Q and A with Author Eliana Tobias

Giveaway Ends 7/1

What does it mean to be called an author?  For me it means to be able to share stories that entertain and educate. As a former teacher I am passionate about making the world a better place. I want to rescue the experiences of people who live through troubling times and provide a perspective readers might not get in the news. I am interested in issues of human rights violations, injustice and discrimination that plague our world and delve into how people overcome challenges and learn to thrive.

When we Return – is a story set in Peru about a mother and son who got separated when a brutal terrorist group waged a campaign of terror in the country. The book opens years later when Otilia the mom, who is living in California on her own, gets a phone call from her son Salvador letting her know that the new democratic Peruvian government is willing to make amends to those who suffered injustices. On the plane back to Peru to appeal her case, Otilia meets Jerry, a designer, the son of a Holocaust survivor grappling with his own struggles. Jerry is intrigued by Otilia and decides to pursue her. Companionship leads to love as they find comfort in each other’s past. As they make a life together, they reach out to extended family members to find strength, make deep connections and lead a peaceful life.

Inspiration: I lived in Peru for a few years during a time of turmoil. Most of the disturbances were taking place in remote locations and were reported in ambiguous ways. Later, when I started to write, I discovered how the news at the time was purposefully silent not to scare the citizens. Yet, thousands of people were displaced, and thousands disappeared in deadly conflicts between government forces and the guerillas. This became the theme for the story I wanted to tell using accurate facts to inform my plot points.

Surprising thing I learned: When I lived in Peru I fell in love with Peruvian people and their culture. When I started to write I knew I wanted to tell stories set in Peru.  As I began to research Peruvian contemporary history and learned about how people survived difficult times, I learned that there was a strong connection between Germany and Peru’s history. I wondered why and it turned out that in both countries there was a need for people to confront their ugly past.  I discovered that the German government offered the Peruvian government funds to build a museum of memory to remember the events that took place, but for years the Peruvian government refused financial support from them. Finally, after pressure built and Peruvians came to realize that democratic nations needed to keep history alive, the donation was accepted. When the country was ready to build a museum of memory, the President of Germany was there to cheer people on and encourage participation from all sides of the conflict.

Favorite character: Hard to choose as by now I am close to Otilia, Jerry and Salvador. Life was difficult for them, but they found ways to overcome their pain. My characters are survivors; strong and resilient people and of course I admire that quality in them.

Names in the story: I chose names that reflected the character’s background and the culture they came from. One of the character’s changes his name to fit into the new place he now calls home.

How would you spend time with your characters? I would go out for coffee or to a restaurant with Otilia, sit and talk about various aspects of life for long stretches of time.

I’d like to visit an art gallery with Jerry, walk through the art gallery and museum halls, let him tell me what he knows about the artists and how he interprets the works on display.

I would like to spend time with Salvador and his wife Carmen salsa dancing, singing out loud, cooking Peruvian dishes, and playing with their baby in their backyard.

 How do you define success: Meeting an expectation I set for myself.  Years ago, I challenged myself to write; I took small steps – writing scenes, then a few chapters as I leaned into the various elements of fiction. I write slowly but was determined to complete a novel. When the first one was done it left me with unanswered questions. These became the material for my second book. It took years but this is  success for me.

A day in the life of an author: I try to balance my days with work and physical activities. When I write I need a quiet space and plenty of time. Since my stories are a blend of fact and fiction, I spend time reading, researching, as well as letting my imagination take me to different settings. Sometimes however an idea for a scene may arise when I am cycling on a bike path.

I never said:  “Today I am going to write and I will publish”.  I started to write because I wanted to explore ideas and express them. The possibility of publishing came much later in the process.

Writer’s block: I do a lot of research, which stimulates my thought process and gives me the push to move on. Sometimes I take long breaks between writing scenes- it can be weeks. During this time I can let my subconscious do the processing.

Advice for writers: Be disciplined. Develop bum power. Be persistent and don’t be too critical. Be patient and just write. Be kind to yourself, keep on with your task at hand until you finish a first draft. Then you can go back to do the necessary editing.

What comes first – plot or characters? For me the plot came first. I had a story I wanted to tell. Then I placed the characters in circumstances where they found themselves in.

What is a good story: one with an interesting plot, credible and authentic characters, a setting that catches my attention.   I like a story with real people, where there is a certain amount of drama and a conflict that might or might not be resolved.  I like to be transported to places I haven’t been before.

My audience: people who enjoy historical fiction, those interested in contemporary history. Readers who are interested in political events, in Latin America, and in psychology.

 Reader Feedback: I like all types of comments, as readers likes, and dislikes are subjective and based on their preference for certain genres. I like to hear from readers how they interpreted the plot, how emotional they became, if they were drawn to the characters or not. I want to know if they found the ideas interesting and what parts of the book resonated with them.  

I enjoy interacting with readers after a book reading, at a book club meeting, during book tours.  Newsletters and my blog – elianatobias.com. are great for interaction.

What do I look for in a Story?:  I want to be transported to new places, learn about a subject matter I am not familiar with.  I want to read stories that touch my heart and I get involved with the characters, their happiness and their sorrows and learn how they grapple with the problems at hand.

Hobbies and interests: biking, hiking, traveling, films and plays.

Dream Library – fiction: literary fiction; women’s contemporary fiction, Russian, Spanish, French classics, and non-fiction; memoir, art books, travel books, coffee table books.

Fun facts about writing: traveling to destinations, meeting with readers, and getting to know them, meeting other writers, and engaging with them. Learning about the publishing world.

About The Book

When We Return: A Novel

Who should be held responsible for public wrongs?

By 2008, it finally seems that the Peruvian government is ready to make amends to its citizens following the violent guerilla movement of the last three decades.

Otilia and Salvador, a mother and son torn apart during the conflict and separated for twenty years, are eager for the government to acknowledge he their pain and suffering, but they hit a roadblock when the government denies responsibility in their legal case.

Things begin to look up when Otilia meets Jerry, a kind man and the son of Jewish parents who escaped the Holocaust. Grappling with his own upbringing and the psychological struggles his parents endured, Jerry is just the person to empathize with Otilia’s situation. Together, Otilia, Jerry, and Salvador must support one another through the turbulent journey that is healing from historical trauma, and through it, they must find the courage to rebuild their lives and open themselves up to love and companionship.

Artfully weaving together different timelines and countries, Tobias examines the nuanced topic of grief a community endures after a collective tragedy. In this exploration of the culture of remembrance following displacement and loss, we discover what happens when our past calls us back to what we must do to achieve justice and reconciliation when we return.

“Eliana Tobias has managed in this moving and intelligent novel to show us two characters who, coming from very different worlds, at the end are telling the same story. The story of disarray, discrimination, and injustice. Showing us as well that hate is everywhere and the only antidote we have is memory and love.”
—Carla Guelfenbein, Alfaguara-award winner and internationally recognized author of eight novels including In the Distance With You

Purchase Links – Amazon – B&N – Kobo – Google Play 

About the Author

Eliana Tobias was born in Santiago, Chile, to immigrant parents who had escaped the Holocaust. She graduated from the University of Chile and later completed graduate degrees in the US and Canada. After working in the field of education in various capacities, including teaching at the National University in Trujillo, Peru, she discovered her love of writing.

Eliana’s rich experience of political turmoil—listening to stories of the Holocaust when Jewish communities in Europe had been shattered, losing family in Chile under military dictatorship, and living in Peru during a time of intense civil conflict—fueled her passion to write about the ways people caught in devastation find to rebuild their lives. Eliana’s first novel, In the Belly of the Horse, received an award from the International Latino Book Awards in 2018 and was also nominated for the Latino Book Into Movies Awards. Eliana splits her time between California and British Columbia.

Author Website – https://elianatobias.com/


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