Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Is it Dystopian or Historical? Or both

MEET URVE TAMBERG

As the daughter of immigrant parents, Urve grew up in Toronto hearing stories about the history and culture of Estonia. She led a double life for most of her childhood. She was a normal Canadian student during the day, and an Estonian at night and on weekends. Her “Canadian” friends didn’t understand why she had to go to Estonian school on Friday nights, or rhythmic gymnastics on the weekends. And where exactly was this tiny country that had been forgotten by the world for decades after the Soviets occupied it?

Urve didn’t realize that she wanted to be a writer so she pursued a career in physiotherapy, followed by a career in management which spanned both the public and private sectors of health care. Along the way, she developed and implemented business plans, marketing plans, and strategic plans for a multinational corporation, as well as hospitals.

Urve has always been inspired by little-known stories of ingenuity, bravery, and stubbornness, so a few years ago she started writing historical fiction for teens.  Her first book, The Darkest Corner of the World, is based on true stories of the Estonian people and their struggle to survive during the Soviet and Nazi occupations during World War II.

THE DARKEST CORNER OF THE WORLD

ISBN 978-1-77086-214-2


Who can you turn to for help, when your only choice is between two evils? 

In 1941, Estonia is under the iron rule of the Soviet Union. Fifteen-year-old Madli is struggling to understand why she can't raise her country's flag, why soldiers are waiting at every corner, and why her father was taken away in the middle of the night. Her annual vacation to Hiiumaa Island for the Midsummer celebration is the one thing she has to look forward to.

But in the midst of the celebrations, the Nazis invade the Soviet Union, and are on a path that will take them through Estonia. When Madli hears about a band of forest-dwelling freedom fighters determined to overthrow the Soviets at any cost, she is forced to decide whether she'd rather live under the evil regime she knows, or help another evil regime in hopes her father will be freed and her nation's story heard.

The Darkest Corner of the World is available at Indigo-Chapters locations, and independent bookstores across Canada, as well as on-line at Chapters and Amazon.ca.

An excerpt can be found on www.thedarkestcorneroftheworld.com

PRAISE FOR THE DARKEST CORNER OF THE WORLD

From CM magazine, Volume XIX, No. 3. September 21, 2012: Highly recommended (***1/2 out of 4)


With a focus on the Baltic nation of Estonia, Urve Tamberg's debut novel, The Darkest Corner of the World, offers intimate insight into what is generally an overlooked and unrepresented subject in the annals of World War II history: the plight of Eastern Europe under Soviet occupation. 
In the tradition of well-written historical fiction, Tamberg has managed to strike a healthy balance between fact and fiction throughout; the incorporation of the former is used appropriately not so much as a device to develop or drive the plot forward, but more so as a means to provide richness and authenticity to the time and proper context to events discussed. And while the evidence of research is clear, it does not manifest itself directly in the form of dates, places, and historical people per se. Wisely, a great deal of effort is invested in building up Estonian culture, customs, and traditions, much of which is lovingly dispensed through the advice and folklore of Madli's grandparents. In a similar manner, Tamberg's development of physical setting, that of the Estonian countryside and wilderness, works wonderfully to breathe life into the story. The rugged landscape and environment of Hiiumaa Island (the location of Madli's summer retreat) captures perfectly the resiliency of the Estonian people during the war and, by extension, that which is inherent in all humanity when confronted with crisis. Tamberg is able to impart this beautiful message throughout the story right up to the very last words.
  A worthy addition to the historical fiction collection of any library, The Darkest Corner of the World may also be an appropriate selection for use in the classroom, ideally as a supplement to more traditional materials and teachings of World War II history. 

For photos of the locations where the book is set, please visit Urve's Pinterest page.



WHERE TO FIND URVE ONLINE:

Twitter: @utamberg
Facebook: Urve Tamberg - Author News

GET TO KNOW URVE TAMBERG

MAUREEN:  What’s your favorite holiday?

URVE:  Thanksgiving. I love to cook, eat, and socialize. We spend it at the cottage with family and dogs, so it's a wonderfully relaxing day filled with eating, drinking, and merriment. My kind of day.

MAUREEN:  Where do you most like to read and how often?

URVE:  In the car waiting for my kids, in the kitchen cooking dinner, in line-ups at the supermarket. Pretty much everywhere.

MAUREEN:  What’s next for you as an author?

URVE:  A mystery set in the Soviet Union in 1990. This will also be a YA book.

MAUREEN:  What’s your favorite hobby?

URVE:  Cooking

MAUREEN:  What’s the best vacation you’ve ever been on?

URVE:  Costa Rica with the family a few years ago. We ate breakfast everyday in the open air restaurant and only few feet away, monkeys would be swinging from the trees. It was such a beautiful country with amazing wildlife. We saw a sloth on the ground. Apparently sloths come down from the trees every couple of weeks to, ahem, do their business. We basically swarmed the poor thing and watched him navigate a chicken wire fence. Being a sloth, it took him quite a while and I have dozens of pictures of him.

MAUREEN:  Cats or dogs?

URVE:  Definitely dogs.

MAUREEN:  What’s your favorite cartoon character?

URVE:  Bugs Bunny. He's smart, clever, and a bit snarky.

MAUREEN:  What turns you off like nothing else?

URVE:  Rudeness, ignorance, an unwillingness to learn new things, close mindedness, bullying. Shall I go on?

MAUREEN:  What sound or noise do you love?

URVE:  Rain

MAUREEN:  Vanilla or chocolate?

URVE:  Chocolate. What's vanilla?

MAUREEN:  Ha! What’s your favorite dessert?

URVE:  Interesting...I'm skipping to all the food questions. Chocolate. Maybe chocolate cheesecake.

MAUREEN:  Did you belong to a clique in high school? Which one of the standard high school stereotypes did you best fit in to?

URVE:  Nerdy only child. There was no clique for that group, especially in a neighbourhood with large immigrant families.

MAUREEN:  What is your favorite tradition from your childhood that you would love to pass on or did pass on to your children?

URVE:  Talking. It may sound weird, but with technology, our conversations seem so much shorter. My kids want me to answer questions, not discuss topics. When I was growing up, there was no other way to communicate so we talked. I remember the phone rang constantly. Now the only time it rings is if it's a telemarketer. I enjoy all the instant communication of e-mail, and Facebook, and Twitter, but nothing beats a good face-to-face conversation .

MAUREEN:  Salsa or guacamole?

URVE:  Guacamole

MAUREEN:  What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

URVE:  I love communicating ideas, and stories to people. And then hearing their feedback and thoughts. For me, the writing is one side of the conversation. The other side of the dialogue is hearing from my readers.

GOTTA ASK -- GOTTA ANSWER 

MAUREEN:  How do you pronounce your first name, and what is its origin?

URVE:  "Ir-va" for my English friends. It's pronounced slightly differently in Estonian, and I'm not sure those sounds exist in English. Both my parents were immigrants from Estonia. I used to hate my name but now I love it. I think I've grown into it. As an author, it makes me easy to find on the Internet. It also means I need to behave myself since I can be traced so easily. :)

A QUESTION FOR READERS

URVE ASKS:  Lately, I've been thinking about the similarities between dystopian novels and historical fiction? Let me give you a few thoughts, and then I'd love to know your views.

I'm intrigued by the similarities between some of concepts in dystopian literature, and the reality of living under communism in the twentieth century. Teens may not realize that events they perceive as dystopian actually happened in the twentieth century. Fear of deportation, arrest, and torture were all tools that communist dictators have used to keep the population in line.

Are the following statements fact or fiction?
  •  Fifteen nations are controlled by a centralized political structure. Most of these nations were forcibly occupied.
  • Citizens are not allowed to travel outside their country. 
  •  Possession of food is a crime.

Sounds a bit like The Hunger Games, doesn't it? Panem is a post-apocalyptic nation where the countries of North America once existed. The Capitol exercises political control over the rest of the nation.

But all these statements are true.

For most of the twentieth century, the Soviet Union was controlled by a centralized bureaucracy based in Moscow. The USSR was comprised of fifteen nations including the former republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania which had been forcibly occupied by the Soviets.

The people of the USSR were rarely allowed to travel to the West, and if they did, members of their family were held back as insurance so that the person would return. If they didn't return, their family faced arrest, torture, and deportation.

In the early 1930's, millions of people starved to death under Stalin's rule. In August 1932, a law came into force that stipulated all food was state property. Possession of food became a crime. Peasants were not allowed to take food home from the fields.

There are many more examples and I hope talking about these real-life scenarios might pique people's interest in history. I think it's a good way to start a discussion. 

What do you think?

GIVEAWAY

Urve is giving away a copy of THE DARKEST CORNER OF THE WORLD to one lucky commenter!

Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only unless specifically mentioned in the post. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants. Winners of drawings are responsible for checking this site in a timely manner. If prizes are not claimed in a timely manner, the author may not have a prize available. Get Lost In A Story cannot be responsible for an author's failure to mail the listed prize. GLIAS does not automatically pass email addresses to guest authors unless the commenter publicly posts their email address.

16 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your book release, Urve!

    I think you pose an interesting question. I do see similarities between historical and dystopian fiction, but I think about from a slightly different direction--probably because I've written a book that's getting labelled dystopian (I think of it as post-apocalyptic suspense).

    I think one reason that dystopian fiction is so popular, especially with young people, is that it allows readers to think about current or historical issues and ideologies--social, political, religious, economic--without getting caught up in the specific politics.

    That said. I think historical fiction is hugely important. (Plus it's a category I've always enjoyed reading.) Kids who might not pay attention to history in school, (or adults who didn't), can learn about past events in a more immediate and emotional way through fiction. I'll never forget, for example, reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the first time... And I'm still learning about history through fiction all the time.

    Thanks again for visiting!

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    1. Thanks Maureen - for hosting me on your blog, and your comment. I think you're correct about your reason for the popularity of dystopian novels. It does allow for the "what if" question to be asked, without immersing oneself in the politics, and often terrifying reality. It's always easier to discuss events in a hypothetical manner.

      But I hope that people don't forget the history. I never liked history in school because I thought it was boring. But somewhere along the way, I realized I wanted to know what people thought and felt, rather than memorize dates and battles. When I write, I try to explore the day to day aspects of living in conflict, and hope that approach resonates with people.

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  2. Interesting idea, Urve. Funny how these connections can be drawn between real and fictional events. Myself, I love books that explore an alternate history. They're often dystopian, too. The "what-ifs" are fascinating to consider. But even real-life events in history have many dystopian moments, elements and events that clever authors are quick to tailor into fiction.

    Here's a historical snippet that always blows my mind. Only 150 years ago, boarding houses, employers and stores often posted signs that read "No dogs or Irish." Pretty unbelievable twist on "No shirts, no shoes, no service."

    Urve, I'd be delighted to win a copy of your book. Your story of the Baltic states during WWII sounds fascinating.

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    1. Thanks, Heather. It is unbelievable what was "normal" even fifty years ago. I'm thinking of segregation in the southern USA. And your example about the Irish is similar. It makes you think about what we consider "normal" today. What will people one hundred years from now about politics, and our technology.

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  3. It's wonderful to discover a new Canadian author. I really like the subject of your book. WWII history and the 1940s era is dangerous and interesting. I can believe that sometimes dystopian events have happened. Many horrific events are indeed facts. I have heard a bit of people starving under Stalin (the magnitude of it is sad) and other sad things. They do make you think and try to understand the world and its people better.

    cambonified(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for you comment. It is unbelievable what kind of conditions people lived with only a few decades ago. It does make you appreciate our freedom, and democratic system.

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  4. Congratulations on your book release, Urve.
    And welcome to GLIAS. Very cool interview!
    ~Angi

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  5. Thanks so much! It's a pleasure to visit.

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  6. Urve, my gosh, there is little difference in the examples you cite. Well done. Welcome to Get Lost in a Story. We're delighted you could join us. What an education. Adding The Darkest Corner of the World to my be read pile!

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    1. Thanks for having me. And I'm glad you found the examples interesting. It's a bit frightening, isn't it?

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  7. Congrats on your new book!

    That's an interesting view. I just finished watching The Hunger Games. (I like the book better than the movie but it was interesting to see the visuals....) And yes, sometimes it is scary how similar history and fiction are!

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  8. I also like the book better than the movie. Suzanne is such a good writer and I had no trouble visualizing the setting and characters.

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  9. Intriguing question. They do seem pretty similar, especially with the examples you gave.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for the comment. Like the saying says...Truth is stranger than fiction.

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  10. Congratulations on your book, Urve! Sounds absolutely fascinating, I'm off to find a copy!

    My family is your Baltic neighbor, Lithuania. My folks and their respective families immigrated to the US through Chicago and New Orleans (they weren't married yet). I grew up in a Lithuanian community. You mentioned you love to talk and that's what your family did when you were young...my family was the complete opposite. I heard few stories of wartime and USSR, except when Germany waged war and both families left Lithuania. I'm so envious of the stories your family told!

    Much success with this book and many others. I'll be looking for them!



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  11. Thanks Audra - nice to meet a fellow Balt! It's a small community. I have to admit that I didn't pay much attention to their stories when I was young. Typical teenager. It was only in the last few years that I've really become fascinated by the history. It's so complicated, and most of the stories are not told. I think many immigrants tried to put the experience behind them, and focus on their new life.

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