Friday Night Drinks with… Carolyn Mandache

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It’s Friday Night Drinks time again and this week I am joined by Author… Carolyn Mendache.

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Welcome to the blog, and thence you for joining me for a drink this week. First things first, what are you drinking?

Hi Julie, my Friday night tipple is a gin cocktail from Eden Mill. They do all different kinds, but I’m partial to the Gin and Rose Lemonade one.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Aside from my writing, my husband and I also run a business called time2dine, working closely with local restaurants, so I’d be taking you to one of the fantastic restaurants on offer in Glasgow. Chatting over great food in an attractive setting always seems a good option to me, and we’ve all missed out on this for so long it’s even more enjoyable now!

Great food is always a winner with me! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

This question I’m finding really tough! Ok, I’ll go with my gut instinct and say Michael McIntyre for the male, as he is one of the funniest people on the planet in my view and would be sure to entertain us. The female would be Sarah Rafferty in character as Donna from Suits, as she’s funny, smart, has terrific one-liners and wonderful dress sense.

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

My current writing is a follow up to my debut novel, title still to be decided! To go back to the start, my inspiration for Behind the Curtain was to try and make people re-think Romania and attitudes towards immigrants. 

My husband was born in Romania, and the media is often very negative in portraying Eastern Europe, so I hope to try change that. The book is a fictional account of his life in Romania before meeting me and moving to Scotland. 

Our four children are another reason for writing the book, I want them to grow up to be proud of both their Scottish and Romanian roots. I found researching absolutely fascinating, there is only one year in age difference between Florin and I, but our childhood experiences were so different and I learned a lot about the country’s history, culture and customs. Florin’s childhood in a communist country was not an easy one, but it wasn’t unhappy either, so it was important to me to fully show this.

Now that I’ve caught the writing bug, I’m well underway with the next book which starts where Behind the Curtain finishes off, with Florin meeting me. This book is written from my own perspective, rather than Florin’s, and it is a lot of fun reminiscing about all of our experiences as a multi-cultural family, both in Scotland and Romania. My aim for my books is to encourage people to be more open-minded, not fall into the trap of believing stereotypes and to form opinions of people based on who they are, not where they are from.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment is yet to occur, as I have been invited to my local Waterstones branch to sign my book once it arrives in stock! This really will be a dream come true moment for me as it’s great selling online, but to see my own physical copy of my book sitting signed in Waterstones will be something truly special.

My biggest challenge was to go for it, and actually publish Behind the Curtain. For quite a while I worried I did not have the right to publish a book based on someone else’s life, in a country I had only visited. In the end, my motivation was strong enough to help me overcome those worries, and I am proud of the book with very positive feedback so far. Another challenge was deciding how many Romanian phrases to include without putting off or confusing British readers, but I think I got the right balance.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

If I’m brave enough for the next book I’d love to do a pre-order campaign as pre-release sales would feel fantastic! Other than that, media coverage or being noticed and critiqued by an author I admire would also be of huge value.

What are have planned that you are really excited about?

During lockdown, I joined an online creative writing group with Indie Authors World, who helped me publish my book. We produced a collaborative book of novellas, each one of us taking on a different writing prompt, and the book will be published soon. I really enjoyed this project, and tackled a romance story, something I normally would have shied away from. The book will be called Allsorts due to the variety of writing, and profits will go to Calum’s Legacy, a meningitis charity. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I would have to say Cocoa Beach, Florida. I have so many happy family memories from there as we’ve visited a few times. It’s next to the Kennedy space centre, and the excitement of our kids watching a real life rocket launch was pretty amazing. Dolphins jumping in the sea, and of course, a magical trip to Disney World, not to mention the fantastic outlet shopping. Perfect holiday destination all in all. It does rain quite a lot there in July, but it’s warm rain that’s over fast, not like the Glasgow downpours I’m used to!

The place I’ve always wanted to visit is Hawaii, I love the idea of enjoying a Luau, experiencing the food, music and culture. The scenery, colourful flowers, and general laid back feel it seems to have would be things I’d really enjoy. Definitely on my bucket list!

I absolutely love Florida! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I met my husband Florin, the main character in my novel, at a foam party in Spain! I’m guessing not many people can say that’s how they met their other half. 

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Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, but I’d have to buy you a copy as I wouldn’t part with my signed one! Picoult is one of my very favourite authors and I always enjoy her thought provoking books with topical themes and moral dilemmas. This particular book I received at a talk by the author herself at Kelvingrove art galleries in Glasgow. The spectacular setting, as well as her insights into how she tackled writing the book made for a very entertaining evening, and I loved meeting her. Tackling racism, the storyline centres around a black nurse accused of causing the death of a newborn baby, I won’t say any more, but it’s a powerful read and one that I would class as a “must read”.

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When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

I have copy of this, I must get round to reading it some day! So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

With 4 kids it’s safe to say I avoid hangovers at all costs! A big glass of water at bedtime is a must and if I’m not feeling too great the next day, strong coffee and lots of fresh air always helps.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Well, a weekend for me has to have a lie in since it’s a break from the early morning school runs. Saturday afternoons I like to spend as a family, a walk around the Kelpies then coffee and cake is always a good option, followed by either dinner out, or someone else cooking for a change! Sundays I like to find some time to read, meet up with friends, watch some TV (currently bingewatching The Rookie) and catch up on washing and ironing…although you said perfect weekend, so in that case my magic wand would have taken care of that.

Sounds wonderful. may I borrow your washing up wand, please? Thank you for joining me, I’ve really enjoyed our chat.

Carolyn’s book, Behind The Curtain, is available now in ebook and paperback formats and you can buy a copy here.

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Florin was born in Iasi, Romania. As a young boy, he lived through rationing and the harsh conditions of the Ceaucescu regime, but always with the love of family and friends to balance out the hardships and mask the struggles.

As he gets older, he tries to untangle his own beliefs from those forced upon him… was a Communist way of life a bad thing? Were the stories about the Roma people true? Was life in the west really as depraved as his country would have him believe? 

Aged 11, on Christmas Day, Florin witnessed the exalted Ceaucescus shot to death on TV, the true feelings of the Romanian people finally stripped bare. From that historic moment, he knew his life in Romania would be a changed one. 

This is a story of the strength of people in the face of dictatorship, how love can sustain people in even the worst of circumstances. Florin’s story and that of his family allow you to see behind the curtain.

Carolyn Mandache is an author and business owner living in Scotland. “Behind the Curtain” was inspired by her interest in Romania, where her husband Florin was born; a country she has come to think of as a second home. Carolyn’s aim with her book is to provide an insight into what life was like “behind the Iron curtain” not as historical fact, but as fiction. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of Strathclyde, and can speak Romanian at conversational level. The author enjoys travelling with her husband and children, with a particular soft spot for Spain…where she met Florin on holiday.
 
You can find out more about Carolyn and her work on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
 
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