Follow her journey from the first sparks of inspiration for her writing and see what Olga is working on now!
What was the thing that influenced you to start writing?
I became a writer pretty late in life. By education, I’m a computer programmer. I worked with computers for three decades. I’m also a daydreamer. Since I remember myself, I always made up stories and played them in my head, like a one-woman theatre, but I never told anyone about my daydreams. They were my secret, and I didn’t write them down. To tell the truth, I was a bit embarrassed, afraid of ridicule. I was a serious professional woman, a single mom with two children. I never thought I could be a writer but I couldn’t get rid of my daydreams. They felt like a vestige from my childhood. And like a child, I loved my dream-world’s heroes and heroines. Sometimes, they felt more alive and precious to me than the living people around me.
As my children grew up, I grew dissatisfied with my computer job. Then, in 2002, I got breast cancer. Obviously, my case was successful, but during the long recovery months, my daydreams became more persistent. They swarmed me, they wanted to be told. So I decided to be brave, stop resisting, and at last let my daydreams out. Cancer has that effect on some people. I started writing a story, the first writing I did since high school. I didn’t know if it was a short story or a novel. I didn’t know anything about publishing. I just wanted to write.
Everyone in my family was flabbergasted: they hadn’t known about my daydreams. But I didn’t care. Writing liberated me. I felt like I finally woke up from a long hibernation, free to explore my stories and myself. I felt happy.
I also discovered that I didn’t know how to write, how to translate my daydreams into the written words, plot, conflict, and characters. It took me years to learn: I read writing textbooks, took classes, enrolled in workshops. I’m still in the process, still learning. I don’t think I’ll ever stop: there is so much to learn.
Tell me your success stories in terms of publishing/self publishing
Success stories? You know, I’ve done several interviews by now, and nobody asked this question. So I went to my tracking database and counted. Here are some stats:
Published newspaper articles (since 2007) – 186
Published short stories (in various online and print magazines) – 18
Published novels – 1
Written novels (finished and unfinished) – 7
I’m also in conversation with a publisher for my second novel. I hope the contract will follow soon.
And all of the above in 10 years. It’s not an instant fame but a gradual build up on a very steep slope. And I enjoyed every step, which is a success story of its own.
What are your top writing tips for any aspiring writer?
I have a favourite quote – my motto in writing:
“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”
― William Feather
That would be my advice to any aspiring writer. Persevere. Don’t give up. If one route to publication doesn’t work out, try another. If nobody wants your novel, try to write for a newspaper or a magazine, even if they don’t pay. Blogs don’t count; your friends are already reading your blog. You need to find readership that don’t know you. You need to convince people who are not interested that what you write could be interesting for them. And write, write, write.
A writer friend I met online once said: you can only consider yourself a professional writer after
you’ve written one million words or more. It’s true. An average novel is about 60,000 to 100,000 words. If I toss in all the writing and re-writing I’ve done for all the short stories and novels, plus my newspaper articles (I’ve been writing for a local newspaper for over five years), I’m somewhat over one million mark now. And I finally got a novel published in February.
Self-publishing doesn’t count either. Most self-published novels I’ve read are amateur and badly edited. I understand the urge of many first-time writers to get their beloved story in front of the readers. But writing is a long process, and you can’t skip the apprenticeship phase. Skills come from years of practice, like in music. Of course there are exceptions, but they only underscore the rule: instant gratification doesn’t exist for writers. Your first novel isn’t good, believe me. My first novel was terrible. It’s still hidden in the bowels of my computer hard drive. It will never be published, although I have revised it at least ten times. It was my school. Your first novel is your school. Don’t publish it. Learn from it and move on.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a novel which is part of a fantasy series. The heroine is a young and very powerful magician. In the story, she finds herself in a foreign kingdom, where female magic is anathema. The acolytes of the local god, all men, confine any witch or sorceress they can find to a ‘nunnery’, where they suck the magic out of the women with a special spell and use that magic for their own purposes.
My heroine is in this kingdom in secret, at the request of her queen. She is not in danger from the local god or his monks, but she is very angry at the plight of the local female mages? Should she interfere? Try to help the poor, abused witches? Or should she maintain her incognito status, complete her assignment for the queen, and leave. If she interferes, she might cause a diplomatic incident, maybe even a war, between their two kingdoms. If she does nothing, the imprisoned witches will continue to suffer. The choice she faces isn’t nice or easy.
What do you draw on for inspiration?
My inspiration comes from different sources. Sometimes, a book I read or a TV show sparks an idea: I want to explore what could happen if a different hero, one of my own, got into a situation the author describes. Or if the same situation was transferred to a different genre: let’s say from a modern day police procedural to a medieval fantasy. Could they use magic instead of DNA and fingerprints? Sometimes certain events of my life or my friends’ lives prompt new stories. That happened with “Lost and Found in Russia”. Mostly the book came from my daydreams, my personal experience, and the people I met.
Please tell me anything else you’d like the reader to know about you
Many writers admit that they dislike revising, but I love revising and editing as much as I like writing the first draft, maybe more, and that was a big surprise for me. When I write the first draft, I’m in a rush. I use the first word that comes into my mind just to get my idea across. But when I revise, I play with words and expressions, search for the best ones, use a thesaurus, juggle paragraphs. I love that process, even deleting pieces, when it improves the story. It feels like I’m a gourmet at a feast of words. I rejoice in every word, every clever turn of phrase. I add a pinch of this and a dollop of that, and the resulting brew becomes better.
Although I must confess, I keep everything I delete. Sometimes, I reuse those snippets of text in another story. I’m a hoarder, I don’t discard anything.
Another tidbit: I use a pen name for fiction – Olga Godim. My newspaper articles all have a different byline. When I started submitting my first fantasy stories to magazines, I was still working at my computer job and I felt slightly embarrassed by my fantastic tales. Women of my age and profession didn’t entertain themselves with magic and fairy tales. Or so I thought. So I decided to use a pseudonym. Olga is my first name, and Godim was my father’s first name. He died before I published my first piece, before I even started thinking about writing, but I wanted him to be a part of my writing life, so I chose his name as my nom de plume. Now, he’s always with me, a witness to my successes and failures as a writer. And I think the name sounds good, like a small cheerful bell.
Thank you so much Olga and the best of luck with Lost and Found in Russia!
To find out more about Lost and Found in Russia and how to purchase just click here! and here! and here!