Today i am talking to author Sonia Meyer who was born in 1938 in Cologne, Germany to a highly anti-Nazi mother. Before she was 2 years old, they had to flee the Nazis leaving everything they owned behind. They kept moving at first from small town to small town never long enough to be questioned, then into abandoned country inns and the woods of Germany, at times across the Polish border, to end up along the Czech border when Patton’s army arrived. They escaped capture, and although they survived many attacks, witnessed massacres, the time that marked her most, was the aftermath of the war, crossing the killer fields left behind, and to return to Cologne to a people in total denial. After a suicide attempt before age 12, she was rescued at last by a wealthy part of her family, who had residences both in Italy and the United States. After a short, early marriage, Sonia chose a nomadic life. she earned her living as an interpreter/translator, radio acting, modeling, marketing research, and kept moving from country to country, all across Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. She finally settled and remarried in the U.S. and started a horse-breeding farm, trained as a dressage rider, before turning full-time to writing.
Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Sonia Meyer: The first story I wrote was in High School in Germany, a writing contest about depicting our families. It was at a time when my mother was unable to recover from a total collapse after the war, my father had left me with a mother who believed she was dying, there was nothing to eat, Cologne still lay in ruins. I got first prize for depicting the perfect family. From then on I understood the power of writing to re-shape a life, or create a vision to lead into the future.
Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?
Sonia Meyer: My mother’s family consisted of mostly artists and eccentrics. All of them went underground during the war. They were by nature human rights activists.
Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?
Sonia Meyer: It takes a deeper look at life already lived. It’s like a deep analysis that lifts underlying, overlooked truths to the surface. It enriches experience.
Books & Writing: How do you overcome writer’s block(if you experience this of course)?
Sonia Meyer: I did have 15 years of writer’s block. It was at a time that I had one stepson, 2 sons of my own, I was breeding horses, dogs, cats were breeding out of control and had to be caught and neutered. My husband, a professor at Harvard University, consulted for major corporations all over the world, which meant travel. I got up at 4 a.m. to write, but couldn’t maintain it. I wouldn’t change any of it. Life at its peak you only live once. You can write when life slows down, when you are older.,
To get out of writer’s block, my recommendation is: don’t ask perfection of yourself, at first. Go to a coffee shop with a block of paper and just let your thoughts freely roll out. The rest will come. You can’t totally force it.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your book “Dosha”?
Sonia Meyer: Dosha combines two themes that are close to my heart. The first is war. In order to survive emotionally I knew I had to put a distance between the war and my later life. I also knew, at some point, I had to look back and make sense of it. I decided to revisit my childhood years during the war, but seen through the eyes of peace-loving Gypsies, now called Roma. Gypsies, nomadic and settled have been in my life from very early on. They are Europe’s most misunderstood minority. To fight the prejudice that keeps killing them, I wanted to offer an insight into their culture by looking at our own but seen through Gypsy eyes. I chose the Lovara tribe, because on the one hand they were the keepers of the horse, sacred to many Gypsy tribes, and two within the Lovara men and women share different, but equal power. A combination I feel is essential to a truly democratic society. I chose to frame it within the visit of Khrushchev to Helsinki, because I was there that day and witnessed the most perfect example of passive resistance by an extraordinary people, the Finns. Theirs was the only country along the Baltic to remain free and outside the iron curtain. While living in Finland and later in Paris, I befriended several Russian aristocrats in exile, became interested in Russia then and under the communists. Russia under the czars was the one country in Europe where Gypsies were appreciated as artists and free spirits, where they were loved. Only under Khrushchev’s Thaw were they targeted for persecution for the first time.
Books & Writing: How did you come up with the story for that?
Sonia Meyer: I had a great friend in Paris, a Russian Gypsy of the Kalderash tribe, the largest of all Gypsy tribes. Matteo Maximoff, now deceased. He was a writer of many books on Gypsy life and legends. I found his name in a self-published book of his in Harvard’s Widener Library. It listed his phone number in Paris, and I called him. It is thanks to him that I was able to penetrate the Gypsy soul and able to write the story.
Books & Writing: Is the main character Dosha based on someone you know?
Sonia Meyer: Dosha is based on me. The first part of the novel is fictionalized autobiography. Most characters in the novel are based on relatives of mine. The stallion Rus, was a Dutch warmblood, who belonged to and was ridden by Dorothy Morkis, U.S. Olympic Rider. The rest was 10 years of research.
Books & Writing: Are you working on something new at the moment?
Sonia Meyer: I am working on a sequel. Dosha is now in the West. Keeping her Gypsy past a secret, she moves within the jet-set of the Sixties in Europe.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Sonia Meyer: Learn the craft, then forget all you’ve learned and follow your own instincts.
Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?
Sonia Meyer: Kafka, Joyce, Marques, Fitzgerald.
Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?
Sonia Meyer: Amazon is the best place. It has been best-selling there for over one year.
Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?
Sonia Meyer: www.soniameyer.com
Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Sonia Meyer: Writers cannot exist without their readers. The two are married for the good of our culture. A writer should seduce the reader into a world not his own, a reader can help the writer by spreading his message. They form a team..
Below is an excerpt from her book Dosha!
Call Of The Owl
Lengthening shadows trailed the slow-moving line of caravans and wagons as they climbed the steep rise to the outer edges of the taiga. By then the blood red of the late fall tundra had bleached into lifelessness. Up on the plateau the ground had hardened. Birch trees stood starkly bare and white against the dense conifers that created shelter from fast-sweeping winds and the deepening cold. Winter was about to invade the desolate arctic vastness with killer force. The soft ground was covered with an icy crust that gave way under the weight of the passing wagons and caravans.
To camp for the night, the Lovara chose a marshy clearing encircled on three sides by dense forest and bordered on the north by a swift river. Night was falling like a heavy curtain across the fading glow of the early afternoon sun as the caravans positioned themselves in the shape of a semicircle open to the river.
A subtle but distinct physical separation from the rest of the tribe had gradually evolved between Azra and the rest of the kumpania, like the distance that will develop between a dying horse and its herd. Azra’s caravan was securely positioned in the lineup, but with empty space on both sides. The Lovara walked close to one another. They spoke in whispers, careful to stay out of earshot of Azra’s only child. “Her time has come,” they said. “Azra is dying.”Observing their suddenly secretive behavior, Dosha guessed their thoughts and words. Eyes flashing elligerence, she walked up to them and stated out loud: “My mother is not about to die.”
Dzumila threw them damning glances, “Hush,” she said, stepping close to Dosha, “Azra could hear.”The rom and romni scattered to prepare for the night. The children fed and watered the goats and geese before walking to the edge of the forest to gather firewood. The rom fed and watered their horses, never losing sight of Dosha, who insisted on looking after her own two horses.
Suddenly the stallion snorted, spun around, and stood tense as a bow. Several voices shouted, “Watch out!”
Like a dark, spread-out sail, a silent shape came billowing from the gloomy height of a fir at the edge of the tree line. The stallion’s head snapped up. With dilated nostrils, ears pointed forward, the white of its eyes showing in fear, he followed the steep drop of an owl. A few hands above ground, the silvery bird broke flight and hovered for a second or two in place. Eyes gleaming, it swiveled its head from side to side before it flew on with a powerful upswing of its widespread wings, skimming the marshy surface. Reaching the river, the arctic owl slowly, with deliberate control, descended as if to land, its dark claws briefly touching the rushing water. Instead it drew its legs back toward its body with the same slow control and headed downstream in soundless flight, searching for prey.
”Mulesko chiriklo,” Dosha whispered, “the bird of death!” She watched the last glimpses of the snow owl’s flight reflected in the sudden stillness of her stallion’s eye. All eyes were on her. “It’s passing us by,” she said, “this time.” She defiantly looked up into the circle of eyes. In awkward silence, adults and children alike returned to their chores. The rom now started to tie their haltered horses by their lead ropes in circles around some of the bigger nearby trees.
This left their hind legs free to strike out should wolves get hungry and move in for an attack. It also prevented them from bolting, should sounds or movements frighten them. Dosha tied her own horses to a tree closer to her caravan.