Interview with Author Iris Novak

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I have always liked writing. It began with essays in the elementary school, continued with writing to at least ten pen pals from the whole world, and I had to do a lot of writing also in the companies for which I worked. In the last twenty years I wrote a lot of textbooks for my students. My memoir is a bit different writing and I must say that I enjoyed it.

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2) What inspired you to write your book?

I wished to let my children know how life was when their mother was young. I also wanted to show women that it was possible to join career and family life even in the ex-Yugoslavia where management places were reserved for men who were members of the Communist party. 

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope that readers will understand and support one of the main points, namely campaign against domestic violence. And I also hope that they will struggle to achieve their dreams just as I did although I was a poor and frightened country girl.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I adore reading biographies, autobiographies and memoirs so it was easy to decide that I should write also my own memoir. I am thrilled if I read a full description of somebody’s life and it is not necessary that this person is a celebrity. Everyone’s life is something special and worth reading.

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5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Social media are (at present) my weak point. I have recently asked one of my colleagues to help my organize Facebook and I hope that I will soon get used to it. I normally communicate by e-mail and I respond each mail that I receive: info@leila.si

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Everybody has an interesting story to tell. Do not keep it for yourself, share it with us! Read a lot to get the necessary writing skills and be honest and objective when writing.

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I would like to describe the second half of my life when I had to struggle with my son’s Crohn’s disease and with Slovenian government to establish a private college. I would also like to write about my pilgrimage Camino de Santiago (walking, about 800 kms). Perhaps I will find time to write one or two biographies of Slovenian women.

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About the Author

The author writes under the pseudonym Iris Novak. She was born in the second half of the twentieth century in Slovenia, the northern part of the then Yugoslavia. She graduated from English and German, acquired her MA in Management and PhD in Librarianship. She worked in the international business, in librarianship, was director of a school for foreign languages and finally established her own business: employment agency and a college. The author lives in Slovenia, is married and has three children. 

Readers can contact her on info@leila.si.

Iris Novak: AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN IN YUGOSLAVIA: 2 excerpts

Chapter 18, excerpt: University

The next morning, I came to the lectures again and many other students, too. The first two hours were cancelled. Then an old teacher began to lecture about old English literature. When he started speaking, my neighbors and I exchanged looks. His pronunciation was so poor, and he spoke English with such a horrible Slavic accent that we could not imagine how he’d become a university teacher. Of course, he had a PhD in English literature, but how did this justify such poor pronunciation? His lectures were boring, and he spoke so quickly that we could not write down his words. When we argued that we could not put down his words, he said that we could study old English literature in the library. The loudest student, the one from Texas, asked if we could borrow or buy one of his books, but he said that there weren’t any. 

“So, we have to take down notes, don’t you think so?”

“You can, if you can’t remember what I say,” and he looked at her as if it was obvious that her intelligence quotient was under average. “But do not write everything, put down just what is essential. Only perfect fools put down every word that the teacher says.”

Some students tried to show that they were intelligent, so they stopped writing, but the majority of us silently admitted that we were simpletons and that we could not differentiate which of the teacher’s words were important, and which were not. All those who did not write notes and learn them by heart failed their exams. Then they borrowed our notes and some managed to pass.

This approach to teaching was the norm in Yugoslavia and has continued at the university level in Slovenia, with few exceptions until now. Even now, many people are not aware that students deserve fair treatment and respect. If one starts to say that teachers should focus upon students, he often hears that only really strict teaching, as was used in the previous century, forms really good professionals. What brainwashing we endured! 

Chapter 50, excerpt: Everything Changed

Our youngest child brought a lot of happiness to our family. Both girls were old enough that they could sometimes take care of him, feed him or change his nappies. Lili was nine, Vali was six and Martin was two. The whole family observed how he started to raise his head, fix his eyes and stare at something for a long time, how he started to crawl and then walk. 

            During his first months, he enjoyed it when Tone held him in his arms, and it made my heart thrill when I watched them. As soon as Martin could sit at the table, we placed him in a special chair as an equal member of the family. 

            Each time I served a meal, my little boy showered me with compliments: “You cook so well, how beautiful, how wonderful you are!” 

            The child gave me more praise in one week than my husband in our whole life. I mentioned that Tone could try to imitate Martin, and Tone started with his old excuses, saying that he was not like other men who flattered women. He always spoke the truth and I should appreciate it, instead of expecting stupid courting behavior that was beneath him.  

“I’m not speaking about courting. What I want to say is that you could sometimes praise me if I am well-dressed or if I cook something good. I do not expect you to bring me flowers.”

“Why should I speak such nonsense? You are certainly well-dressed, because your closet is full of clothes. I just don’t know why you always look as if you were going to a business meeting or to a concert. Other women dress in a sportier way. And I also don’t know why I should praise the food that you prepare. I eat everything, isn’t that enough?” 

Martin interrupted him: “Mum cooks well, the best in the world.”

Tone stared at him: “Well, I wouldn’t believe that some people can flatter women even when they still wear nappies.”

“That’s not flattering – it’s a sign of love. The little creature loves me and tells me that, while you don’t care about me anymore.”

“Oh, come on, don’t speak like that. OK, if you want to, I will from now on start saying that I love you and that you cook well. Tomorrow, in the evening, I will be the first to praise you.”

On the next day, he came to dinner, sat down, placed his spoon beside his plate and tried to invent an appropriate compliment. 

But Martin already stroked my hand and chirped: “What a good cook you are. I love you so much.”

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