I’m very excited to have Camelia Miron Skiba back as my guest today, author of A World Apart. I was impressed with this book, mainly because of the realism of military life portrayed in the book, the fact that I love our men and women in uniform, and that English is Camelia’s third language. Last time she was here, she wrote an amazing post about growing up under Communism in Romania. Today she’s stopped by for an interview!
So without further ado…
What was your inspiration for this story?
The Iraq War. The story goes back to the end of 2002. It all started with some headlines in a Romanian newspaper announcing the Romanian government signed an agreement with the US government to grant complete access to one of the airbases at the Black Sea. The base was strategic in the war against Iraq starting several months later, in March of 2003. The news kind of leaked into the media because at the time there was no official announcement that the US prepared for an invasion, and so the Romanians were quite confused with the agreement.
Without knowing what was the real reason Americans were on our soil, I began making up stories… Enter Romanian Dr. Lt. Cassandra Toma deployed at the Black Sea to work with American Dr. Maj. David Hunt. She’s too outspoken and rebellious to be in the army, or as David sees her, “the mother of all mules.” She’s in the army for all the wrong reasons, which eventually will determine her actions later on. David on the other hand is the quintessence of the American soldier, who takes pride in his rank and work. That and more is about to change the minute he lays eyes on Cassandra.
I’m a softy for all people in uniform. Both wars have taken wonderful people away from their families. I feel helpless knowing that they won’t return to their loved ones, but also need to give back to those left behind. So I named all characters in this book after soldiers we lost at war, somehow trying to keep their memory alive. I can’t bring back the ones we lost, but I can give them life through my story. Their story. A World Apart.
The descriptions of military life in the book are very real. Have you ever been in the military yourself? If not, how did you do the research to make everything so realistic?
The research that went into this book took longer than it took me to write it. Literally. I had no training or experience in the medical or military field whatsoever. But both Cass and David (the main characters) entered my brain as officers and doctors. I couldn’t change their professions without losing who they were. And they wanted their story told, adamant about it as they were narrating and no other way. Sometimes as an author you just have to do what your characters want. Compromise somewhere else so you feel you have some sort of control.
My absolute luck was that all my critique partners have at one point or another worked in both fields. Jeff (Jeffery Moore, Author of the trilogy The Keepers, and Jericho Solus) was a pilot for the US Air Force. Sherry (Sherry Gammon, Author of Unlovable) was a nurse for US Air Force. And Cindy (Cindy C Bennett, Author of Geek Girl, Heart on a Chain and Immortal Mine) used to be a nurse for the ER. I counted on their experience to tell me if what I wrote was realistic or not. One of Cindy’s sons was deployed to Iraq twice and, with his input I was able to capture the life on a military base, so essential for the background of my story. I doubt my book would’ve been done as well as it had without their tremendous help.
Was there a part of this story where you felt like banging your head against a wall, or did it all flow freely for you?
The first draft contained the beginning and the end, with nothing in between. Robert, a secondary character was set to die and he was okay with this at first. Then the fighting began. He just wanted to live, go figure. Leave alone the fact that I had to redo about ten chapters—he just didn’t care. To make things even worse, Cassandra and David teamed up with him and they went AWOL—until I changed my mind. For Pete’s sake, I rescued David from an ambush in Iraq, and that was the reward? Silence? I remember sweating bullets to continue the story. I tried to negotiate their return for about a month (ice cream, cookies, wine, you name it) but to no avail. In the end, I agreed to make the changes and magically they returned. I wrote 5 chapters in one week (and had probably a few hours of sleep, but so worth it).
According to your bio, English is your third language. What other languages do you speak?
I speak Romanian, which is my maternal language. I also speak German.
What’s better – chocolate or vanilla? And why?
I’m a forever vanilla fan (ice cream or white chocolate with almonds) because it instantly puts me in a cheerful mood, reminding me of sun, warmth and joy.
What is the one thing you want readers to know about you as a person?
I don’t drive the…freeway (had an accident many years ago while driving on a freeway in Germany). Don’t ask how long it takes me to go places 🙂 (Note from Carly – we both live in the Phoenix area. I can tell you that if she doesn’t take the freeway, it takes her a looonnnngggg time to get places! 😉 )
And now about the book:
In a war that’s not hers, she loses everything. Everything she loses is because of him. Forgiveness is not an option.
Lieutenant Cassandra Toma, trauma surgeon in the Romanian National Army starts her deployment at a joint-unit air base on a wrong foot, clashing on her first day with her new commander, Major David Hunt. Her rebellious nature and sassiness rival her excellent performance in the operating room—the only reason why she’s not reprimanded, or maybe not the only reason.
They meet. They clash. A forbidden passion consumes them with the intensity of an erupting volcano, leaving her heartbroken and him with tarnished honor and pride as an officer. The only way out for David is disappearing into the dangerous warzone in Iraq. Their flame was supposed to be over when destiny brings them back under the same roof, this time with a common goal—to find Cassandra’s brother, Maj. Robert Toma, kidnapped by insurgents while on patrol.
To rescue Robert, Cassandra and David put aside their resentments, uniting forces against a common enemy. Trying to forget the painful past, Cassandra opens up to give David—and their love—another chance. What she doesn’t realize is that her anguish is the result of David’s impetuous action—one reckless choice he made for which she may never forgive him.
His mistake, his secret, could cost them both the love they’ve finally found.
“You need to calm down,” David inched closer to Cassandra, fixing her with such intensity her face caught fire.
“Calm down? You want me to calm down?” she snorted, jutting her chin up, hands on her hips.
“Yes. You need to calm down. What was that all about? Why are you so furious?”
“You want to know why I am so furious?” Cassandra grounded her feet apart and pushed her chin forward. “You really want to know? I’ll tell you why. I’m so sick of your bigheaded attitude, of your ‘I’m an American—I do whatever I want’ arrogance!” She shoved a finger at David’s chest, poking it and leaning forward. Her gaze locked on his, their faces close. “You act like some god on our grounds, like you’re doing us a big favor, honoring us with your royal presence as if we are a bunch of idiots you cannot stand. Anything that comes your way that is Romanian, you dismiss with such vehemence one might think it’s poisonous. Nothing we do or have is good enough for your nose.
“But let me tell you something, my friend. My people might not have everything so technical and so advanced, but they are good and hard-working people. They have good hearts and above all, they have dignity. When you live for generations under communism and are treated the way we were, maybe only then you can understand what it means to be so ‘primitive’. To be given nothing and be expected to work wonders. Your standards and ours obviously don’t match, but who are you to judge us? What do you know about us that gives you the right to treat us this way? Huh?
“And for your information, in case nobody had the courage to tell you, this is not our war.” She made a large circle with her arms. “We haven’t asked for it and we are doing you a favor allowing all of you to be on our soil. And not vice versa.” Cassandra straightened her back, pushed away a curl that fell on her face and held her arms up. “Here you have it, I said it.”
She walked around David, opened the door and before leaving, said without looking back, “And don’t forget to write me up.”
David shook his head, scrunching his eyebrows. “Have you looked around, Cassandra? Do you have the smallest idea where we are?”
“Yes,” she jutted her chin up, her voice a rasp, “in a rat’s hole I don’t give a damn about. I could care less about the people here, nor want anything to do with them. This is not my war. I said it before, I’ll say it again. The only reason I’m here is for Robert, and Robert only.” She inhaled deeply, squeezing dreadful tears between her eyelids. “If you don’t want to help, that’s fine. But don’t try to stop me.” She turned to walk away, but David caught her wrist. “What—”
“Look around you. I get it you don’t care about being here, or about the people, but you have a choice—the choice of staying alive and safe, here on the base. They,” he pointed at the beds, “didn’t.”
Three soldiers occupied the room, one without an arm, another without a leg. The third one had bandages around his head, half of his face disfigured with burns.
Her stomach twisted, a strong taste of bile rising in her throat.
“And what am I supposed to do, David? Just sit around and wait?” She glanced at Laura who, standing in the doorway, waved a nurse not to enter. Grateful that Laura spared her the embarrassment of being heard by others, she turned to David and said, “I have to at least try to find him, I have to.” Her eyes burned with tears, her voice choked up. “He is somewhere out there, and must be found, alive…” Her stomach turned to a fire pit, pain forcing her to bend forward.
David grabbed her by the shoulders and for a moment, Cassandra thought he’d embrace her. Instead, he blinked quickly, pushed her slightly away and rubbed her upper arms, shaking his head, his voice heavy. “Cass … You won’t be allowed to go anywhere. If your assignment is here on the base, in the hospital, then you’ll follow orders. This is not Romania.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but David raised a hand. “There’s no point in arguing, trust me.” He limped around the first bed, put gloves and a mask on and added, “Come, let’s finish the rounds.”
About the author:
I’m Chris’ wife, Patrick’s mom and Bella’s owner. During the day, I’m the assistant to the Director at SESE at Arizona State University, and romance’s slave at night.
I moved to the U.S eight years ago, following my heart and the man who stole it. I love comedies, historical dramas and happily-ever-after stories. English is not my native, not my second, but my third language.
Some fun facts about me:
Each year I participate in one big event that requires me to physically train. My biggest sportive accomplishment was the 3-day 60-mile Susan G. Komen Walk.
Annually I pick a color I decree my favorite (this year it’s salmon).
I refused to text until 2010, always preferring to hear voices rather than sending emotionless messages. Politic bores me to death and I have no tolerance for arrogance.
“A World Apart” is my second book. My debut novel “Hidden Heart” came out March 2011.
To connect with Camelia:
To Buy the Book:
Amazon (Kindle Edition): http://www.amazon.com/A-WORLD-APART-ebook/dp/B006NZWHF2
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/World-Apart-Camelia-Miron-Skiba/dp/1466226676
Barnes & Noble (Nook Book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-world-apart-camelia-miron-skiba/1108016741
Smashwords (All Formats): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/115952