What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
When it comes to writing Alternative Healing books, my favorite thing is to bring easy to understand information to my readers. Most educational books are filled with statistics, explanations and sophisticated jargon. People have to skim through pages before they can get the answer they’re looking for. I try to make my books precise, logical and easy to read. Writing magical/realism novels gives me the opportunity to share my thoughts, feelings and dreams with my readers as well as lets my fertile imagination play with characters, events and create magical worlds where anything is possible.
Who or what inspired you to become an author?
To write Alternative Healing related books: after I received my PhD I thought about doing one on one consultation. Then I thought I can help more people by writing educational books and self-publish them with an affordable price. The use of herbs and supplements became very popular; however there are many dangers in using them without careful consideration. There are many side effects, interactions with prescription medications and contraindications in certain medical conditions which I try to point out in my books. As to writing a magical/realism fantasy novels, the inspiration first came from my daughter Eszter. Her paintings inspired me to form the characters in Ilona the Hun’s story and the story line was inspired by Hun history.
What was the turning point in your life when you decided to start writing?
I started writing health related books when I realized how much misinformation is out there about herbs, healthy diet, vitamins and supplement. The majority of the educational books are written in a language that a person without medical background couldn’t possibly follow and understand. I decided to write books that are written in simple, everyday language without long pages filled with statistics and scientific explanations. To write a fantasy story, the idea came to me after my daughter got annoyed with me because I couldn’t find a book to read and said “Mom, stop whining, if you haven’t a book to read then write one!”
Do you write about your personal life experiences in your stories?
Yes, often. If you don’t know love, sorrow, hate, regret, forgiveness and other emotions and experiences, you cannot really write about them. In my personal life I try to balance negative experiences with something positive right away, and it reflects in my writing. When my characters experience something tragic or shocking, I relax it with a little humor or have my characters analyze and deal with their feelings.
What genre(s) do you write?
I write educational books regarding Alternative Medicine, true stories and magical-realism, alternative history novels.
What genres and authors would we find you?
I write under my real name Erika M Szabo, my tags are health and healing, alternative medicine, fantasy, fiction and alternative history.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing comes natural to me and I don’t find it hard to write either educational books or novels. When I choose the topic I want to write about and have a vague outline of the story, I just start writing and the story develops on its own as I progress and new ideas start surfacing.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I am a plotter when I write medical books, I plan what I want to say and put it in clear and logical order. When I write a fantasy story I am definitely a pantser. I enjoy tremendously playing with the characters, let them develop as the story progresses and go back to change a romantic and lovable character into a villain if a new idea pops into mind as I write. When I started writing Ilona’s story, I only had a sketchy outline in my head. I played with some ideas in my spare time at first, but soon the events and characters came alive and kind of developed on their own as the story progressed. Elza surprised me the most; originally I planned her character to be an older, wise, steady and reliable aunt. I guess she didn’t like her assigned role; she became a little younger and more alive. Zoltan will change the most in book three, which I wasn’t really planning. It still amazes me, how much one accidental sentence can change the whole character, his values and personality…
Why do you think people should choose your books over another author?
That is a hard question. I think every reader will find the author they can connect with and enjoy their books because of their similar interest, thinking process, feelings, dreams and hopes. People who are not interested in alternative medicine, disease prevention, healthy diet and lifestyle or herbal remedies are not going to value my books. The same applies to my novels, if the reader likes crime stories, horror, fuzzy vampires or sticky romance, they will not find my fantasy trilogy enjoyable. But, if they like deep characters, coming of age struggle, lots of twists and turns, historical facts wrapped into a fantasy story, they will choose and enjoy my books.
What makes for a good hook in your stories? Where does your inspiration come from?
I can talk about my only novel trilogy so far, although I have some ideas for my next one. The inspiration came from ancient Hungarian history. In my fantasy world, I blended the past and present into a fantasy tale with intriguing tribal secrets, magical heritage and the exciting and dangerous life in a secret society.
Who is your favorite character in your book? Why?
In my novel, Ilona is my favorite. She grows as a person throughout the story from a naïve and insecure girl to a confident woman. She’s not afraid to make sacrifices and to accept her life calling.
Who would be your first choice to play Ilona from your book Birthright Bestowed?
I can imagine, Natalie Portman playing Ilona. I think she could portray her quiet charm, vulnerability, loneliness, self-doubts and great inner strength well.
What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your stories?
After reading my medical books, I hope the reader will start thinking about developing healthier diet and lifestyle to prevent illness and perhaps decide to use alternative methods with much less side effects when it’s possible. Also, I hope after reading my Ilona the Hun trilogy the reader will have a better understanding of their own struggles coming into adulthood, accepting responsibilities as well as heritage and live up to expectations without losing themselves. I hope they will take with them deep and honest feelings, human values as well as the feeling of freedom to use their imagination.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In my Ilona the Hun novels there are many messages. First of all, anything is possible if we have reasonable expectations and we are willing to put work into it. Understanding our own positive traits, flaws and limitations help us to create our own future.
Are any of your characters based on real people or events?
I include some historical events in my novels. However, the real events are incorporated into a fantasy story. I can’t really say my characters are based on real people although some of my characters slightly resemble people I know, either in appearance or bits and pieces of their personality. In Ilona’s story, there are some personal experiences. I am ambidextrous and I can’t cook just like Ilona. Elza’s character resembles my favorite sister-in-law, and I worked little stories into the book about my cat Miss Mirci Catchmousky as well as my gentle giant dog, Gypsy. I wrote about some personal experiences as well, from my years working as an ER nurse.
How long have you been a writer?
I’ve been writing medical articles for a long time, but I started seriously writing in 2008.
How much time did it take from writing your first book to having it published?
It took me about six months to write my first alternative healing book in Hungarian and I sent it to a publishing company. I braced myself for a lot of rejection before I hoped to see my book published, but surprisingly I received the accepting letter within a week. I played with Ilona’s story for about a year and finished the first two books when I discovered self-publishing in late 2011. I got many positive reviews and feedbacks from readers which made me decide to rewrite the books and continue with the third book in the series. I sent the first book Birthright to the Best Indie books of 2012 award contest, to my delight, it was chosen as semifinalist. The finalist books will be announced in September and the winner of the award in October. The editor at 5 Prince Publishing read my story recently and they offered to publish the trilogy.
What other careers have you had?
I worked in the medical field all my life as a registered nurse and ten years ago I received my PhD in Alternative Medicine.
Do you write under more than one name? Why?
I write under my real name.
How would you describe yourself if you were “speed dating” your readers?
I can honestly say I’ve never been bored in my life, I’m busy doing something every moment while I’m awake. I love the mountains, but because I’m not really an outdoor person, I enjoy the scenery from the comfort of my car. Bike ride is my favorite exercise, but I ride my bike that goes nowhere in my living room, because I don’t like to swallow bugs and rather walk miles in a museum or art gallery than in the tick infested woods. For fun I read, write, go out with friends. To relax I do crossword puzzles, gobelin or paint. My day is not complete until I made a difference in at least one person’s life with either a medical advice or just a caring word, touch or a smile.
What’s something fans would find fascinating about you?
People I meet the first time find me a pleasant, average looking and positive thinking person. Usually they put me in a “mental box” where they store people who are nice, but there is nothing special about them. Later the things I do or I’m interested in come up in conversation, or they find out from others and then they put me in the mental box labeled “fascinating people”. What fascinates people about me most is that English is my second language and I have the courage to write and compete with writers who grew up speaking the language and were educated in English. I wasn’t, I thought myself watching Rambo movies and cartoons for a month and then slowly graduated reading teenage books with the help of a dictionary and after one year reading and understanding Shakespeare. I also notice that people find fascinating the fact that I find the time to do all the things I want to do.
What else would you like readers to know about you or your work?
I worked in many areas of the medical field and found my calling in the Emergency Room setup. I always loved the dynamic and fast paced environment, the unpredictability and demand for acting and making decisions fast. In my personal life, I love and respect animals, and somehow they know it. Abused and runaway dogs and cats in the neighborhood always end up on my doorsteps and they always find love and care. Wild animals feel safe in my backyard as well, chipmunks, crows, groundhogs, bunnies, you name it, they live in my backyard. The orphaned baby foxes we raised – I put together a picture book about the experience – still visit sometimes.
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
It wasn’t any particular author or book; it was my father who loved to read and introduced me to the wonderful worlds locked in books at a very early age. I have many favorites, I cannot choose. I love to read about our past, but not only the dry facts and events. I love to read from authors who can make the past more real and bring our ancestors alive and closer to us in their stories.
How do your family and/or friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?
My family and friends are supportive and read my medical books, however very few of them like fantasy stories. I think most will read my Ilona the Hun novels only when by a miracle or rather with the help of fantasy book lovers becomes a best seller novel.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Hungary and came to the US twenty years ago. I live in the beautiful Catskill Mountains in NY.
How do you come up with the titles?
I think that is the hardest part of writing, at least to me. I keep changing the titles throughout the writing process and I’m still not satisfied when the book is finished. It must be a glitch in my brain preventing me from coming up with the perfect title. I have fun writing three hundred pages and I struggle to create a word or sentence for a title. Figures!
Has your life changed significantly since becoming a published writer?
Not really. I interact with hundreds of people in my work on a daily bases, and when I started writing it became just one more thing I did and enjoyed. I don’t have a schedule either, sometimes I write an hour, but there are times when I can sit by the computer and write for ten hours straight. I only write when I really feel up to it, otherwise I think it would quickly turn into a job.
Do you work on one project at a time? Or do you multi-task?
I am definitely a multi-tasker, working on one project at the time bores me.
When not writing, how do you relax?
I catch up on medical related articles; watch fantasy and sci-fi movies, go out to a nice dinner with friends or take long rides in the mountains.
Please tell us 5 miscellaneous facts about yourself.
I love to meet new people and I “don’t judge a book by its cover” before I get to know them.
I love animals and I provide environment for them around me where they can live as their nature intended them to live. I won’t put a bird in a cage or keep a cat inside watching nature through a window. I won’t try to teach them tricks or perform unnatural tasks.
Makes me happy and accomplished when I can help one person a day in some way.
I stop and smell the roses, in other words I notice and appreciate beauty in life.
I’m not a gatherer of material wealth, but I love life’s small luxuries such as a comfy bed to read, a delicious dinner with friends, soft and comfortable clothes or a beautiful new painting in my living room from an unknown artist.
Please share with us your future projects and upcoming releases.
Currently I’m writing the third book “Destiny Altered” in Ilona the Hun series as well as “Grandma’s herbal remedies” which I will self-publish soon. The history of Hungary goes way back and there are lots of fascinating and heroic events to write about. My next project is going to be another historical based novel combined with fantasy.
Please share any links you would like listed in the Interview. Website, Myspace, blog, facebook, yahoo group etc.
BARNES & NOBLE: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/erika-m-szabo
Description of “Birthright-Bestowed” book one of Ilona the Hun series.
Ilona is an emergency room doctor, born into an ancient Hun tribe which still exists hidden amongst us with its strict and fiercely enforced rules. She doesn’t know much about her Hun heritage besides legends, customs and rituals that she continues out of respect for her parents whose sudden death ten years before devastated her. She plays her tune on her birthday given to her by her grandmother.
Elza – Ilona’s housekeeper – explains, the purpose of the tune is to let the elders know she had come to age. Her mother didn’t have a chance to explain her inherited powers, but after her 29th birthday when she is considered as an adult by Hun standards, she begins to remember the forgotten instructions concealed as rhymes her mother was teaching her since she was a small child.
Ilona discovers she can heal with her bare hands; she can rearrange the human body to its healthy state. This ability is exciting as well as frightening. She is conflicted between having confidence in her intelligence and inherited abilities while having no confidence as a woman. Her insecurity created barriers which keep others out, and I also keep her caged in.
She’s been in love with her unsuspecting best friend Bela, when a dashing stranger explodes into her life. The sudden magnetic feeling frightens her and discovering evil in him doesn’t help either. A sinister dark man appears, Ilona connects his presence with the series of mysterious deaths around her. Zoltan saves her life by jeopardizing his, which prompts Ilona to start fitting the puzzle pieces together and discovering the ancient tribal secrets that not only can change her future but the future existence of the Huns as well.
I found my housekeeper Elza in the kitchen, busy making breakfast. Her long auburn hair was pulled into a tight bun. She was wearing a gray uniform with the crisp white apron pressed and wrinkle free. I had always hated that darned uniform, yet she insists on wearing it and she ends our countless arguments over it every time by saying, ‘I am your housekeeper. I like who I am, and that’s that!’ It makes no difference to her that I am the boss – she always does as she pleases.
I tried to force my disapproval and nagging thoughts to subside. Elza seemed preoccupied; she turned away quickly when I reached for her hand. She knew I could read her feelings by touching her. She surprised me, but I respected her wish. Yet it bugged me that she was trying to hide something from me. To feel that strong yearning inside, and then be emotionally rejected by my own housekeeper, started affecting me more than I could tolerate. I just hoped that after prayer and breakfast everything would return to normal.
Ema, Elza’s daughter and Rua, my groundskeeper, joined us in the living room to begin our usual Morning Prayer. The role of leading the ceremony had fallen on my shoulders ever since my mother had died. I never fully understood why I had to do it. After my mother was gone, Elza insisted that I continue the True Hun tradition, so I obeyed to please her. When I had pressured her to give me an explanation, she always clammed up. She said I would find out when the time was right. There goes nothing, again. I don’t understand all the secrecy about being a Hun. What the big fuss is about is beyond me. I hoped the awful feeling would stop so that I could enjoy the day. Hopefully, concentrating on the ceremony will help me to calm down, I thought.
I lit the sacred candles infused with herbs, and I placed it in silver candleholders on the small round table. The ancient wooden figurines of male and female holding hands stood between the candles, with our delicately carved Turul bird. The statues were small; they had a deep, warm brown color. My family had owned them for who knows how long. The rich shiny brown color came from the hot herbal tea poured over them every morning by Elza, and many before her, for generations. The bird held widely stretched wings over the male and female figurines. Beside the statues was an ancient, dark leather-bound book. It contained the names and life stories of my ancestors.