Welcome to my blog Ilene. Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about yourself, your book, The Diary of an American Expatriate.
Q. Tell us about your latest work—title, genre, etc. — and why you wrote it?
A. The Diary of an American Expatriate is a travel journal on what it’s like to reluctantly leave the US at the age of 55 (leaving two daughters behind) to be able to survive financially in another country, specifically, Malta south of Sicily. I had to leave the US because it became a choice between paying the rent or the escalating health insurance premiums. So I chose the most terrifying option of all: becoming an American expatriate. I wrote so my daughters would understand someday why I had to leave, they were the first ones to buy the book--but have never actually read it yet.
Q. How are your daughters dealing with your absence from the USA?
A. OK. They are probably dealing better with it than I am. At the beginning, we had a terrible time when I was deciding to go to Malta. Although they were in their 20s and on their own, they felt like I was abandoning them. I didn't blame them. But I explained that it was a matter of survival for me: who was going to pay for my medical care? Or if I kept paying for health insurance, who would pay for my rent? My daughters and I are very close and we still are despite the long distance. Now that my younger daughter has moved to California from the East coast where her sister lives, the distance seems more irrelevant. But thank G-d for SKYPE. But there are difficulties: when I'm going to sleep, they're waking up or at work. I get jealous when they see their father and stepmother much more often than I see them. I miss out on a lot of family events and I have to stop myself from thinking about it or I get very depressed. On the other hand, my daughters love to come to Malta to visit, and they bring their friends. It’s a great place to visit.
Q. When did you begin your writing career?
A. At the age of 12 in the 6th grade; then my panic attacks started.
Q: Could you say a little more about why your panic attacks started when you began writing at such a young age?
A. I don’t know what the connection was. I think it was a biochemical imbalance that would have started the attacks whether I started writing or not. At the beginning, I thought it would happen anytime I wrote, but, thank G-d, it didn’t happen.
Q. What is your writing process like? Do you map the whole thing out or do you just let it unfold?
A. This book--which is the first of a three-part series--was adapted from a number of posts on my blog An American in Malta.com. So the framework of the book was there. But I would think I would start writing and then map it all out--both.
Q. What kind of research was involved in writing your book?
A. It was all based on my personal experiences as an expat, so no outside research was necessary beyond what had already been done while writing many of the posts.
Q. Tell us more about your ‘anxiety level’ and the relationship to the USD rate of exchange?
A. I don’t know how I’m going to manage here in Europe when I retire--if ever--if I continue to lose a third of any USD I bring over to Malta. My US pension will be so small to begin with that cutting off a third in transferring it is truly terrifying. I just hope I make some money on the book.
Q. As an American Ilene, why did you choose to move to Europe, and why the tiny island of Malta?
A. I had to leave the US because of the high insurance premiums I was being charged. I needed a place where I could work and pay for national health insurance. At the same time, I met my current partner who was from Germany. He had been to Malta several times and loved it and planned to retire there someday. Malta seemed like a good place to move to because it was an English-speaking nation (sort of) and I had the chance to be trained as an English teacher.
Q. How do you balance the need to have time to write with the needs of family, society, etc.?
A. Well, first forget about society for now. If my book becomes a bestseller and I don’t have to work so much, then I’ll think about society. Right now, I’m having a very hard time balancing the writing with working in a language school and paying attention to my partner and daughters in the US. Since the language school job has to come first, everything else follows. But that’s why I’m leaving the language school and going freelance so that I can balance things better.
Q. Have there been any authors in particular, that inspired your writing?
A. I fashioned the The Diary of an American Expatriate after Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding.
Q. Is there a story, which is not in your book; you want to tell behind or about your work?
A. The story behind The Diary of an American Expatriate is that is shouldn’t have to happen. An American citizen who has paid taxes all her life shouldn’t have to leave her own country because of the horrific healthcare problem in the US. She shouldn’t have to leave family and friends behind to survive in another country because of health insurance.
Q. What other projects are you currently working on or about to start?
A. I will be writing two more sequels to this book, and I’m working on one called Telling Tales Out of English Language School-The Good, the Bad and the Unbelievable. It’s about the deceptive English language school industry from an insider.
Q. Please tell my readers and I about your freelance teaching?
A. The best time in my career life was when I was a freelance writer, writing for magazines and newspapers. So now I’m going to start freelance EFL teaching after having worked in Malta’s language schools for almost four years. The language schools are low-paying and only interested in the quantity of students, not the quality of teaching. I’m going freelance because I need the kind of freedom I had when I was writing--fixing my own schedule and picking my own clients. It’ll be a lot less money to begin, but that’s the price of freedom.
Q. Could you share some of your marketing strategies? Which ones are the most effective in your opinion?
A. It’s too soon to tell which strategies have worked the best yet, but creating a letterhead with a photo of the cover with a link to the title online is helpful. This way every time you send an email to someone, you send a subtle message about the book.
Q. What would be the top five, (or 3 or 1 or however many) things you would tell aspiring authors?
A. There’s only one: Just do it. Don’t talk to other writers, don’t attend writing conferences, and don’t join a writing group. All those things just help you procrastinate. Just sit down and start writing.
Q. Ilene, if you were to make lots of money on your book sales, we hope you do, would you leave Malta and go back to the USA?
A. Thanks for your good wishes! If I made a lot of money, I would definitely buy a little place in the US to be closer to at least one of my daughters. I don’t know about leaving Malta permanently, I just want a choice--the choice to be able to live in my own country.
Again, thanks Ilene for taking the time to share your knowledge with us. We appreciate you and your work. We really look forward to hearing more from you in the future and reading the sequels to your book. Good Luck!For more information:
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