Aura Imbarus, PhD – Out of the Transylvania Night

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Out of the Transylvania Night has many layers, starting with cultural, social, mystical, and economical and, of course, last but not least, it is a love story. It represents the pursue of happiness and the achievement of the American Dream, the ups and downs of a fast-paced life in the city that never sleeps – Los Angeles. It deploys the coming together and the falling apart scenes of a family of immigrants who lost the vision, love, and care in the process of blending in and keeping up with the Joneses. A story of a Transylvanian Cinderella, it is also a portrayal of life’s dreams and resolutions in the New World, premonitions and déjà-vu, Transylvania’s existence and categorical life imperatives. As love furtively sneaks out when you least expect it, it also creeps in at the right time on the wings of hope. The memoir summarizes human’s desires in an ever-changing world, more demanding and strenuously competitive, where money and material possessions would, for a while, dominate Aura’s existence, only to dissipate as dreams vanish at the crack of dawn, into a more rooted and logically supported existence plagued by ethics, intelligence, charisma and sensibility.

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born and raised in Transylvania, in Sibiu, a city that was named Cultural Capital of Europe in 2007, and was considered by Forbes the 8th most idyllic place to live in Europe. The architecture and the history of my homeland is more than intriguing, not necessarily due to Dracula or Vlad Dracul under his real name, but because of the Bran, Hunedoara, Peles, Rasnov, Fagaras castles and Sighisoara, Biertan, Sibiu, Brasov, medieval towns and citadels. The region of Transylvania has a rich historic heritage, from ancient fortresses and temples to medieval towns, churches and castles to renaissance and baroque palaces. Some of the castles and fortresses perished, many lie in ruins, and some have endured throughout the passing of time, witnesses of a glorious as well as turbulent history. Transylvania, which means the land beyond the forest, was first referred to in a Medieval Latin document in 1075 as ultra silvam. Surrounded by nature, legends and folktales, I grew up in a Romanian family of Greek roots, ancestry mentioned by prime ministers and famous historian in the annals of history. The Imbarus family was stripped of its properties, acres of arable land, green pastures and orchids, houses and money, their carriage transportation businesses, and order to join the Communist Party, like many other families. My Dad never yield while my uncles crossed the borders illegally, being caught and sent to Gherla, the most notorious prisons for political detainees. Our family was blacklisted for having ties with the west, Western Germany where my uncles, after a successful escape, settled down and talked against the regime on Free Europe Radio Station. Even if life during the Communist regime was harsh with rationed food, electricity and gas being monitored while the quota per family was cut down to the bare minimum, with the vision of long lines of people waiting as early as 3am to buy a litter of milk and a loaf of bread for their whole family, I was given an early education and care by my amazing grandparents and my parents. They taught me to be myself, no matter what, to believe in a brighter tomorrow and to educate myself to become “somebody.” I had their wholeheartedly support in being a rebel in the way I dressed myself, using my own creations, I dyed my hair in pink and green, and I thought and acted accordingly.

What inspired you to write this book?

My mother has been my muse. The crashing phone call I received in early March, 2008, telling me that my Mother had between 3 and 6 more months to live due to liver cancer has given me the arduous desire to write about her and for her. The book is a tribute to the one who gave me life, nurtured me and taught me how to grow wings and become the woman I have become today. I owe her everything.

My rollercoaster journey to the US has given me the facts, the tearful stories all gathered in my memoir “Out of the Transylvania Night,” which has three parts dealing with my life in Romania during the communist regime, after the fall of Ceausescu, and my life in the US, chasing the American Dream and the house with the white picket fences.

Each experience was the headstone for another path, another tunnel that I really didn’t know where and how is going to end. Being away from my family has not been easy, even if our phone conversations happened daily. My emotions transpire in my rapidly-paced writing, giving away my desires, my inabilities, my internal struggles, my mistakes and regrets, my love and admiration for people I came in contact with.

How did you choose the title?

Behind every step there is a reason, a certain logic that people follow. I wanted the word Transylvania to be part of the title. People really relate to Dracula and this part of the world; I came from there, so I wanted to exploit its connotation to maximum.
The “Night” part was inspired by another Romanian Jewish author, who was also born in Transylvania, Elie Wiesel and by the novel bearing the same name. I combined those two elements together and added couple of prepositions, so here we have “Out of the Transylvania Night.”

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

The process of publishing is a long, tedious, and twisted road, for last year 1.5 million books were published, a huge increase from previous ones. The competition is strenuous because 92% of all Americans have wanted at one point in their life to write a book. The more, the merrier, but the harder to get published. I gathered 20 books from the genre I was interested in. While reading, I jotted down the names of the book agents, editors, and publishers these writers were thanking to. I narrowed those names to three to begin with, and I sent a query letter to each one of them.
Two of them responded right away. I met with one of them the following week, and so the book started contouring itself. It took me nine months to write the book while having three teaching jobs, working from 8am to 10pm. I turned in the whole manuscript to my publisher last year on the 1st of October, and the book’s official release date is Sept 27, 2010, but due to high request, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are already shipping the book as we speak.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I am very creative and artistically inclined, so since I was five years old, I was already reading the local newspaper and magazines and picking “beautiful expressions” the way I used to call them, gathered them in a book that turned out to be over the years, five huge notebooks, with thousands of metaphors. I learnt to paint from my Uncle Petre, and I was drawn to beauty and fashion due to my Mother’s aesthetical sense. So, my writing journey started at a very fragile age. I had poems published in the school’s newspapers and paintings that won UNICEF Special Mention Award.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Due to my overcrowded teaching schedule, I am able to write only at night, after a fifteen-hour working shift. I write each night from 10pm to 12am, and after I go to bed totally exhausted, I am ready for a new adventure the following day. Over the weekend, I pick one day to work, and one day to rest and have fun.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

The names of my characters are from my real life experiences, for I come in contact with at least 500 people in a year, due to my teaching jobs and my ability to be very communicative with people. I have selective memory, so I remember the names that are different: weird or stunningly beautiful to me. I used them in my writing, but the real life character might not embody his true known self.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

This journey had been an eye-opener. Writing a book is just a quarter from the whole process. The marketing and PR, the exposure, the new connections you need to make, the hours you spend in testing the market on FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, hitting media outlets is time consuming and nerve-racking. These happen after you already found a publisher and you signed a contract. You need to create a presence in the city you live in and a platform to launch you. As a first time author, you are constantly present on the social scene to make an impression, to network, to make new friends and new, sturdy business plans that can catapult you to the next level. So, be prepared to be out there seven days out of seven!

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I will do it again because I have another signed contract for a Teens book, so I will walk the green mile over again. Well, this time I do know what to expect as time, money, and commitment are concerned.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I read different genres, and I like a variety of authors from Michael Connelly, Nicholas Sparks, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sylvia Nasar, and Stephanie Meyer to Francis S. Fitzgerald, Elie Wiesel, John Steinbeck, and Mark Twain. I love psychology, so I adore Sigmund Freud, J.J. Young, and spiritualist like Deepak Chopra. I adore the style of writing of Margaret Mitchell and Gone with the Wind, a rare book that you will never forget. The moment you read it once, you will always remember the characters, the setting of the South, the American history and the love story that runs throughout the whole epic tale. It had always been my all time favorite.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yes, I am working on two other new books; one is similar to the Chicken Soup collection, compiling stories of adolescents who are struggling with the idea of identity, stress, and control and self-esteem. The other one is non-fiction and deals with my dating adventures combined with my years of teaching. There are tons of funny stories that are still vivid on my mind, and for sure, they will enchant the readers as well.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Read whatever is out there in the field of your interest. You need to know from the very beginning what is in for the readers and what new storyline you will bring. As a reader you already know what you like to read and why, so you need to figure out from a writer’s perspective where do you stand. Research is the key word. The more research you do, the better you will get to know your competition and find the tools to challenge it with. Narrow your research to the area you want to publish in, and from that moment on, shoot for the stars. Go for al all the agents in the field of your interest and have patience. Things in the publishing world do not happen over night.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

Both genders can find something interesting in it. From a male’s perspective, the book is action-packed with bullets flying left and right, with blood and morgue scenes, rape attempts, revolution fears and snipers’ attacks; the female audience can find a sincere love story, Cinderella’s legend, women’s self empowerment, the ability to start all over after dealing with huge material and emotional losses. Young or old, the book is a great and easy read for all the ones interested in Eastern Europe, history, the idea of American Dream, immigration, the Dracula’s legend and Transylvania or the cancer related issues.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Readers can find more about my book on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com