An Interview Rita Toews and Alex Domokos


 

Prometheus
Alex Domokos
www.crossroadspub.com/Promthes.htm

Author Bios

Alexander Domokos was born in Szabadaka, Yugoslavia in 1921. The family fled to Hungary as refugees that same year. Alex Domokos is a versatile author of short stories, plays, novels, essays and poems, as well as an accomplished sculptor, photographer and cinematographer. He currently has five books in publication in his native Hungary. His works have been part of several Anthologies of Canadian-Hungarian authors and have been published in the Purdue University Calumet fine arts annual “Skylark”, The Douglas College Review, Lethbridge Magazine and Canadian Fiction Magazine. In March, 2001, CrossroadsPub.com published his autobiography “The Price of Freedom” and his speculative fiction work “Prometheus” in e-book format.

The only child of an upper-middle class family, as a young man he attended military college then transferred to the Gendarmery after being commissioned. After the onset of World War Two he was called to front line duty. During the seige of Buda in February, 1945, he was captured and held as a prisoner of war in Russia for six years, then endured a further four years under deportation and police surveillance in Hungary. He fled Hungary in 1956 and, with the assistance of the United Nations, settled in Winnipeg.

He retired from the University of Manitoba in 1986, and lives with his wife and daughter in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Rita Y. Toews is a Canadian writer who took up the challenge to write seriously at the age of 50. She has assisted with the writing of two novels, “The Price of Freedom” and “Prometheus” released by CrossroadsPub.com in 2001. Several of her children ‘s stories will be available through the same publishing company later this year. Rita has been published in “Zygote”, “Western People”, “Mysterical-E” and “Coming Home” magazines. As well, one of her stories has appeared on the Winnipeg Free Press web site. Rita is currently working on a mystery novel set in her hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba, with Hungarian author, Alex Domokos.

Interview

1. Tell us about your background and your writing career.

When I was growing up my father worked as a driller on oil wells–that meant our family was constantly on the move from town to town. When you’re lonely, books are very good company. For me, the desire to write grew out of my enjoyment of the stories I read.

I began my first novel when I was 23. At the time I remember thinking that when an author had an idea for a book they just started writing, and it flowed out, chapter after chapter. I soon had a rude awakening! I actually completed the first chapter, but didn’t know where to go from there. When I was 49 I decided that if I had a desire to write, then I’d better get serious about it and take some writing courses.

I’ve since had my stories published in Zygote, The Western Producer, Mysterical-E and Winnipeg Parent. Just recently I had a story accepted by Columbia Magazine. I’ve also completed three children’s books that will be published by CrossroadsPub.com later this year.

2. How did you meet Alex Domokos?

In 1999 I was taking a writing class at the University of Winnipeg and the instructor approached me about assisting a Hungarian gentleman with his memoirs. I just love the stories that older people have to tell, so I phoned Alex and we agreed to meet in a Second Cup coffee shop to talk about it. The minute he entered I knew who he was. He was so European, so formal–he even wore a vest and tie. He doffed his cap when he approached the table and bowed slightly when he greeted me. There was no way I could say “I’m not interested” to this man after such a gracious greeting!

3. The first book you have written together is “The Price of Freedom” . I understand you ghost write for Alex because of the language difficulties and you flesh out the ‘skeleton’ he has given you. Tell us about the book and how you work together: the process, the, routine.

“The Price of Freedom” is Alex’s autobiography. He’s lived an incredibly difficult life, filled with hardship, sorrow and danger. He felt he had to record his story for his daughter’s information, and as a caution for future generations. He had completed the manuscript in Hungarian but wanted it in English. His spoken English is fine, but his written English is what we call “Hunglish”–very broken English.

He gave me the full manuscript, in “Hunglish”, and each week I rewrote a chapter or two into proper English. He picked up what I had worked on during the week, took it home to read over and correct, then returned the following week and we went over it together. Sometimes I completely misunderstood what he was trying to say and we would rework it to get it right. Throughout the process I would ask questions, such as, “Was it cold then? What did it smell like? Describe it to me.” and I would work that into the writing.

The story is written utilising a number of flash-backs, a technique that can be quite confusing to a reader unless the story unfolds in proper chronological order. About a month after we began work on the project I realised that I couldn’t get a good grip on the story, so I took a long sheet of paper and laid out the major events of his life on a time-line. Then I did a tremendous amount of cut and paste and presented him with a completely re-done version of what we had accomplished to that point. I didn’t hear from him until he arrived for our next regularly scheduled visit. I was so nervous! How could I presume to tell this man how to write his life story? The first words out of his mouth were “It’s fantastic! Now I have something that anyone can read.” From that point on, as his story unfolded for me, I would rework the events into the time-line. It took us about ten months to work our way through the manuscript.

4. Alex’s next book “Prometheus” is a novel. Tell us about it.

Alex was interned in Russian labour camps for six years after World War II ended, and it was in these camps that he first conceived of the idea for “Prometheus”. In exploring what distinguished man from beast, he came to the conclusion that man’s mastery of fire elevated him above the animals. Only man can control his instinct to flee from fire and use it either for his benefit, or as power over others. The Greek demi-god, Prometheus, paid dearly for stealing fire from Zeus to give to primitive man, but as we learn in the novel “Prometheus”, man also pays a high price for his mastery of fire.

“Prometheus” is more than a future fiction novel, it’s also a comment on the mess that mankind, as a whole, has made of our world.

Once again, we worked at the manuscript on a weekly visit basis. Alex is fantastic with plot (the skeleton) but is quite light-handed with the surroundings and emotions of his characters (the flesh) in the story. That’s the part I enjoy. With my input “Prometheus” is substantially longer than his initial version of the story.

5. Where can we find the ebooks and how did you go about finding an epublisher?

When we tried to find a publisher for “The Price of Freedom” and “Prometheus”, it soon became apparent that print publishers favour previously published authors. I finally had enough of the rejection slip routine and suggested to Alex that we try an epublisher. He didn’t even hesitate before agreeing. I researched various epublishers on the internet and chose CrossroadsPub.com because of the cross-genre nature of “Prometheus”. We quickly came to appreciate both the management of the company and the community of writer’s associated with Crossroads.

From the favourable reviews we’ve received for both the novels it would seem that the print publishers were the losers when they rejected the manuscripts.

You can find sample chapters of both novels on Alex’s personal web site at www.adomokos.homestead.com As well, “The Price of Freedom” is for sale at: www.crossroadspub.com/PriceFre.htm and “Prometheus” is for sale at:www.crossroadspub.com/Promthes.htm.

6. Rita, you are a published writer in your own right, what are you working on at the moment and what are your plans for the future? i.e will there be another book from Alex too?

I hope my association with Alex goes on for many years to come! I think we’re both stronger writers working as a team then we are individually. And, at Alex’s insistence, my name will now appear along with his on the covers of our future releases.

We recently finished a little gem I’m very proud of entitled “Shades of Gray”–a novella that follows the life of a Jewish boy forced into the German army. Alex actually met a young man in the same situation while in one of the labour camps. And we’re currently working on a crime novel set in our home town of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

As for the future? My dream is that one day “The Price of Freedom” will be made into a movie. The elements of a Hollywood blockbuster are all there: war, romance, prison camps, political unrest and a harrowing escape to freedom. The sad thing is that someone had to live the story before it could be written. Alex has a wonderful way of looking at his life: “Now that I no longer have to struggle to survive, I can look back on my life as though it were a great adventure.”

Read an extract from Prometheus:

Colonel Yun-Kai nervously paced in front of the tele-lazer equipped with a direct scrambled line to his superior officer in Beijing. Although reluctant to make the call, he felt morally compelled to do so. Normally a conversation about security issues should be done face to face, but his isolated location and the swift advance of the misinformation campaign, code named Avalanche, made a meeting impossible. To question his superiors’ decision would prove disastrous if they felt he was criticizing Avalanche, yet the consequences if the strategy went bad were too horrific to contemplate.

The sparsely furnished room, a small concrete bunker forty feet beneath the ground of Kashgar, was cold, yet Yun-Kai repeatedly wiped his sweaty palms on the front of his uniform. Several times he reached for the instrument, then hesitated. Finally, after a struggle that pitted his sense of moral obligation against both his job security and his family’s honor, he activated the call to the capital.

The lean face of General Huan Piao appeared on the screen. “Have the scanners picked up something interesting, Colonel?” Piao asked in a friendly manner.

“Nothing unusual, General. But it’s not the Kashgar tracking station I’ve called about. I–I feel… ” Yun-Kai stopped, then steeled himself and continued. “I feel that it’s my duty to discuss the potential danger of campaign Avalanche with you, Sir.” He was now committed to having his concerns heard.

“Danger? What danger?”

“In the event of a ‘Red Alert’–”

“What the devil are you talking about?” The slow pace of General Piao’s words and careful enunciation underscored the anger in his voice.

Yun-Kai groaned inwardly. His worst fears were realized. He knew that earlier in the year Piao had voted against making him privy to the campaign. Piao’s vote had been overruled, and now Yun-Kai was one of the few in military circles to know that China’s rocket delivery system was, within certain parameters, a self-launching automatic respond system.

“I don’t remember when you were given the authority to comment on decisions made by your superiors! Need I remind you why you’re at Kashgar, Colonel? You were given the command of the tracking station to keep an eye on Russia’s underground weapons testing. Nothing more!”

The dramatic resurgence of democracy in the 1990′s had ended decades of Communism in Russia. However, without Communism’s firm hand, the Soviet Union had broken apart like a smashed figurine. Corrupt officials and others with power joined together to form the Russian Mafia and this criminal organization stripped whatever flesh was left on the carcass of the country. The people demanded order, and welcomed a right wing nationalistic dictator who consolidated power by whipping up resentment against the West. Russia was forcibly restored to her former power, complete with a nuclear arsenal and a fanatic at the helm.

Despite the rebuke from his superior, Yun-Kai forged ahead. “Some nervousness, stress, unforeseeable miscalculation…. General, the retaliatory systems on both sides are automatic and irrevocable.”

“You’re talking nonsense! You know very well that there’ll be no atomic explosion that could trigger an automatic reaction.”

“I realize that we won’t be triggering a nuclear explosion, General. But a third party–”

“A third party! What third party?” The color of Piao’s face deepened as his anger rose.

“India, Pakistan or even Korea! Intelligence indicates that Korea now has a nuclear rocket with the capability of reaching Beijing.” Yun-Kai was relieved to express the nub of his concern.

“It’s not my habit to discuss the intelligence issues on the tele-lazer, Colonel! Even on a scrambled line. But I can assure you that there’s not the slightest sign that India is prepared to test again at this time. The international outcry last year has put–”

“But a risk still exists!”

“Enough, Colonel! Piao thundered. “China is the most peace-loving and non-aggressive nation on earth! Russians and Westerners alike have abused us for centuries and now we have Korea breathing down our necks. It’s time we regain the position we deserve in the world! This is a nuclear age and we have no alternative but to obtain nuclear capability on a par with the super powers. Look what happened when we took back Taiwan! There’s a certain risk involved, that I will concede. Since the initial explosion at Hiroshima there’s always been a risk. Without risk we’d remain a ridiculous giant with feet of clay. Do I make myself clear?

“Of course, General.”

“Good. We’ll have to discuss your posting in Kashgar at our next meeting, Colonel.” A blank screen signaled the end of the conversation.

Copyright Alex Domokos 2001

 

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