Name: Vijaya Schartz
Age: Old enough to know better.
Where are you from?
Born in the suburbs of Paris, France, I travelled the world and lived in India, Hawaii, Florida, and now in Arizona. I also visited Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, had a stopover in China, visited Thailand, saw the pyramids and the Sphinx… You get the picture. I still have a French accent and still like French Cuisine. Other than that, I love living in the US and consider myself a citizen of Earth. It comes naturally when you write science fiction.
A little about yourself, i.e. your education Family life etc.
I come from a large family in France and still visit my mother and siblings whenever I get a chance. As the oldest, I excelled at everything. I graduated from college early. I was a member of the French Gymnastics team. I once spoke five languages (you lose languages when you don’t practice them). I have a business degree but opted for Drama School. After acting in theaters in Paris, on tours throughout Europe, and on French TV, I decided to study Indian philosophies and packed up for India, where I translated spiritual books from English into French for publication.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
ASLEEP IN SCOTTSDALE was released in September 2015. It’s a billionaire in jeopardy contemporary romance with a little mystery and suspense, set in Arizona. A rather light story compared to my other books, but it was fun to write.
BELOVED CRUSADER, Book 6 in the Curse of the Lost Isle medieval fantasy series, also came out in 2015. This is a series based upon authentic post-Arthurian legends and required ten years of research before I wrote the first book.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
At six, I wrote poetry, started a book as a teenager, then I realized I would have a lot more to write about if I lived a little first.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I held my first book in my hands, I suddenly realized I was a published author. I always considered myself a writer even if it was only poetry, journals, and travel logs. Writing is in my blood.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Ashes for the Elephant God was inspired by my experiences in India. Even though the characters and the story are fictitious, I poured my soul into that book. It was the book of my heart, the book I needed to write.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I like my writing tight, clean, efficient. I believe the reader should fall in love with the story and the characters, not the words themselves. To me, words are meant to convey action and emotions.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I have over twenty five titles out there and some came easily, others were rehashed and tortured and even changed between different editions of the same novel. Sometimes the title just comes organically as I write the story, or appears to me in a dream. There are many techniques but no miracle formula. A title should tell the reader what the story is about, be memorable, original, specific and unique to the story. Originality can be a challenge with so many books out there.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Messages are everywhere for those who want to see them, but I write to entertain. I tell a story and readers can draw their own conclusions. What you’ll find in my books is justice. Bravery, sacrifice, and kindness are always rewarded in the end. I like satisfying endings. The bad guys always get what they deserve, even if it takes more than one book in a series, but love and justice always prevail. That’s why I write fiction. When fictional characters beat the odds and find their happiness in the end, it brings hope to the reader. No matter how bad it gets, there is always a way out.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
All my books are realistic, even when they involve magic. I want the readers to believe, and only through intensive research, character development, and realistic depiction of situations and character reactions, can this be achieved. There is no shortcut. I firmly believe in research.
Fiona: Are your books based on someone you know, or events and experiences in your own life?
Some characters are based on people I once knew, but I made them larger than life. Ashes for the Elephant God was obviously inspired by my experiences in India. Other stories and characters came straight from my imagination.
Fiona: What books have influenced your life most? A mentor?
Too many to list here. Early in life I fell in love with the French romantic era of the Nineteenth Century. Les Miserables, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Three Musketeers, then I discovered Jules Vernes, and fell in love with the first masters of science fiction. Then I discovered Hemmingway, W. Sommerset Maugham, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Stephen King…
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I have over 700 titles in my TBR list in my kindle. Right now I’m reading holiday stories, then I’ll read some medieval novels to get me in the writing mood for my work in progress, then I’ll read some science fiction in preparation for my next project.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Many. I like good writing no matter what the genre. I like Cathy McDavid, Catherine Kean, Laurel O’Donell, Linda Andrews, Denise Domning, and many others.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Currently writing Book 7 in the Curse of the Lost Isle series, Damsel of the Hawk, set in Turkey after the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My teachers have always encouraged me since childhood, when my family did not see the sense in reading so many books, or wanting to see foreign lands. Early in my writing, Connie Flynn taught me the rudiments of novel writing. Then peers in professional writers organizations took over.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It’s more than a career, it’s an all consuming passion. You can make a living at it, but a word of caution: if you want to write a book to become rich and famous, you will be disappointed. It takes many years to make a good writer, more years than to become a surgeon. Writing is difficult, and if you don’t enjoy the process, you’ll be miserable.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Probably not my latest book, since it was only a few months ago. If it were one of my early books, however, I might be tempted to rewrite the entire thing, but why would I? My books as they are, even my early books, have a flavor of their own. They are what they are. My writing has evolved, so do the stories I tell. My earlier style fits my earlier stories.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It came from reading. I remember reading detective novels as a teenager and thinking I might want to write one. But at that age, too many distractions pull you in different directions.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
It’s Book 7 in the Curse of the Lost Isle medieval fantasy series. Titled Damsel of the Hawk, it features an immortal Fae afflicted by a curse, forbidden to love for abusing her powers in childhood. The hero is a Kipchak warrior, formerly of the imperial guard in Constantinople. It’s set on Mount Ararat and in the Caucasus mountains, in 1204, after the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders. I’m having a lot of fun with the research and I love the characters.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The writing is the easy part for me. Fighting for my writing time is the challenge. Between life, the internet, and professional obligations, my writing time always seems to want to slip away. Even the cat conspires to get me away from the keyboard.
Fiona: Who are your favorite authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I like Linnea Sinclair, the queen of sci-fi romance. She brought to light this subgenre, proving that women had a place in science fiction. They could be spaceship captains, and kick butt, and still fall in love.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Research. I made many trips to Europe while researching the Curse of the Lost Isle medieval fantasy series. I found a treasure trove of information in small French localities where the legends are still alive. Visiting a castle even in ruins, learning about its history and the stories surrounding it gives you a sense of the people who lived there, and the kind of life they led.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I trust my publishers to do that kind of work, and they have done it beautifully. I love all my covers. Jenifer Ranieri does covers for Desert Breeze Publishing and is responsible for the gorgeous award-winning cat faces on my Chronicles of Kassouk series. Michelle Lee designs covers for Books We Love Ltd and did the Curse of the Lost Isle series and the Ancient Enemy series. Again, a beautiful achievement.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing is the easy part. It might be grueling at times, but I thoroughly enjoy the process. I usually write action scenes faster than emotional scenes. Since my books contain romance, love scenes are particularly challenging. I want to sweep the reader into the emotional vortex, yet remain tasteful in the physical descriptions.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
As we write, we reveal all our secret thoughts, not only to the readers, but also to ourselves. Our imagination is an extension of our minds. Don’t believe me? Try getting into the mind of a serial killer and write from his point of view. It’s a liberating experience.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write, write, write. Polish your craft. Learn from your peers, study your genre, and never give up. Writing is a craft and it can be perfected, but it does take time to become a good writer.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading my books and leaving such glowing reviews. I love you for it. You get me excited about writing more stories.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
My first big chapter book was titled Datine Le Berba. I must have been seven or eight. It was the story of a little boy in Africa. Even then, I liked outlandish stories set in faraway lands.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I like watching videos of cats’ antics. They never fail to make me laugh. I like intelligent sit-coms, like The Big Bang Theory. I cry when I see abused children or animals.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would like to meet and why?
I would like to meet the late French author and philosopher Antoine de Saint Exupery. He is mostly known for writing The Little Prince, but he also wrote many adult novels and extensive philosophical works. He died too young, a French pilot in WWII, his plane taken down over the Mediterranean Sea. Neither his plane nor his body, were ever recovered.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
No head stone for me. I want to be cremated, and if I’m lucky, my ashes spread in space. How cool would that be? Death, like birth, is just another phase, another adventure, and I’m curious to see what’s on the other side. If I had a commemorative plaque somewhere, it would say: “Learn the past but always look ahead.” That’s my favorite motto.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Martial arts (black belt in Aidido), jumping in free fall out of perfectly good planes, braving the Colorado River rapids, hiking up mountains, I was once a gymnast, later a surfer. I find watching sports boring. I’d rather be running after the ball myself.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Science fiction movies and TV series. I’m a Star Wars and a Star Trek fan. I also like romantic comedies, historical sagas and medieval legends like The Tudors, The Borgias, Reign, Merlin, etc. I also love Dancing With the Stars. I like watching people grow and evolve while performing beautiful choreography.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
French food, of course. Living in the US I usually cook it myself. I love white, turquoise, and soft purple. I listen to a variety of music, from classical and jazz to pop music.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Acting was my first chosen career, and I may have remained there, or I might still have found it too superficial and moved on to something else, like painting or music, both arts I loved and excelled at early in life.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I’m also on Facebook, and twitter, and I have several blogs.