Interviewed by Sarajane Sullivan March 5, 2021
Sarajane Sullivan: How did the idea for this book first come to you?
Roberta Seret: In 1990, after Ceausescu’s execution, my husband took me to visit Bucharest and Transylvania and showed me the city and villages he loved. I understood why he missed his country so much. As a writer, I thought it would be interesting to share with American readers what I was learning about this exotic world of Romania.
SS: You describe a scene in the book in which miners march into Bucharest to begin a revolution after the execution of Ceausescu. What some readers might not know is that you were actually there during that time. What was it like for you writing this book and having to relive that pivotal moment?
RS: It was exciting to live it, and even more exciting to relive it.
In March 1990, ten weeks after Ceausescu was executed, my husband wanted to show me the playground where he played soccer as a boy and the school where he learned to love Molière.
I saw hundreds of men marching six-abreast through the avenue. Their faces were smeared black with soot; they wore miners’ helmets and carried long sticks and heavy chains. They marched in synchronized lines, taking over the avenue, smashing store windows, knocking down anyone who blocked their way.
We went outside into the night. It was pandemonium. The miners were yelling and screaming, swinging their chains at anyone who dared come near.
The violence around us was real. Danger was everywhere – gun shots, smoke bombs, fire flares, windows smashed, blood on the streets. After a couple of hours of being in the middle of an uprising, we realized we had seen enough. It was time to leave.
SS: What were the biggest writing challenges you’ve faced and what advice would you give to other aspiring writers attempting to write a novel?
RS: Since I was a child, I loved books and marveled at stories. As I grew older, I realized to write my own stories (it) would be difficult. But I was determined to make my dream turn real. And I was prepared to make sacrifices for such a challenge. Yet, if I could actually write fiction was unknown to me then. What I did know was that I had discipline to try.
It is difficult to advise authors, for the writer must find his/her own voice. But I am happy to share some hints that have helped me write my novels:
An author needs to be organized with time and writing. It is important to conceptualize these intangible concepts as if they are written in stone. Try not to take personally criticisms and rejections. They only drag you down. Believe in yourself and your writing.
Let your characters become real people so your reader can see them, feel them, like them, travel with them. Your story is a voyage and your reader should travel alongside your characters.
Be honest and true to yourself. As I write, I open my heart. My literature becomes a confession to myself. I use my characters to show that we are all alike.
Write and rewrite. The more you write, the better you become. Think of yourself as an athlete, a scientist, an individual who strives for perfection. Keep trying, striving, yet, realizing that art is never perfect.
Keep paper and pen near your bedside.
SS: What is the central lesson you want people to take from this book? What do you hope they will enjoy most about “Gift of Diamonds”?
RS: I see it mostly as a story of survival. Mica loves life. She wants to live and she wants her parents to enjoy life with her and her family. A very simple wish; and yet, so difficult to attain.
In “Gift of Diamonds,” Mica becomes a victim of evil: evil in governments, evil in society, evil in people. Her escape toward freedom is the triumph of her goodness and her power to fight. Mica is a survivor.
Protagonist and author, Mica and I, have both learned that to live to the fullest, is the best revenge against evil.
For more information about Seret and her book, visit firstname.lastname@example.org, @bysarajane on Twitter