Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Interview with Helga Stipa Madland, author of 'You're Not From Around Here, Are You? Remininiscences'



Helga Stipa Madland was born in Upper Silesia and emigrated to the United States with her family in 1954. She has three children and six grandchildren. She is Professor Emerita at the University of Oklahoma and is the author of academic and other books. Her husband, Richard Beck, teaches Ancient Greek at OU in Norman, OK, where they live with a dachshund and four cats.


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About the Book:

I start with when I was born, then there was a World War, and then I went to Norman.—Klodnitz, in Upper Silesia, now a part of Poland, was my birth place; when everything collapsed in 1945 at the end of WWII, my family and I became refugees. We trekked across Germany, to the west, and eventually settled in a small village and then another one. Next was Canada, then the United States, Missouri; eventually we settled in Idaho, where my Father, who was a forester, found a job. I did not stop there! I was married and continued my merry journey, California, back to three different cities in Idaho, and later Seattle, where I earned a PhD. My children were grown by then, I was alone and ready to find a position. That’s when I ended up at the University of Oklahoma in 1981, and have been here ever since.

For More Information

  • You’re Not From Around Here, Are You? Reminiscences is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I have written two novels, a travelogue, and some academic books, but never my memoirs, or reminiscences as I like to call them because memoirs seems a bit pompous.  The young son of my first husband’s cousin’s daughter had his mother asked me in a Facebook post when I would be writing my autobiography; apparently the twelve year old is wild about history. Other family members mentioned it now and then, and eventually I thought, why not?  I cannot say it has all been enjoyable, but it is now a fait accompli.  You’re Not From Around Here, Are You? Reminiscences exists  

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Considerably harder than writing academic books, or a travelogue, or fiction!  Fiction—the German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called his autobiography Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth).  Indeed, at times I wondered if I was remembering certain incidents or creating them.  As a whole, though, I can say that what I described actually happened and some of it was not very pleasant.  WWII, for example, and its aftermath experienced by a child of six!  I am glad I have it out of my system, and my husband, children, siblings, other relatives, and friends appear to be pleased.  My tip to others writing an autobiography: Don’t be afraid to include things that could embarrass you, but inject plenty of humor.  

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

Aventine Press is my publisher; this is the fourth book I have published with them.  They make self-publishing reliable and affordable, but publish only in English.  For the German translation of my first published book, The Child Murderess, An Adaptation of an Eighteenth-Century Play, I went to Create Space.  A colleague at the University of Oklahoma, from which I have retired, published his novel with Aventine and recommended them.  It was a good choice.     

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

I have written forever.  It surprised me when my first academic book and articles on eighteenth-century German literature were published, because no one wanted my fiction.  I have heard it said that an academic knows who her audience is—small as it may be—but it is more complicated when you write fiction.  When I discovered self-publishing after retirement, I was on my way.  The travelogue Dachshunds Can Fly has been my most successful book.  Of course I faithfully upload everything to Kindle and now also to Nook. 

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

Have started a second volume of Turtle Bay, a mystery (in which no one gets murdered) set in Hawaii.  The title is The Kahamalas Take A Cruise; the Kahamalas are James, a detective with the Honolulu Police Department, his twelve year old twin daughters,  Myra and Maya, Aunt Beatrice, who is not really the family’s aunt, and Questor, the detective dachshund.  I better get going since I turn seventy-six this month; who knows what could happen.  But I hope to publish it in the summer of 2016.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

That’s a tough one. Okay, I admit it, it is Facebook.  I don’t really have that many friends who are active, but I follow at lot of entities, for example—okay, I am going to check and list the first three that come up: The Mud Flats, a news site in Alaska, Andy Borowitz, and National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.  I also have Facebook pages, a group consisting of people with the last name Stipa, my maiden name, and a page called Cats at our House.  My husband Richard and I like cats—and dogs.  Also I have pages on three of my books, the latest HelgaMadlandReminiscences.  I like to play with all of that and have to limit my time so I can write—and entertain our dachshund, Maxwell.  

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?
  
Not so much a message as a collection of stories and memories illustrating the experiences of a German child who was a refugee, emigrated to the United States and late in life became a Professor of German Literature.    

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thank you for reading this. I hope these won’t be my final words. Have a happy day!  



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