Monday interview with Gisela Hausmann

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Gisela Hausmann to Douglas Bland Artist’s studio in Italy. Gisela and I met online just over a year ago, when she was kind enough to review my short story Mamma Mia!

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 An award-winning author, Gisela has also also co-piloted small planes, produced movies, and among eight other books designed a coffee-table book, which was chosen as a gift for President Clinton. A unique mixture of risk-taker and calculating organisation talent, she has globe-trotted almost 100,000 kilometers on three continents, including to the locations of her favourite books: Doctor Zhivago’s Russia, Heinrich Harrer’s Tibet, and Genghis Khan’s Mongolia. Gisela Hausmann graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Vienna. She now lives with her cats Artemis and Yin-Yang in Greenville, SC, USA.

So glad you can join me for a chat and an aperitivo, Gisela. What can I offer you? A glass of Prosecco? A spritzer? A Bellini? Or perhaps some Pinot Grigio or Shiraz?

Thank you for inviting me, Siobhan. My favourite red wine is  Shiraz and I hear they produce a fabulous Shiraz on the west coast of Sicily; it goes well with pizza, which is one of my favourite foods.

Ooh, think I’ll have one too. (Pours two glasses) And I happen to have some pizza capriciosa, fresh from the village pizzeria. 

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Cheers and buon appetito! Okay, darlin’, make yourself comfortable! I’m over the moon you’ve agreed to this interview and would like to start by asking, ‘What inspired you to become a writer?’

Haha, indeed there is a funny part to my career as a writer, I actually started out designing books. The good part about this was that I learned a lot about book production, about the technical aspects. After publishing two aerial photography coffee-table books and four educational books for youngsters the Great Recession brought my endeavours to a standstill. Like I describe in my book Naked Determination, 41 Stories about Overcoming Fear

I was a young widow by then, with two young children to support, and times were bad, really bad. I had a lot of hurdles to climb and eventually realized how experiencing adventures at better times had given me the skills to dive through these difficulties. Many of these stories are really funny or unique. Suddenly, everything fell in place. I saw that I could publish these stories in form of a motivational life skills book. You see, I grew up in a teachers’ family. Every time I asked a question somebody raised an index finger and held a speech. But, that’s not the way anybody wants to learn, even if the advice is the best ever. Humans are conditioned to learn from stories – “find the moral of the story” even, if it’s not really a moral but a clever trick. So, that’s what I did. I took the best stories, events which allowed me to learn something really important, and turned these funny, exciting, and dramatic stories into a book. It’s been a huge success. Naked Determination” went on to win Bronze at the eLit awards 2013 and Gold at the Readers Favorite Awards 2014. Many dozens of people have written me that reading my book made a difference in their lives. It makes me feel that I am contributing.

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You’re such an inspiration, Gisela, with an original voice. This is the review I wrote on Amazon for your humorous life skills book that addresses difficult to define topics such as
#TRUST, #ALLIANCES, #TIMING, # MONEY, #FEAR, #GUTS, #WEIGHT ISSUES, #AFFAIRS, #LOVE, #DISCIPLINE, #REJECTION, #RESPECT, #UNDERDOGS, #MOTIVATION, #OVERCOMING, #HOPE
in the most pleasant way – by featuring 41 true stories. Naked Determination, and I meant every word:

I found Gisela Hausmann’s autobiography to be a compelling read. Each story about overcoming fear spoke to me. As the author herself says, ‘this book is not a self-help book – it is a reminder’ that through determination it’s possible to succeed. Gisela’s honesty shines through every word, not in a ‘preachy’ way, but more as if you were listening to a friend chat about what life has taught her. Take from it what you will, she doesn’t lay it on you. As Margaret Attwood said, ‘in the end, we’ll all become stories’. It’s what we make of them, and life, that Gisela highlights in her remarkable memoir. Such a courageous lady, and I’m full of admiration for her. I love the fact that 5% of the proceeds from sales of this book will go to the Red Cross. You’ll need to read “Naked Determination” to discover why that is.

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Can you tell us something about your new series,  The Magic of Flirting?

(smiling) Publishing “The Magic of Flirting” is my answer to a vacuum on the book market. I see lots of romance novels, most of them ending in everlasting love and lots of erotica, which portray unrealistic situations. However, in real life most ‘romantic’ experiences are flirts; maybe men and women never share anything else.

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Flirting is not really addressed in books. Thus, I decided to write a series of books about these moments of attraction, which may or may not lead to a longer relationship.

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Let’s face it, when we look back at our lives, all of us remember moments when we experienced that instantaneous sizzling drama, which we appreciate for decades to come. We remember these moments fondly, even nothing ever happened. Because so many of these are fleeting moments only, I decided to write short stories, with open ending, so readers can write/imagine/picture their own endings. In a further reaching sense couples can even re-enact these stories and “write their own endings”.

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Sounds fascinating, Gisela. You seem firmly rooted in writing inspirational non-fiction. Have you considered fiction writing at all?

What a great question! It’s my goal to LIVE FICTION and TELL THE STORIES IN NON-FICTION format. Even before I ever heard of Steve Jobs, I decided to live my life by his credo “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…” – Of course, I was very young then but strangely enough it turned out that IT IS POSSIBLE. Regardless of what situation I encountered I always approached it with the thought “How can I live this moment to the fullest?” But, make no mistake, this is about both, the highs and the lows. For instance, when I was in my early twenties, I had very little money but I wanted to travel. So, I bought an Inter-rail ticket, which entitled its owner to travel on Europe’s trains for an entire month. Naturally, trains drive through the night. I took full advantage of that. E.g. I visited Madrid on one day, boarded the train to Lisbon at night, slept on the train and visited Lisbon the next day. That evening I’d board the train to Madrid, and long story short, I visited both cities without ever having to pay for a hotel. That was one of the tricks how I visited 47 countries. Admittedly, I lived every aspect of my life in the same style. Jobs and making money, love and affairs… so, luckily I have enough stories… and I intend to keep going.

Fabulous! Can you tell us something about your other books? Oh, and I think you’re living with an author cat. Please ‘spill the beans’ or perhaps I should say ‘milk’!

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Probably every author should have a cat (or a dog). We have to learn from great authors and Hemingway showed us the way.
And, yes, I also published a couple of educational books. The very first one, ‘obvious LETTERS’ (1998) was a very neat success, but boy did I go belly-up with my math books (2003-2005) for various reasons:
a) the trend in education was already going towards e-everything (e-books, computer games… )
b) George Bush’s No-Child-Left-Behind become law and virtually destroyed all small educational publishers. Instead teachers utilizing their budgets and picking books, whole school districts started to buy from the biggest publishers only. The little guys/publishers ‘were left behind’ (pun intended).
c) The U.S. economy was already sliding – people watched not only their dollars but also their pennies.
Combined, these 3 events caused me having to ground my own business at the end of 2005. However, I did learn the lessons and came back better and stronger with “Naked Determination” in 2012.

You’re a role-model, Gisela. Tell us, how have you found the road to publication? Is there anything you’ve done that you’d do differently now with hindsight?

No, not really. Since I am a motivational author I’d like to use this opportunity to give fellow authors advice, which may surprise them: Go to the best in the business and introduce yourself and your work!
I approached a few of the great ones and indeed, Jack Engelhard (author of “Indecent Proposal”, who could forget the drama turned into a motion picture with Demi Moore and Robert Redford? ) and Jay O-Callahan, one of the best storytellers in the world (who was commissioned by NASA to write a story for the organization’s 50th anniversary) read my book and endorsed it. You can find the endorsement at my website.
Especially new authors, who struggle to even get their friends to review their books (all of us do!!!), will be surprised to find out that the “greats” have an open mind and will engage. Most of the greats still remember how things were when they started out. Very often they will pay back and do a new author a favour. So, here I am, living proof that it works and I say to every new author: GO FOR IT! My other advice is, “think long and hard what you are going to write, because the rewards of an endorsement are tremendous. You’ll get instant credibility!

Great advice! On a personal note, what do you get up to when you’re not writing?

Marketing, marketing, marketing – only I don’t see it as a chore, I see it as a way to connect with readers and fans and make my product better. Some of them give brilliant advice. E.g. one fan wrote me: “I cannot imagine what these ‘murals on rocks in Tibet’ look like.” It was an instant awakening on my part. I improved my book by adding 11 new pictures. Without the fan’s suggestion I would have never thought about it.

The pictures are amazing. As for the next stage in your writing career, please tell us about your plans, hopes, dreams and aspirations!

Thank you for asking; that is a question I rarely ever get asked. My first goal is to introduce ‘Naked Determination’ to as many people as possible. Though currently I have 8 books on the market, I think that ‘Naked Determination’ can make a difference in so many people’s lives. In essence, whenever we go out and do ‘something’ we need encouragement; we want to hear that somebody else has been able to do the crazy things we want to do. That is what helps us to realize that we can do it, too. Every week I hear from people what they have started with the encouragement ND gave them. Two people have started writing books, one author friend decided to finally forget about agents and publishers and instead self-publish, one person enrolled into a rowing classes, another one into an art school, yet another person started a house renovation. This last person wanted to buy a certain house she can’t afford, but I helped her realize that she can renovate a house to look like the one she wanted to buy. So, spreading the word that the ‘naked’ motivational book has arrived is most important. My dream is to empower as many people as possible. Our times are crazy and all of us deserve to have our dreams come true.

I wish you every success in achieving your dream, darlin’. It’s been great chatting with you and sharing an aperitivo. Thanks again for joining me. Before you go, please can you leave readers with three facts that might surprise them about you?

1.) I once set the skirt I was wearing on fire while leaning against a gas oven. (Before that event I did not know how that type of oven worked, but I figured it out quickly once I felt the heat under my butt. No future author was harmed in the process; however the skirt was toast)
2.) I do not even sing in the shower, because I cannot hold a tune. I bet the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would have a hard time singing, if I’d hum somewhere in the background
3.) I will never reveal who ‘Jim’ (story MY CASE FOR AFFAIRS) was. Interestingly, quite a few readers have already guessed that he was a really well-known man, I have been getting emails with guesses and questions (Austria is small country with 7 million people.). Though ‘revealing’ would be one way to get publicity I hold myself to higher standards (than maybe Monica Lewinsky).

How intriguing! Readers, if you’d like to know more about Gisela, click http://nakeddetermination.com/. 

Gisela is also on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and would love it if you connected with her.

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Ambling through Ancient Aquileia

Friends are staying, and we decide to take them to a place we’ve been meaning to visit for ages. Aquileia, an ancient Roman city, and one of the main archaeological sites in northern Italy. We’re always up for an adventure with a bit of romance.

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A busy drive here – too many lorries – but well worth it, we hope. We arrive at around midday, and the first thing we see is the symbol of Rome, Romulus and Remus suckling from the she-wolf, on top of a column in front of the old basilica. Wow! We’ve come to the right place, we think.

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A quick coffee (we’re parched), then we amble over to the ancient baptistery. The hexagonal font dates from the end of the 4th Century. Rubbing our hands on the rough stone, we imagine what it was like then. People would have been wearing togas still…

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The first thing we notice when we go into the church itself is that the floor is no longer the one that decorated the building whose walls remain today (11th – 14th Century). This floor was removed between 1909 and 1915, bringing to light the magnificent mosaics which date back to the time when Christianity became the official state religion of Rome. They were covered with earth, which probably preserved them. We feel humbled to see them today.

indexWe’re totally in awe of this place, the oldest Episcopal complex in the West, where the mosaic floor creates the effect of a colourful carpet, telling the bible story of Jonah and the whale. Isn’t the octopus fabulous?

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Jonah

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Jonah and the sea monster

Treading on glass and steel walkways, we go into the “crypt of the excavations”, to view the floor completed in the year 320 AD. It’s incredibly beautiful. I love this depiction of a fight between a cockerel and a tortoise. But I scratch my head at the same time and wonder, ‘Why?’

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Too many gorgeous mosaics to photograph, but these catch our eyes.

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Good Shepherd

 Before leaving the church, we visit the “crypt of the frescoes”. The walls are covered in representations of the passion of Christ, painted in 1180. It’s cool down here and smells of damp and plaster.

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After a delicious lunch at the Ristorante Corallo, (seafood lasagne, yum!), we make our way to the National Archaeological Museum. The Museum and its galleries contain a wealth of artifacts, monuments, statues, burial items, relics, sculptures, decorative motifs, jewellery, coins, pottery, household implements, ornaments, etc., etc. Completely mind-blowing. I love the enamel makeup pot. Doesn’t it have a surprisingly modern look?

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In the second century Aquileia was one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of about 100,000. Here is a representation of what it would have looked like then.

Roman times

Today, however, there are only about 3,500 inhabitants. How sad that the ancient buildings were pillaged for stone during the intervening centuries, and now there aren’t any from the Roman period left above ground.

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Roman road

The Roman city came to an end after an attack by Attila and his Huns in the year 425. The inhabitants, together with those of smaller towns in the neighbourhood, fled en masse to the lagoons, and so laid the foundations of Venice and nearby Grado. Amazing!

After this whistle-stop visit, we realise we’re running out of time and have a long drive back home. I love history and want to learn more about this fascinating period. Aquileia is definitely a place to which I’d like to return. We’ll spend longer here, we decide. Maybe treat ourselves to a couple of nights in a B & B and explore at leisure. We drive past the ruins of the Roman Forum and I feel a prickle on the back of my neck. This might make a setting for my second time-slip paranormal historical romance.

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Monday Interview with Mary J. McCoy-Dressel

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Mary J. McCoy-Dressel. Mary and I met online over a year ago and we follow each other on WordPress.

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I love reading Mary’s blog, especially her Sexy Saturday posts, and I’ve just bought her emotional and compelling, contemporary Western romance Howdy Ma’am for my Kindle.

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Welcome to Douglas Bland Artist’s studio in Italy, Mary. So glad you can join me in an aperitivo. What can I offer you? A glass of Prosecco? A spritzer? A Bellini? Or perhaps some Pinot Grigio or Bardolino?
Hi, Siobhan! Thank you for inviting me to your very special place on the web. I’d love a Bellini as I sit here and absorb the lovely Italian culture with you. Mmm, it sounds so delicious and refreshing.

Ooh, think I’ll have one too. (Pours two glasses of Prosecco and adds peach juice). Cheers!

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Okay, darlin’, make yourself comfortable! I’m over the moon you’ve been able to join me and would like to start by asking, ‘What inspired you to become a writer?’
In my mind, I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. My dad might have had something to do with it. He made me read and write as a young child. I’ve written a blog post about a 7th grade teacher who was a big inspiration, in that, he helped me to define myself as being a writer. I don’t think I ever labeled it before he told me— “You should be a writer.” But, the real answer is, I’ve always been a writer without knowing it. The movies, Somewhere in Time and Two Worlds of Jenny Logan inspired me to write my first time-travel romance.
Wow! I’m writing a time-slip romance at the moment, and, as soon as I’ve got the first draft of it finished, I’ll read Howdy, Ma’am. Please can you tell me and my readers something about it, and about the follow-on Hey Cowboy.

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Howdy, Ma’am is about a bull rider and an Italian photographer he hired to travel the bull riding circuit with him. Caulder is trying to overcome a devastating loss while seeking to win the title of World Champion bull rider.

Velia was a travel photographer and comes from a close-knit Italian family. Her husband was an abuser. To escape him and the abuse, she moved to Tucson, Arizona to start over. After opening a photography studio, she was offered a job to travel with a sexy bull rider, for publicity, he says… Well, what would you do? What happens during the next nine months on the road together, changes both of their lives. Howdy, Ma’am can be read as a standalone. Be aware of unsavory language and sensual love scenes.

He hired her for a season, but what happens after the season ends?

Hey, Cowboy continues with Velia and Caulder’s story and begins after the season ends. What happened in book one has everything to do with book two, and much more… In this book, enemies threaten Velia and her family and her life is in danger. Caulder vows to protect her, and learns that a hero sometimes has to prove he is one. He is injured off-season and his bull riding career hangs in a balance. All they ask for is…well, I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll stop there.

Sounds fascinating, Mary. You seem firmly rooted in the Western romance genre. Will you continue writing in that genre?

I didn’t start out writing western romance. My first romance series was a time-travel romance, going back to the 1880s. This falls under paranormal and historical genres. I write contemporary romance outside of the western genre, and have three stories on the back burner to finish. One is still romance but threaded with women’s fiction. So, really western is new to me. I love writing about the cowboys, and I can’t see that changing, especially since one series seems to keep growing.

And your cowboys are awesome. Can you tell us something about your writing process. For example, are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’?

I call myself a panster, but in reality, I’m a pantser who does a fair amount of plotting, and a lot of research before starting a book. I have to have a goal and a direction. I usually always know the ending, but not always. What happens between the beginning and end is usually a surprise to me. I let my characters run free with my muse. They usually know best, but sometimes I have to smack a hero to get him to listen.

My characters are plotted out as far as their description, personality, family, background, and what they want in their book. I have to know everything about them and their family. They usually come to me with a name and description—some with a career in place. Others make me guess. I don’t outline, but what I do is more like a list, separated into different categories. I’ll write down notes and ideas into this list as they come to me during the story, in the shower, or when they wake me in the night. I also write down things that have to happen in the book.

A new thing for me is to write out of order if the need calls.

Hmm. Writing out of order. Haven’t tried that yet. Tell us, Mary, how have you found the road to publication? Is there anything you’ve done that you’d do differently now with hindsight?

I’ve found the road to publication long and difficult, and I wasted a lot of years waiting, waiting, waiting, before my first two books were published. Something I’d do differently in hindsight? Well, I would have gotten serious about my writing, earlier in life. I’d believe things that I heard, and listen to my better judgement. Others will tell you the good and bad about their book publishing experiences. I didn’t listen to some of the bad. So, I’ll say…listen. Believe what you hear. Trust me, it’s hard to get out of a contract, and you can either be made, or broken by your decision.

I’ll bear your advice in mind, darlin’. On a personal note, what do you get up to when you’re not writing?

Photography is my hobby. I admit that I don’t do much of it now that I’m writing full time. I do miss it. I love going to operas. Theatres across the country have a winter program where they bring Metropolitan Operas to local movie theatres. I love going out to dinner and having fun with my friends and family. Oh, reading and traveling, too!

We have a lot in common, Mary. I love photography, opera, eating out, reading and traveling like you do. As for the next stage in your writing career, please tell us about your plans, hopes, dreams and aspirations!
Like many authors, it’s my dream to be on a bestseller list and see my books as movies. (I’m a dreamer.) I’ll continue to write and publish books for as long as I can. More books are planned in both of my series’ and I’ll finish some other standalone titles. I’d like to write shorter books in the future. My hopes where my writing is concerned, is to have readers love what I write. I want them to feel what I felt while writing the stories…to fall in love with my characters the same as I do. For that to happen, I can be happy.

I wish you every success in achieving your dreams, darlin’. It’s been great chatting with you and sharing an aperitivo. Thanks again for joining me. Before you go, please can you leave readers with three facts that might surprise them about you?
It’s been so much fun to have this chat with you, Siobhan. Thanks for the fabulous company, spectacular view, and delicious beverage. Maybe you should call me a cab after that delicious Bellini. It looks like a long drive down! Thank you so much for having me today.

My Three Facts:
I moved in with my youngest son. Instead of the kid coming back home, in this case, Mom did.
– I bought my own fire-engine red, pickup truck against my ex-husband’s wishes, and drove my “Lady in Red” Dodge Ram for eighteen years. (I loved that truck so much, I had to have one of my heroes drive the same.)
– I still communicate with my “first love.” We met when we were sixteen. We’ve both been through marriages, divorces, deaths, wars, happiness, sadness, but haven’t’ been a couple since we were twenty. Neither of us are married now, but he’s in a long-term relationship.

Oh, wonderful! Readers, if you’d like to know more about Mary’s books, click here. You can follow her lovely blog http://mjdresselbooks.wordpress.com/. She’s also on Twitter and Facebook.