Friday, February 20, 2015

Author Interview: Ronesa Aveela

My dear readers,
I'm not sure how many of you know that I'm from Bulgaria. I used to be proud to be a Bulgarian because of our incredibly rich history, bravery and strength that kept our culture through the centuries of hardships under the yoke of the Ottoman Empire. Today though... things are quite different. 
Which is why my spirit always lifts up when I see a fellow Bulgarian accomplish something worth sharing. Today I'd like to introduce you to a duo of authors (Rebecca & Anelia) who go by one pen name and share my love for Bulgarian culture. Please welcome Ronesa Aveela!





Me: Why Bulgarian mythology? Who told you about the Samodivi?
Ronesa: I was born and raised in a Bulgarian household and have witnessed many unique rituals and beliefs practiced by my parents and grandparents. They never fully explained these rituals and beliefs, so they continue to be a mystery to me even today.
Bulgarian folklore is rich in rituals and tales. There are tales about “lamia,” the Bulgarian version of a dragon, “talasum,” as well “Samodivi.” These rituals have survived thousands years and have been practiced by Bulgarians, Greeks and other Europeans for countless generations. Some of these stories and rituals may seem silly, but the fact that they are still with us is a testament to just how strong forces of nature and love are even today.
My grandmother was a talented story teller and healer. When I visited her, she always had so many different stories to tell. One of the most fascinating myths was about Samodivi.
They are the most enchanting mythological creatures in Bulgarian folklore. They are known for their beauty, power and magical seductive voice. They’ve been portrayed for centuries in many fairy tales, poems and legends passed from one generation to another. Numerous legends about them are still alive. In remote villages, people pay respect to them and are afraid of these creatures who can seduce men with their beautiful songs.  In Bulgaria, small villages have been deserted because locals are still afraid of the Samodivi powers. A man was found dead in the woods, murdered and left naked, and the common belief was that this was done by Samodivi.
With “Mystical Emona,” I want to introduce readers to these ancient beliefs, rituals and traditions that have survived through the centuries.

Me: Did you actually go hunt a Samodiva? Do you think such mythical creatures could still exist in our modern world?
Ronesa: As I child, I was told scary stories about Samodivi and was curious to find if they really existed.  I didn’t hunt one, but I once went with a friend to a graveyard at midnight to see if we could see a vampire. The only things we discovered were the grave stones and a few scared cats. But we humans always want to look beyond what we see and breathe to see what’s on the other side of the Moon.
I think beliefs and fairy tales are created for a reason. They are an important part of our lives and help us to connect to our future, with our imagination and creativity. The existence of Samodivi (Wildalone) hasn’t been proven and may never be. Their images simply represent the fear and respect of the unknown and of nature. When we don’t understand something, we call it magic, witchcraft or bad, but sometimes it is a reality we don’t want to face.

Me: What traits of those enchanting ladies speak to you the most?
Ronesa: For some they are witches of the darkness, but I think they are Thracian Goddesses, daughters of Bendis, the Thracian Goddess of Hunting and Nature. There’s a reason why they come back to our world on March 25 each year. This is the time when Spring returns, bringing light and love.

Me: If you had a picture of someone in your wallet, who would it be?
Ronesa: Hmm, this is a very hard question. My handsome husband and love of my love, and one of Ian Somerhalder.
Me: How do you take your coffee?
Ronesa: Black
Me: What's your greatest fear?
Ronesa: I won’t have enough time to write all books I have in my head.
Me: Is there someone you'd like to thank for encouraging you through the hard times?
Ronesa: My friend Rebecca, for working with me, editing, writing and sharing the passion of writing.

Me: How did you come with the idea for your current story?
Ronesa: My story was inspired by Emona, a village on the coast of the Black Sea. I visited there in the summer of 1998. The wild beauty of this mystical place, a land and its people and history hidden from the world, left a deep impression on me. Emona opened a new world for me—time turned back thousands of years. I imagined the era when the great Thracians ruled the land, when King Rez defended his people and the cape. I envisioned the Thracian legions and their giant horses galloping with pride as portrayed in the Iliad. I imagined the time when the old lighthouse, now so lonely and forgotten, was once alive, and its light illuminated the way for sailors on the stormy Black Sea.
I imagined the time when the now-ruined church was alive with activity. As I stood beneath the dome of the ruined church, the wind danced inside and blasted the walls covered with faded paintings. I felt the gaze of the cracked faces of the icons painted by the hands of talented unknown artists centuries ago.
The light shone through the window in the form of a rudder and lit the altar. The church was ruined, but it was once filled with generations of people praying to God for good health and luck. I heard the cry of babies who being baptized, and the music of the tupan and shepherd pipe celebrating the union of two souls—woman and man in colorful costumes and flowers. As well as children holding baskets with Easter eggs with bracelets woven from white and red strings sign for happiness and good health.
A whirlwind of galloping horses brought me back to reality, their power, independent freedom and strength impressive as they galloped like a hurricane along the foothills of the Stara Planina. The moment remained imprinted on my mind. It inspired me to use my pen and my brushes to unveil a story of love and mystery, and to depict its wonders through my characters, born from the imagination of my personal experience.

Me: Why do you write?
Ronesa: To tell a story and take my readers on a journey. I call each book a “virtual trip.” If you like to read, the world is in your hands.

Me: Tell us about your favorite book character.
Ronesa: Sultana from “The Iron Lamp,” the first book of Talev's epic masterpiece.
Me: Do you feel scared to pick up a book about which you've heard a lot of different opinions?
Ronesa: No, if I like the blurb, I want to try it myself. It is like a meal; we each have different tastes and sometimes you can find a hidden jewel.
Me: Do you read any blogs regularly?
Ronesa: Brain Picking to keep my mind fresh and feed my soul.

Me: Who would you like to take a picture with?
Ronesa: Nina Dobrev. I would like to see her in my book “Mystical Emona” as Kalyna.
Me: Fruit you can't live without.
Ronesa: Apples.

Me: If you had to send a post card right now, what would you write on it?
Ronesa: I would send one to all my readers and write, “I love you and thank you for being part of my world.”
Me: If you could take a day off from your everyday life, where would you go?
Ronesa: I love boating and deep sea fishing. This is where you can find me during the summer and where some of my ideas are coming together into a story. I like the Infinity of the ocean.



Information about “Mystical Emona”
“Mystical Emona” is a story where the village Emona embodies Bulgaria and its culture and the village is a character itself. Although the main storyline of “Mystical Emona” is a love story between a mortal and a Samodiva, I’ve embedded old rituals and beliefs I’ve learned through the years. It’s a lesson in history and traditions delivered in an easy and pleasant way. It’s a way to introduce and picture the unique local rituals, beliefs, customs and food of this region.
The book was presented on October 9 last year at Boston University School of Global Studies during an event called “Bulgarian Voices” and also is available on Amazon US and UK. I also interviewed with Bulgarian National Radio in October.
The links below go to my blogs where readers can learn more about other projects:
I’m currently working on a book called “Light Love Rituals” and the second book of the “Mystical Emona” series, “Purple Cape.” In this book, readers will meet Dames Blanches (White Ladies), the unknown sisters of the Bulgarian Samodivi.