Interview with D.S. Loren – author of Dasvidaniya Rodina

Dazvidaniya RodinaD.S. Loren is on the blog today talking about her writing and her most recent novel, DASVIDANIYA RODINA, the story of a 16-year-old girl in 1935 Soviet Union who has been seduced by a commissar and then denounced as a enemy of the Soviet people. She is sentenced to five years imprisonment and faces barbaric inhumanity. This is a story of fall and limited redemption; of a young woman’s descent into a world of madness and inhumanity.

Can you tell us a little of how you came to writing and specifically historical fiction?    One of my teachers gave a class assignment – ‘WRITE YOUR OBITUARY.’ From that exercise I began writing the narrative of my life; what had been and what I wanted it to be. It was some of the most self-involved GAWD-AWFUL crap ever written, and certainly nothing of an original idea. Regardless, I’d caught the creative writing bug.

History has always fascinated me. History is also the fundamental of any subject. Language has a history. Geography has a history. Math has a history. Everyone and everything has a history. If you’re studying any subject, you are by default, studying history. Duh!

DASVIDANIYA RODINA is my second historical fiction novel. My first, was a coming of age novel, entitled AN IMPERFECT HUMAN HEART, set in mid-1930’s England. AN IMPERFECT HUMAN HEART was immensely gratifying to research and write, and when the challenge arose of writing another historical novel, within the same era, but within a different societal context of the Soviet Union, I invested myself entirely.

What was the inspiration for Dasvidaniya Rodina?    The inspiration to write this story was a former elderly neighbor, who has since passed away. She’d been born in Moscow in 1919, amidst the upheaval of the Bolshevik revolution and civil war that followed. At age sixteen, she was denounced as being unpatriotic and imprisoned, eventually within some of the most primitive and violent gulags imaginable.

She spent five years within the gulags, and upon release, was exiled to a collective farm in the Ukraine, upon the eve of World War II. The German Army invaded the following year and she was eventually captured and sent to a series of slave labor camps, an experience she miraculously survived.

I’m unaware of there ever being a story about a person who survived the horror of the gulags and the terror of the Holocaust.

This book is largely a fact-based fiction, extensively researched upon historical accounts of other prisoners, and interwoven as texture within Lyuda’s life story. 

What themes are you exploring in the novel?    Of all those within this work, I consider the primaries to be ‘man’s search for meaning,’ and ‘redemption.’

Regardless her fall from grace and her sometimes willful choosing of evil, Lyuda is searching for a greater meaning to her suffering. Hers is a spiritual quest, unaware. Throughout the text are symbols, representative of personal attributes. Among these, are the wolf.

How did you go about researching this book?    The majority of my research began online, augmented by library searches. I suppose as any novice would, I Google-searched key words and ideas and from there followed the various threads that appeared. The research built upon itself. Each search would suggest other and new ideas to pursue, until I had thousands of pages and volumes of ideas I wanted to explore within my text.

I think the value of extensive research was in how easily the creative process flowed, as I rarely was at a loss as to ideas and direction of narrative.

What was the most difficult aspect of this particular book?    Fundamentally, the most difficult problem was getting the voice right. The original one page writing exercise from which this work grew, had an uneducated, peasant ‘feel’ to it that I knew was wrong even as I wrote it.

The real life Lyudmilla upon whom the MC is modeled, was educated, intelligent, and well spoken, though she did sometimes lapse into a form of odd construction that clearly reflected an ‘English as a second language’ pattern of speech. For that reason, I chose a limited form of hampered speech that I think makes the voice more engaging while not overly taxing the reader, struggling to find the ‘rhythm’ of the word usage.

After expanding the exercise to a short story length I completely rewrote the voice and narrative style.

Have other writers of historical fiction influenced you and, if so, how    Admittedly, I have read less historical fiction than factual history, although among my fave reads are counterfactual history, such as WHAT IF? (VOLS. I & II).

As to factual history, two books I highly recommend are THE VICTORY OF REASON by Rodney Stark, and CONNECTIONS by James Burke

 Are you working on a new novel?    I have three in partial process. If that sounds a bit scatterbrained, it is. I’m constantly battling ADHD as to what I should be concentrating on, and whenever I run out of steam on one, I focus upon the other.

One, obviously, is the final in the DASVIDANIYA RODINA trilogy. I’m only three chapters into that one. Another is a YA novel about teen sisters within a dysfunctional family, one of whom has passed away, and whose storyline is revealed by an unexpected discovery of a manuscript she wrote before her death.

A third book in partial progress is a political/suspense thriller in which the MC, a homicide detective investigating a series of brutal murders, discovers the women with whom he’s fallen in love, is someone directly involved.

The final book in partial progress is a World War II historical fiction novel about the cultural war viciously waged by the political and media establishment, against women who put on military uniforms and those who worked to support the home front war effort.

The current day perception that the nation was united is a misconception. While that might have been true relative to the roles of men, the roles of women were uncertain and fought over constantly.

Truthfully, how do you feel about historical fiction?    Historical fiction is like a lover who steals my sense of self-worth; who drunk dials me from some other girl’s bed. Historical fiction forgets my birthday and leaves me alone and lonely on a Saturday night. Historical fiction does not love me as much as I love historical fiction. SIGH!

I think it’s safe to say that many readers of A Writer of History suffer from this same challenge! I’m always excited when other writers talk about their experiences. There’s always something to learn.

Thanks for telling your story, D.S.

7 thoughts on “Interview with D.S. Loren – author of Dasvidaniya Rodina”

  1. Up until about five minutes ago I would have said that nothing – nothing! – could get me to read a book set in the WWII period. (My father inflicted years of film and television regarding the period upon the entire family.)

    But I am fascinated by the idea of a book set in WWII about the ” cultural war viciously waged by the political and media establishment, against women who put on military uniforms and those who worked to support the home front war effort.”

    Kudos to D.S. Loren for managing something I had assumed was impossible.

    1. I know, right?

      WWII has seemingly been done to death (no pun intended). I was doing some preliminary research about the experience of women in the military and three articles in particular aroused my interest.

      One described how the first women to join the army had Masters Degrees and Doctorates, and many with years of managerial experience, almost all of whom ended up with jobs as laundresses,,maids, and entry level file clerks and typists, by a military establishment that hadn’t a clue how to employ their talents.

      Another article concerned a threat by the Catholic church to excommunicate women who joined the military on the basis that their ‘God-given’ role was to marry and bear children, NOT work alongside men outside the home.

      The remaining article concerned male newspapers columnists and commentators, declaring women who sought to join the military as ‘whores, lesbians, and camp-followers’ intent upon taking advantage of men in uniform. Throughout the war years, these kinds of attacks upon women were a constant and involved some of the most prominent men and news organizations in the country, and often with the open support of the nations political establishment.

      It seemed that no one was more vicious in their attacks upon women wanting to serve than the media and congress.

      I was surprised to learn about the culture conflict taking place at home while war was being fought across the globe.

      As an aside, my research moved backward to WWI as well as forward to the early 1950’s

      My perception is that WWI, ending with no clear victory, led to an era of tremendous cultural transition and great societal upheaval, ALL without a clear direction, and WWII ending with America as the clear winner, led to a hubris that America’s moral superiority had secured the victory, and American moral superiority would always triumph over evil.

      I mean, really? How could you NOT write a story about that??

      1. And now I am even MORE interested.

        Do you have a newsletter of something similar that I can sign up for, so I can be notified when the book under discussion is available? You already have one guaranteed sale. Only one, I will grant you, but guaranteed it is.

        1. I’m so pleased that you and D.S. Loren have connected via A Writer of History. Connections and dialogue are two outcomes that make me feel very happy with my little efforts in the realm of historical fiction!

  2. I’m sorry, I don’t have a newsletter or bog, etc.

    Below is a chapter excerpt from the subject book.

    Perhaps more so than with their birth, the future of a nation often arises and falls on matters of symbolism.
    Oddly, for women who wished to be patriotic, to arise to the defense of their nation, to serve shoulder to shoulder with their brethren, and to bear the burdens of liberty, one of their first battles to be waged, and not without causalities, was the battle of the pants.
    There was widely held within polite society, or at the very least within calcified military society, the surprising subject of pants, with any job requiring the wearing of pants being by masculine definition, a man’s job, unsuitable for a woman, and perhaps more importantly, clearly unable to be capably performed by a woman.
    Competence and capability were therefore strangely defined by a great many men, by the issue of pants. Men, because they wore pants, were competent and capable. Women, because they did not wear pants, were not, and the very idea of putting women in pants was therefore confusing, and upset an entire value system carefully nurtured and developed by centuries, of men clearly defining the dimensions of their world and their relationship to it, by those who wore pants, and those who did not.
    Yes, surprisingly, the issue of women wearing pants, caused tremendous discomfort to everyone concerned.
    Society was not yet that far removed from the very recent time and perception that a woman putting on pants was a woman engaged in a public demonstration of open rebellion, or was at the very least, declaring her alternative sexuality.
    It was yet a time when concerned mothers anxiously warned their daughters that spinsterhood was the fate of a woman in pants.
    On September 2nd 1910, while aviation was yet barely in its infancy, Blanche Stuart Scott became the first American woman to fly an airplane. On October 13th of that year, Bessica Raiche became the second.
    To the American press and the society it represented, there had been an astounding and significant difference between these two women. Blanch Stuart had flown wearing a dress. Bessica Raiche had done it wearing pants, and therefore by public and certainly press discernment, Blanche Scott was a freak of nature, while Bessica Raiche was a freak of nature with rebellious and perhaps questionable sexual proclivities.
    When a daring man took to the air, the world’s male, press establishment gathered and watched in fascinated wonder, and took notice of each accomplishment. When a woman took to the air, mirroring the accomplishments of men, the world’s press gathered and watched in fascinated wonder, and took notice not of her accomplishments, but whether or not she was wearing pants or a dress. There was also for the press the lesser concern of hats.
    On April 14th, 1912, at a time when airplanes were little more than powered kites, Harriet Quimby became the first woman to pilot an airplane across the English Channel, a remarkable feat for its day. After landing, an assemblage of excited reporters gathered around her and one of the first questions asked of her was whether she might in celebration of her accomplishment, purchase for herself, a lovely new hat.
    She may well have responded, asking, “Has anyone noticed I have just flown across the Channel?”
    To which intrepid male reporters may have responded, “Soooooo, is that a yes or no, on the hat?”
    On the day following Bessica Raiche’s accomplishment, the focus of the stories of virtually all the nation’s major newspapers was not upon a strong and independent woman competent to challenge men at flight, but of a woman who had been wearing pants, who had only incidentally, flown an airplane. (Chapter One, excerpt)

  3. That first chapter has possibilities – the bones are there but it does need a little work. Of course, you already know that.

    I suppose I will just have to check your name on line occasionally to see if the book is out. May I recommend that you look into starting a newsletter or email list? It is an easy, uncomplicated way to let people interested in your work know when you have a new book available. Isn’t that half the battle of marketing – for books or anything else – to target the people who are interested in what you have to offer?

    I want to thank Ms Mary Todd for hosting this blog, It is always interesting, and I have gained much information and learned many items of interest from her efforts.

    Also – it has occurred to me that I may have inadvertently slighted Ms Todd and her novel when I mentioned that I dislike WWII stories as a genre. That comment was in no way a criticism of Ms Todd’s novel set in the WWII period, and I would be pained if anybody thought it was. “Unravelled” sounds like an excellent book. It was thoughtless of me to make such a comment on the blog of an author who has written a novel in that era. Again – I apologise.

    1. No worries Free Falconer … I write about WWI and WWII and love these time periods however I realize they aren’t for everyone. And just for the record, the last name is Tod (my husband’s family always says it rhymes with God and once I tell people that they never forget the spelling!). Many thanks for your encouragement and participation.

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