A huge welcome to the author Olga Swan, whose new book, An Englishwoman in America, is about to be published.

Hi Miriam!  I’m honoured to be invited onto your esteemed blog. Love its biblical title, btw.

Olga Swan, authorHello, Olga. I know that’s not your real name. Can you tell us why you chose to have a pen name and why you chose that one?

As some of your readers may already know, I lost my parents 50 years ago, swiftly followed by my two elder brothers. So, as a mark of remembrance I write under the nom de plume of Olga Swan, it being an anagram of my late brother A Olswang. In this way, as the last member of the family born with this name, I’m keeping them and our unusual name alive.

I didn’t know all of that. That must have been very hard for you.

You’re a very prolific author. How do you find time to write so many books?

I’ve now written 10 books in total (see below) but spanning many years. The first (Lamplight),  I wrote about 50 years ago. I remember brother Alan typing it from my hand-written notes onto his portable, manual typewriter. Today, now I’m retired, I can escape into our new, tiny conservatory and take as long as I want for my thoughts to flow. I find the extra light from the glass roof helps cure my SAD too.

I’m assuming that’s seasonal affective disorder and not social anxiety disorder!

You recently returned to the UK after living in France, and you wrote about that period of your life in two wonderful and humorous books: Pensioners in Paradis and From Paradis to Perdition. What experiences form the basis for your new book, An Englishwoman in America?

Thank you for your kind comments about my French books. As these have proven successful, I wanted to continue the non-fiction, comedy element but in a new guise. Of particular interest to your Israeli readers, I also wanted to write about the huge Yiddish influences in my life (my grandmother spoke it fluently), so there are chapters about Yiddish theatre in early NY plus its influence on both American and British comedy over the years.

My father spoke Yiddish well and my mother understood it, but they never spoke Yiddish at home, so I didn’t learn it. However, I would be very interested to read about the influence of Yiddish theatre on American and British comedy.

An Englishwoman in America is a humorous look at how the British and the Americans view each other. The cover image gives a snapshot of what lies within. My inspiration for writing it dates back to when I was growing up in the ’50s.  I couldn’t understand why four of us (my mother, 2 brothers and myself) were all shy and introverted, yet my father was loud, extrovert and so large as life in everything he did. Eventually I understood. He’d lived a considerable time in America. Should I then follow his lead and move to America? Would that make me more outgoing?  The book required lots of research:  from immigration tomes to other works in the genre to personal holiday diaries and precious travel memoirs from my father to internet sources.

An Englishwoman in America by Olga Swan

What are you writing now?

I don’t have a wip [work in progress] at the moment whilst I catch my breath in the lead up to the release of An Englishwoman in America on 11 June, but there’s a possibility I can follow up with further books in the series, each entitled An Englishwoman in…..

Your weekly posts on your blog — Brexed, Bothered and Bewildered (a lovely alliterative name) — are always short and to the point, and they make a lot of sense. Can you sum up what you think is wrong with the world and what we can do to make it a better place?

 Too many people spout opinions of others based on historic falsehoods, which are then perpetuated. The answer has to be more understanding and education about each other. Schools all over the world should introduce mandatory classes where different peoples, their history and faiths are studied, examined and discussed. Also, as a writer, we have an additional role to play in furthering these aims. Education, from whatever source, is the key lest past atrocities like the holocaust are doomed to happen again and again.

Oh yes, I agree with that! Education, from whatever source, except for sources that plant falsehoods, of course.

And finally, what can we expect from your launch party on 11th June?

All day on Tuesday 11 June (also on the 12th) everyone’s invited to my online FB launch party. On the day simply click this link. Then under Discussion, say hi and enjoy guest author spots (I’m looking forward to yours, Miriam), entertainment, read exclusive excerpts from the book, and enter 2 free quizzes about American cars and music to win a prize. Easy. Looking forward to welcoming you all on the 11th. Pre-order your ebook now or buy the paperback from Amazon.

I’m looking forward to it.

 Olga Swan books published by Crooked Cat Books

Olga Swan books published by KDP Amazon

Gillian Green books published by lulu.com

  • Ruby
  • Clementine
  • Saffron

Choice. Do we have it? Do we want it?

This morning, D had to leave home early and I chose not to get up early, too, and join him for breakfast. For my lone breakfast, I chose not to have my usual toast and coffee, and just to have muesli. Later, feeling cold as I sat at my computer, I chose to go outside and sit in the warm sun. I could have chosen to put on more clothes to get warm, but I didn’t. Even when the sun hid behind a cloud and I felt cold again, I chose to wait for it to come out again and warm me up.

Confused

Life is a series of choices, some harder to make than others. I often find it harder to make choices than I ought to because, subconsciously, I start to wonder what’s expected of me, or what a normal choice might be, or what someone else would like me to choose, rather than simply what I want. I couldn’t have said at the time, for instance, why I hesitated so much when someone said, “Breakfast will be later; do you want a cup of coffee now?” Later, I worked out why. It was because I was thinking: No, I don’t want coffee but am I expected to want coffee? Would it be the normal thing to want coffee before breakfast?

I was just pondering this thing called choice today when I read David Rory O’Neill’s current blog post, in which he asks, “Why do people choose to live here?” He’s talking about New York, a place that’s fascinating to visit but wouldn’t be my first choice of a home town either. In fact, I remember wondering the same thing decades ago when I visited New York in the middle of winter at -19°C. Fortunately, we’re not all the same and a lot of people choose to live in New York – otherwise it wouldn’t be there to visit.

Choosing where to live is usually a big decision. I made that choice long ago and am very pleased with what I decided. I also chose whom to marry and, as we’ve been together for donkey’s years and still get on well, that was definitely a good choice.

I’ve made bad choices, too, including one that I believe led to me getting social anxiety. But I want to stress that I didn’t know one would lead to the other. In fact, as I’ve said before and will say again:

No one chooses to have social anxiety.

Today I also discovered the lyrics of a song I’ve probably never heard: Freedom Of Choice by Devo. The song ends:

Freedom of choice
Is what you got
Freedom from choice
Is what you want

Do you want freedom from choice? Do I? Do we? I wonder.