We have with us today an author, Liliana Badd, who escaped a major earthquake, survived living a life under communism and exile to France before rebuilding her life after the cold war. She's here to tell us about her new release, Exit. Coffee Time Romance gave Exit five cups: "It is an often disturbing but triumphant declaration of the invincibility of the human spirit."
**This is a must read and Liliana is giving an autograph copy of Exit to one lucky person who leaves a comment or asks her a question. Please make sure you leave your email so she may contact you if you should win.
Liliana tell us a little about yourself:
My life... what a long, terribly exhausting journey. I have traveled for years, thousands of miles throughout the world, and this led me where? — To find myself. I call myself a SWS (a Solitary Woman Survivor).
In 1985, I had the extreme honor to meet Emil Cioran, in Paris. A fifteen-minute encounter turned into a five-hour debate. In the end, he said to me, "You are a rambling soul, a restless mind."
When I take a look at my life, I could honestly say it has been a succession of “earthquakes.” In 1977, I escaped by miracle from a major earthquake that shook Bucharest to its foundations, leaving behind thousands of innocent victims, the kiss of death. The building I was living in split in two — seven floors collapsed engu
lfing with them their inhabitants. I was sitting in a chair watching the walls crack and was calmly thinking that I was going to die alone, and the book of my life would end before even beginning.
At that moment, I was oblivious that the earthquake was an omen — my life did not end; what followed would be a succession of earthquakes that over time would completely collapse my life... and each time, I would obstinately rebuilt its foundations, from scratch.
I was born in Romania in 1953. I graduated from the University of Germanic Languages, in Bucharest, with a MA in 1976. After having lived for 26 years under the dementia of a communism regime, I fled to France where I lived for 20 years, surviving the Cold War. At times, I had the weird feeling that the historical events were cruelly intermingling with my personal life. In 2000, after a cruel confrontation with Death, I started a new life in Las Vegas, Nevada. I arrived in LV on a va
cation. And the desert “entrapped” me. Alone with myself, I was changing not a city or a country, but a continent. Determinism and free will…
I am living now, what can be called my 5th life. At 57, I have started a new life; I’m again a student, having enrolled in a medical school to become a certified medical assistant – a new career… Writer and a student in the medical field… I feel blessed.
Paradoxically, I have never been able to write anything in my native languages. It is in the stillness of the Las Vegas desert that my life experience and emotions, cumulated in my soul, have exploded, intertwining and weaving in thousands of words, having become my novels. I have become a writer in Las Vegas.
Exit is about the journey of a woman finding her true self through her incurable illness. Without giving too much away, tell us about the story.
EXIT is the story of a woman’s metamorphosis; finding her true self through her incurable illness; after having been a good daughter, mother and wife, Ondine breaks the chains of her absolute solitude and becomes the real woman; the woman she was meant to be. Ondine, has dreamt of becoming a writer and has never had a chance to fulfill her dream… “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” (H. D. Thoreau). It is the illness that will spectacularly open for her the door to her dream…being Ondine; the painful process of becoming a writer… becoming aware of the cruel reality of life. Awakening.
EXIT is also a powerful social novel – about passion, compassion, and mostly social generosity and sharing… so rare nowadays… in a society obsessed with the idea of an instant success… fearing to admit that failure is an intrinsic part of our tribulations in the space called Life. Women and men, alike, will relate to Ondine’s story, at one point or another.
Ondine has lived her life in a “sanitized” environment, as tiny as an eggshell, selfishly ignoring the matters of the world. Turned upside down, Ondine gestates in an overwhelming and morbid depression, calling it “the illness of death,” questioning her marriage, her family, her career and her treatment. She begins to contemplate an easier road… suicide.
After her awakening – aided by the compassionate Dr. Monique Veil – she becomes a friend with a prostitute with AIDS and a Russian painter with whom she begins a passionate affair. When an independent newspaper publishes the photos Ondine had taken of her prostitute friend on her deathbed, her life begins an unexpected spiral in a new direction.
Later in life, Ondine returns to Paris, meditating on her life after her illness and how she has affronted death, stirring controversy and passion, understanding that “to live is to change.” Does Ondine have enough time left in life on the edge of non-life?
What inspired you to write Exit?
The events of life were my genuine inspiration in EXIT. The awareness that we truly exist if we relate to life globally, forgetting our individual ego.
As for Ondine, as a character, I still wonder how her story came to my mind. I was aware that writing about someone being diagnosed with an incurable illness was a daring challenge. There are too many stories about this subject… and I accepted the challenge.
In 2006, while on a vacation in Europe, due to an unexpected health incident, I had to be hospitalized and had plasma transfusions. It was that year that Ondine’s story started germinating in my mind. The more I was thinking about this frustrated middle-aged woman, settled in her bourgeois Parisian life, feeling she failed her life, the more excited I was becoming. The story started shaping itself; Ondine started to exist. I was well advanced in my writing when I experienced a series of flu-like events, with profuse sweats, day and night, extreme fatigue and sometimes, intense malaise. All at once, I became aware that those symptoms were similar to Ondine’s symptoms. Almost hating her, I abandoned her altogether. I was not going to write a story, which strangely could be mine. I kept fighting my symptoms, fearing I might have been contaminated with HIV. I cowardly lived in anxiety and fear for long months. And one day, my symptoms went away.
It was only then that I had the courage to go and get tested. The test came back negative. I started feeling well again, exuberantly, filled with energy. My energy was coming back. And so was Ondine, more alive then ever.
How much research was involved in your story?
The entire novel required long months of intensive research work.
I spent long hours before I took a decision on her name. Ondine comes from the Latin “onda” – a wave. Her life flows as smoothly as a wave in a peaceful ocean, and then brutally it becomes a drop in a tormented ocean. Everything turns upside down in Ondine’s life when she is diagnosed with leukemia.
After her awakening, Ondine becomes a journalist/social photographer. The very essence of this profession implies traveling and meeting people; listen to their stories and translate them into writing. Ondine’s experience as a social journalist/photographer is based on true-to-life events having required long months of research. Readers may appreciate the footnotes, which will help them with the locations of the story.
Then, the different types of leukemia, their treatments and respective prognosis as well as the legislation on euthanasia and assisted suicide in various countries in Europe required a tedious research work.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
EXIT is a landmark in my life. It took me three years to achieve it. For three years, I lived as secluded as in a convent. Thinking and living with the characters, in a parallel world…My mind was asking them questions, they seemed to talk in their own voices, and my mind was listening to their stories, imagining we were on a huge theatrical set. They were the narrators, I was the director, and the audience was the world. When I finished EXIT, I was completely drained, both emotionally and physically.
As I was writing it, I was thinking – “when I am done with this part, the others will be easier...” Alas, it was just an encouragement I was offering myself. All the parts of the story were hard to deal with. However, two seem to have been harder than the others. The ending kept bothering me for long months. I had several endings in mind, but none was to my liking. Once I had the ending, it was like a revelation, a complete relief – and I could continue with Ondine’s story with my mind at peace. The novel ends with a shocking twist that will truly surprise my readers.
Then, paradoxically, the shortest chapter of the book, “June 2004” which is only two-pages long was very hard to imagine. This short chapter is the pivot of the novel. In this chapter, Ondine faces her doctor and is pretty sure she will be dismissed as a patient, and she has all the reasons to believe so; she has been a non-compliant patient. To her surprise, she is not dismissed and starting that moment, the book becomes as alert as a thriller...
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
After I finished EXIT, I started thinking that writing can be one of the most difficult profession in life and, at the same time, one of the most rewarding. As a writer, you can be anyone on condition to find those words that give authenticity to what you are writing. You have in front of you a mass suspended between life and death and entirely dependent upon you. It is like a confrontation between something that has already been there and something that is about to take place. And you start writing when you feel you are ready to size the mass that’s already there, move it about, smash it, remodel it until the words of the story will begin to emerge. Suddenly, your brain lights up and becomes visible. You can see your own thoughts written up in huge letters on a screen.
I identified myself with my characters to such an extent, that I seem to have managed to reach a degree of authenticity imbuing EXIT with the atmosphere of an autobiography. The other characters are as alive as Ondine is, and I have not developed a stronger relationship with any of them. They exist by themselves and I exist through them. Some friends of my parents after having read EXIT as a manuscript, and who knew me as a child wrote: “We thought it over and over again, and we do not remember you having had any brothers…When did you go to South America?” Another friend asked me: “Did you really go to a brothel and meet Solange?
EXIT offered me one of the most rewarding experiences a writer may hope to live. A couple of weeks ago, I met, here in Las Vegas, a doctor – who spends his life taking care of children without healthcare benefits within a program called “clinics in schools.” He has given up a successful private medical practice to serve the cause of poor children. Well, he incarnates my character, Doctor Christophe Duquesne, in the novel. And I told him: “What a blessing for an author to meet in real life one of her fictitious characters.”
The novel is dedicated to a renowned oncologist in Las Vegas. Her passion, her devotion to her patients, her vision “the patient always comes first; all else is secondary,” having been the human inspiration for Dr. Veil’s character in the novel.
The stories, published in Ondine’s work as a social photographer, are all true-to-life: the children born with AIDS in Romania, innocent victims of a demented dictatorship, the immigration slum in the outskirts of Paris, the story of the young woman abducted for organ trafficking. These true-to-life stories imbue EXIT with authenticity, making it, as a book-reviewer recently wrote, “an empowering novel.” This is my true reward as a writer.
Do you have a favorite reference book or online site?
I have two favorite reference books: “Belle du Seigneur” by Albert Cohen and “Cancer Ward” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I completely relate to Solzhenitsyn, to his life experience, illusions, disappointments, his life having been a perpetual exile… exile from the world, exile from himself.
What are your current projects and works in progress?
I am actually again “pregnant.” I have in mind two books – one will be the story of an impossible love, the other will be about the “Strategy of failure – I am ugly, fat, and no one loves me; what am I supposed to do with myself?”
Tell the readers where they can find you:
My web site is the place from where they can contact me directly via email.
Readers can also find me on Face Book, Twitter, GoodReads, LibraryThing, on Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble. EXIT is available all over the world....
Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers?
After I finished EXIT, I understood that as a writer, I am not allowed to hold back anything from my readers; should this be painful or embarrassing. I have to deliver to my readers the whole truth about my soul and mind. I am not ashamed to state that my life has been like a roller coaster: a succession of failures followed by success… and then back to failure…and back to success. It is only my perseverance and strong belief that once a door is closed another one is opened that kept me going.
And I am faithfully going to apply this statement by sharing something very personal with my readers. This evening, December 19, 2010, as I am writing this interview, my husband is lying in a hospital bed, his life hanging onto a thread; his life is in God’s hands. His condition is extremely serious. He is going to be operated tomorrow – open heart surgery... a major intervention. And on Tuesday, the day after tomorrow, I have a decisive lunch meeting about EXIT which could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A kind of a meeting one cannot not reschedule or postpone. To take it or leave it. My mind is in turmoil, my own thoughts and doubts are pressuring me... what if the day after tomorrow my husband will no longer be with me? What if he would have passed the Exit by then? Would I go to that meeting? And intimately, without wanting to acknowledge it, I know it – I will go. No matter what. And this is what I’d like to tell my readers: Life goes on, no matter what. We have to find the strength and overcome the most dramatic and painful situations – and pursue with passion and hope what we are doing. No matter what. As Passion is the secret of The Secret.
EXIT – to buy links: