With Alena Mornštajnova on how she learned to translate pictures into words

I remember exactly when I was Alena Mornstajnova (58) discovered. It was 2017, and people around me started sharing the thrill of the book on the cover crown of yellow. Hana. I was crazy at the time norse crime and I neglected the Czech authors a little.

Year after year, Han always sang for everyone. I was already intrigued and reached out to her. I read it in one go, completely enchanted me. I immediately got the author’s previous work and couldn’t believe I missed this readable and at the same time valuable literary gem. I expected a lot from his other books, I have never been disappointed.

You’ve given countless interviews during your writing career. Which question is repeated and which are you still waiting for?

The most common is probably the book I’m writing. And that’s exactly the question I can’t answer, because I don’t really know what book will come out of my brainchild. The text evolves as you type, some of the original ideas disappear and new ones emerge. So I don’t want to promise readers something that won’t be found in the text at all. And I’m a little superstitious about it too. I don’t think we should talk about the book until it’s finished.

And regarding the question that I would like to ask, honestly, I think I have answered all possible questions. Even the ones I never received.

How far did you have to go before becoming one of the best-selling Czech writers?

I got my wish by writing the first book. Of course, I wanted the book to come out and people to read it, but the important thing for me was that I finished the book. It was not easy at all, to write Blind Cards it took me more than ten years and I considered the completion of the text a success.

When the publishing house Host decided to publish the Blind Map, it was the icing on the cake. I was already writing another book at the time, but I was still teaching and translating, and I didn’t expect writing to become my main job. But readers noticed my books, talked about them on social media, started getting chat invites, and my books started getting translated into foreign languages. Suddenly I discovered that I was devoting all my time to books – writing, discussing books, traveling with readers and writing again.

Photo: Vojtech Vlk

Alena Mornštajnová has taught English and translated, but so far she only writes

When did you start feeling like a writer and when did you become a successful writer?

The writer for me is Karel Čapek. I still don’t have the courage to say I’m a writer. Sounds overconfident to me. I consider myself the author of books, short stories, fairy tales, texts… And success? Everyone considers something different. It will be a success for me when I can say to myself, “Yeah, I did that. That’s exactly what I meant by the text, that’s what it should look like. “Quite simply – the result can always be better.

And how would you present yourself to a handful of people who don’t know you and your work? What books are you writing?

I try to make each of my books a little different, but all the lyrics definitely have one thing in common. Whether it’s a book set in the past or the present, whether it’s a story based on real events or full fiction, family and interpersonal relationships are always at the core. center of my attention. Family and good relationships are the most important things we have in life. And, of course, the so-called big stories that affect the lives of each of us play a big role. The pandemic and the current events in Ukraine are proof of this.

You wrote the first book for over ten years because, in your words, you had to learn how to write. What did that entail?

I knew exactly what I wanted to write, what idea to put in the book and what story to tell, but I couldn’t put into words the images I saw before my eyes. I had to learn that and it wasn’t easy at all. In fact, I still don’t write easily. I rewrite and cross out each sentence to make the text concise, yet light and nimble. That’s why writing takes me so long.

Where do you get the subjects? You have a lot of doctors in your family and certainly not as strained a relationship as in your books. So you’re not drawing from your own experience, are you?

It’s not idyllic anywhere and we sometimes go through difficult times, but it’s true that I have great support in my family. I realize that not everyone can say that. And in addition to doctors, you will find a variety of professions in my family, as everywhere else. But I don’t draw subjects from my family. I simply do not write such books, although there are certainly authors who will easily introduce readers to their private lives. Hats off, I couldn’t be that open.

But I have no problem with subjects. I live with other people, I meet them, I look around, and without realizing it, everything is stored somewhere in my head and comes to the surface at the right time when I need it.

Photo: Vojtech Vlk

Although she is one of the most popular Czech writers, she sees herself more as the author of books

How do you know that the theme is the mainstay, that it will be a good book?

I don’t think about things like that. I just write about what currently interests me and what I want to say.

What is the preparation of a book and what writing rituals do you have?

A substantial part of the work on the book will take research. So I read on the subject, watched movies, talked to witnesses or direct witnesses of events. And then I just wrote. Especially all day and with a cup of coffee.

Being a writer is a lonely job. Do you miss the company, colleagues?

I found that in my case, the writing is not lonely at all. On the contrary, I am surrounded by people perhaps even more than when I was teaching and translating. I definitely don’t suffer from loneliness, I rather seek it.

You write books about relationships, but you say critics view them differently. How? ‘Or’ What?

My books are often described as family sagas. Yes, to a certain extent it is true. But for me, the most important relationships are between the characters. That’s why I say I still have work to do, what needs to be improved.

What do readers value in your books and are you interested in the opinions of literary critics?

I hope my books are interesting for everyone. Or so I wish. I follow the responses to the book a few weeks after its publication to see how readers have received the book. I’m not looking for opinions, but of course I come across them. However, I discovered in the first book that professional readers and reviewers put their expectations into their references to the book. They don’t write if the book is good or bad and in what, but if I realized their idea of ​​what the book should look like or not. And everyone expects something different, so naturally I can’t meet all expectations, even if I write a thousand variations of a book. So there’s no point in worrying about it.

The first herds would have come to Listfall?

This is a book that made it clear that supporters of socialism and Russophiles would not be happy. And that’s what happened.

Photo: Vojtech Vlk

Alena Mornštajnová made a breakthrough with Hana. After graduating, she enjoyed a children’s book

What’s your favorite book that gave you pause? Maybe you said about November that you weren’t sure you’d finish it…

Each of my books is linked to a certain stage of my life, I have different memories associated with each one, and I love them all equally. The fall may have been harder for me because it’s a book about something that (luckily) didn’t happen (Editor’s note: the story tells how we would have lived if socialism had not ended in November 1989). I had to fake more, but at the same time try to be as probable as possible. But when I started and wrote the first chapters, I thought I was going to finish the book. I don’t like giving up anything.

Some actors do not watch their films because they can no longer modify their performance. And you and your books, would you change anything over time?

No. I never read them again. I prefer to deal with new texts.

How did you come to writing for children?

It is for me to rest and rediscover the landscape of childhood. In fact, I write them for myself rather than for the children. Strašidýlko Stráša is a book that helped me get rid of the horror that stayed with me while writing Hana. I wrote the book Teribear – Secrets of the Blue Box for the Tereza Maxová Foundation, which helps children find homes, and my red teddy bear Teri searches for her place in the world in the book. And the book La Goutte d’Aya, which will be published in the spring, was my rapture for the soul after writing it in November.

Who is your first reader? Are you consulting anyone on the subject itself?

I have the first two readers. Daughter and sister-in-law. But I don’t read anyone until I finish the book. And what I write, I usually tell my editor to know what to prepare for.

Photo: Vojtech Vlk

Thanks to her teachings, Alena Mornštajnová is used to performing in front of people and enjoys chatting with readers

According to Hana, the play was staged. And there had to be a movie. What stage is it at?

Hana is performed at the National Theater in Brno and at the Klicper Theater in Hradec Králové. Both performances are excellent. And the film is still in preparation. For the fourth year.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Writing takes up most of my time, but I also read a lot. I’ve been practicing yoga every morning for many years when I can so I go swimming I love my garden when I’m home I go to a pottery class I wish I had more time to refresh my basics of foreign languages, but I will probably be an eternal beginner in Spanish. . We play chess with a man almost every night. I am a bad but enthusiastic chess player. And talking to your friends over a cup of coffee is the best relaxation.

Covid thwarted your plans to travel with Hana – you wanted to meet readers overseas. Will you catch up?

I already have a few trips abroad and others before me, so I hope my plans won’t spoil anything anymore. I like to travel, even if it is sometimes quite tiring and stressful.

What books can we expect this year and what are you working on?

So the most frequently asked question has come! As I said, with Galina Miklinova we are finishing a children’s book about a drop of water called Aja, he goes to school for the drops of water, and before going out into the world he has to learn a lot: how to turn into hail, how to evaporate or how to avoid an unpleasant flushing procedure in the toilet. This is a joyful and quite instructive book. Above all, I want to make the children happy. There are never enough in the world. And of course, I wrote another adult book.

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