Today “Sylvia Says” takes a virtual trip to London, UK, to catch up with solicitor (lawyer) and author Maria Savva.
SM: Maria, welcome to Sylvia Says. It’s a real pleasure to have you featuring on the blog today, and although I’m on a “virtual” visit here in London I still remember the time I spent in this wonderful place many moons ago. London is one of my favourite cities!
MS: Thank you very much for inviting me, Sylvia. I love London too. It’s changed a lot over the years, but it still has something special.
SM: Maria, reading through your website I noticed novels in a number of different genres. Would you say it’s fair to call you a multi-genre author? And if so, what is the reason as to why you decided to be multi-genre instead of sticking to one particular genre?
MS: Yes, I think it’s fair to say I’m a multi-genre author. It’s probably because I’ve never purposefully written a novel to fit into any particular genre. A lot of my fiction is inspired by or based on true events, so the genre will depend on what the subject matter is, I suppose. You’ll find elements of romance, thriller, comedy, and even horror/paranormal in my writing. I suppose it’s a reflection of life. Nothing is ever only one genre in real life, is it? My writing seems to have become darker over the years, but I think that’s more to do with getting older and having more of an understanding of the world around me, and let’s face it, the news is never very good these days. I find that I use writing as a kind of therapy, so I often tackle dark subjects as a way of digging deeper into my own feelings and as a way of trying to make sense of what people do and why.
SM: I agree with you there. I also find writing cathartic; it helps me cope with all the negativity and darkness of this world.
In your bio I discovered you were a prolific reader as a child, just like me, and that you pretty much read most genres, or at least went through different genre phases. By the way, I noticed you read most of the good old Mills & Boon (now Harlequin) romances. I confess I must’ve gone through most of their collection when I was a young teen while at the same time becoming hooked on Nancy Drew and Three Investigator mysteries. But like you, I grew up with books, and each of them became a friend to me. What was it that got you reading at such an early age (and I see you were an advanced reading pupil at school)?
MS: Yes, I read all those Mills and Boon romances as a teenager, but soon after I started reading paranormal/horror. Then I got hooked on chick-lit for a while and then I got into self-help books, fantasy fiction, and magical realism. My writing is probably a mixture of all those things!
I was able to read before I started school, and one of my earliest memories is reading a book to another child on what I think was one of my first days at school. My brother started school a couple of years before me and I used to copy everything he did, so I probably learned to read because he was learning to read. I was a very quiet child, shy, and self-conscious with a vivid imagination. I found an escape in books. I thought books were magical, and loved to read one after the other.
SM: So when did you start seriously thinking of writing a novel, and what inspired you to write it?
MS: I always enjoyed creative writing at school. I used to enter a lot of short story competitions in my twenties, so writing was something I enjoyed from a young age. I found myself out of work in 1997, and decided to write a novel as a challenge to myself. I’d just finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. It’s a short book and quite simply written, yet it has a great message and it inspired me to try to think of a story of my own that could perhaps change people’s lives.
At the time, I thought writing a novel was one of those impossible things and if I wrote one I would have achieved a dream. I actually found writing “Coincidences” quite easy. However, it was my first novel, and it was more about telling the story; I wasn’t paying too much attention to how I was writing it and how the reader would interpret it. It’s not an example of great literature, but it kick-started everything for me. My style of writing has developed a lot since then, and I’m learning more about writing every day.
It’s an ongoing process, as you probably know. These days, I try to be creative with the subject matter and the words I use, painstakingly searching for the exact word in each sentence (which is why it takes me years to edit my books!). “Coincidences” was what started it all, and after I wrote that I caught the writing bug and haven’t been able to stop writing.
SM: Oh, yes! I can relate to all the editing. I sometimes find myself doing more edits years later. Crazy, I know. But back to you, out of all the novels you’ve written to date, which would you say is your favourite and why?
MS: My most recent books are usually my favourites because my writing evolves with each book and story I write, so I feel that the latest book is usually more of an accurate reflection of where I’m at in my writing life.
My favourites at the moment are probably “Haunted” and “The Spider”, and the sequel to “The Spider” (which is not yet released).
Readers have told me “Haunted” is a story that stays with them. With that novel, I hopefully achieved what I wanted to achieve - to get people thinking. I had a message I wanted to convey with that book. It’s about the consequences of our actions, and living with the repercussions of one moment of anger, and not only the way our actions can alter our own lives, but the lives of many other people.
The main character in “The Spider”, Rex, is quite interesting, and I felt his story wasn’t quite over, which is why I was inspired to write a sequel.
SM: Having come from a very busy corporate career myself, I know how difficult it is to juggle work, family/friend commitments, and writing. Many people believe writing a novel is not that difficult; you just write the chapters and off you go. But authors know the painstaking work that goes into properly constructing an engaging plotline, giving life and depth to the characters, writing between five to ten drafts of the novel before we even begin to proofread properly and edit (and this happens before we engage the services of a proofreader/editor)! I know you can relate to all of this, but I simply want readers to know this is a true labour of love rather than writing to make money. So firstly, how did you manage your time to work at what obviously is a busy and stressful job and at the same time write?
MS: I’ve often wondered how I manage to concentrate long enough to put stories together, but then whenever I stop to think about it, I believe that the chaos is part of what creates inspiration and the stories that flow from that. I find that I am always being inspired by things that happen in my everyday life, so this helps when I put pen to paper and start writing a story. I find the actual writing of the stories relatively easy. It’s the editing/rewriting process that is hardest and takes the most time, and which can be quite frustrating. I agree with you, writing is hard work, you have to love doing it or you will end up giving up.
SM: Very true! And secondly, unless one hits the jackpot and gets discovered in what I call a “black swan event” and makes millions in royalties, what would your advice be to aspiring authors out there in regard to the reality of writing?
MS: Writing is a lonely business and it often means you spend a lot of time alone in a room. You really need to find people who will support you. I was lucky enough to connect online with a great community of independent authors (including you, Sylvia!) many years ago, and that has made all the difference.
If you’re an aspiring writer, I won’t tell you to do something else instead, but you shouldn’t go into it thinking you will make money. Writing has lots of other benefits. For example, I find it therapeutic.
SM: Yes. I have to say that writing is extremely therapeutic and, although a lonely business, most of the time I find I enjoy being in the company of all the characters inside my head. You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I think all creatives are just a little bit crazy; otherwise, they wouldn’t be doing what we call a “labour of love”.
But I ramble... Maria, before we close off, is there anything else you would like to add, including what is the next writing project for you?
MS: I’d like to mention a few of my favourite independent authors who write fantastic books, which I’ve read and enjoyed. Whenever anyone is asked to name a favourite author, they usually mention someone famous. I’ve even seen other independent writers do that in interviews. Of course we all have famous authors who are our favourites, but let’s face it, they don’t need the publicity. Most of my favourite writers these days are independent authors and they don’t get any promotion. So here are a few I would recommend: J. Michael Radcliffe, Darcia Helle, Maria Haskins, Neil Schiller, Julie Elizabeth Powell, Jason McIntyre.
There is a whole world of undiscovered books out there, and I would ask every person reading this to try a book by one of those authors because you never know, they could end up being one of your favourites too.
As mentioned, my next writing project is the sequel to “The Spider”. It’s called “Evil Never Dies”. I’m working on the final edits now and hope to release it soon. The release has been delayed due to my busy work life this year, but hopefully it will be out next year. I’m looking forward to sharing it. I also have a collection of short stories that is almost ready to be published.
SM: Thank you so very much for taking the time to feature on Sylvia Says today, Maria. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your work, and I wish you all the best with your upcoming release! I hope next time we meet, I can physically get to lovely London in person.
MS: That would be wonderful! I’d also love to visit Australia one day!
SM: I’ll hold you to that and what’s more I’ll take you sightseeing!
For more information on Maria Savva and where you can check out her books please click HERE.
It is a well-known fact that most authors live vicariously through their characters. I’m not sure if this is true for all of them, but I believe authors need to live “in character” at some stage if their work is to be of quality.
In fact, I’ll take this a step further and propose that many of us (author or not) live between three worlds:
2. In character
Let’s take a closer look:
What’s reality, anyway? What if we’re figments of someone else’s imagination, and we’re fooling ourselves that our lives are real? After all, as Mr William Shakespeare suggests in his play “As You Like It”:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts...
Therefore, what you perceive to be real may not be real. But no matter how you perceive your reality, certain things are inescapable: birth, death, taxes, paying bills, making a living, illness, the whole myriad of human emotions, and whatever else fits into what we perceive as living "the human condition".
Now, this is where things begin to get interesting for authors (and for anyone with an imagination). As with “method actors”, we also have “method writers”. So we often find ourselves coming across to others as the characters we write about and those we identify with. This often puzzles the people who think they know us, but it’s a fact that many of us “step into character” at some stage or other in our lives in order to take a break from our reality.
So people who interact with us may think we’re simply “just another creative soul” or an absolute fruitcake.
For me, I step in and out of character at a moment’s notice between my many protagonists; and this always crosses into my reality so that people are not sure who they’re dealing with. I could be Mia Ferrari one minute, a smartarse-doesn’t-suffer-fools-gladly chick with a liking for younger men and solving mysteries, only to turn into Cat Ryan the next minute, an online-dating blogger with a love of antiques (not antique men, but antique furniture and art); then, on to Sarah Jamison, a Bridget Jones-type that comes up with madcap ideas to get a real man; and finally, to Carla Fiori, who is the love interest of David Bowie (while he’s in character as Rhys Lewis) in my latest novel, The Stranger, a sci-fi apocalyptic romance.
And this is where it starts to get really spooky! Not only do some writers live in character at times, but often we simply decide to take off from reality for a major part of our time, and we live vicariously through all our characters and the situations in which they find themselves.
For me, this is addictive, and I often find myself in this world. This can happen to me while I’m writing (or "in the zone" as I call it) or while I'm watching a movie, or reading a book. And oftentimes, I simply switch from reality and immerse myself in this particular world because this is where I like to be best of all.
In this world, I can be anybody, and I can interact with any character. This is the world where I’m the superhero and save the day; or I have a ton of younger men as lovers; or a young version of David Bowie and I are an item and we compose and perform music, among other things; or I solve all sorts of crimes and bring the bad guys to justice. In this world, I’m invincible, fit and healthy, and a gorgeous femme fatale; and the list goes on.
So whether you’re a creative type, or you have a love of films and books, or you can simply daydream at will—you, too, live between three worlds. The question is: Which world do you mostly want to live in?
We all have our trials and tribulations. We have to deal at some stage in our lives with adversity, obstacles, loss, grief, illness, and so on. We often ask ourselves "why me?" We question life, the existence of God--we sometimes even think we're cursed. We tend to compare ourselves to others, and think they're lucky and we are not. We get depressed, we despair, and sometimes we want to stop living.
Like many of you reading this blog post, I've had my fair share of disasters in life, but what I've learned from the bad times was that no matter how awful things got, I could always reinvent myself. We can all reinvent ourselves, but whether it's for better or worse, only you can decide.
Today, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you such a person--one who opted to reinvent himself for the better. Please meet fellow author, Gary Goldstein.
Gary resides in New York City, and I met him a couple of years ago when he appeared as a guest in my then literary show "The Lit Chick Show". Since that time, Gary and I have bumped into one another through the social media, and I decided to invite Gary for an interview on Sylvia Says. I believe if anyone can give us an example of facing adversity, overcoming obstacles and despair, and coming out on the other side with a smile and a lot to give, it is Gary Goldstein.
And so, we move on to find out a little more about Gary and his life.
SM: Gary, thank you for being a guest on Sylvia Says. Do you think writing Jew in Jail was a cathartic experience for you?
GG: Thank you, Sylvia. Good to be here. As to your question--yes, writing Jew in Jail absolutely was a cathartic experience, especially since I wrote it AS I was serving my sentence!
SM: How was this experience cathartic?
GG: It allowed me to become very introspective and think about why I had become the way I was, as far as not having any self-esteem and self-confidence, and why I was resorting to alcohol, drugs and gambling in order to step out of my reality.
SM: Like many people who've been through trauma, whether it be from an accident, a death in the family, drug addiction, etc, can you describe a time when you felt the lowest you could ever be and how you pulled out of it?
GG: Yes, and this is a very good question. It was when I finally decided that I had enough of my "revolving door" lifestyle on the morning of October 31, 2007.
Even though I spent nearly six years behind bars, I did suffer one last relapse 18 months after coming home in 2004, because I had decided and justified that I "deserved" to get high as a result of everything I had been through and dealt with.
However, when I woke up on October 31, 2007, and realized that I felt like a rat in maze and was never going to amount to anything in life unless I finally cleaned up my act and got help for my addictions, I walked over to the Coney Island Hospital Chemical Dependency Outpatient Drug Treatment Program and voluntarily signed in.
Long story short, I remained six months longer than was necessary, and today serve as the alumni committee president.
In addition, this has led to my becoming a motivational & inspirational speaker, and I get to help other recovering addicts at drug programs, hospital detoxes, jails, schools, etc., and get tremendous satisfaction out of passing the message of hope onto those who need it.
SM: Like most people, we sometimes feel in the depths of despair--we feel like we're going to lose it--if you were ever there, what do you think gave you the strength to pull yourself out of this feeling?
GG: Just finally realizing and believing that I was born with greatness - like I tell others when I speak - and that my accomplishments, including college degrees, career in print and broadcast journalism, intelligence, wit, personality and life experience necessitated that I do my best to live up to my full potential.
That, plus the fact that I have a very loving and supportive family and friends who refused to get down on me, even when I was very much down on myself!
SM: How did it feel to be in jail?
GG: It felt degrading, embarrassing and humiliating. Of course, I obviously had nobody else to blame for it happening but myself.
However, after being stripped of my dignity, I slowly but surely began to dig out from the desperation my life had become, and started to work out, tutor other inmates in the school, go to the general and law libraries, lay in the sun out in the yard, and, of course, write "Jew in Jail!"
So, my point is that even under these horrible conditions of being behind bars, it is possible to overcome anything in life, and end up a better person.
SM: What message do you want people to take away from your story?
GG: I want people to understand that, no matter who you are, where you come from, your economic status, or any other factor, addiction is a disease that can affect anyone, and does not discriminate.
Furthermore, I also want people to realize that, regardless of what kind of a tough time they might be going through, they are never alone as there are always people who have experienced the same thing themselves and are willing to help.
Simply put, never be ashamed to ask for help, and never be too proud to admit that you need help in life, because we are all human beings and make mistakes.
SM: If you could go back in time, what would you change about your life?
GG: This is another very good question, and I would say that I would just never take anything for granted, like I did when I was growing up.
I would also appreciate everything I had as a kid, including a great family, friends, education, career after graduation, and just basically know that I could have been whatever I wanted to be in life, as long as I maintained my self-esteem and self-confidence, which, sadly, wasn't the case.
SM: You entitled your book "Jew in Jail". Is this because of the faith you were born into and you were identifying with it, or because you suffered discrimination because of your faith?
GG: Both actually, although more of the second, as I was definitely subjected to a lot of discrimination while incarcerated.
SM: What is your next project?
GG: Aside from continuing to promote "Jew in Jail," and deliver motivational & inspirational speeches in order to help others, I am very interested in getting my own radio and/or television show so I can empower people to always be their best.
I truly believe that I can help so many people achieve their goals by instilling in them a sense of greatness, and letting them know and realize that nothing can stop them from succeeding in life as long as they remain diligent, hard working, and focused.
SM: I wish you well with your book, Gary, and once again, thank you for being a guest on my blog.
GG: My pleasure, and thank you.
You can connect with Gary Goldstein through the following links:
They say that it's better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. Hmm. Let's examine this further.
I think we can all agree that when we first find love (no matter how misguided or blind we are) we feel like our little friend "Super Kitty". We are faster than a speeding bullet, can leap tall buildings in a single bound; we fly through space and everything looks absolutely "f....ckng" fantastic; that is, until we crash! This is when it turns out that the object of our affection has feet of clay. In fact, it would be nice if the object of my affection had cement shoes instead (but that's another story and something for The Godfather to work out).
So, after the devastation of a breakup and the death of our dreams, we are left feeling a little bit like our friend, The Pink Panther. Oh, just shoot me! And we start asking all sorts of questions: "What did I do?" (This is a typical one asked, mainly by females. I mean, why should it be our fault all the time?). "Why did he/she leave?" And some of us get the good old: "It's not you, it's me" bullshit.
Okay, so the answer to the question: "Is it better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all?"
The answer: I DON'T FREAKIN' KNOW!!!
And you thought I was going to say something really philosophical, right? Sorry to disappoint you.
All I can say is that while the first phase of love can be as exhilarating as
landing a 747 airplane on your own while being guided by "ground control", and have Bruce Willis in the back of the plane shooting all the bad guys; having your heart broken is like crashing the bloody plane and killing everyone onboard--including Bruce Willis!
Is there a payoff to putting yourself through all this, only to come out bruised and absolutely crushed with disappointment at the other end? Ask the Dalai Lama.
There is only one thing I am sure about, and it is this; having gone through some harrowing experiences with the opposite sex, I've learned the following:
*If you’re an author, your writing suddenly gains more depth.
*If you’re a woman over 40, you have a higher chance of being killed by a terrorist than finding a real man.
*You get sick of people telling you that “what goes around comes around”. This means to me that I must’ve done something really terrible in a previous life (or even this one) in order to deserve meeting those #%&@#@ good-for-nothing SOBs.
*Life’s a bitch and then you die :-(
*“Eat, Pray, Love”. I tried eating and got indigestion; I prayed, but this didn't change any of the psychos out there; I didn’t find anyone to love yet, but then, I'm not Julia Roberts; however, ... I AM STILL COOL!
Author Sylvia Massara's: