Welcome to the Open House Sunday Interview and today my guest is Romanian economist and author Marina Costa.
About Marina Costa.
Hello! I am Marina Costa, almost 50, an economist with PhD in World Economics (the dissertation being, in 1996, about the European transport policy). I have worked for a whole career in EU Affairs/ EU projects management, meanwhile also having written for a lifetime. I have published several professional papers and 2 handbooks in the past (1999-2015), and, since 2016, 2 novels. Other 3 or 4 will appear this year. The most recent will be sent to printing next week and will have an official launching in March. I am writing mostly historical fiction/ swashbuckling adventures/ young adult novels.
My debut novel’s title can be translated into English as “The Wanderers of the Seas“. It was launched in June 2016 and it happens in the Viking Era. It is based on one historical theory of the years 1950s-1980s that the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent who had taught them a lot of things, described as blonde and bearded, with whom the Conquistadors had been mistaken, might have been Viking.
So my characters, after a whole saga (a Byzantine young woman happening to be in a convent in Venice while her father was travelling, gets kidnapped by the Vikings, follows them on an island in now Norway, then, as her master gets killed in a local political intrigue and his defenders get banned, she follows them in their quest for a new homeland), end in now Mexico, with the Nahuatl. Sigurd, the ship captain, turns to become there Quetzalcoatl.
The second novel, launched in March 2017, in two volumes, can be translated into English as “Lives in turmoil” (Part 1 – “Bloodied lands“, Part 2 – “The New World“). It starts in the Napoleonic Era, in Italy under the Jacobine revolutions – “Liberty, equality, fraternity, democratic republic” (therefore the title of the first volume – the lands are bloodied by the wars). For my main character, the fights stop with the battle of Novi, in the summer of 1799, when she is taken prisoner. She succeeds to escape, but she has to lay low ever since.
When the Revolutionary Wars turn into dictature with the self-appointment of Napoleon as first consul, she and her fiancé decide to emigrate to the US, the only country who had preserved the democratic values. (Hence the second volume’s title). There they go west, with a convoy of Venetians, and settle on the shores of the Mississippi river (Venice, IL exists now too, and it is a part of Greater St. Louis, being just across the river from St. Louis). They make new friends there and they erect their village, with the name of the Serenissima Reppubblica they are deploring (The Republic of Venice being given by Napoleon to the Austrians in Campo Formio Treaty in 1797). They witness the Purchase of Louisiana, the development of Saint Louis (in parallel, but in quicker rhythm than their village). The second volume ends with Lafayette’s visit in 1825, making Roxana and Luigi, now Mayor of Venice, Illinois, reminisce their lives and fights in Italy, and with their firstborn son, now a young man in his 20s, returning to Italy, together with other sons of settlers of Venice, to fight on the side of the Carbonari, exactly how their revolutionary parents had fought in their youth for the same ideals.
The novel which will appear in February has also its place here, since it is finished and sent to the publisher already, not at the projects for the future. Its title can be translated into English as “Rightness’ Friends” (yes, I think rightness. Justice has a different connotation and it isn’t the right choice). It is also in 2 volumes, but no separate parts like for “Lives in turmoil”, only chapters in sequence. It happens in US, Arizona, in a frontier town named Nogales, which has a twin with the same name in Mexico, just across the valley. There is no clearly mentioned year when it happens, but it is sometime 1974-1982 (with a sort of an epilogue about 8-10 years later. Last chapter, not exactly an epilogue but similar). It is young adult, dealing with first love, jealousy, friendship, honour, but also good and bad choices, forbidden love, morals, gang wars, the high price of fame and young success (in sports and music) with the related high performance expectations and pressure which some can resist to, some can’t, carreer choices, suicide and those left behind with guilt, rage and depression for having not been able to prevent it. It also explores the worlds of mariachis and of bullfighters.
Where were you born and can you tell us something about the history of your place of birth or any interesting historical fact?
I was born and raised in Bucharest, the capital of Romania.
According to a legend, the city of Bucharest (București) was founded on the banks of the Dâmbovița River by a shepherd named Bucur, whose name literarily means “joy” (and it was a rather common name until 1900). His flute playing reportedly dazzled the people and after selling his sheep he settled on the riverbank, the new village receiving his name.
Located on a plain and crossed by two rivers, Dâmbovița and Colentina, and a necklace of 7 lakes, my city has an area of 88 square miles (587 square miles with the “greater” metropolitan area) and about 2 million inhabitants (2.27 with greater area). Bucharest is the sixth-largest city in the European Union by population within city limits, after London, Berlin, Madrid, Rome, and Paris. The place was inhabited since 500 BC, say the historians and archaeologists, and first documented in 1459, during the reign of Vlad the Impaler (so called Dracula, but never a vampire, just a prince as cruel as many others of his time). He chose the town as his residence and new capital. It became the capital of Romania in 1862 and it is the centre of Romanian media, culture, and art. In the period between the two World Wars, the city’s elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned Bucharest the nickname of “Little Paris.”
The Palace of Parliament it is the world’s second-largest office building (floor area) and the third largest in volume (after Cape Canaveral Space Centre in the U.S. and the Great Pyramid in Egypt). It took 20,000 workers and 700 architects to build this massive structure that has 12 stories, 1,100 rooms, a 350-ft.-long lobby and eight underground levels.
What adventures have you had publishing your work?
My first publishing adventure was not literary. I published the first project management handbook ever in Romanian. The others, at Uni and at postgraduate courses, were starting with 2000, and in July 1999 my handbook, written in 1998, appeared. I had sponsors for publishing this book, but it had been a difficult endeavour. Also the fact that the dollar (main international currency then – EURO currency wasn’t in force until 2002, it was just a credit value calculated from the EU member states currencies) fluctuated severely in our country in early 1999, provoking huge price increases, made me find two more sponsors.
After I published it, most people in the ministries dealing with EU funds wanted it for free. Only the NGOs and some townhalls in little towns and villages which wanted to get the rural support funds bought it. So I didn’t get any richer, but I was somehow famous in my circles. Other papers followed, but not on the same publishing route. Most were in the ministry’s official journal. One more handbook was published (I was only a part of the collective of redaction) within an EU project, therefore funded within the project. But all these adventures had deterred me in seeking a publisher for my novels.
I have been writing for a lifetime. I remember a story in first grade about a witch who flew over a man and turned him into a rabbit. And my first attempt at a novel was Western, in sixth grade, lasting 2 notebooks of 100 pages, handwritten loosely. Nothing of any literary value, of course – a sort of pale imitation of Karl May and Fenimore Cooper. But five of the novels I have written in high school and Uni had a literary value, so much later I transcribed them on computer, correcting, completing/ re-writing them and hoping that some day they might be published.
“The Wanderers of the Seas” had been written, in a thinner version, in my first year of Uni, in 1987. It got transcribed on the computer in 2002, and corrected, then it got some completions in 2009. The first 12 chapters of the first volume of “Lives in Turmoil” were written in 1984, in the summer holidays between the tenth and eleventh grade. “Rightness’ Friends”, in a thinner version, was written in my last year of highschool. That got transcribed in 2007 on computer, completed and re-written. In 2017, it just underwent some editing and condensing for publishing.
I had the opportunity to meet an interested publisher in late 2015, at a literary presentation. We talked, exchanged e-mails, and I sent him “The Wanderers of the Seas”, which was the shortest among these three best ones, to tell me if it was any good. There had been a few months until he succeeded to read it, and he was enthusiastic about it. This is how I got to be published, and at the official launching of the book I was sitting like a bride, the happiest possible… (The photo of me with the flowers is right from that debut launching).
What kind of music do you listen to and who are your favourite musicians?
I listen plenty of folklore of all countries, with a liking to Greek, Italian, Spanish and Latino-American (and reggae and American country & western too, but I don’t mean the Nashville hits, I mean the old cowboy songs, tex-mex ballads included) as well as pop music and various others. Among my favourites are Beatles, Elvis, Abba, Modern Talking, but also Julio Iglesias, Nana Mouskouri, Demis Roussos and many others. I don’t generally like metal and rapp, but even there I like a few bands – the French MANAU in rapp, because they are special, with Breton influences, and for metal, Alestorm, Tierra Santa, Mago de Oz.
My novels reflect some songs in fashion then too, mostly folk songs of the peoples I am writing about.
Modern Talking was not a band that I was familiar with but after listening to some of their tracks I thought I would select this one and hope Marina approves.
No Face, No Name, No Number
Do you have a favourite quote? What does it means to you as an individual?
I have three at equal preference, just that I don’t know where one of them is from, namely “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” And yes, I abide to it. The other two are from songs – “Don’t worry, be happy!“, from Bob Marley’s song, and “Together we’re strong” from a duet by Patrick Duffy and Mireille Matthieu. I am a natural worrier, so yes, I need being reminded that “every time you have some trouble, when you worry, you make it double”.
What are your literary plans for future?
There will be a third volume of “Lives in turmoil” too, a sequel which can be read also separately, titled “Other turmoils of life“, that I have been working at during November 2017 NaNoWriMo season. It will be finished in March, most likely, and bound to appear in late summer or early autumn.
During Camp NaNo in April I want to edit for further publishing another of my old novels which had been found as having enough literary value to be worth transcribing on the computer some years ago, and in the July Camp NaNo, another one. These would be all the past ones.
The one scheduled for Camp April can be translated into English as “The Crew” and is also young adult, about a group of high school children (and their middle school siblings/ cousins). It is set in a city by the Danube, named Brăila. Again, the exact period is not specified. It might be early 1990s. They are dealing with first love, jealousy, forbidden/ lost/ unrequited love, friendship, temptations/ good and bad choices, prejudice, morals, honour, carreer choices and neighbourhood wars.
The one scheduled for Camp July can be translated into English as “The call of the sea”, but it is a preliminary title which surely will be changed in view of publication, because the alliteration in original doesn’t give the best auditive impression. It is historical, with swashbuckling adventures, so therefore still meant mainly for young adults. Set in the 1790s in what’s now Greece and Ottoman Empire – then it was an all-encompassing Ottoman Empire – my characters are born at sea, in a seafaring family, and the twists of fate bring the two girls in a harem in Istanbul, and the lad among the janissaries. After a couple of years, the girls succeed to escape, together with another prisoner, helped by that one’s brother, then they meet the janissary brother and decide to join the rebels in the Greek mountains, fighting against the Turks. The other girl is killed in a fight and the two girls’ brother is accused by the rebel leader that he was guilty of her death, by his mistake in fighting, so they have to leave. They get aboard a ship bound for Africa, where the crew gets through several adventures, and upon return, they settle in Brăila, on the Danube.
I have other plans too, but that’s for 2019. First, the priorities…
Marina’s books are only in Romanian at this time but I am sure that like me you look forward to their English versions being released in the near future.
Connect to Marina.
WordPress blog in English and Romanian: https://solpicador.wordpress.com/
Music by Modern Talking: https://www.amazon.com/Modern-Talking/e/B000APBYEQ
My thanks to Marina and I am sure she would be delighted to answer any of your questions.
If you would like to be interviewed on the Open House on Sunday then it is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your work, blog and also to make new connections. Full details are in this post. https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/the-return-of-smorgasbord-open-house-interviews-for-all-writers-and-other-creative-artists/