Wednesday, August 5, 2015

APRI PRESENTS: Interview with Author Jeta Vojkollari


Jeta Vojkollari was born and raised in Tirana, Albania. She studied Economics at the University of Tirana. Jeta has won awards for several long lyrics, two of which became hits. Her experience and passion to write has led her to this book. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and works for the City of Toronto. The Devil I Paid For Advice is her first novel.

APRI: Do you have any advice for up and coming writers?

JV: There is more to writing a book that putting thoughts on a piece of paper. i would advise any new writer to fully understand the whole process:

         1. Write a first draft. This is the exciting part which every creative writer looks forward to.
         2. Edit it once and then edit it again. Not every sentence is right the first time around. Editing
is very meticulous but very necessary. Edit your draft several times until there is no sentence
in the book, you are not in love with.
3. Publish it. Traditional publishing is ideal but many distinct writers are taking charge by
self-publishing their creations.
4. Market and promote it.  Promoting your book is very important and this is where
the process gets creative again.
5.  Keep Going. Repeat 1-4 for your next book.

APRI:  What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

JV: Reading was my favorite pastime. The books that had a strong influence on me growing up were:

- as a child: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, The Count of Monte Cristo by
Alexandre Dumas, etc.

- as a teenager: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, etc.

- in high school and after: Martin Eden by Jack London, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Arch of
Triumph and Three Comrades by Erich Maria Remarque, Amok and other novellas by Stefan Zweig, etc.

The first book I read in English was East of Eden by John Steinbeck, when I came to Canada.

In general, I like to read literary fiction, but time after time I entertain myself by reading books of different genres. Today I read: Ismael Kadare (famous Albanian writer), Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Jonathan Franzen, Jodi Picoult, etc.

APRI: Any writing rituals?

JV: I usually start with the big idea. I think about it and talk to it for some time. If I conclude that it's a good idea, an idea that might scratch the wounds of our society and that my book will convey a good message to the readers, I start writing. I try to write every day, even if it is a single sentence. I don't have to sit in front of the computer and write it. I might scribble it in a piece of paper. That sentence might be enough for me to write a full page or even a chapter later. I pay attention to life. My little ideas which help me fill the story might come all of a sudden from pieces of life: from a random sentence in a newspaper; an angry man talking on the phone; somebody swearing in a low voice; an old woman, whose hands shake while counting coins; or from a child who grabs the toy from another child's hands.

APRI: Tell us some more about your book.

JV: The Devil I Paid for Advice is about big egos and a twisted belief system; it's about the wrong and right ways to break free off abusive relationships; it's about dreaming the pleasure of the revenge and drinking its bitterness; it's about love and power and control; it's about the choice to use a bitter word instead of a sweet one.

The novel is built with many characters whose stories entertwine with each other.

I believe American readers will enjoy reading about a way of life in a small country far away from here, called Albania. On the other hand, despite the Albanian setting, this doesn't necessarily have to be an Albanian story, and the readers will discover this in the pages of the novel.

APRI: What's more important: characters or plot?

JV: I believe both are very important, but I would like to say that characters move the plot forward. The main characters of The Devil I Paid for Advice are multidimensional, they are not necessarily good or bad. Having interesting characters in a book, makes the story unpredictable, and full of surprises. A reader of mine said, "The descriptions, characters and their stories raised me up to the sky and knocked me to the ground; they filled me with air and left me breathless."

APRI: Any last thoughts for our readers?

JV: I believe that reading makes us all better. I would say, don't just read any book that comes your way, read the good ones. Read those books that play even a tiny part in making us and this world better.

APRI: Is there a message in your novel that you want your readers to grasp?

JV: My book conveys a lot of good messages but the most important one would be that domestic abuse takes different forms. It might be physical, verbal, sexual, psychological, emotional, financial, etc; it touches all the strata of society, regardless of education, culture, religion, economical circumstances etc.; it's wrong and we all have to play our role in stopping it.

APRI: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

 JV: In order for me to write the book realistically, I had to put myself into my characters' shoes. I had to go to the darkest corners of the stories, I had to perceive myself what my characters were going through. I believe that if the story is not believable to the writer, it would never be believable to the writer.

APRI: Do you have any advice for other writers?

JV: If you really want to write, do not wait for the ideal moment. Life is very busy for everybody and the ideal moment will probably never come. Just write. Write whatever comes to your mind. It doesn't have to be perfect. You'll perfect it later.

APRI: What do you hope people take away from your writing?

JV: I'm going to answer this question with my reader's voice. I couldn't have said it better.

- "You feel as though you have been thoroughly purified after reading this book."

- "The book left me with a very warm feeling, as despite the bitter reality, you give hope
and a significant message that only with love we can heal the wounds of the past and
can build a better future."

- "Tremulous rays of love symbolize characters of Jeta Vojkollari's novel; her depiction invites
readers to discover the end of love and love with a happy ending."

APRI: Where are you from?

JV: I am from a small country in Europe called Albania. For your readers' curiosity, my name Jeta (pronounced like Jetta) means Life in Albanian. I immigrated to Canada in 2009 along with my husband and two children.
APRI: When and why did you begin writing?

JV: I always wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first poem at nine years old. I remember reading it in front of my class and when I finished, my teacher asked "Did you write it yourself?" I have been writing my entire life, but I never considered publishing a book until now. I wanted to be a writer as I enjoy the process. While working full time for the City of Toronto, I studied the mechanics of writing fiction. While I had vivid imagination, I can create realistic stories which convey significant meaning to the reader. I also read a lot. Reading introduces one to unknown worlds, with wonderful feelings and fantasy. I want my books to transport my readers to a different mindset and excite their imagination.

APRI: What inspired you to write your book?

JV: In the first two years of coming to Canada as an immigrant, I worked as an interpreter for people, who were victims or perpetrators of domestic abuse. I heard a lot of stories. I was fascinated to learn that they were all the same, despite the ethnic group, culture, age, income level, faith or education level. This is what inspired me to write the Devil I Paid for Advice.

In order for me to be qualified for such work, I had to attend several programs on domestic abuse and get the necessary certificates. I attended the individual and group sessions and I received a good knowledge on this serious social issue.

APRI: How did you come up with the title?

JV: The novel is built with multi characters, who come from different strata of society. Their stories intertwine with each other through the psychotherapist, who like her clients, struggle in an abusive relationship. The relationship has filled her with hate and causes her to twist the advice to her clients while living her life vicariously through them. I believe that nothing can be worse than going to sombedy for advice and she leads you the wrong way.

APRI: What cultural value do you see in writing / reading / storytelling / etc.?

JV: I believe that writing / reading not only entertains us, but it opens our eyes to better understand a social, environmental / ethical, political issue; it hels us know our country, our world, our past and our future; it makes us better and it shows us the way to make the whole world better.

APRI: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

JV: I enjoyed seeing my characters grow and become stronger. Despite the subject of the book, the characters are not victims. They are fighters.

APRI: Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

JV: All people 17 years old and up, mostly females.

Some of these readers will find themselves in my book, some will find their friend or neighbor. Not only will they enjoy the book for its plot but also for the strong characters and artistic writing style.

APRI: Is there anything else you would like to say?

JV: Thank you very much for the interview, Marion! I appreciate the fact that you gave me the possibility to introduce myself to the APRI readers and the American media.

Here are a couple of Links where the readers can learn more about me and my novel 
The Devil I Paid for Advice:

APRI: And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and
tantalize us?

JV: Two snippets. :)

Tirana in the evening. Modern cafes. Lights. Glamour. High heels and loud voices. Laughter. Girls in low-cut necklines, smooth-skinned. Young men wearing their hair short and styled with gel. Just like the cafes, the young smelled of luxury and modern times.

It was a struggle making one's way through the streets of Tirana without jostling other people - strangers who spoke the same language. Sabrina slipped her arm around Tom's and clung to him as if for protection...

A couple were kissing ferociously right in front of them with thirsty mouths and tongues wrestling there, on the sidewalk, four inches away. One couldn't tell a kiss from a bite, celebration from a fight, birth from murder, love from rape or spouse from enemy. Sabrina wasn't entirely sure how to describe the kissing. Was it love or coercion? Love should be soft, like Tom's body.

Tirana had turned into a vortex of extremes. Life could be highly social, yet grimly isolated. Tirana itself could be so large and so small. Congested. Fighting for breath. On the corner of the residential block you could smell the enticing sweet corn and roasted chestnuts mixed with the stench of dried urine. Expensive Italian shoes tapped along the broken bricks of the sidewalks. Dressed in ostentatious clothes, modern boutique owners came out every now and then to send away beggars that chose to beg at the doorway...


She, too, was asleep now but restlessly asleep. Two hands had seized her by the throat and were squeezing her tightly. Mark's hands? Not nice of him, strangling her in her sleep. In the morning he would repent and scream in pain but whe would be gone by then. She would be sleeping peacefully, like the character she played in the movie. Mark's grip got tighter, stronger and she was almost out of breath. She could feel the water caressing her shoulders and her chin. The water reached her mouth. When Mark finally let go of her throat and she opened her mouth to breathe, the water entered her body with a rush. She was trying to swim, wriggling frantically. Her head came above the water. She caught Mark's piercing eyes. "What are you doing, Mark?" "You were sleeping, baby," he told her, and reached out to caress her cheek. Rakela jumped out of the water to dodge his hand. She backed away and spat out the water that had filled her mouth. What on earth was happening to her? Closing her eyes while lying in the bathtub was not a good idea at all. Rakela Kato got up slowly, and wrapped herself in the soft white bathrobe she had bought at a beauty centre in Pari. Still wet, she walked around the house, looking for Mark. She remembered it was Tuesday and Mark would be teaching till ten. Something was off with Mark lately.

APRI: What question have you always wanted to be asked during an interview? How would you answer that question?

JV: Question: Long unpaid hours in front of the computer, talking to your characters. You're not rich or famous after all and chances are you'll never be. Was it worth writing the book?

Answer: Absolutely! When I hear how much my readers have enjoyed my book, my heart is filled with joy, and the tiredness melts away. What remains is fulfillment and gratitude.

For more information about Jeta Vojkollari see links below:

Jeta Vojkollari on Linkedin: 

Website for Jeta Vojkollari:
Jeta Vojkollari on Facebook:
Amazon link for Jeta Vojkollari


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