Continuing our Sunday Series
of taking a look at some fabulous authors!
Hello Inge, welcome to our Discovering Diamonds Guest Spot. Along with my readers and visitors I love to hear from authors who write wonderful stories. There’s nothing better than curling up with a good book in front of a cosy fire, box of chocs and glass of wine to hand.
(Unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case it’s still the wine, but a platter of cheese, crackers and grapes to hand, while stretched out in a deckchair in the garden on a warm, sunny, evening...).
Q. Would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself...
A. First, thank you, Helen. Your invitation to curl up with a good book, a box of chocs and a glass of wine is too tempting not to accept. To boot, letting me prattle on a bit about myself proves irresistible. So, here it goes:
I was born and raised in Austria. From an early age on, I loved reading. In college, my essays were my salvation as I failed miserably in math. Foresighted professors showed pity after my mother informed them, “It’s hereditary,” and that I had no intention of becoming an accountant. They let me graduate.
Reading inspires curiosity and the courage to explore the wider world. I left home at 18. First, working in London, then Paris, and Moscow (yes, during the Cuba-Crisis). After a job at the Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck (1964), back in Vienna, my new boss pegged me as a “gypsy” and sent me off to Chicago (for one year). I never went back. Instead, I moved to lovely Boston.
Several cold years later, I drove to San Diego because someone told me “they have palm trees and a great opera house” but that “out there, they were all crazy and young and you couldn’t get a job.”
Garnered a super job within a month. I also met a hunky sailor (not the Navy kind). On his fabulous sailboat, we ventured deep into Mexican waters on a six-month cruise. Talk about forgetting about mundane things like job, condo, silk suits and high heels. It was glorious.
Granted, there were those nauseating storms when Neptune’s fateful axe threatened to fell me and I “wanted to go home to mother.” Still, we sallied forth with the sea providing plenty of fresh fish.
You are looking at that huge wahoo filling the cockpit, right?
(Once, at the venerable San Diego Yacht Club, I noticed a modest little sailboat called “Sally Forth.” For the longest time, I wondered if this was someone’s fourth wife called Sally...and if she objected to a guy calling out this fact??? Ah, English!)
Q. Where do you live?
A. After the stock market crash of 2000 (yup), and wanting to retire, I needed somewhere much (much) less pricey than my glorious La Jolla, California.
A darling and very reasonable little house caught my eye in – wait for it – Arkansas! My trendy friends thought I’d gone bonkers. (“Haven’t you seen “Deliverance,” they cautioned about those toothless, gun-toting southerners.)
Sold my quaint La Jolla loft, packed up my stuff and the cat and drove 1200 miles east.
The rural retirement town by a large lake proved to be delightful (filled with “Northerners”).
Still, the “cultural isolation” in these heavily wooded hills drove me to complete my first novel, KHAMSIN, the Devil Wind of The Nile. Once in the swing of things, I wrote another four books in the series.
Built around the ancient treasures from Book 1, Books 2-5 start after the 2011 Arab Spring. These four novels also come as a Box Set.
Q. If you had a choice to live anywhere – where would it be?
A. Ah, now we get into the realm of dreams. Hawaii would do. So would Devon. I am an enthusiastic viewer of the British TV series “Escape to the Country.” (Not to worry, Helen, it likely won’t happen.)
Q. Modern house, old cottage, castle or something else?
A. After the war, we had to move to a small farm (one room, no running water/no electricity). Then we lived in a chateau (92 steps up–but great bannisters to slide down; alas, no running water in the apartment).
Finally moved into a modern non-descript apartment surrounded by lovely hills and vineyards.
In Moscow, the French Embassy (where I worked) was located in a pre-revolution walled villa supposedly built by a rich merchant for his mistress. You could not only hear the cockroaches scampering through the unused heating ducts, but the ambassador’s dinner conversation from above. Mum’s the word...
Q. Cat, dog or budgie?
A. Cat. definitely. Make that plural. My nine-months old feral kitten (I’d been feeding him from six weeks on). Mango is my new toy-boy. I know: He’s not a toy. But definitely a boy. Love the lively squirt.
And there is still 16-year old rescue Lilliput to pamper.
Q. Are you a ‘dining room for dinner’, or a ‘tray on your lap in front of the TV’ person?
A. Since I live by myself, I sadly confess that I abandoned the formalities and often practice the latter; although it’s in front of the computer.
Q. TV preferences – documentary, drama, comedy, soap or thriller?
A. I am actually not “hooked up” to any pay-service, but have a Roku stick that gets programs off the internet. Besides, I still have loads of lovely Beta (oh, old-fashioned horror) and VHS tapes with great operas I recorded eons ago Live from the Met. They work fine. So why throw them out?
Q. What was your first published novel about?
A. Thank you for asking, Helen.
Ancient Egypt. (Book 1 of the Legends of the Winged Scarab series)
Not about the much-touted King Tut/Nefertiti era, but King Aha and his court (also full of intrigue, warfare and forbidden love. Aha was the second king of the First Dynasty, 3080 BCE., following the legendary King Narmer (or Menes).
Q. What was your last novel about?
A. That one worries me now – because several years after imagining this, some has become reality: Ethiopia’s monster dam cutting of the waters of the Blue Nile and Egypt plotting to sabotage it or threatening to go to war over it.
Q. Do you write in one genre or several?
A. My main novels are the 5 books about Egypt and beyond. However, I have some smaller novellas most of which are modern-day ideas of love (inevitably, failing to live up to the imagination).
Q. Have you ever considered exploring a totally different genre?
A. I think I already did with Pasha, From Animal Shelter to a Sheltered Life. Adventures and mishaps during my volunteer days at our animal shelter; it is also a love-letter to my “best-ever” Maine Coon-mix, Pasha.
Q. If you could, which two of your characters would you like to invite to spend an afternoon with you?
1) Ramose, High Priest of Ptah from KHAMSIN (I still have so many questions even though he’d be quite intimidating).
2) And no, certainly not Edward, Con Extraordinaire (been there, done that).
But I’d love to meet Dr. Naunet Klein, the Austrian-born Egyptologist, main protagonist from Books 2-5 – perhaps to ask her why on earth she fell for Edward, her nemesis throughout the series. – Someone had better get that louse!
Q. Where would you go / what would you do?
Right now, since Egypt herself is off limits, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It so happens, both Naunet and I (really) worked there; it has an excellent Egyptian Department and a world-renown research lab.
Q. How do you prefer to travel? Plane, boat, car?
A. If you read my series, you know I love the ocean. There are many boats in my books; from sailboats to ostentatious modern superyachts (with a – real --stolen Rembrandt onboard) , and even a rat-infested (real) ghost ship.
But once past these dreadful times, I would like to take a leisurely car trip, perhaps visiting Yellowstone – especially since I have it blow its top in Book 3! (Let’s hope that doesn’t come true.)
Q. You are out for a walk. You see a chap sitting on a wall, looking right fed up – but there’s something odd about him... What? And what do you do?
A. If you really want to know, do read my very short “Inter-Galactica.” – There, sitting next to me on a park bench, is your strange chap.
We have a long-running Radio programme here in the UK called Desert Island Discs on which celebrities talk about their life and select eight of their favourite discs... so changing that slightly...
Q. If you were shipwrecked on a desert island, what eight books would you want to find left in an abandoned hut? (There’s already a Bible, the Quran, and the complete works of Shakespeare)
First of all, The Total Fishing Manual (seriously, I need to survive awaiting rescue).
1. Shogun (James Clavell); to keep my mind off my own predicament (his ship gets burned down; he’ll never leave Japan.)
2. Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell); I only read it in German way back; and after living in “The South,” I would better understand it.
3. Atlantic (Simon Winchester); an epic "biography" of the Atlantic Ocean.
4. Fire from Heaven (Mary Renault)
5. Funeral Games (Mary Renault) –
I have read The Persian Boy.
None are current writings, but then, Historical Fiction never gets old, right?
6. A Promised Land (Barack Obama) To give me hope I might return to a more civilized country after rescue!
7.A yet to be written objective History of America’s MAGA CULT...
8. After all that heavy lifting, Toujour Provence (Peter Mayle) to tease the taste buds; perhaps a mistake.
Q. What sort of island would you prefer, and why? (e.g. Desert Island... Hebridian Island...)
A. Definitely tropical. An undeveloped motu around Bora-Bora would do fine.
Q. And you would be allowed one luxury item – what would you want it to be? (a boat or something to escape on isn’t allowed. -- Bummer, Helen!)
A. A solar-powered CD-Player plus ten of the Greatest Opera Arias and Duets.
I could learn those Italian phrases. Although it might not be the best idea to hail my rescuers with, “Aiuto! Assassino! -- Muori, dannato! – (I do love Tosca.)
I guess that’s it. I survived The Island to give this interview with the inimitable Helen Hollick. Thank you for sticking with me to the end.
May I entice you to check out my Author Page on Amazon for more.
On my Blog, you’ll find “Fact in Fiction” articles on each novel’s research about real places and current world events used in the series:
Click HERE (and scroll down to 'B') to find our reviews of Inge's books on Discovering Diamonds
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