Monday, February 21, 2011
Interview with Author Kitty Gogins
“Olga Wagner and Tibor Zoltai were teenagers in Hungary near the end of World War II. Homeland destroyed, they each fled Hungary carrying only a rucksack.”
Hello Kitty. I really love the title of your book. It takes place during World War II and is about your own parents’ escape from Hungary. Tell us about their story.
My Flag Grew Stars looks to history to provide an inspiring story on adapting to major upheaval, something many of us face in these challenging economic times.
After arriving in America, was the transition difficult for your parents?
While delighted to be in a new world, they found everything foreign ― the culture, the language, the buildings, the land, and even the food. They knew everyone would speak a different language, but didn’t expect to live in flat, treeless countryside with distances vast beyond their imagination; for buildings to be constructed of flimsy wood, not brick and plaster; for even women to wear trousers, something Olga had never seen before.
This is the first time I’ve interviewed someone who has written their own parents’ biography and I’m so excited about what you have done. This book will be a treasure to your children and grandchildren yet to come. How much research did you do for your book?
My book, while it reads like a novel, bringing history to life, is non-fiction. I spent over a thousand hours on research. I was lucky to have lots of original material: Tibor’s diary, a thousand pages of love letters, and multitudes of official documents and pictures. I supplemented these with dozens of interviews and digging into historical events, so I could recreate their lives ― the events, the atmosphere, the feeling, the tone of conversations.
All events really occurred: Olga’s family crossed the Alps with no supplies, steps ahead of Russian troops; Tibor almost perished from starvation; Olga scared away a car hijacker in Minnesota by yelling at him in her native tongue.
My family has been very supportive, contributing documents and memories. They too have been fascinated by the story and want it captured. My father, Tibor, passed away before I began writing, however he would have been ecstatic to see his story published. My mother, Olga, while honored and delighted to help with research, is a little uncomfortable with having her life so public.
What a wonderful legacy! This book is a treasure. Okay, now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.
I’m always game for visiting a new place, eating new food ― even if it can still stare up at me ― or trying a new activity. When I turned forty-five, I knew just how to celebrate. I jumped out of an airplane. Granted I did it tandem, strapped to the front of an expert like a baby kangaroo, but I got to feel the air rushing by, the freedom of zigzagging through the clouds, the sensation of dropping at racing speeds. After two weeks of saying, “Could you please repeat that,” since my ears were still plugged from the dive, I acknowledged that I wasn’t likely to do it again. But it was worth it.
Oh my gosh! Now we know the real you! The audacious and daring author who will try new things, including jumping out of a plane and becoming an author! By the way, it seems like nothing could be scarier than being a first time author.