I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Mirta Ines Trupp to Layered Pages today. She is here to talk with me about her book, Becoming Malka.
Mirta is a second generation Argentine; she was born in Buenos Aires in 1962 and immigrated to the United States that same year. Because of the unique fringe benefits provided by her father’s employer- Pan American Airlines- she returned to her native country frequently- growing up with “un pie acá, y un pie allá” (with one foot here and one foot there). Mirta’s self-proclaimed life’s career has been raising a family and creating a home, alongside her husband of over thirty years. She returned to the world of the gainfully employed late in life; currently in a position which doesn’t require one iota of dramatic flair – just common sense, organization and attention to detail. Rather than being self-deprecating, Mirta lightheartedly concedes that her paper pushing makes a number of people happy, as that bureaucratic busywork ensures that payroll is met and invoices are processed. Besides being an avid novel reader and a devoted Beatles fan, Mirta most enjoys singing choral music and researching family genealogy.
Hi, Mirta! Thank you for chatting with me today about your book, Becoming Malka and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion! Please tell me about your story.
Thank you for inviting me. I am delighted to participate in this interview and am excited to answer your questions! Becoming Malka is a Historical Fiction/ Fantasy. In pursuit of her master’s degree in Imperial Russian history, we find 24 year-old Molly Abramovitz heading to Moscow for a week-long seminar. Never one to miss an opportunity for genealogical research- being methodical and meticulous- she plans a side trip to Ukraine. Molly’s trek to her ancestral home leads to the discovery of a mythical tarot card which transports her to the chaotic year of 1900. She finds herself in her great, great-grandmother’s presence. Surrounded by the history and culture she has studied her entire life and knowing, full well, the fate that awaits her ancestors, Molly is faced with a dilemma of extraordinary proportions.
How did you decide on the setting for your and what is the period your story is written in?
Being rather a newbie at this scribbling business, I tend to stick to what I know. I have plenty of material in my family background, being a descendant of Russian immigrants and having been born in Argentina therefore; choosing a setting was a no-brainer! The story begins in modern times, in California 2015 to be exact, and we end up in Ukraine just prior to the Russian Revolution.
Please tell me about Molly Abramovitz and her strengths and weaknesses.
Molly is a brilliant young woman, loving and family- oriented, but she is a bit of a control freak. She favor’s her father’s obsession with facts and spreadsheets and looks upon her mother’s love of all things spiritual and esoteric with more than just a bit of skepticism. She is loyal and determined, with a strong sense of right and wrong. Her weakness stems from fear, which unquestionably is the motivating factor behind her need for control. And while she can see heroic or noble characteristics in others, Molly is unable to recognize her own inherent value. She’s afraid that she doesn’t measure up!
What was the inspiration for your story?
I was inspired to write the book I wanted to read! Does that make sense? Here I was, an avid fan of Period Drama and all things Judaic, but I couldn’t find anything to satisfy my cravings for a fusion of these two worlds. There are a few “mash ups” out there- if you look hard enough- but I found most of them to be filled with stereotypical characterizations of the Jewish community. When I did find something of merit, the material was intense, heavy reading… Daniel Deronda comes to mind as a good example. There is a wealth of dark Fiction and Nonfiction that speaks to the atrocity of anti-Semitism throughout the ages, but I was inspired to shine the light on a period of time just prior to the Russian Revolution and to bring attention to the heroic steps taken by Baron Maurice Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association. Rather than being a tragic narrative, I depict an upper, middle class, Jewish community in the 19th century. My favorite reads- my period dramas- speak of the landed gentry, aristocrats and high society; I was inspired to create educated, successful, philanthropic, characters. The Brodskys- the famed Sugar Kings of the South-were a prime example and I based the Abramovitz family on their history. This fictional ‘meshpucha’ (Yiddish for family) lived among the upper echelon and I was excited to bring them to life! I wanted to write about Jewish ladies, fashionably dressed, taking tea in the drawing room of a well-appointed estate. I wanted to present a cultured, well-established family living “Jewishly” in Mother Russia. And of course, I wanted to write about their emigration to the “New Jerusalem” in Argentina, as it speaks to the courage of my own ancestors and countless others who risked everything for the sake of future generations. I added the fantasy element, with the discovery of a mythical tarot card and some discussion of Jewish mysticism, to add another dimension to the story. Who wouldn’t want to travel back in time to meet their ancestors? I know I would! Becoming Malka is a light, entertaining read, but it is not lightweight, by any means. The actual idea for the story came to me in a dream- in a feverish dream! I left work early one day feeling a bit sluggish- dreading the sensation of an oncoming cold. I headed for home and went straight to bed, but as I closed my eyes, the name Malka came to mind. When I awoke, I had the entire concept for the book. As I sketched out the storyline, I incorporated elements of history and genealogy, subjects of great interest to me. As I mentioned previously, I am the granddaughter of Jewish Russian immigrants, so I was greatly inspired to create an enchanting story that incorporated some of their background.
What are some of the emotional triggers for Molly and how does she act on them?
Our dear Molly, with all her education and comfortable home life, suffers from insecurity. Her fear of instability causes her to over plan and strategies. Unlike Queen Elsa, she can’t “let it go!” Being the daughter of immigrants, she is torn by the separation of her extended family and it causes her to question her parents’ decisions, as well as her own. Molly is at times, quick to judge. She needs an explanation for everything; she likes things neatly squared away- wrapped up nicely with a bow, if you please.
What is the mood or tone your characters portray and how does this affect the story?
I hope that I’ve created several interesting and diverse characters; each one bringing their own individual gifts and talents to the story. Bobe Malka, the matriarch, is the epitome of elegance, wisdom. I hope she imparts a sense of constancy and respectability. Her son, Abraham provides some tension: he fears change and clings to the old ways. Josef, Molly’s great grandfather, is full of energy, ready to take on the world and claim his stake in the future. The youngest daughter, Leah, reminded me of Lydia Bennett at times. With lighthearted, teenage humor, Leah throws caution to the wind, and yet, there is a glimpse of the woman she is to become. Molly, although unquestionably knowledgeable and responsible, is the ingénue. Call her a late bloomer; it is her coming of age story. David, young, yet brave, is ready to believe his grandmother when she says that inexplicable is not the same as unexplainable. He represents that part of us that wants to believe in miracles- that senses we don’t need to understand everything. “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Citing Albert Einstein isn’t necessarily in keeping with this Indie-author, but while researching the topic of time travel and the introduction of a mythical tarot card, I found this quote quite set the tone for the narrative.
How much time did you spend writing this story and what was your process?
As much as I would have loved to dedicate myself to writing, I am a wife, a mom and a full-time employee. I’m not quite sure how I managed; I jotted down notes throughout the day and eventually would find time in the evenings and on weekends to settle down and write. In between the mundane and humdrum, I allowed the thoughts that I had been collecting to somehow spill out on paper…or rather, on my P.C. I began with a rough draft and a sketchy outline. I named the entire family and provided birthdates for each one before I wrote the first paragraph. I had to get the genealogy just right! I spent some time researching facts on fashion, architecture, and notable Jewish community leaders of the era. In addition, I explored the fascinating world of Jewish mysticism, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and even discovered an amazing story about “barajas”- playing cards used by Jews hiding from the Inquisition. All in all, the writing took close to a year to complete… then of course, came the “fun” part: Editing.
Where can readers buy your book?
Becoming Malka is available in both paperback and EBook formats on Amazon. My first book, With Love, The Argentina Family~ Memories of Tango and Kugel; Mate with Knishes can also be purchased via this website.
What are your personal motivations in story-telling?
The inspiration for both my books actually stem from the same base. I wanted to honor my family- this sturdy, loving, enduring stock made up of Jewish values, Russian ancestry, and Argentine culture. As an immigrant, having the good fortune of growing up in the United States of America, I wanted to honor the sense of history, pride and gratitude, as well.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I’ve written a Creative Non-Fiction and a Historical Fiction/Fantasy. Both books speak to Argentine and Russian history, Jewish culture and mysticism. Some people might think that a book about a particular culture or faith would only attract a specific group. But on a deeper level, of course, we are all human beings; we can relate to various universal themes such as tradition, assimilation, acceptance and personal growth. When readers can see beyond the label and see themselves, that’s when the author has truly accomplished something of worth. Once you peel away the labels, whether they are self-inflicted or imposed by society, you end up with the human experience and that makes for interesting reading. And it follows, that the most rewarding aspect of writing for me, is making that connection with others.
How often do you write and is there a particular time during the day your best ideas come to you?
It is my long term goal to write away the hours, but for now- and until I retire-I am a full time employee. During the day, I manage to scribble a few lines here and there during breaks and my lunch hour. I usually keep paper and pen on hand for when I am inspired and suddenly come up with a great line. I was caught unprepared once while traveling on a plane. I had an urge to write a thought- a conversation between two characters- but I didn’t have my tablet or even a scrap of paper. Tired of waiting for the overwrought flight attendant, I reached into the back pocket of the seat directly in front of me and pulled out the handy-dandy airsick bag and wrote an entire scene on the slick cardboard. It just goes to show, if you really want to write, you will find the time! Night time is the best, actually…the house is quiet.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m playing with the idea of a sequel to Becoming Malka. Many readers have expressed an interest in finding out what happened to Malka and the family, so unless I experience another inspirational “fever,” I have some work cut out for me!
I enjoyed our talk very much, Mirta! Please visit with me again sometime.
A message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Mirta Ines Trupp who is the author of, Becoming Malka, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Becoming Malka, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.