Writer Wednesdays: Lola (with Dixiane Hallaj)

Today I’m welcoming Lola, star of the novel It’s Just Lola by author Dixiane Hallaj. You can learn more at www.itsjustlola.com. Everyone in the Northern Virginia area is welcome to attend the book release party on Friday, September 7th from 7-9 p.m. at Around the Block Books (120 Hatcher Ave, Purcellville).

Welcome, Lola, and thanks for stopping by my blog.  Without giving away too much, can you tell us a bit about your life?

Thank you for inviting me, Val.  This is my first visit to a blog and I am excited.  I find many things about today’s world exciting—especially living as a fictitious character between the covers of a book (and the bewildering circuits of an ebook).

Born in 1894 on my father’s vast Peruvian plantation, I was the youngest of seven sisters.  My mother died when I was very young, and my father married a woman who became the wicked stepmother of the stories.  When I was thirteen, a young handsome man convinced me he wanted to marry me.  I had led a very sheltered life and I trusted him.  It doesn’t take much imagination to guess what happened next.  My father, raised in the Victorian Era with its strict moral code and the idea that protecting the family honor was his sacred duty, disowned me and I was introduced to the real world in all its ugliness.

I had been designing and sewing clothes since I was old enough to hold a needle.  Think about it—a house with seven girls all wanting the latest fashion, and the sewing machine hadn’t been invented.  Those skills saved my life more than once.  More than anything, I wanted a family life with a loving husband who respected me and treated me as a partner in life’s journey.

What was the most frightening experience for you?  How did this influence your life?

That’s a tough question.  I’ve had so many frightening experiences that it’s hard to choose.  Maybe traveling by sea from Chile to Peru during a British blockade with German U-boats cruising around during World War I was the most frightening.  The knowledge that I couldn’t see the danger made it terrifying.

What compelled you to tell your story to your daughter?  Are you glad you did?  How do you feel about your story being made public?

I was so sick, I was sure I would die before morning.  It started with an urge to confess and admit the sins and mistakes I’d made in life, but as I talked, I really wanted my daughter to understand.  I wanted her to see me as a young girl and understand why I acted as I did.  Maybe I was delirious from the fever, but I had the idea that I couldn’t leave this earth without someone telling me that I had done the best I could at the time.

The next morning, I was humiliated that my daughter knew of my shame.  I swore her to silence and continued to live in fear of her saying something that would let her sister know she was illegitimate.  I gave up so much to keep that secret.  If the story had been made public at that time, I would have been devastated; I might even have taken my own life.

The world has changed a lot since then, although some things apparently never change.  Today women can read my story without condemning me.  Each one of them will see some of her own problems reflected in my story, and I hope they will take from it the message that however hopeless things may look, never give up—and never stop loving.

Tell us about your granddaughter.  I understand she’s the author of your story.

I remember Dixie as a rather frail youngster.  She was the only one of my many grandchildren and great-grandchildren that I allowed near my precious player piano.  I only really got to know her through our conversations as she was writing, but I’m pleased with the way she turned out.  It’s hard to realize that she has grandchildren of her own now.  The funny thing is that as a character in a book that ends when I’m only 34, I’ll always be younger than she is.

What other works has she written?

In addition to her academic writing, she has published a children’s story, “A Game of Peace,” and two other novels, Born a Refugee, and Refugee Without Refuge.  They are about a Palestinian family living in a refugee camp in the Occupied Territories.  The focus of the novels is on the family holding together under very harsh conditions.  I guess we all have that in common—the love of family.  You can find out more about these books on her website http://www.hallajs.com. Both books have some really great reader reviews on Amazon.

Where can readers find out more about you?

I have my own website http://www.itsjustlola.com and I even have my own email where I can answer readers’ questions.  The book about me, It’s Just Lola, has just been released and is available on Amazon, but the official launch will be September 7, 2012 at Around the Block Books in Purcellville, Virginia.  They’re having a party with door prizes and everything.  My granddaughter will be signing books, but I won’t be able to attend in person.

Thank you so much, Val, for asking me to be on your blog.  I had a lot of fun telling people more about myself.

Book Trailer

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