Lexi: Our guest today is historical fiction heavy hitter. She takes history and weaves in a bit of imagination. Welcome Dora Levy Mossanen!
Dora: Thanks for having me.
Lexi: Congratulations on your newest release, Scent of Butterflies! Your last release, The Last Romanov, was out in April of 2012. Your books require a substantial amount of research and I wonder when did you start working on Scent of Butterflies?
Dora: It's true that each one of my novels required extensive research.
For Scent of Butterflies, though, my research was far more extensive because this book, apart from the historical aspect, required the study of butterflies, plus the Amorphophallus Titanum, or Corpse Flower, which play important roles in the story. You might not believe this, but I actually started working on this book before I started Harem, my first novel. At the time, I became somewhat obsessed with my research, not unlike Soraya, my protagonist, who keeps luring butterflies to her mansion in Bel Air to trap and study them obsessively. The reason, as those who have read the book know, is that the name of her husband’s mistress is Parvaneh, which means Butterfly in Farsi, and the line between her friend, Butterfly, and real butterflies, the insects, becomes increasingly blurred in Soraya’s mind.
Lexi: With so much that goes into one of your novels it’s a good time span to release a book with about a year in between. When you are working on a specific WIP (work in progress) do you become consumed with that specific historical period/event?
Dora: Yes, I become obsessed with a specific period or subject I’m writing about. I live that era, breathe and study it to no end. In the case of Scent of Butterflies, I was especially unable to stop my research about butterflies, adding so many fascinating details about butterflies that I caused Soraya, my protagonist, lots and lots of heartache.
Lexi: All consuming work, but it does make for a fascinating read. The Last Romanov was an interesting take on the mystery of the Royal family, and I learned a lot too! Scent of Butterflies takes place in a very different backdrop, from Iran to America. Similar to your life. Do you feel that part of Soraya’s story is your own?
Dora: Yes. This novel, dare I say, is not only the most personal of my novels, it’s also the one that required the most patience, the most courage, and the one that caused me the most pain. I say this because it was a difficult time in my personal life. Lets say there were lots of ups and downs. A separation in a community that did not tolerate divorce. And being a writer it was natural that I’d find comfort in spending a few hours a day in the sanctuary of my mind as I banged on the keyboard as if engaged in a boxing match with an opponent who-shall-not-be-named.
Lexi: Soraya’s story sounds like a wonderful blending of two different worlds. To be uprooted from one and land in Los Angeles would be frightening. But more than the simple day to day differences you throw some secrets with heavy impact. Thus the fiction part comes out to play. Do you enjoy the part of your writing that leads you down the road to fantastical?
Dora: Yes, it certainly was a difficult time in my life when I was forced to leave Iran, which was home then, and settled in Los Angeles, an entirely different culture. A large part of my experiences, historical and emotional, come to play in Scent of Butterflies. But what’s particularly fun is when I let loose my imagination, allowing the story to take a fantastical turn, not being restricted by the reality of politics and history. I love to be surprised by my characters. Love to be led into their uncensored world. No telling what they have in store for me. Soraya, of course, is my most daring of all protagonists. Had lots of fun having her take revenge in ways I couldn’t even imagine in my darkest fantasies, which, believe me, were dark and many at the time.
Lexi: Thank you for stopping by the blog today Dora. It was fun to pick your brain and get some insight to Scent of Butterflies. Congrats again!
Dora: It’s been a great pleasure chatting with you and your readers. Have a wonderfully inspirational 2014.
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