Interview with Kristina O’Donnelly

December 4, 2015

 Kristina O'DonnellyCan a book contain important truths about life and love, power and religion?  Can a book  tell about the life and politics of an ancient and glorious country such as Turkey? And above all, is Turkey a liberal country or not? If you remember, I asked some of these questions in the review of the book titled The Horseman ( please click on the title to see this review), the first of a compelling series titled Land of the Morning.  But today, to reply these questions, it is just its author Kristina O’Donnelly, an awarded Irish novelist. Through this very interesting interview, Kristina has explained many important details about her book and her life. Her literary work also faces the burning issue of the fight between Turks and Curds. Who is the oppressor and how to fix this long-lasting issue? Kristina O’Donnelly was raised in Turkey and knows very well what is happening in this country she also considers as her home. Here is the full interview. Good reading.

Where did you grow up and was reading and writing always a part of your life?

I was born in Rome, Italy, but grew up in Istanbul, Turkey; I came of age in love with Istanbul and its people who are formed of a remarkably cosmopolitan, civilized, coat of many colors. And yes, from as far back as I can remember, pen , pencil and the urge to disseminate information, were part of my existence.

Who were your earliest influences and why?

Indeed my earliest influences were my parents. So deeply in love with Istanbul was I that my dreams and plans for the future involved (in addition to a career as a pen-warrior i.e. journalist) to help preserve her grandeur as a public servant, be it as a mayor, congresswoman, or senator (all possible goals for any woman living in contemporary Turkey). My parents, who were active anti-Communists as well as dedicated human rights champions, were asked to leave Italy due to some of their (at that point in time) politically controversial beliefs and endeavors, and Turkey gave us sanctuary. Both of my parents had a strong Callingto both read (i.e. learn) and write (to dispense what they learned to the masses who needed information), and this same Calling seems to be embedded in my genes, too…

Why do you write?

Because I can’t help it; it’s a built-in part of my soul. I believe in the pen being mightier than the sword. So did my parents. We sure were three kindred souls!

Tell us about your book The Horseman.

In the briefest of terms, The Horseman is unusual, timely, exotic, provocative, yet universal. However, it is also romantic, and deeply passionate. It does ask the question: What Price for Love That Defies Time? Would you pledge your soul to eternity?

Aspects of THE HORSEMAN’S subject matter are controversial; depending on one’s ingrained beliefs, it’s either poison or manna. Nevertheless, The Horseman is presented with a you-are-there immediacy. Revolving around a dynamic American heroine, the novel encompasses Mid-Eastern politics, reincarnation, Tarot, mythology, the Irish Catholic experience, as well as the roots of the ongoing bloody upheavals between the Turks and Kurds. Complete with magnificent settings from Turkey and Mecca to Ireland and the United States, The Horseman presents an intense, multi-cultural love triangle with indomitable characters united in their quest for social justice. As Ariadne, the American, Burhan, the Turk, and Mehmet Ali, the Kurd, emerge from the mists of 8,000 BC and reunite in 20th Century Turkey, they play out their star-crossed destinies upon an explosive socio-political stage.

In The Horseman, you’re delving into the subject of Turks vs. Kurds, and Kurds vs Turks. What are your thoughts about this issue? Are the Turks indeed the aggressor in this conflict? Are the Kurds really an oppressed minority without any human rights?

The question of who the aggressor is, and of being an oppressed minority, changes according to which side of the fence you are seated on.

How do you explain this in light of the long-lasting bloody war between the PKK and the Turkish Armed Forces? I understand the death toll had reached 20,000 or more.

The PKK waged a war of terror and of separatism from Turkey. The brief reply would be: The Turkish Government did what any other government would do, send in the troops to quelch those who want to break apart the territorial integrity of the land.

You said your writings are poison to some, manna to others. What do you mean by that?

Because in deeply ingrained, controversial issues, there is never one solid set of truth. And when an outsider takes the role of an independent observer then writes claiming that their viewpoint is “unbiased” and “objective,” both of the feuding parties will disagree with her.

Your novels are quite complex and off the beaten track, ranging from reincarnation to Socialism, so why are you adding politically controversial issues, too?

I did not, consciously, sit down and concoct novels to fit a certain political view. Rather, these themes showed up as an inherent part of my fictional characters’ lives. For example, one of my three protagonists, is a Kurd, Mehmet Ali Mesut, Professor of Sociology, who is an idealist, an enlightened man, whose chief concern is the betterment of his people by bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, yet he comes from a line ofaghas, feudal lords. So naturally the theme of feudalism in Turkey, its history and effect on the emotional and social sovereignty of the people, enters the story line.

Does the Western world have a clear understanding of this particular issue?

Somewhat, yes. But for the majority, they are either romanticized or demonized. Depending in which direction blow the winds of politics, various p.r. machines disseminate information tailored to suit a particular agenda. An agenda determined to suit the interests of the power-brokers, and never the people’s.

You sound like a Socialist.

Actually, die-hard Romantic would be a better description.

How did you research the history and settings for The Horseman?

I’ve lived through it… I had friends among Turks as well as Kurds, listened to their opposing views, did my own independent research and reached my own conclusions.

 And what are your conclusions?

You can discover them by reading the book!

You mention reincarnation, in The Horseman. Do you believe in reincarnation?

My answer is simple: Yes.

Can you validate this belief rationally, scientifically?

No.

But are you not a rational person born in the 20th Century?

Yes, and this is precisely why I do not even try to question my belief. But I certainly try to understand it. Fact is, I have a deep, unabating connection to the Neolithic-era settlement excavated in Chatalhoyuk, Konya. While my heroine Ariadne’s vivid experiences are entirely of her own, mine comprise of strong feelings and brief series of memory-like scenes, involving several locales, from Vienna to Rome to Istanbul and London. However, like Ariadne, I too passed through Konya in the late 1960s, and was overwhelmed by emotions which had left me breathless.

In conclusion, I would like to leave you with this thought: It makes sense to consider the cause-and-effect fluidity of the Soul. Yes, remain a rational person of sovereign mind, with two feet anchored on terra-firma,but if a sense of deja-vu leaps at you unexpectedly, from the left side of your life’s field, do not walk away from it either. For quite possibly its purpose is to set your soul upon the path of spiritual liberation, and prepare you to reunite with the Light.

The Horseman is the first in a series of novels titled Lands of the Morning. How long will it take you to complete the series?

Well, it began as a trilogy, then turned into a quintet, and now with seven books published and three more on the workbench so to speak … I think I might be busy for the rest of my life!

I noticed the subtitle on Clarion of Midnight: Megali Idea. What does it mean?

Megali Idea is a concept of Greek nationalism expressing the goal of establishing a Greek state that encompasses all ethnic Greeks, going back to the Greek-Turkish War of 1897.

Who are your favorite writers and why?

Some of my favorite authors are: Anya Seton, Taylor Caldwell, James Michener, Wilbur Smith, Katherine Neville, Turkish authors Yashar Kemal, Halide Edip Adivar, Dr. Muazzez I. Cig, and Piers Anthony. I enjoy their works and respect their knowledge, research, and spirit. Each of their works present a tour-de-force, simultaneously entertaining and educating on a multi-cultural, if not cosmic, scale.

What’s next?

More reading (i.e. learning), and writing.

Do you have a screen-play?

Yes, albeit a short partial; I have no experience at all in this craft, and am seriously looking for the right partner to team up with. Let this be a notice to screen-writers and producers interested in making a film about contemporary Turkey and her roots in the classical era.

And what about your latest novels, Andromakhe,Trojan Enchantment, and Korinna?

The origins of these three novels hearken to when the late Louise Halley Forshaw and I had buckled up to write a novel together.

Most of your novels are connected to Turkey one way or the other; have you been to Turkey recently? Are you planning another visit?

I had attended the Istanbul Book Fair in October of 2003, upon the behest of my publisher, Epsilon, and had autographed copies of Ride the Eagle (e-book version’s title: Beloved Enemy) which was my first novel translated and published in Turkey. I must tell you since Turkey, a.k.a Lands of the Morning, is the realm of my youth, per se, this was quite an emotional experience for me! And yes indeed I plan another visit. To attend the Istanbul Book Fair, to augur the publication of my next novel in Turkey.

What was the last book you read?

Lately, I’ve been cutting a deep, wide swathe through Piers Anthony’s magnificently diverse novels, and currently I am reading TAROT, which is billed as The Classic Fantasy Adventure, but it’s really a deep, universal quest for the meaning of Life and the veracity of God.

Do you have any hobbies? What are they? How do they enhance your writing?

Reading, writing, day-dreaming, and falling in love with my husband, Michael, on a daily basis. As I live, so I write. Slainte!

Thank you Kristina for this great interview! For more information about the author,  please visit her official website: http://www.ladyliterature.com/. To buy Kristina O’Donnelly’s books, please click on the titles above.

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