Every now and then you come across an author whose writing just blows you away … and I have been fortunate to have read debut novels from a couple of authors this month whose talent for writing have been beyond excellence. This week I want to introduce you to Isabeau Kelm , author of “At The Blue Hour”, an historical novel set in Moldavia in 1583. It is a genre of book that I enjoy on occasions and this had not only history, but it was based in a part of Europe whose history is rich & vibrant and I hadn’t read many books based in that area. I love Isabeau’s style of writing. It is a classical literature style, full of description and clever use of words to set the mood of the day. “At The Blue Hour” isn’t an “easy reading “ style novel … the book slowly reels you in to the shadowy world of medieval Moldavia ….for me it got me hook, line & sinker by chapter 3 or 4. This book is English language/literature at its finest and would appeal to those readers who enjoy reading the classics. I was fortunate enough to have been sent a copy of the book by Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing, and my views on the book are my genuine reactions. I loved it so much I’m looking forward to reading the follow ups…
After reading the book I just had to chat to the author! Hi Isabeau & welcome!
Hello. My name is Isabeau Kelm and I live in Madrid, Spain, with my fiancé and our daughter. I completed my Bachelor’s Degree programme in Art History at the University of Glasgow and later earned an MA in Creative Writing at Teesside University, Middlesbrough. I derive my ideas from my numerous travels and my personal interest in my own biographical roots. You can find my creative non-fiction works that explore my family history and my collection of poems under my pseudonym ‘I.W. Zilke’.
Your degrees in Art History & Creative Writing obviously helped to set the ball rolling towards a career as a writer, but what truly inspired you to become writer in the first place?
I honestly think I was born with the desire to write. Whatever I see or hear inspires images and conversations in my mind that I often express in poems or stories. Like many other authors, I am prone to daydreaming and have been writing since I learned how to write, but it was actually my mother who encouraged me to write professionally and I am forever grateful to her for believing in my writing abilities.
“At The Blue Hour” is your latest novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. It was an interesting historical novel, inspired by true events, set in Moldavia in 1583. The young gypsy slave, Irina, who catches the eye of the Prince, had me mesmerised with her positivity; the Prince, who happened to be the great grandson of Vlad Dracula, annoyed me slightly with his possessiveness; Cornelius, the magician/advisor/teacher, what a character – I didn’t know whether to pity him or tell him to reveal his true feelings (never mentioned but I sensed the feelings!); the monks who enslaved Irina & her mother; the absent father; the villagers who were scared of Irina & her ilk, abusing them…. Which character/s did you enjoy writing about the most? Which character was the hardest?
“At the Blue Hour” is actually my very first novel that I have written in German and published in 2015. It has been translated into English by my sister Eugenia Zilke, a certified translator, and edited by two professional editors. A Russian translation of the novel is available for purchase as well thanks to my mother Ida Zilke who has translated it.
Since then I have published the sequel of “At the Blue Hour” which is called “At the Golden Hour” (there will be soon an English and a Russian translation for sale), and two creative non-fiction books and a collection of poems under my other pseudonym ‘I.W. Zilke’ which I have written in English. Two of these works contain illustrations created by my fiancé whose artistic name is ‘Enjolras’.
Right now I am working on the third book of the many adventures of Irina Botezata, the protagonist of “At the Blue Hour”
Before I answer your questions, I would like to thank you for reading my book. I am very happy that you found the story interesting.
Now to your questions. Honestly I enjoyed writing about all of my characters as each of them has very different morals and beliefs. This made the creation of them challenging but interesting at the same time as I had to tap into all the different elements of my subconscious.
However, I enjoyed writing about Radu the most, Irina’s childhood companion and friend, because he is a rather mysterious and yet down-to-earth character.
The hardest character to write about was actually Irina because I constantly tried my best to portray her in a realistic manner, with flaws and all, in order to refrain from creating a stereotypical “Mary Sue”-protagonist. To me it was important to show that we as humans are all morally ambiguous to a certain degree, i.e. nobody is perfect. Additionally, she has experienced many traumatic events in her life, so I also had to envision what these experiences do to a person, how the personality of such a person evolves etc.
What is it about the turbulent history of Eastern & South Eastern Europe that inspires you?
I was born in Soviet Russia, in Siberia to be precise. However, I was a toddler when my entire family moved to Germany. Since then I have visited Russia only twice. It is a vast, unexplored land in my mind which has been created by the many stories my parents and grandfather told me. I guess it is the exploration of my roots that fascinates me so much about Eastern European history.
As far as South Eastern Europe is concerned, not much is known about their history in the West. As soon as you start reading about the complex historical events that took place in this part of the world over the centuries, I am surprised that not more Western authors are inspired to make use of the vastness of inspiration South Eastern European history offers.
Although historical novels are your writing genre, do you enjoy writing other genres? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?
First of all, I would like to stress that although “At the Blue Hour” is seet in the past, I rather consider it to be a Bildungsroman with a touch of Magical Realism. The main theme of the novel is really the learning process of Irina and the exploration of what freedom really means. Nevertheless, my readers will learn a lot about the history of 16th Century Moldavia and of the Ottoman Empire as I tried to be as historically accurate as possible, so the novel can be considered a historical novel.
As mentioned before, I also write creative non-fiction books and poetry under my pen name ‘I.W. Zilke’.
But there is one genre that I would really like to have a go at – Science Fiction! My fiancé and I were thinking of a joint collaboration, that is he (a cyber security engineer)will help me by updating me with the newest and future advances in technology, and I will write the story. We would like to create a book that explores the many ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence that are sure to follow with the unstoppable advances in that field.
Are there any new novel ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?
Yes, right now I am conducting historical research for the third book about the adventures of Irina Botezata and have actually written some scenes already. In the near future I would also like to finish my book about my family history, spanning four generations, that I have begun writing as part of my MA dissertation. And of course my very first Science Fiction novel.
Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?
I am a bookworm, although now it is getting increasingly difficult for me to find time to read as I have a toddler at home to take care of as well. Usually I read when riding the subway. That is why I almost always carry a book in my purse.
My favourite author of all time is the French writer Marguerite Duras. I have read almost all of her books and each of them speaks to my heart and lets my soul sing and weep. She was able to write about her life in such a poetic and at the same time brutally honest way that I consider her to be one of the bravest writers in history.
To be honest, I love reading the classics – Maxim Gorky, Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Vladimir Nabokov…
I prefer reading actual books, but I can definitely see the advantage of reading on an e-book reader. My fiancé gave me one as a Christmas present and it is really amazing how many books can fit in one of these devices. However, nothing tops the smell of old books or the ability to make notes on the pages or underline some lines that I find particularly beautiful.
Is “At The Blue Hour” available to purchase worldwide?
Yes, it is available to purchase worldwide.
If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?
I have already visited almost all the places that I will mention or have already mentioned in my books. However, I have been obsessed to travel to the Congolese jungle since I have read Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. I think this is one of the few places on earth that harbours exciting secrets in many senses. Although I am not planning to write about Congo (maybe in the future?), I am still certain that this travel experience would give me writing inspiration for decades.
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
I do not shop often, although I love fashion! I don’t follow every trend though.
You would normally find me wearing a plain-coloured dress in pastel or navy blue, and high-heeled shoes. Recently I have discovered mom jeans. They are surprisingly comfortable!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?
As far as designers are concerned, I love almost all the dresses created by Karen Millen. In order to find exclusive wedding gifts, the Ralph Lauren online shop is my go-to place. Zara is my number one high-street choice. Regarding personal care, I am obsessed with L’Occitane and Guerlain products. As a matter of fact, my signature perfume is called “L’Heure Bleue” by Guerlain, which means The Blue Hour. Talking about taking your own books to the next level!
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
Block heel sandals! No matter the brand, my only requirement is that they should be comfortable enough to walk around in them in the Spanish Summer heat for more than one hour. Next on my shoe wish list are white Christian Louboutin shoes for my wedding that we plan for next year.
Boots or Shoes?
Both because boots are useful in the winter and shoes are for having fun in Spring and Summer.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Yes, I would like to share some links where you can find out more about my works and me:
Thank you Isabeau – I’m so looking forward to reading about more of Irina’s adventures! Also I am so glad to meet a fellow kreader who not only enjoys reading the “heavy” classics but has also read Joseph Conrad’s “Heart Of Darkness”. It was this book that urged me to visit darkest Africa … although I have yet to experience Congo but I have visited the continent in the North, West & East so far…
And “At The Blue Hour “ has now added the countries in East & South Europe to my never ending bucket list…..
Thank you to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for a copy of the book “At The Blue Hour “.
All photographs have been published with kind permission of Isabeau Kelm.