Sunday, October 23, 2011
Dreams Come True: Interview with Camelia Miron Skiba
My guest this week is Camelia Miron Skiba. She grew up dreaming that anything is possible as long as you want it badly enough." For a blog about the power of creativity, no statement could be more appropriate. I hope you will be inspired by this interview.
Would you describe yourself as a creative child? Did you make up stories or express creativity in other ways? And how would you say that growing up in Romania, under a Communist regime, affected your creative growth?
Growing up under communism stripped us of many things—pride to be a Romanian, loyalty to a government that was busy fattening up their accounts rather than protecting its citizens, belonging to a nation older than most nations in Europe—but what it didn't take away from us was the freedom to dream and be creative.
Without electricity and food we learned to entertain ourselves making up games and toys. My sisters and I had one doll each. Summer vacations were spent in remote villages where we weren't allowed to take our dolls for fear they might be destroyed. Empty boxes and sticks then became our toy dishes. Corn replaced our dolls, sometimes taking us hours walking between rows of corn to pick the perfect doll. Blond or redhead, the longer the hair (meaning the silk on the corn) the better. Twigs formed the limbs. My mom's aunt used to be a seamstress and her leftover fabrics made for awesome clothing. Dirt and water was the best dessert our dolls had ever tasted. Leaves made for perfect beds where princesses slept until knights came to rescue them...
In looking back, they might've resembled anything, but dolls. But to us they meant as much as to a girl playing with her first Barbie.
I might not have had an abounding childhood, but I definitely grew up creating heavenly worlds, and dreaming that anything is possible as long as you want it badly enough. I should know that—I now live the American dream.
Your creativity as a child was so beautifully expressed. As a child, did you also write stories and/or dream of becoming a writer? If not, when did this dream become compelling? What did it take for you to realize it?
There is no other way to say other than: as a child I sucked at writing. Period. I always looked for ways out to escape going to school (eating chalk to fake fever, tons of ice cubes for sore throat, etc—thank God my mom doesn’t read English, otherwise she'd wrinkle her brows at me for all the lies I've told her).
On the other hand, my older sister Lumi wrote a love story while in high school. I got sucked in from the first page and fell in love with the heroes. I laughed with them, cried with them, felt my heart melt at the sight of them, lived life through their eyes. Unfortunately my sister hid the notebook so well I couldn’t find it again and I often wonder if they had the happily-ever-after ending.
Since then all I've done was to create stories in my head, heroes and heroines looking for love and eventually finding it. Well, fast-forward 20 years later, my son asked me one summer day what were my childhood dreams. I told him about the love story my sister had written and how much I wished I could do it. He said, "Why wouldn't you? You have nothing to be afraid of. Just sit and write." For some reason his trust, his words compelled me to do it.
And here I stand with one book published, a second one to be released end of this year and several other stories outlined. Yes, I can do it.
What a moving story about your son. I can sense how important he is in your life.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems safe to say that the idea of writing romances has drawn you since you read your sister's story. I also imagine that growing up in a very unromantic environment, i.e., Communist Romania, may have heightened your desire to imagine a more emotionally fulfilling world.
Getting down to the basics of writing, how fully do you outline before you are ready to write? What kind of research is necessary for your books? Do you find that the characters sometime or often guide you in the story, dialogue, etc?
My son means the world to me. Without his encouragements each time I doubt myself, without his shoulder to cry on when I can’t find my words, none of my stories would’ve been on paper.
My debut novel “Hidden Heart” took me only three months to write the first draft. That was back in 2009. Then I put it aside, starting another story. In parallel I took several online creative writing classes, read lots of books about the English grammar, sentence structure (English is my third language, so I had a lot of learning to do). Then I went back to my first draft and picked it apart, chapter for chapter. With the help of my amazing critique group (at that time only Cindy C Bennett and Jeffery Moore, now we added a new member, Sherry Gammon) I finished a second draft. I had then found three other people who very graciously agreed to read and edit the book. “Hidden Heart” was ready for publishing and saw the printing light seven months ago, end of March.
Since then I went back to finish the story I started while taking the break from “Hidden Heart.” It’s a contemporary war romance titled “A World Apart”, half of the story set in my native Romania, the other half in Iraq. Let me tell you, this has been an experience beyond anything I have ever imagined. We all know what war means—attacks, explosions, army, wounds, victims, etc—but to have a believable story I had to read lots of military documents, learn the acronyms they use. To make it even harder, both my heroine and my hero are doctors, which means I had to switch gears and learn a lot of medical terms, medical lingo, etc. I watched lots of documentaries portraying the Iraq war as well as war movies. I think I spent more time doing research than actually writing the story.
As for my characters … well, sometime they really misbehave. Not the “Hidden Heart” protagonists. They’ve been so eager to leave the small confinement of my brain, they were happy with their story. But the “A World Apart” ones, oh, boy!, talk about stubbornness at its core and class A negotiators—it’s either their way or they don’t talk to me. I had a secondary character set to die, but I had to change the story, otherwise the main characters were done, as they so (ungraciously) put it. The novel was on standby for a month until I gave up, threw my hands in the air and let them have it. I wrote five chapters in less than a week!
How I know those characters who insist on running the show, and I am very grateful for them. I can only imagine the vast amount of research you had to do.
I'd like to hear your thoughts on choosing the path of an independent author. Do you feel a great freedom in choosing subject matter, for instance?
Absolutely! Since I’m a controlling freak choosing self-publishing route was the best-suited venue for me. I write what I want and how I want. My critique group influences me, but they don’t alter the story. I’m in complete control over book size, format, cover, price, where it’s distributed, marketing, everything. I choose how many books a year I want to write, and determine my own publishing dates. To sum it all, I run my own show.
I've learned so much about you and your writing habits. Thanks for being so forthcoming. Are there any last remarks you'd like to make?
Thanks for having me over, Connie. Really enjoyed it.
For more information about Camelia, please visit her website www.CameliaMironSkiba.com
Her first novel “Hidden Heart” came out in March 2011. Her second novel “A World Apart” is coming out in December 2011.
Hidden Heart can be found at:
Barnes & Nobles