A: To use a French wine term, they are mostly an assemblage (blend) of people I have come across in the wine industry. I have taken some of their characteristics and adapted them to the story and added qualities or traits out of my imagination. Some of the characters I pulled out of my imagination almost entirely.
Q: Parts of Book 1 sound auto-biographical. Is Ela based on you?
A: In many ways, yes. She is my alter ego. There are many similarities. We are both height challenged and wear the same size. We have the same hair and eye color. The physical similarities made it easier to write in her fashion choices. Also, we share a cultural background and helped me with who she was as a person. I think that just the fact that my main female character is a wine agent, would have people thinking that parts of my first novel were auto-biographical. In a way they are. It was my career that gave me the idea. All there was to do, was to ask: What if this happened? And What if this led to that? All of a sudden I had the makings of a story.
There are some differences as well. She’s younger, more attractive and tougher. I wish I was more like her.
All in all, I could identify with her and she spoke to me. I understood her. I gave her strengths that I hope I have or I aspire to have. I also gave her some of my insecurities; things I have struggled with.
Some other similarities are that we like some of the same things and we dislike some of the same things, we have a similar philosophy about life, we share some of the same passions, we both feel that the most important sex organ is the brain, we live in the same city and have gravitated to the same career. I think she is better at it than I am. She might very well be my role model.
Writing from a familiar place for my first novel helped me to develop her personality and thought process and some of her core values.
On a funnier side ... I gave Ela her Polish name because someone once asked me why I was representing French wines and not Vodkas. They meant it as a joke, of course.
Q: You don't think that all of this is self-indulgent?
A: In a way. It would be more self-indulgent if she was perfect. She has flaws. I have flaws. The real self-indulgent part kicks in when I try to resolve some of my issues through her and she triumphs. In real life, I now ask myself what Ela would do in this situation.
I: What kind of flaws and issues do you both share?
A: you mean besides being impulsive and headstrong, thinking we are always right and wanting everything our own way? Well let’s see; we both had to overcome certain challenges in our careers. We have both had weight and self-image issues. We both think we are very independent, but deep down inside we both crave security and to feel safe.
I: What kind of strengths do you both share?
A: I think I am still a work in progress; more so than she is, but I do think there are some important positive qualities that we have in common … many of which go hand in hand: Work ethic, positive energy, a great capacity for happiness, the ability to appreciate and not take for granted, sensuality, curiosity, we know who we are for the most part and who we want to become, we are not intimidated by wealth and power even if we are attracted to it because it represents security, we believe in destiny but hedge our bets by doing our part to make things happen, we both have a bad girl inside of us … and yes, I see that as a strength.
I think that given the right circumstances, authors can at times write some aspects of themselves into some of the characters. It is the same with winemakers; the wines reflect the winemakers.
I: Handsome, successful, wealthy Torsten seems to have issues of his own. Why did you write him that way?
A: He is a little damaged. Men can have issues too. He has a slight limp from an accident suffered as a child. It is something he has tried to overcome his whole life. One of the reasons he is so successful is that he has always overcompensated.
As with many very powerful men, he does have a healthy sexual appetite and has not lived a chaste life, but I wouldn’t call his relationships prior to Ela, all that successful.
Also, Torsten actually lives a pretty isolated life. You would not think so, because he travels all over the world and is always surrounded by people. In fact, his contact with people, especially women, is limited to a small number of individuals of the same social economic standing, or people he sees infrequently for business or employees. Then there are those people, including women that will always have their own agenda when it comes to a man like Torsten – not exactly the basis for an ideal relationship. So, though it seems that he has it all, in reality he is a bit lonely and longing for love.