DSP: For starters, tell us a bit about you, we like to get to know our authors as a person!
Roberta: My name is Roberta Kagan, and first and foremost I would like to express how honored and grateful I am to be interviewed on your blog. I would like to offer a copy of each of the following of my books in whatever format you chose, as gifts to the winners of your contest.
1. The Heart Of A Gypsy
2. All My Love, Detrick
Well, what can I tell you about me? I guess if I were to tell you my philosophy on life it would be this; I believe that every person on this earth has been put here to bring something special to the world and thereby enrich all of us. And I have found that when I meet a person, if I talk to them long enough I can see that they have a gift whether they are aware of it or not. Then, when I encounter all of the wonderful writers and artists out there and I read their books or enjoy their art work, I am humbled to be a part of this talented community.
DSP: Nice to meet you! So tell us, where did you find the inspiration for your most recent book?
Roberta: My most recent novel is called “Heart Of a Gypsy.” It is a love story about the Romany (gypsy) people, set during the Holocaust. There are two reasons why I wrote this book. First of all, my father was Romany and so these are a people whose blood runs through my veins and whose spirit lives in my soul. But even more importantly I feel that too little has been written concerning the plight of the Romany under the Nazi occupation of Europe. So, when I wrote this novel, I wanted to bring the magic of a culture few had ever explored along with the horrors of Hitler’s reign. I’ve tried to bring the Romany people to life by explaining their superstitions and cultural nuances while telling their story. But “Heart of a Gypsy,” is so much more than just that. It is a very sensuous love story filled with romance, steamy sex, and mystery.
DSP: So, do you have any kind of ritual for writing? Such as, you have to write with music on, or you can only write when you’re completely alone, etc?
Roberta: Rituals for writing, I wish! Often I am interrupted and then I lose my train of thought so I start over. But I guess you could say that I sit down at the computer and wait to see what my characters have to tell me.
DSP: Who is your favorite character in your book, and why? How about the character you had the most trouble with?
Roberta: I can’t say I have a favorite character. In “All My Love, Detrick” Jacob is a kind and understanding Jewish father with a sense of humor that breaks your heart because he uses it to bring joy even while he is suffering. And then there is Detrick. Detrick is a man who is so consumed with the love he feels for his woman that he will risk everything to protect her. Now, who wouldn’t want a man like that. Karl is a Zionist; he is strong and willing to die for what he believes in. His passion is breath taking. Ada, Karl’s girlfriend is a woman who has a mind of her own and will not be dominated by anyone. While Helga, is a beautiful young naïve German girl who has some serious life lessons to learn. I love them all. And those are only the characters from “All My Love, Detrick.” Which is the story of two families one Jewish, one German who are bound together by a love so strong that it refuses to be destroyed.
You ask which of my characters was most difficult to write. I guess Konrad, in All my love, Detrick was a bit difficult because he was so angry and willing to embrace the evil around him, but he was also human and I had to find ways to show that side of him. It was important that the reader know he was a human being even though he was swept up in the power of the Third Reich.
DSP: Now, when you sit down to write a book, a paragraph, or whatever you‘re working on at the moment, do you just sit down in front of the computer, or do you need an outline? Is there any other prep you need in order to organize your thoughts either before you write or in the process of writing?
Roberta: Because I write historical fiction, it is necessary for me to read everything that I can about the period that I plan to write in. Once I have a good understanding of the era, I can then put my characters into place and allow them to take the plot through the historical events that are occurring within their world.
My first draft of any book is done without an outline. I just envision the characters and let them build the story. However, when I rewrite the book which I will do once it is complete, I will use a loose outline. Sometimes, however, there will be changes as I progress.
DSP: Do you foresee any more books to continue this story? If so, do you think we can get a taste of what’s to come?
Roberta: I’ve had several readers request a sequel to “All My Love, Detrick.” They were interested in Dorothy’s story. For those not familiar with the book, Dorothy was Leah’s best friend. Dorothy’s family escaped to the United States just as Hitler was coming into power. Because she had such a difficult time with the adjustment she was forced to work as a singer at a ten cents a dance hall where she became involved with the Chicago mob which at the time was known as “The Outfit.” I don’t want to give you any more information because it would spoil the book for those who plan to read it. But should I write the sequel it would be about Dorothy and her singing in night clubs for the Chicago mafia in the late thirties through the 1950’s. If anyone has any suggestions as to what they would like to see in the sequel, please feel free to write to me on my website. I always love to hear from readers.
DSP: Other than this most recent story, do you have any ideas for different books that might be published in the future? Care to give us a teaser?
Roberta: I am working on a coming of age novel at the moment. It takes place in the late 1960’s. The story is about a young girl who runs away from home and becomes involved with motorcycle gangs, then travels to California to the heart of the hippie movement, falls in love and suffers disappointment but finds redemption. There is also the story of a serial killer in this book, who finds his victims among the young and vulnerable girls who hitch-hike to California on the legendary route 66.
DSP: Who is your greatest inspiration to write? What person makes you believe in yourself, and how?
Roberta: God is my inspiration to write. I have an interesting story to tell you. I had never written a word. In fact I’d been a hair dresser for 25years. As the economy began to plummet, I lost most of my clients. One night I was beside myself with worry. I didn’t know what to do. So, I got down on my knees and I prayed. I said, “God, show me a direction.” I thought the direction would be a job working as a manager in a hair styling chain, or something along those lines. I had no idea if I would even be able to find a job doing this, so after a good cry, I went to bed. At four am I woke up. The story to “All My Love, Detrick” was in my head. I was compelled to go to the computer and begin to write. For two weeks, I wrote like crazy. I called in sick to work and hardly stopped even to eat or shower. By the end of the two weeks I had an outline.
Although, “All My Love, Detrick,” was not the first book I published, it is the closest to my heart. I wrote another book before I had the guts to publish “Detrick.” And when I did finally put “Detrick” out there, it was like giving the world a piece of my soul.
DSP: Do you have any aspirations to be similar or comparable to another author? Why?
Roberta: There are so many authors who I admire, but I would never presume to be on their level. I love John Steinbeck, and Jenna Blum. I also love Margret Mitchell and Chitra Divakaruni. The list of authors who have taken me on wonderful journeys through their books is endless. It would take a multitude of pages to list them all. But I do hope that through my writing I can give others the joy of reading that I have received from the authors I’ve read and loved.
DSP: Okay, one last question, and this one is different for every author, not to mention completely off the wall! Exactly how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
DSP: Haha, I guess the world will never know! Well, before we close this out, is there anything else you want to say to the readers out there?
Roberta: Thanks so much for having me as a guest on your blog. When the Gypsies were about to leave a location where they had been camped, the Shera Rom who was the leader would sit in his horse drawn wagon at the head of the wagon train. As he readied his horses to move forward, he would call out to all the families. He would raise his hand and say “Good Road.” That means “travel well, and safely and may you find many blessings along the way.” And so I wish you, Ashley and all of your readers “Good Road…”
And there you have it, folks. A remarkable author invited us into her world, and we are all very blessed to have this opportunity. I, for one, am very glad to have had the opportunity to meet someone so dedicated and with such an inspirational story. Please make sure you check out the Hot Links and Reading List for more information on Roberta Kagan, and as a special treat (no tricks, just treats on the Drunken Space Penguin!), we will be hosting a giveaway this weekend, and two lucky readers will walk away with an incredible book. One winner will receive All My Love, Detrick, and another winner will receive Heart of a Gypsy. Contest details will be announced Friday, and throughout the week I will post more on author Roberta Kagan. This is going to be a very exciting week, so don't miss out on your chance for an awesome book by an awesome author.
I do want to give a big THANK YOU to Roberta for taking time out of her busy schedule to give us this insight, and wish you tapadh leat an sealbh math dhuit! Which is Scottish Gaelic for thank you and good luck! (Okay, so I don't speak the language, because in honesty it's a dying language, but my father's side of the family has Scottish heritage, and I embrace it!)
Thanks again, Roberta!