Six Elementals Author Interviews will introduce prospective readers to some of the best writers in their genre you may, or may not, have heard of, via a series of six questions. I encourage you to check out the work of these phenomenal creatives! Links to their websites and purchase links will always appear, accompanying the interview. Check them out!
I am privileged to be joined by the award-winning romantic fantasy author, Eve Koguce! Eve’s current published works are: Neglected Merge and Tangle of Choices.
P.L.: Thank you so much Eve for joining me today! You hail from beautiful Latvia, a unique country, filled with astounding scenery, a vibrant and compelling history, and rich literature and diverse authors worth exploring. How has growing up and living in Latvia, and Latvian writers, influenced your writing?
Eve: Thank you, P.L., for inviting me. It’s a great pleasure and also an honour to talk about my books with the author of one of my favourite novels.
For me, the proverb “East or West, home is best” is a life motto. I can talk about my beautiful country for hours. I’ve travelled rather extensively around Europe, and I also spent a few years living in the picturesque South West England. And still, I haven’t seen a place that would surpass my home town, Jurmala. Imagine almost thirty kilometres of a sandy beach fringed with pine forest. You can walk for hours, breathing in the salty air and listening to the gentle whispering of the relentless waves.
I’ve been blessed to grow up in a multicultural environment. My mom always told me that languages are what makes a person truly rich. I’m grateful to her that she’d encouraged me in my studies.
I’ve always been mesmerized by books. Since I was six, the words weren’t simply letters on pages: they were music. During the most romantic years – when I was a teenager – I wrote a lot of poetry in three languages. The only thing that I feel sorry about is that I hadn’t learnt my mother’s native tongue. Her sister, my mom’s aunt who raised me and was like a grandmother to me, and mom spoke Tatar at home, and when I was little, I did understand them. But, alas, I didn’t take pains to learn it properly.
In high school, my Latvian language teacher taught me the beauty of my home country language. She spoke as if she was singing. I could listen to her telling us about Latvian literature, its poets and novelists, for much longer than the classes lasted. One of the brightest personalities in Latvian literature is, of course, Aspazija (Aspasia), poet and playwright. Truly, the legendary woman. There is a unique museum in my hometown Jurmala: the house where Aspazija spent the last years of her life. She loved our sometimes grim but always absolutely magnificent seaside, and recently, there appeared a charming monument that, in my opinion, does this extraordinary woman justice. I like “visiting” Aspazija – and her cat! This lovely feature breathes warmth into a statue. I just stand there by her, and look at the sea, trying to imagine how the inspiration flew through her mind when she’d been coming to this very place.
I must beg your pardon for the crude translation of Aspazija’s poetry, but I wanted you and the readers of your blog to feel through the lines the soul of this talented woman, whom fate treated harshly, and still, the light of her talent stayed with her, and her creative light continues to shine for us from the lines of her poetry.
One of my favourite poems by Aspazija is called “Away into the beautiful”. The entering lines are as follows:
Like a seagull, rising over the sea waves…
Among the storm when one can’t see a thing,
Let me – a boat of sinking life-
Raise the wings of my soul like a sail.
P.L.: I truly appreciate the compliment about A Drowned Kingdom, and so glad you enjoyed reading it. Oh my Eve, thank you so much for sharing memories of your childhood, your homeland, and speaking about what has inspired you! Lativa sounds beautiful and I would love to visit there one day, especially based on your lovely description. That was a beautiful poem by Aspazija! Your wonderful mother, your language teacher, creatives such as Aspazija seem to have truly motivated you in terms of your writing, and that is amazing! We all know, unfortunately, inspiration is sometimes absent, no matter what we do. How do you cope with writer's block, when the inspiration is just lacking to write?
Eve: So far, I’ve written three books. And this experience has taught me that discipline is vital for a writer. Inspiration is, undoubtedly, important, and without it, I believe, there is no creative spark that ignites and fuels the whole process of writing a book. Still, a writer should self-train discipline.
I like reading motivational non-fiction books. I don’t expect a guaranteed solution to all problems there are in our world, but I take something valuable from each of them. Right before I started writing “Tangle of Choices”, I’d read a book my husband was reading. And the excellent piece of advice I got from that book was: just sit down and do what you have to do. It might not work at once, you might spend some time uselessly staring at the blank screen, but it’ll pass. And it worked! True, I spent a day following that peculiar dance of a blinking cursor, but when I sat down to write the next day, the words simply started to flow from under my fingers.
P.L.: That is excellent advice, for all of us who struggle sometimes just to get a word on the page. How do you feel about the current state of self-publishing today? Do you feel self-publishing is a viable path compared to being traditionally published? What made you decide to self-publish your books as opposed to traditionally publishing them?
Eve: In order to give my opinion some weight – which is arguable anyway :) – let me begin with confessing that I sent around seventy query letters for “Neglected Merge”. When I completed my first novel, I didn’t know the option of self-publishing existed. So, the traditional publishing road was the only one I saw for myself.
When it became clear that my book wouldn’t be accepted by literary agents, I confessed to my husband that I wrote a book. And it was he who persuaded me to try to self-publish. I probably wouldn’t have listened to him if I hadn’t received some personalised and positive feedback from literary agents. Although they rejected my manuscript, they admitted that they liked the idea of the book and my writing style.
From what I’ve seen during my self-publishing journey so far, I’ve come to a conclusion that there are two things that make this path a challenging one. First, marketing and promotion opportunities. Big publishers have resources, skill, and experience to tell people why they should read that book. They know the tricks and techniques to make people feel that they need to buy and read it. That their life will become better if they do. I know how it works since my Bachelor’s degree happens to be in Marketing. And second, there are too many titles published by too many authors.
In case of self-publishing, Amazon did remove the “gate-keepers”. Everyone can publish their work now without spending a fortune on printing hundreds of their books they’d store in their garage forever. But the road behind those gates remained the same. An extremely bumpy one with many obstacles, challenges, riddles, and even highway robbers. Many indie authors, I’m sure, are “bombarded” by lucrative offers to “boost their sales and showcase your books to millions of readers”.
So, I’d say that traditional publishing still remains the only road to real success, such as every aspiring writer sees as their ultimate goal and dream. Still, self-publishing can be satisfying and fulfilling in many ways. The books you’ve written – given life from the most sacred chambers of your soul – get a chance to become real books, not manuscripts, drafts, etc. And for me personally, few things compare to the feeling when I look at the book with my name on it sitting on my – too crowded and too numerous – bookshelves.
P.L.: Writing a book, no matter how you do it, I agree Eve, is a major accomplishment. What are some of your favourite novels and writers?
Eve: There are so many books that have given me more than just an experience of reading a story. But to save your website’s space and your readers’ time, I’ll name three.
“Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood, and the book that’s been my personal top number one for more than twenty years, “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen.
“Gone with the Wind”, despite all the controversy that has been surrounding this legendary novel for decades now, remains the most fascinating read for me. I’ve reread it recently, and my impressions were as vivid as they always are when I dive into the world of the American South. I have to say that for me, first and foremost, this is a story about major changes. As a person who's lived through such changes – when the country you were born in ceases to exist and, in its place, emerges a completely different one – I can’t be swayed in my conviction that Margaret Mitchell’s only work is a phenomenal depiction of changing times. What I find the most fascinating about it, is that details don’t matter. Time, geographical location, the gist of the conflict between the confronted parties don’t matter. The process and the consequences are absolutely the same. Rhett Butler tells Scarlett that there is always someone who earns their wealth on the misery of war. And it’s true for any event that changes the lives of thousands of people.
When asked what “Gone with the Wind” was about, Margaret Mitchell said: “If the novel has a theme, it is that of survival. What makes some people come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong and brave go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive, others don’t. What qualities are in those who fight their way triumphantly that are lacking in those that go under? I only know that survivors used to call that quality “gumption”. So I wrote about people who had gumption and people who didn’t”.
I’ve witnessed many cases of able, strong and brave people go under, crushed by circumstances they couldn’t influence or overcome. My mom did have “gumption”. When faced with challenges the new world threw at her – and one of such challenges was an unbearable burden of raised taxes, just like in “Gone with the Wind” – she used that ability to adapt and find ways to survive. I know that she would have put that green velvet dress made from old curtains into good use, although among her weapons for fighting “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” were mainly her courage, honesty and optimism.
For the first time, I read “The Handmaid’s Tale” long before the novel was turned into a series. And I was completely taken in by the world Margaret Atwood has created. What I adore the most about this book is that there aren’t explicit details, descriptions or explanations. Everything is told very briefly. But the essence of it crawls right through your skin, and you are terrified. That’s what I see as the true power of literature.
P.L.: Those are some well-known books you have mentioned, that, regardless of what one may think of them, have surely had an impact on literature as we know it. Please tell potential readers who have not yet read your work about your current series, The Neglected Merge Series! What's it all about?
Eve: The Neglected Merge trilogy is about people adapting to major and smaller changes.
Book one “Neglected Merge” is what one can call a love story. Still, it makes me happy that some readers see beyond it and say that there is more to it. “Neglected Merge” tells a story how two people from different worlds managed to ignite a spark of change and put into motion the process of revitalisation of relations between their estranged nations.
Book two “Tangle of Choices” is a drama. It explores the consequences of decisions people make led by the noblest intentions. Power brings not only privilege but also responsibility. The main character, Tauria, faces the hardships of being a responsible and caring leader, and all parts of her established life are being threatened: her marriage, her friendships, and even her sanity.
And book three is almost a thriller. But beside all the action, one of the plotlines in book three is a coming-of-age journey of one of the most likeable characters the readers get acquainted with in “Tangle of Choices”. It also wraps up the stories of all the characters, not only the main ones.
P.L.: I loved Neglected Merge and can’t wait to read the next books in the series! You've recently won two writing awards for Neglected Merge! Congratulations! Can you please share about the awards you've won and how you cope with the pressure of submitting for awards contests? Such competitions can be nerve-wracking!
Eve: Thank you, P.L.! Both awards came as a huge surprise to me. I applied just to know that I’ve done everything I could for my book.
“Neglected Merge” won a silver medal in the 2021 Global Book Awards in the Science Fiction / Fantasy category. It also won a finalist award in the 2021 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award Contest.
To be honest, once I applied for both award contests, I stopped thinking about them. I was completely immersed in editing “Tangle of Choices” and finishing the third book. I think it’s a useful recipe to keep one’s nerves intact :)
P.L.: Yes, those awards submissions can surely fray on one’s nerves! Once again, congratulations on your awards, and all the success you have enjoyed with your books! It's been wonderful to chat with you Eve! Wishing you all the best with your writing!
Buy Neglected Merge on Amazon here.
Buy Tangle of Choices on Amazon here.
Follow Eve Koguce online below!