What led you to write your first novel?
My pen name is Agatha Rae, but my real name is Joanna Boguslawska. I’m Polish, I live in Poland in the beautiful city of Gdynia. I’m an ESL teacher, but my real hobby is writing. I have published three books so far, including Oenone, as well as a number of articles and reviews for different websites and magazines.
The two books I had published before Oenone are “Teaching English Through Culture, Teaching Culture Through English”, dedicated to ESL teachers and, in Polish, “Popkultura – pop czy kultura?” (“Popculture – pop or culture?”), a collection of essays analyzing popular culture. However, despite publishing those books as well as articles, I’d been feeling for some time I wanted to try writing a novel. I had some glimpses of the possible plot in my head, but everything started making sense when I saw a TV program with fortune tellers telling people how to cope with their problems. I started writing Oenone in winter 2010/2011 and it took me almost exactly a year to finish it just before Christmas 2011. I loved the experience, the creation of the story and the characters and I found writing a novel to be a wonderful experience, something I was completely devoted to.
What inspired your story of Evelyn and Jeff?
The initial idea was to create a cute couple with a little on-and-off relationship who would work together in one company. I wanted the chemistry between them, but it was obvious their relationship would be problematic. I thought that a love affair between people working together might be problematic, but between a supervisor and a worker it would not only be difficult, but might be considered unprofessional and even inappropriate. But, what if they could not resist? And, what if we mixed some supernatural stuff into it? And, throw in some problems at work? Now the cute couple needs to find a way to be together despite all odds. And that makes the story interesting.
We loved that your book had two stories with two couples happening at the same time, yet they were interwoven. Did you know when you started writing the book that both couples would play such prominent roles?
Oh yes. Actually, I don’t like the idea of dividing Jeff and Evy and Laura and Bruce into main and supporting characters; in my mind, the two couples are equally important and, I think the plot of Oenone shows it clearly. There are things happening in Laura and Bruce’s lives which have a direct impact on Jeff and Evy and the other way round. All four characters are very important to me; I’ve put a lot of heart into creating them and giving them the personality’s they have.
The mystery of the paranormal surprised me. It felt like the book suddenly took a sharp turn and the roller coaster of suspense began. Was there anything in your life that inspired that leap?
The very first thought of creating a book concerning a supernatural being came to my mind when I was watching a program on television showing fortune-tellers. People would call them, talk to them about their life problems and were expecting to be told about their future and to be given advice on how to make their lives better and less miserable. I remember finding the program incredibly interesting not because of the fortune-tellers, but because of the people who were desperate enough to call a TV show, disclose their most private affairs and expect all their tribulations to be miraculously cancelled. I thought that the perspective of having any kind of divine intervention with solving one’s problems must be undoubtedly tempting for people facing lugubrious and troublesome moments in life. The promise of having it all disappeared would definitely seem worth trying.
While I was watching the program, I began to wonder what would happen if there actually was a force capable of helping people, but wanted something back. Or, a force capable of helping people, but perverse enough to lure with a promise of help and giving a person in need something opposite? Did those people calling the TV station know what they wanted? Did they give a single thought to the idea of what they are actually willing to step into? Who was to say who was actually listening to their requests? Who was to say who was actually giving the power to fortune-tellers allowing them to help and cure? Provided the silver screen fortune-tellers were true healers and not some cunning swindlers, of course.
That was the initial idea; writing a story about a supernatural being having the power to help people in need, but perversely deciding to do the opposite, thus, in fact, jibing at them.
You have mentioned that Henry Cavill inspired your writing. What about Henry inspired you?
Yes. I’ve dedicated my book to Henry Cavill. The reason behind it is very simple. First of all, I’ve been impressed by his talent and followed his career since “The Tudors” and kept my fingers crossed for him. I think everyone who follows his professional path knows that he’s been a runner-up for many major roles and films, but kept on doing what he loves and finally, became the Man of Steel. That’s the spirit and attitude I find very inspirational and impressing. What’s more, I found out that Henry was chosen to become the new Clark Kent soon after I had started writing my book, and I thought that since he had finally achieved such a success, then perhaps there’s a chance I could find a publisher for my book. That perhaps there’s a chance for me as well. It only made me even more motivated.
I really understand what it means to fight for recognition. For the two books which I finally got a chance to publish, I had been fighting for years. Countless interviews with publishers and countless rejections, but it never occurred to me to stop trying and hence, I did manage to publish some of them. And now “Oenone”.
Could you imagine Henry playing one of the male roles in your book?
Absolutely. Actually, I’ve always imagined Henry as Jeff Richards. It seems natural for me :).
You did get your novel published this spring and it nearly coincided with Henry Cavill’s movie, Man of Steel being released. Tell us about that.
It felt great, I won't lie, it was very uplifting. One thing I thought was that, sadly, the Superman pandemonium would explode and it would become extremely difficult to reach his agents in order to send him a copy of the book, but on the other hand, I felt that, obviously, a new chapter of his life and career was about to begin and I thought that perhaps it was also a big step forward for me. I'm a creative person, I have ideas for next novels and I was trying very hard to become a published author, having already some nonfiction material released. I remember the fact that those two things happened almost simultaneously made me smile. I could give Henry Cavill a high five :).
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