BookView Interview with Author Diana Radovan

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we interviewed Diana Radovan, the Romanian-born author of the hybrid memoir Our Voices. (Read the review here.) Her cross- and multi-genre literary work has been published internationally in English, German, and Romanian since 2004.

Diana Radovan PhD ELS is the Romanian-born author of the hybrid memoir Our Voices. Her cross- and multi-genre literary work has been published internationally in English, German, and Romanian since 2004. She is a Best of the Net nominee; a writing teacher, coach, and mentor; and a former reader and editor at Flash Fiction Magazine. She lives in a village in the Bavarian Alps.

Website: www.naturewriting.net

Instagram: @dianaradovanwriter

Twitter: @midoridia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/diaradovan

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I grew up in communistic Romania. After the fall of communism in December 1989, one of the bloodiest communist revolutions in European history (I was 7), I found out that censorship had been practiced for many decades in my country of birth. For instance, the word geamantan (Romanian for suitcase) was not allowed in newspapers, books, and movies. It made people dream of leaving the country, which was illegal during communism. Always-busy censors would micromanage both language and free thought.

How often do you read?

I read daily. I have already read over 80 books since the beginning of the year. I am an eclectic reader and like to read outside of my own genres. It is not just fun, but also a way to learn different ways of approaching craft. If there is a book I enjoyed (or perhaps hated, or felt discomfort towards), I’ll read it again to gain a better understanding of how the author has achieved certain effects. At the same time, I don’t want to be thinking about craft when I read a book for pleasure for the first time. I don’t want to find myself thinking, oh, I see what the author did here, so skillful! If I can see the craft too easily, then it is actually not working as it should. I want to be fully immersed in the story itself, I want to feel it, be touched by it, and only think about craft the second time around. I like to look at others’ writing as a way to learn. It’s not always about liking a book, I also like to also read books I do not like in order to grow from that experience, and learn more about my own taste and patterns in reading and writing.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

First of all, I try to express something that needs to be expressed through me as a mediator. I believe that writers, artists, all creators are mediators for the larger human experience that’s looking for an outlet. I don’t write for the market and don’t worry about originality. What I care about is authenticity.

Do you read your book reviews? Do they please you or annoy you? Do you think you can learn a lot from reading criticism about your work? How do you measure literary success?

Definitely. I’ve been lucky to get rather generous reviews so far, from both readers and critics. What readers (especially those with other backgrounds than mine) find in Our Voices fascinates me and adds to my own perspective. As I also say in the preface of Our Voices, this multigenerational story is no longer mine, it belongs to the readers now. Once a book is out in the world, it becomes a way for readers to mirror themselves in the story. That is also what makes true literary success from my point of view. How readers resonate. How we, as authors, shape experience and language, and, in doing so, create resonance in the bigger universal story that we are all weaving together throughout our lives. I measure success not in terms of sales, but in terms of emotional and mindset shifts in the reader.

What are your favorite books?

  • The Waves by Virginia Woolf
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  • Poet Warrior by Joy Harjo
  • The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
  • Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  • Devotions by Mary Oliver

What is your favorite childhood book?

Heidi, Girl of the Alps by Johanna Spyri

Tell us some more about your book.

Our Voices is a book about identity and becoming, the story of three generations shaped behind the so-called Iron Curtain. The narration is experimental and non-chronological, time and space also play an important role, as does nature. There are three core voices: mine, my mother’s, and my grandfather’s. He was a political prisoner at the rise of communism. My mother and grandfather never got the chance to fully own their stories and publish their writing. It was important for me to give them voice on the page, the voice they did not have during their lifetime. Our Voices can also be seen as a Bildungsroman, a blend of nonfiction, fairy tales, images, and poetry; of the real, the imagined, and the overheard.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

Emotion. Inspiration. A desire to write and share personal stories without guilt or shame. More curiosity towards immigrants. Less focus on the question “Where are you from?” when getting to know a person.

What life experiences have shaped your writing most?

Communism. Immigration. Losing my mother (emotionally) to mental illness. Being raised by a scientist and visual artist father. Struggling with the womanhood concept imposed by society. My parents’ aging.

What makes this book important right now?

Vocabulary such as Eastern Europe, a leftover from the Cold War. The persistent split of the world in East and West. The ignorance around Eastern European history. The lack of imagination we see around the globe when it comes to the tools used by political oppressors when restricting human (including female reproductive) rights. All of these things have happened before. What we are now seeing in Ukraine has happened before. What we are seeing in the US has happened before. Recent European history we know little about. My book dives into the humanity and universality of such experiences.

What’s next for you? How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A poetry and a short story collection. I hope to get both out into the world in the next couple of years. But, before that, my focus is on recording an audio version of Our Voices, in my own narrative voice.

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