D: Hello Oana! First of all, can you tell us about yourself?
O: I was born in Bucharest, Romania. As you might know, until 1989 Romania was under a communist dictatorship. After the fall of the communism in 1989 I studied languages at the University in Bucharest, then received my Master’s at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. English is my third language; I have always loved learning languages. I have worked as a translator, as a teacher and eventually caring for animals both domestic and wild. I volunteered and worked for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centers both in the United States and Canada. Now I live in Phoenix, Arizona, where I continue to work with animals and to write. I have become a pretty quiet person, when I feel I have something to say I just sit down and write.
I am lucky to work with animals. I go to work every morning knowing that there are no small office gossips there for me; instead, thirty puppies barking happily and waiting for me to feed them, give them medications and check on their well being.
D: What inspired you to write The Healings?
O: Undoubtedly, being around animals. They are a great source of comfort. When I used to work with wildlife, I spent most of the time in silence. You have to be quiet around these guys; you have to avoid stressing them; besides, the purpose of your work is to release them back into the wild without exposing them to human interaction too much. They have to stay wild. In a way, this type of work implies isolation – with very rare occasions when you communicate with other fellow rehabilitators. It was a great time for insights, you know. Because I grew up going on fishing trips with my dad – and silence was mandatory; he didn’t want me to scare his fish off – it was pretty easy for me to stay quiet. And focused. Observation is a key factor in working with animals. I started seeing a lot of details that usually go unnoticed: expressions, eyes, coats. It happens that writing requires a great deal of observation as well, so in a way, my passions completed each other. When I wrote the first chapter of The Healings, there was no cat. Then I realized that my character needed a companion.
D: I love the nameless man’s cat. Do you have a cat?
O: No, I do not have any animals right now, if you don’t count those at work. My parents still do. They have two cats and two dogs. One of the cats is an albino that loves sun and heat. In the winter, for example, he glues himself to the heaters and he sleeps there until his coat gets burnt. In the summer, they rush him to the vet with burns on his ear tips. He is a funny character; he loves heat but heat doesn’t love him. You can see his picture on my website. Cats are fascinating and sadly, misunderstood animals. We take their sense of independence as ungratefulness or selfishness.
D: Where do you do most of your writing? Anything special you must have or do while you are writing?
O: I do most of my writing in my head. I think of what I want to write, and how I want to write it. I think of it for days sometimes weeks and even years. Then I just write it and it is usually exactly the way I wanted it to be. For example, I had been thinking of The Healings for twenty years. I had not written a word all this time, yet I kept thinking of it. I had not “honed” my craft. I had never gone to a writing course. I had never picked English to be my language of choice the language picked me. One day I just started writing and it was overwhelming. My hands could not keep up with my thoughts that were coming at me so fast. It was an exhilarating experience.
The only requirement I have in order to write is silence. I cannot write in crowded coffee shops or at workshops. I can think of things, I can come up with ideas, but I need quiet time to put something down on paper.
D: Did you always know that you are going to be a writer?
D: What are your top 5 favorite books? What book are you currently reading?
O: My favorite writers are classics. I love many authors; it would be hard for me to pick five of them. I love Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, Shalom Aleichem, Franz Kafka, Isaac Singer, and Bruno Schulz. I have learned so much from them, without ever wanting to copy their style or sound like them. Only great minds can teach you that.
I am currently re-reading a wonderful book written by my friend Robert Rubenstein. It is called Ghost Runners and it is a historical fiction about the only two Jews on the American Olympic team sent to Berlin in 1936 and who were removed from the relay. I think it is an important life lesson and history lesson as well. That marginalization of the Jews is what ultimately led to Holocaust. We should learn from that.
D: Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published authors?
D: Tell us 3 things that we might be surprised to know about you.
D: Any last word?
I had seen artists who come from a certain ethnic, religious or racial background and limit themselves to the point that when they promote their works they do it almost exclusively in their own world. I think this is dangerous. Writing should build bridges, should bring people together. We should learn about each other and about ourselves. We should stand for each other’s rights. But how are we going to do it if we do not reach out? To give you an example: I am working now on a memoir about the twenty years I spent under Ceausescu. I am not going to promote my book in Romanian circles. Sure I would love my fellow Romanians to read it, but they are not my target audience. Most of them know very well the horrors that took place; they have been there as well. I want people from other cultures to read and relate to that. And I am curious too to learn more about injustice around the world. We are profoundly interconnected. Discrimination against one human being is basically discrimination against humanity as a whole.
My intention is to cross the borders, to entice readers from various cultural racial and religious backgrounds. We are all humans. We all love, laugh, suffer and are happy or depressed. And this is the nature of The Healings.
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