had Aspirin or Band-Aids in its stores. Speaking to these female professionals and learning their stories left a lasting impression upon me.
Six months later, I was excited to return, but unfortunately, I landed in Moscow only two hours after the uprising against the president, Boris Yeltsin had begun. In the coming three days I asked ‘too many’ questions of our handlers who denied that anything was going on. “It was all Western propaganda,” they said about CNN accounts we received from home. By some twists of events, the militia came after me, threatening me with jail. After the U.S. Embassy whisked me out of the country, the 23-page report I wrote to the USIA launched my writing career.
What is your genre?
My stories are all social issues painted on large international canvases. The topics that I’ve written about it, such as infanticide or women’s lives in oppressive societies grab a hold on me until I must write about each. With research and numerous editing and revisions, each novel takes about five years from start to finish.
Do you think you may write in another genre at some point?
I keep surprising myself, but right now a story that interests me is one where the human spirit rises above the forces that control our lives, be it psychological, economical, geographical, religious or political. It’s the trials and tribulations along the way, with some surprising twists, that make a compelling read—and writing.
What was your biggest problem in writing your first novel?
Honing the fine craft of pacing, dialogue, scenes and characterization. Writing a novel is always an exhilarating process as I embark on the journey with the protagonist. Since I do not map out the plot, I encounter the hurdles, agonize over the events, and discover the social issues along with my protagonist. I cry and laugh with her, literally. Whenever the reader is surprised by a twist in the plot, it is also a point where I, the author, was taken by surprise. In my early novels, the protagonist could lead me into side scenes irrelevant to the story line. Luckily, I am no longer easily led into such blind alleys. Even though the protagonist is her own person, she is reined in to the immediate development of events. The result is that I do less complete restructuring of the entire novel even as I go through numerous revisions and rewrites.
Do you have a favorite character in any novel, including your own, and why do you call this character your favorite?
As Talia, the person, I am still yet to appear in any of my books. I am forever an observer—or even an involved instigator—but I do not write about myself as one of the characters that populate my stories. In the case of HOTEL MOSCOW, the Russian women I met in Moscow and St. Petersburg reminded me of the valiant women of my own family, and I felt an incredible bond with them across the language barrier. Their food was familiar to me, and in my youth I danced the hora to their songs because they had been translated to Hebrew(!) When we couldn’t speak, we hugged.
I feel that I possess some of Olga’s courage to fight for justice. I admire her willingness to take risks in order to make her country a better place for her granddaughter—and for other women. I also identify with Brooke’s vulnerability: she seems like someone who has it all: a privileged, successful New York executive, pretty and poised. But she carries the burden of her sad childhood and walks as if surrounded by the bubble of air of her parents’ tragedies. Also, Brooke is forgiving toward Svetlana, instinctively rather than intentionally, because her Jewish values seep through. I love her for it.
Do you have any words of wisdom for future authors?
The worst advice ever given to authors is “Write what you know.” Most of us would barely fill one book with our knowledge. Or, new authors throw everything they know into one book—whether it is relevant to the story and moves it along–or not. Instead, research what you don’t know, but when discovering the issue, the time, or the place with the protagonist, you will be greatly enriched.
Where can your readers and future readers contact you?
My website, www.TaliaCarner.com is chock full of interesting material—including contact information. Besides an extensive list of personal appearances, where readers can meet me in person and hear me give thought-provoking speeches (I find “readings” to be boring,) I participate in many book group meetings via phone or Skype. Book groups are welcome to e-mail me to check my availability. Actually, there is no greater pleasure for an author than to share her work with engaged readers.
Thank you for this wonderful look into Talia Carner, the author. You certainly have had many interesting experiences to share with readers in your stories. We wish you all the best. God bless you and your writing.