Welcome, readers. My special guest today is Mirta Ines Trupp who is talking with me about her historical fiction/fantasy novel Becoming Malka.
Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with “un pie acá, y un pie allá” (with one foot here and one foot there). Mirta’s self-proclaimed life’s career has been raising a family and creating a home, alongside her husband of over thirty years.
She returned to the world of the gainfully employed late in life; currently in a position which doesn’t require one iota of dramatic flair – just common sense, organization, and attention to detail. Rather than being self-deprecating, Mirta lightheartedly concedes that her paper pushing makes a number of people happy, as that bureaucratic busywork ensures that payroll is met and invoices are processed. Besides being an avid novel reader and a devoted Beatles fan, Mirta most enjoys singing choral music and researching family genealogy.
Welcome, Mirta. Please tell us about your current release.
In pursuit of her Master’s degree in Imperial Russian History, 24 year-old Molly Abramovitz is heading to Moscow for a week long seminar. Never one to miss an opportunity for genealogical research; methodical and meticulous Molly plans a side trip to Ukraine. Intriguingly, her mother, Judith, evokes a favorite Yiddish adage, ‘Man plans and God laughs.’
If Judith had her way, her daughter would still be dressing up in fairy wings and princess crowns- collecting wild flowers and connecting with her spiritual energy, but for Molly; making plans and compiling data came as second nature. She and her father had delighted in spending long, cozy, afternoons cuddled in the library studying ancient family history. David Abramovitz began recounting tales of great-grandparents trekking across Mother Russia when his daughter was still quite young.
Captivated, Molly learned how her relatives boarded a ship and sailed across the ocean to reach the shores of Argentina. Now, at last, Molly’s plans are coming to fruition. Her trek to her ancestral home leads her to an accidental discovery of a mythical tarot card. Will the life lessons revealed on this enchanted journey shake up her staid and uncomplicated life? Only time will tell.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had written a Creative Non-fiction in August 2012 entitled, With Love, The Argentina Family. This first book was written to honor my parents and my heritage- and to explain my rather unique upbringing. The idea of Becoming Malka literally came to me in a dream- in a feverish dream! I left work early that particular day sensing an oncoming cold or flu. I went straight to bed and when I awoke; I had the whole concept for the book! Talk about fantasy!
The vision combined bits of “Fiddler on the Roof with “Lost in Austen” and “The Wizard of Oz.” In addition, I incorporated elements of history and genealogy, subjects which are of great interest to me. Molly’s journey rings true- except for the time travel, of course- as I am a Jewish, Russian, Argentine, American immigrant myself. The inspiration for both books actually stem from the same base. I wanted to honor my family- this sturdy, loving, enduring stock made up of Jewish values, Russian ancestry, and Argentine culture. As an immigrant, having the good fortune of growing up in the United States of America, I wanted to honor the sense of pride and gratitude, as well.
Excerpt from Becoming Malka:
Molly leafed through the book until she came to page marked with a playing card. Decorated in a highly stylized manner, the purple card reminded her of the fileteo designs so popular in Argentina. At its center, a large, oak tree was surrounded by a variety of esoteric images. Turning the card over, she found another captivating image- a picture of a fairy holding eight spears in her right hand.
No, she’s not a fairy. Wouldn’t you know it? She’s a queen- complete with her royal crown.
Molly held the card up to the solitary light source in order to read the faint writing around the edges. Her head was pounding as she began sounding out the words; she had to blink a few times to think through the pain. The light seemed to be getting stronger and she thought it strange that such a small, worn out bulb could produce such a powerful stream of energy. She tried to hold the card up once again, but was blinded by a spark. Closing her eyes made things worse as the room now began to spin. A burst of wind crashed through the fragile, cracked window and she heard the bulb shatter. Molly felt an odd sensation in her hand; her fingers were burning, as if she was holding a flickering match. She felt something tugging on the card, but she couldn’t open her eyes to see who or what was causing the sensation. The last thing that came to her mind before fainting away was Galina’s comment about unwanted guests.
Slowly coming around, Molly gently rubbed her temples and blinked a few times to clear her vision.
Man! That was the worst migraine ever!
“I wonder how long I’ve been lying here,” speaking aloud, her parched throat cried out for water. She tentatively sat up and reached for her belongings, but found them missing. It was then that she heard a soft gasp.
“Who’s there?” she said, instinctively switching to Russian. “Whoever you are, you better show yourself.”
Remembering the odd sensation of someone tugging at the card she held in her fingers, she suddenly became concerned. Wishing she could find her metal water bottle, but settling instead for a bronze candlestick she found on the desk, Molly prepared to strike.
“I’m ready for you, so come out!”
Cautiously looking about the room, she saw the book of Kabbalah- tossed off to the side was the scorched card. She went to reach for them as a young boy jumped up from behind the trunk and tried to reclaim the card from her hand. Molly let out a small shout, more from being startled than from fear. The boy was about eleven or twelve, she guessed, and he seemed to be dressed in a period costume- in her professional estimation, it was quite good. He must be playing a role, she thought to herself. Maybe Galina sent him over to add to the historical drama, but then, maybe not. He looked pale and frightened.
Maybe it’s his first gig. He is too shy to do this kind of work. I’ll introduce myself and see if I can’t get him to say his lines.
“Hello,” she said, hoping her forced smile was not too frightening. “My name is Molly Abramovitz. I’m here to do some research on my family.”
There was silence- crickets even. Molly waited a moment, and then continued.
“My guide- my escort, Galina Alexsandrovich, brought me here so that I might look through the family’s belongings…you know, things that they left behind when they moved away.”
She paused and waited for a response, yet the boy was still.
“Something happened during the storm,” she continued. “The window burst and the light went out…”
“Liar!” the boy finally cried out.
“Excuse me? What did you say?”
“You are a liar! We did not leave anything behind. We have not gone. This room is my secret place- my- my reading room and furthermore, I do not believe a word you have said! I do not know a Galina Alexsandrovich and worst of all, you…you…YOU APPEARED OUT OF THIN AIR!”
The boy stood shaking and breathless; Molly, in a complete state of amazement, simply stared at him. A moment passed before they realized they both now were holding on to the main object of interest -the tarot card.
“It began to burn my fingers,” he whispered, “and then I saw a bright light and then- then, you appeared.”
“Look little boy, the show is over. Let go of the card please. I would like to inspect it further.”
“I am not a little boy! I am thirteen years old- I am a Bar Mitzvah.”
Molly rubbed her eyes and let out a deep breath. “I’m so not up for this…Fine. What’s your name?”
“My name is Duvid Abramovitz.”
“O.K., enough is enough. I just told you that my name is Abramovitz. You don’t have to copy me. What is your name?”
“I am Duvid Abramovitz. My parents are Moishe and Dvora Abramovitz. This is the home of Solomon and Malka Abramovitz, my grandparents. We all live here together, all my aunts and uncles: Sara, Aaron, Rivka, Avram, Yaacov, Naftali, Ysroel, Efraim, Benjamin, Yosef, and Leah.”
Spreading his arms out wide, trying to encompass as much space as possible, he continued, “This room is my secret place. I -I am not supposed to be here. I am not supposed to be studying the Kabbalah. But you…you are a thief or a sorceress…I’m not certain which. I will have to let you go, if you promise to leave now and not tell my parents.”
Molly, feeling weak, felt her knees give in as she sank back down to the floor.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Currently, I’m playing with the idea of a sequel. Many readers have expressed an interest in finding out what happened to Malka and the family, so unless I experience another inspirational ‘fever’, I have some work cut out for me!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Besides being an English major in high school and Mrs. Doyle’s darling, I never truly considered myself a writer. I simply had NO IDEA how difficult it would be to write, to publish, to promote, or to merely get people to “Like” my book’s page. I did know, however, I had the material- fifty years’ worth at least- but I struggled. Boy, did I struggle! I struggled with first person vs. third person, real names or fictitious, copy right regulations and the oh-so-beloved Chicago Manual of Style. I struggled to appease family members who wanted to be removed from the story line and then, complained when they were not included in the memoir. I struggled with researching Tarot and Kabbalah and the Space-Time Continuum (are there any Trekkies out there?) I struggled with the “traditional” publishing method versus the self- publishing route. And then of course, I struggled with the term “author.” Am I truly an author? As it turns out, the answer is very simple…I write ergo I am a writer.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
It is my long term goal to write away the hours, but for now- and until I retire-I am a full time employee of a local government agency. During the day, I manage to scribble a few lines here and there during breaks and my lunch hour. I usually keep paper and pen on hand for when I am inspired and suddenly come up with a great line. I was caught unprepared once while traveling on a plane. I had an urge to write a thought- a conversation between two characters- but I didn’t have my tablet or even a scrap of paper. Tired of waiting for the overwrought flight attendant, I reached into the back pocket of the seat directly in front of me and pulled out the handy-dandy airsick bag and wrote an entire scene. Just goes to show, if you really want to write, you will find the time!
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
See the above answer! I will write down a thought, a line or an entire chapter in the worst possible chicken scratch on any scrap piece of paper, and then spend hours trying to decipher what I wrote.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be Maria van Trapp when I was five, Florence Nightengale when I was eight years and Laura Ingalls when I was ten. I didn’t become a nun…being Jewish and all, but I do sing! I worked as a Medical Assistant for many years and studied to be a teacher, so all in all, I stuck to my childhood ideals!
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’ve written a Creative Non-Fiction and a Historical Fiction/Fantasy. Both books speak to Argentine and Russian history, Jewish culture and mysticism. Some people might think that a book about a particular culture or faith would only attract a specific group. But on a deeper level, of course, we are all human beings; we can relate to various universal themes such as tradition, assimilation, acceptance and personal growth. When readers can see beyond the label and see themselves, that’s when the author has truly accomplished something of worth. Once you peel away the labels, whether they are self-inflicted or imposed by society, you end up with the human experience and that makes for interesting reading.
Thank you for being here today, Mirta!