Friday, 20 February 2015

My family in Scotland goes back at least 300 years...

Interview with Carmel McMurdo Audsley
by Agnes A. Rose

Carmel McMurdo Audsley lives in Brisbane (Australia). After a career as a Journalist and Editor, now she spends her time researching and writing historical fiction novels. She holds a Bachelor's degree majoring in Journalism, Literature and Philosophy. She has published a trilogy of novels based on her family history in Scotland entitled “Ours, Yours and Mines”, “Far Across The Sea” and “Faeries, Farms and Folk”, which details life from the green fields of farm towns to the gritty closeness of life in the miners’ rows to the sunny shores of Australia. Carmel has started a blog essentially for readers of her trilogy who want to improve their knowledge about the real family in the story and to keep in touch while she writes the sequel. Carmel’s blog may also provide useful tips for writers. 

Agnes A. Rose: Carmel, I am very honored that I can host you on my blog and talk to you. At the beginning I would like to ask you for telling us something more about yourself. So far your books have not published in Poland so I think that my readers want to know more about you.

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: Thank you so much for your time, Agnes. My father came from Scotland to Australia in 1950. He told us stories about his life in ‘the old country’ but as a family we were very Australian. I worked as a Journalist and Editor at various magazines and newspapers over my career. My husband Iain spent his career working in live theatre. We decided to retire from full-time work a few years ago and I finally had time to research my family history. The stories I found were so fascinating that I decided to write about them and I had enough material for three novels.

Agnes A. Rose:  I am very interested to find out how much important history is to you. Do you read many books on this subject?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: I think history is important as we need to know where we come from. Also, if we know about the past, it can keep us from making the same mistakes in the future. I am interested in ancient history and read biographies mostly as I like to know about people’s lives.

Agnes A. Rose: You have just published a trilogy of novels based on your family story. What was the genesis of these books? Is it a story you have wanted to tell for a long time?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: The stories are about my ancestors but they are also about many people whose ancestors come from Scotland. Some people worked in terrible conditions in the coal mines and lived in two-room houses, sometimes with ten children. I wanted to tell those stories so that people could fill in some gaps in their own family history and see how hard it was for the people who came before us. When I started to research ‘Faeries, Farms and Folk’ and go back even further in time, I discovered that many people lived and worked on common lands with a little cottage and a small plot to grow their own vegetables but after landowners enclosed the estates the people were forced off the land they had worked for generations. So many readers could relate to these stories.

Agnes A. Rose: Could you tell us something more about each of these books? I mean their storyline.

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: The first book I published in 2012 is called ‘Ours, Yours and Mines’.  It is the story of the families who worked in the coal mines in south-west Scotland in the mid-1800s and how they battled poverty and disease. My great-great-grandmother was a very courageous woman who tried to steer her family away from the coal mines but sometimes it was the only work they could get, even though they had some education. It was also a time when tuberculosis killed many people and she cared for them at home. No one realised at the time that the disease was contagious.

I followed up that book in 2013 with ‘Far Across The Sea’ which continued the story, and covered two world wars and the Great Depression before my father left Scotland to try his luck in Australia. He intended to work in Australia for two years, America for two years and Canada for two years but he never made it back to Scotland. He met my mother and he stayed in Australia. The book details his mother’s heartbreak at never again seeing her only son. In 2014 ‘Faeries, Farms and Folk’ was published as a prequel to the first book. It goes back to the mid-1600s when witch hunting in Scotland was at its peak and the church ruled people’s lives. The people were farmers who were very superstitious and believed in faeries and ghosts and witches. A lot of the so-called ‘witches’ were just poor old women who didn’t have the money to take care of themselves and had become haggard and dressed in ragged clothes.  People were often afraid of them and blamed them for anything that happened to their animals or families. The books can be read as a series or each book can be read as a stand-alone story. 

Agnes A. Rose: How long did it take to write the books?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: Each book takes about a year to research, write, edit and have published. Because I am writing about real people, places and events it is important that the information in the books is accurate so that readers get a true sense of the period in which each book is written. For example, in my first book ‘Ours, Yours and Mines’ I had a character turning off a light switch, but when I re-read it I realized that they didn’t have electricity then so I had to have the character blow out a candle. Also, I need to find out how to get a character from place to place – did they travel by train, horse and cart or did they walk?  And how long would it take to travel the distance? I have maps and large sheets of paper all over my office when I am writing so that I can make notes and check things. I like to let the creative process take place first then go back and check for continuity and accuracy.

Agnes A. Rose: I think that the research for these books must have been massive.  Was it daunting or fun to you?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: The research started out as curiosity – I wanted to know about the people who came before me. As I started to find birth, death and marriage certificates the people became very real to me and I wanted to know more about them. When I found that my great-great-grandmother bore eight children and buried seven of them I knew there was a story to be told because it is the story of many people of the time. I was very excited to find out all this family history and I cried several times, especially when I found death certificates for small children. It was like trying to unravel a mystery and I was the detective.  I love being a detective.

Agnes A. Rose: Did you intend to write a trilogy when you started?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: This may seem strange, but once I had completed most of the family history I knew that I would write three books and I knew what the name of each book would be. I wrote ‘Ours, Yours and Mines’ first. Then my father died and I decided to continue on from that book and write about his life in ‘Far Across The Sea’. I kept digging and found a lot more information even further back and so ‘Faeries, Farms and Folk’ covers the period from the mid-1600s to the mid-1800s and is a prequel to the first book.

Agnes A. Rose: I know that this story is a trilogy but maybe in spite of all you are planning to write another part of this history in the future?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: I have gone back to the mid-1600s with the family history and I think that is as far as I can go because they did not keep records of births, deaths and marriages any further back. This is a real shame as I would love to find out more. However, I have a lot more stories to tell and I have plans to write several more historical fiction novels based in Scotland. I love the research and there are so many topics about which to write. I will never run out of ideas or material for my books.

Agnes A. Rose: From my point of view historical novels are more and more popular not only in my country but also all over the world. Why do you think they are?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: I think we have become disconnected for our families and our past.  People think that because we have all of the modern forms of communication that we are constantly in touch with each other, but it is sometimes very superficial communication. As a society we seem to be losing the art of conversation – real conversation where we talk about each other and ourselves in a meaningful way. Historical novels take us to a time when life seemed simpler and less complicated, yet in reality all ages had their difficulties and problems. Through historical novels, we can form a relationship with the characters and find out about the obstacles they had to overcome in their lives. It is like listening to a best friend and some wisdom can be gained from that ‘conversation’ to help us in our own lives.

Agnes A. Rose: Could you tell us what your readers’ opinion about your trilogy is?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: I have had so many wonderful emails from readers. I think it is a writer’s job to not only entertain people but to inform them and make them feel something.  If people tell me that they have laughed or cried when reading my books I know I have done my job.  Some of the reviewers have said Ms Audsley paints this scene dramatically and leads the reader into the poor and inadequate housing provided by the Mine Owners’, ‘the attention to detail is first rate. The author's deft hand puts forth very realistic depictions of the times’, ‘the story of this family, the joys and the sorrows, is captivating. Well written and easy to read’, ‘this book will catch your interest from the first chapter’, ‘I felt as though I'd been drawn into the home and family of the McMurdos and I experienced their emotions with each event’.

Agnes A. Rose: Once you worked as a Newspaper Journalist and Magazine Editor. Why did you give up this kind of job and decide to write books?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: I loved being a Journalist and Editor and even though I am now retired I shall always be a Journalist. Every day of my working life was spent working to deadlines and working when other people were taking holidays. It was an exciting job but also very stressful at times. Now I still work hard but if I feel like taking a couple of days off I can do it. I still write occasionally for some magazines and I also produce a magazine for the Scottish community in Australia, but my main writing focus is my books.

Agnes A. Rose: You are first generation Australian but your family comes from Scotland. Could you tell us something more about your family’s history?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: My family in Scotland goes back at least 300 years and probably more but that is where the written records end. Different branches of the family went off to America and Canada in the late 1800s but my father was the first person in his direct line to leave Scotland and settle in Australia. I still have family in Scotland and visit as often as I can. My children are very proud of their Scottish heritage.

Agnes A. Rose: In my opinion Scotland is a very mysterious and historically rich country. Do you know any Scottish legend you could tell us?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: Everyone has heard the cute stories about the Loch Ness Monster but there are many more sinister legends and beliefs in Scottish history. In my third book in the trilogy, ‘Faeries Farms and Folk’, the story begins with an actual witch trial and witch burnings that took place on the Whitesands in Dumfries in Scotland in 1659. Nine women were accused of the abominable sin of witchcraft and, after being tortured and starved, were dragged in chains to the place of execution. People were invited from all the parishes to witness the spectacle and they drank ale and wine while the women struggled to free themselves. Witches were strangled and burned at the stake. It was very gruesome but that is what happened at the time.

Agnes A. Rose: Do you sometimes miss Scotland? Would you like to move out there one day?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: I have only ever lived in Australia but I have been to Scotland twice. I still have cousins living there. I have visited the house where my father grew up and the area where he lived as a boy, and also visited all the places I talk about in my books which is where the rest of the family lived and worked. My husband’s father is also from Scotland so we both share an affinity with the country and love going there.

Agnes A. Rose: Is there a writer you would like to meet? If so, who is it?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: I prefer not to meet people I admire as sometimes your illusions are shattered and it is better to think of them in the way that you want and not as they really are. There are some great writers who have lived not-so-great lives. There are also many people who are great writers but who never get the recognition.  Popularity and great writing don’t always go together.

Agnes A. Rose: Do you have a most interesting question or crazy anecdote related to your writing you would like to share?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: I think this happens with a lot of writers, but I do tend to ‘inhabit’ my characters when I am writing. This was especially so as I was writing about my ancestors in these three books. Even though I had never met these people, I was able to get inside them and try to feel what they were feeling and so I could write the words that they might have said. I can write for hours in another time and space and then re-read my words and don’t even remember writing parts of the story.  It’s a strange yet exhilarating experience.

Agnes A. Rose: Finally, I would like to ask you about your future writing plans. What are you working on now?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: I am planning to write a story about a female undertaker in Scotland in the 1800s. It sounds a bit macabre but it won’t dwell too much on dead bodies but rather with the undertaker solving the mystery of how people died. I’m still formulating the ideas and my lead character will show me the way.

Agnes A. Rose: Carmel, thank you so much for this pleasant conversation. I hope that your trilogy will be published in Poland very soon. I wish you all the best for your further creative work. Is there anything further you wish to say in conclusion?

Carmel McMurdo Audsley: It has been lovely to speak with you, Agnes. I hope that your readers get to read my novels as I am sure they would enjoy them. The books are all in English at the moment and available at as well as amazon sites in other countries (France, Spain, Italy, Germany). I’m sure if there was enough demand I could find a Polish publisher who could translate and publish the books.

If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Art theft, secrets and a swearing Scandinavian noblewoman...

Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man is the most important and precious masterpiece which got lost from Polish museums during the Second World War. Until now we don’t know if it was destroyed or survived the war time and has been pleasing some private collector’s eye since then.

In Priceless (the Polish title Bezcenny) by Zygmunt Miłoszewski, finding the painting has been the most important task in Zofia Lorentz’s career. As a Ministry of Foreign Affairs worker, she is responsible for regaining artworks that have been lost or stolen from Polish museums and galleries. And she is known for being highly successful in what she does. When Portrait of a Young Man is finally traced in the USA, Lorentz and her team go there to get it. Even though they are aware it won’t be easy and will include burglary and theft.

The main characters turn out to be a lethal combination and it’s impossible not to feel bonds with them. Zofia is a mad art devotee but when it comes to things that aren’t connected with her passion, she is tough and uncompromising. In her team there are also a cynical art dealer with a warm heart (by the way, Zofia’s ex-lover), a retired ranger and a spy (one of the best in the country) and a Swedish art thief, released from prison on this occasion. Each of them is unique and I guarantee that you will love them at once. Especially the charming Scandinavian noblewoman seems to steal not only artworks but readers’ hearts as well.

Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael
At first sight Priceless appears to be one the thrillers that flooded the bookstores after the success of The Da Vinci Code, but don’t let yourself be misled by the plot summary! Yes, there is a secret, which - if revealed – is going to change our view on the 20th century history. Yes, there is a group of art-seekers, who constantly get into troubles but always manage to save their butts just in the very last moment. Yes, the plot refers to one the most mysterious paintings dating back to the same time as The Last Supper, which creates such a confusion in The Da Vinci Code. Taking into consideration only those rather well-worn ideas, the novel is only one of many Brown-like thrillers.

But Miłoszewski’s book is something much better! The author plays with well-known motifs, juggles them adding his own ideas and in this way turning even the most predictable scenes into little pieces of art. I truly enjoyed his wiring style, irony and black humour, which didn’t let me put the book on the shelf without a long struggle with myself.

Although it’s been quite a long time since I read Priceless, I still find it one of the best books in its genre. It gave me a lot of emotions, I was laughing a lot but also found myself with a tear in my eye in a few moments. I can only wish myself and other readers more such books.

If you want to read this review in Polish, please click here

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

“Grace Revealed: a memoir” by Greg Archer

Bedford (USA) 2015

I read the book thanks to the author's courtesy. 
Thank you!

After on 17 September 1939 Adolph Hitler (1889-1945) and Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) had shaken their hands over Poland, the mass deportations of Poles to Siberia began very soon. The deportations consequently became one of the main tools of the Soviet policy of occupation. This policy was designed to make the ethnic cleansing and destruction of the Polish political, economic and intellectual elite. The identical goals guided the Third Reich, which was still a devoted ally of the Soviet Union at that time. So, the first mass deportation of the Poles began during the night from 9 to 10 February 1940. It related to the Polish people living in the lands that after 17 September 1939 had been annexed by the Soviet Union. That deportation concerned mainly the Polish officers, the Forest Service as well as civilians. The Poles displaced during that period were sent to Krasnoyarsk Krai, Komi, as well as they were resettled in such districts as Irkutsk, Archangelsk and Sverdlovsk.  

Another part of deportations took place two months later. It was in April 1940. It included the representatives of the Polish elite (officials, judges, teachers) and family members who had been deported in February 1940. There were the families of the Polish officers who were brutally murdered in Katyn in the spring of 1940. This time, the main place of exile proved to be Kazakhstan. However, in June 1940 the deportations to Siberia primarily included the Poles living in the central and western Poland, who after the outbreak of war had sought their refuge in the Borderlands (in Polish: Kresy) from the Nazi occupiers. There were also Poles of Jewish origins among those people. They were sent mainly to Arkhangelsk and Autonomous Republic of Komi as well as into the territories lying to the east of the Urals.

In May 1941 the Soviet Union authorities decided that there should be further “cleansing” of the eastern lands of the Republic of Poland. Therefore, on 22 May 1941 the next mass deportation was launched and a month later citizens living in the Baltic States, which a year ago had been incorporated into the Soviet Union, were displaced. There were the Poles among those people, too. During the night from 19 to 20 June 1941 (two days before the Nazi invasion of the Soviet) the mass deportation of the Poles began again. It related to the people settled in the areas of so-called Western Belarus. However, it was not finished because of the outbreak of the Soviet-German war. So, this part of the transports stuck on 22 June 1941 and finally did not reach their destination.  

This painting shows some Soviet soldiers taking Polish citizens to the Siberian labor camps. 
Photo: Artist unknown
Source: The Sikorski Polish Club, Glasgow, Scotland 

During nearly two years of the so-called first Soviet occupation, i.e. 1939-1941, several times more Poles than for almost two hundred years of Russian domination over Poland before 1917 were exiled. Between 1939 and 1941 the Polish citizens were deported in the depth of Siberia regardless of their nationality. The Poles were the vast majority (80 percent). There were also Ukrainians, Jews, Belarusians and Lithuanians having the Polish citizenship. At that time the morality among the displaced people was much greater than in the tsarist Russia. It is said that then the morality reached up to twenty-five percent of the deported people. For them their dramatic and extremely tiring journey started when the NKVD invaded their homes, and Soviet soldiers gave them a few minutes to pack their belongings. Then there was lasting several weeks’ transportation to Siberia. People like herrings in a jar crowded in the cattle boxcars with the cold which reached even fifty degrees Celsius. Often a place of their destination was the snowy steppe or taiga, and the mortality increased due to the murderous work in the mines of gold, nickel, coal and uranium. Also, we cannot forget about the backbreaking work with the cutting down of trees.

That’s enough about history. Now let’s focus on the book. Grace Revealed: a memoir is the extremely moving nonfiction in which the author tries to deal with the traumatic past of his family. Greg Archer’s grandparents – Jadwiga and Jacenty Migut – were in the first group of the Polish displaced people. Their family’s nightmare began on 10 February 1940. The Soviets gave them only thirty minutes to be able to pack the most necessary things, and then remained them just a dramatic journey into an unknown place marked by pain, suffering and above all unimaginable fear for themselves and their loved ones. They were crammed into the cattle boxcars where they had to lie down or sit on the bunks or suitcases without a change of their clothes for several days. On the other hand, the children who were deprived of fresh air, physical movement and proper diet began seriously ill. Stressed and tired people made an unbearable atmosphere there. The NKVD soldiers standing just next to them only were shaking their bayonets and vulgarly insulting the Polish people.

This drawing presents the conditions inside the barracks of a northern Soviet  labor camp.
Source: The Sikorski Polish Club, Glasgow, Scotland 

Grace Revealed: a memoir is also a kind of the special monument that the author has issued his family to commemorate those tragic events. Some people claim that the family traumatic experiences, which occurred even a few decades ago, can seriously affect the future generations who had nothing to do with them. This book is a perfect example for it. It implies that the deportation problem of the relatives into deep Siberia has struck in the author’s mind for a long time. I think that eventually the time has come for the author to discover his feelings in the book. This moment was preceded by "signs”. In fact every word and every sentence is the author’s deep emotional bond with his relatives, especially with his grandmother Jadwiga, who was a really brave woman. In the face of the huge threat not only to her own life but also her husband and children, she did not give up but heroically faced up to the cruel reality, while keeping her own dignity to the end of those events.  

In 2012 Greg Archer visited Poland and went to the place where all had begun. It was the Subcarpathian village called Łąka located near Rzeszów. For the first time Greg Archer’s grandparents met in the small church dedicated to St. Onufry. It was during one of the festivals held in the courtyard. Then they were the children and it took many years to get that acquaintance turned into something more serious. The author’s grandfather – Jacenty Migut – came from the neighboring village called Łukawiec. However, they made their marriage vow in the church where they had met. After that they had a son Ted, and then the next children: Mary, Janina, Joe, Stanley, John and Bronia. After some time, the family moved to Liczkowce. It was a village located near Ternopil (now Ukraine). It was quite risky because then these areas were situated too close to the border with the Soviet Union, but they still belonged to Poland. There, the family lived very well. The war and consequently the mass deportation into Siberia meant that the family had survived the nightmare before they could live in peace, but in a different place. But before it happened somehow they had had to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones.

On the one hand the Greg Archer’s book is a specific document showing the drama of that time, while on the other hand it is a tribute to the author’s family. Reading this book we can ask a series of difficult questions to ourselves. Why it happened? For what reason did those innocent people have to suffer so much? Was the war inevitable? What motivated the occupants to give such cruel fate to hundreds of thousands of people? These are the questions that I think we will never find the right answer. Historians doubtless have their own opinions on this subject, but I mean an ordinary human explanation of the facts which cannot be understood.

The St. Onufry' s church in Łąka near Rzeszów (Poland).
In this church the author's grandparents met for the first time.
Photo: Czczysuav Peplynsky

In his book Greg Archer shows as if the two faces of the war drama and mass deportations. On the one hand there are the quoted authentic memories of those who survived, while on the other hand the author reveals his own emotions to a reader. Thanks to it the reader is able to understand the author’s feelings in a better way. Greg Archer discovers not only the secrets of his career but also a little his private life. Sometimes the author does it in a very humorous way, such as talking about his stay in Poland and strenuous attempts to communicate with the Poles whom he met on his way. Of course, everything is related to the Stalinist crimes committed years ago. Reading this book we can also improve our own knowledge of history regarding the policy of Joseph Stalin and his associates. The whole is enriched with a few drawings and photographs.

I really hope that one day Grace Revealed: a memoir will be translated into Polish because these books are still needed and they should reach every country in the world. Never mind that times have changed. Never mind that for any of us the war seems to be abstract and unreal. Never mind that today’s military conflicts look quite different than in the past. Each generation must remember the people who were taken everything precious. But in spite of that those people never lost their dignity and no invader could deprive them of it.

Today we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of those tragic events. Therefore, let’s remember those who survived and those who had died before the end of the war and then they could not live in another safe place in the world.

If you want to find out more about the mass deportations, please click here.
If you want to find out more about the book, please click here.
If you want to buy the book, please click here
If you want to read this review in Polish, please click here

Monday, 9 February 2015

All my novels contain elements of true crime...

Interview with Jørn Lier Horst
by Katarzyna Chojecka-Jędrasiak

Jørn Lier Horst is a Norwegian author of crime fiction and a former Senior Investigating Officer at Vestfold Police district. His first novel (Key Witness) was based on a true murder story. The best known of his works is the series of mystery novels, whose protagonist is detective William Wisting.

Katarzyna Chojecka-Jędrasiak:  For many years you worked as a chief inspector, how did it happen that you started to write crime stories? Does your experience of working as a police officer and a detective help you in writing?

Jørn Lier Horst: I have never had any dream of becoming either a cop or a writer, but ended up being both.

I actually remember the night I started writing what eventually became my debut. It was late autumn of 2001. I was home in bed, finishing a Norwegian crime novel. I threw it in the wall and said out loud to my wife, who lay beside me, that this I was able to do better myself - whereupon she replied that then I should do it. I turned off the light and I was lying and turn me in bed for half an hour before I got up and began to write.

My first novel, The Key Witness, is based on what has been described as one of the most bizarre and brutal killings in recent, Norwegian criminal history, namely the murder of Ronald Ramm in 1995.

I started my career as a writer on my first working day in the police. This was the day when Ronald Ramm was found raped and murdered in his own home in my hometown Larvik. It was a thrilling experience to be in such a crime scene. Seeing how there had been a fight to the death going on from room to room until it ended up in the outer corridors where Ramm was found slain and with hands tied. For a young policeman it was a very special feeling to stride over the threshold into a murder crime scene and knowing that I went in the footsteps of an unknown killer.

What really happened at that time almost 20 years ago is still not be known. The killer has never been caught, but the mystery is getting a fictional solution in my novel.

I left the police in September 2013, after nearly 20 years of service. There has been an occupation that in many ways has shaped me as a human being, and traces of that is visible in my books. My work as chief investigator allowed me to go behind the barrier tapes and to walk among the remains and traces of sever crimes. See the remains of a relentless struggle. Stepping into rooms that has been closed and contains unexplored secrets. That's where I like to bring readers. A part of my job was getting to know the killers and rapists, to put me into how they think. Talk to crime victims and their families. There are experiences that help to create an authentic nerve in my books.

Katarzyna Chojecka-Jędrasiak: In Poland you have been compared to Jo Nesbo but to me the protagonist created by you, William Wisting is closer to Mankell’s Kurt Wallander than Nesbo’s Harry Hole. What do you think about such a comparison? Whose prose do you feel closer to?

Jørn Lier Horst: I have been compared to Jo Nesbø also in Norway. The reason is that I was the first Norwegian crime writer who tipped him down from the top of the bestseller list. We have different style of writing, but we have the same writing pleasure and perhaps the same claim for ourselves the servers the best story we can put together. We have a direct and sober, yet detailed writing style that has made that we also have in common that we hit a wide audience. You're probably right when you say that I have more in common with Swedish authors Henning Mankell and Håkan Nesser.

Katarzyna Chojecka-Jędrasiak: While working on “The Caveman” (the Polish title “Jaskiniowiec”) you were inspired by Highway of Tear murders, weren’t you? How big influence was it and why did you decide to use exactly this story in your book?

Jørn Lier Horst: I was introduced to the stories about this alleged serial killer from Canada by an American investigator at a seminar many years ago. It has since then been in my head and was the backdrop when I first was going to write a novel with a serial killer. TThe serial killers we know from the literature are often brightly murderers who commit agonizing murder, collect trophies from their victims and communicating with police through coded messages. Using a real murder hunt as background gave authenticity to the setting for my story.

Katarzyna Chojecka-Jędrasiak: Do you often base your books on cases of real murders? Your debut novel, Key Witness, was also inspired by a true murder story, wasn’t it?

Jørn Lier Horst: It is only the first book my that is based on a real case, but all my novels contain elements of true crime. I have worked as an investigator for 20 years. It is a profession that has affected my life, and it is visible in all my books.

Katarzyna Chojecka-Jędrasiak: There are nine William Wisting books but “The Caveman”, the ninth in the series, is the first one that has been published in Polish. Do you know anything about plans to translate the others?

Jørn Lier Horst: The Caveman is the latest book of William Wisting, and the ninth in the series. Many of my foreign publishers choose to go late into the series. There is no problem, as each book can be read independently.

When I write books, I like not only to tell what Wisting do with the case, but what the case does to him - how the police work affects him as a person. A lot has happened in Wistings life through the first nine books. It's been almost ten years, his daughter Line has become an adult, he has become a widower, and he has a new girlfriend who has left him. Several of the earlier stories will also be translated into Polish.

Katarzyna Chojecka-Jędrasiak: Your second book series, CLUE, is addressed to young readers and you also started crime fiction series for children. Is it easier to write for them than for adults? What gives you more satisfaction?

Jørn Lier Horst: I'm thinking of books for children and young people as a literary rest room. I get the opportunity to do something else. It is necessary for me, before I return to my main project, which is the books about Wisting. I need a little break, but have pleasure in writing for children and young people. The books have become very popular, and to be part of creating a new generation of readers is a powerful feeling for a writer.

Katarzyna Chojecka-Jędrasiak: What are you working on now and can you say something more about it?

Jørn Lier Horst: I'm writing a new crime novel about William Wisting to be published in Norway next year*.

Katarzyna Chojecka-Jędrasiak: And what kind of books do you like reading? Do you have a favourite author or a book? Have you ever read anything by a Polish author?

Jørn Lier Horst: I read many crime novels, but also other contemporary literature. However, I have no favorite author. Very few Polish writers are translated into Norwegian. I have read some short stories by Stanisław Lem, but I'm afraid I have little knowledge of Polish literature. I have heard many good things about Marek Krajewski and Irek Grin, but none of them have yet been translated to Norwegian.

Katarzyna Chojecka-Jędrasiak: Thank you a lot for the interview.

If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here


* This interview was done in September 2014 so the new books will be probably published this year.

Friday, 6 February 2015

I was always attracted to the Hollywood film industry...

Interview with Michelle Chydzik Sowa
by Agnes A. Rose

Michelle Chydzik Sowa is a film producer. She is descended from Catholic Poles on her father’s side.  Her father’s family left Poland during World War II. Her credits include: “The Wedding Date” (2005), “Starter for 10” (2007), “My Life In Ruins” (2009), “Inhale” (2010) and “Love, Wedding, Marriage” (2012). Now she is working on the film adaptation of the book by Alyson Richman entitled “The Lost Wife”. She lives with her family in America.

Agnes A. Rose: Michelle, I am very honored that I can host you on my blog and talk to you. First of all I would like to find out something more about your work. What inspired you to become a film producer?

This is the Polish theatrical release poster
of "The Wedding Date"
Directed by Clare Kilner
Michelle Chydzik Sowa: I love storytelling and like many people grew up loving movies. I was raised in London but I was always attracted to the Hollywood film industry. We were exposed to classic movies and the golden era of Hollywood from when we were young. It always seemed magical to me.

Agnes A. Rose: Do you remember your first film production? How did you get started with it?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: I got my first real job in film production at Paramount Pictures when Fred Gallo then President of Physical Production hired me. Fred had an illustrious career having worked on movies such as “Annie Hall”, “The Godfather” and “Rocky”. It was the mid 90s. Sherry Lansing was the Chairman and John Goldwyn, the grandson of legendary film producer Samuel Goldwyn, became my boss. John was brilliant and really understood the many facets of filmmaking. I learned so much from these individuals. When the opportunity came to produce my first movie, “The Wedding Date”, Gary Goeztman, Tom Hank’s producing partner in Playtone was critical in guiding the way. I am extraordinarily grateful to these generous individuals who supported me professionally. Without them, I wouldn’t have a career.

Agnes A. Rose: Could you tell us how you choose your next project/projects?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: Every project has had its own journey. Sometimes, the project is based on an original idea or script, sometimes it is a book adaptation and sometimes it is based on a true story.

Agnes A. Rose: I think that as far as your work is concerned you have accomplished a lot so far. Which of your film/films are you most proud of?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: My films are like children. I love them all and recognize each of their strengths and weaknesses.

This is the Polish release poster
of "Starter For 10"
Directed by Tom Vaughan
Agnes A. Rose: Every day you certainly work with some great actors. Who has been your favourite to work with and who would you love to work with in one of your future films?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: I’m thankful that I have been really fortunate in terms of the actors I have worked with. Some of the standouts are Amy Adams, whose first take was so good we used to call her One Take Amy, Diane Kruger, James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Dominic Cooper. I am about to shoot a small movie with Jane Seymour who I’ve worked with before and whom I adore. Jane has some Polish heritage, as does Diane Kruger who is modest and incredibly talented.

Agnes A. Rose: Do you think that anything has changed about the film industry since you started out? If so, what is it?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: Everything has changed. The digital age affects every element of the process. These are exciting times. I embrace change.

Agnes A. Rose: Have you ever thought about giving up making films and beginning to act?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: No.

Agnes A. Rose: I know that now you are working on the film adaptation of “The Lost Wife” by Alyson Richman. I am sure that you read her novel. What do you think about it? What kind of emotions accompanied you while reading?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: I couldn’t put the book down. Alyson is one of the best writers of our era. I needed to find out what happened to Lenka and Josef. I got lost in their world and their love story.

Agnes A. Rose: I am very interested in your own work on the film adaptation of “The Lost Wife”. Could you tell us about it?

This is the Polish theatrical release poster
of "My Life In Ruins"
Directed by Donald Petrie
Michelle Chydzik Sowa: Relativity Studios is moving forward with the film version. The script, which is being written by Marc Klein, is the key to making a great adaptation of this wonderful book. Marc travelled to the Czech Republic and to Poland so he could retrace the steps of our heroine. We are looking forward to shooting the movie in Prague.

Agnes A. Rose: Is the production of “The Lost Wife” more challenging than your previous films?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: My producing partner Jeff Waxman and I feel a moral obligation to tell this story well but all productions have their challenges.

Agnes A. Rose: What is your biggest dream as a film producer? Is it anything you would like to work on in the nearest future? 

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: My greatest dream as a producer is that the digital age will help make the economics easier so I can make a lot more movies. I love epic movies. I love period. “Dr. Zhivago” mesmerized me as a child. I would love to make more movies in that vein.

Agnes A. Rose: Would you decide to make a film adaptation if one day a very interesting book by one of the famous Polish authors came to your hand? Let’s suppose that the book was published in America a few years ago. What should a Polish author do to pay your attention to his/her novel?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: Tell the author to send me their book. It all starts with the material. Hopefully, the economics of the project support a movie being made.

Agnes A. Rose: What kind of literature do you prefer? Do you have your favourite authors or novels?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: I have a wide-ranging taste. My favorite writers include literary greats such as William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Alexandre Dumas, Jane Austen, Umberto Eco, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. My favorite children’s authors are Enid Blyton, Roadl Dahl and JK Rowling. Among our present day authors I love Paulo Coehlo and Alyson Richman. Alyson’s books have taken me all over the world and through different periods in history. I know her popularity, as a writer will grow as others discover her immense talent. I also have my guilty favorites in the romance and thriller genres. And I have always enjoyed poetry; Rudyard Kipling, TS Elliott and Emily Bronte are favorite voices.

This is the Polish release poster 
of "Love, Wedding, Marriage" 
Directed by Dermont Mulroney
Agnes A. Rose: Let’s talk for a moment about your family. As I mentioned above your family’s history goes back to World War II. Could you tell us a little bit about it? What happened then?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: My grandmother was taken to Siberia at the start of the war and when the Soviet Union joined the allies she walked with her fellow Polish detainees to North Africa and joined the Polish forces. She was in Palestine, Egypt and at the Battle of Monte Cassino before setting in England after the war, hoping to return to Poland.

Agnes A. Rose: Do you often visit Poland? What do you like most in Poland?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: We would like to visit more often, although, I prefer the summer to the winter.  Living in California has made my blood thin. I love the old towns of Warsaw and Krakow. They transport me to another era and I am very comfortable there. I also love the forest. When I visited Chopin’s birthplace, I felt at home. There’s something in the countryside that speaks to my soul. It’s probably in my DNA. My husband is first generation American and his parents come from a little Polish town called Stary Nart, which we would like to visit more.

Agnes A. Rose: Michelle, thank you very much for this interview. I am so happy that you agreed to take part in it. I wish you all the best for your further creative work. Is there anything you would like to add?

Michelle Chydzik Sowa: Yes, I really enjoyed IDA. I hope it wins the Oscar. Poland has a great heritage of filmmaking, which I am sure will continue. Thank you for taking the time to ask these questions. It’s made me think quite deeply about my work. 

If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here.