Patricia Furstenberg is a Romanian-South African author who is a medic by trade and a writer by heart. Among her beloved books are the historical bestseller Joyful Trouble, the page-turning thriller Silent Heroes, the history and folklore-inspired Dreamland, and the beloved children’s book The Cheetah and the Dog. Her writing is infused with recurring themes of unconditional love and realities of war, as she is drawn to the enigmatic lives of people and dogs entangled in historical events. Patricia’s profound love of history have led her writing journey to her native Romania: she created the #Im4Ro hashtag, dedicated to sharing uplifting stories. Patricia resides in South Africa with her family.
Time to chat with Pat!
What is your latest book?
My most recent book is Dreamland, Banat, Crisana, Maramures, Transylvania, 100-WORD STORIES, Folklore and History.
In Dreamland you’ll go on a captivating journey through stories that were lived, legends that explain why, and myths that reveal who these extraordinary people were. These stories are steeped in the rich history of Banat, Crisana, Maramures, and Transylvania, all of which have seen the ebb and flow of centuries and civilizations.
This is a land where history flows like a free river, boundaries blur like a bird in flight, and stories stretch like endless clouds across the vast horizon. Dacians and Romans, Huns, Peri, Magyars, Transylvanian Saxons, Szeklers, Jewish refugees, Ottoman invaders, hajduks, emperors, and priests – these diverse voices have shaped Dreamland‘s history, culture, and architecture.
Today, identities are frequently lost in the chaos of our modern world. Dreamland invites us to look back and reconnect with the stories passed down through generations. It’s an opportunity to meet people who remember their ancestors’ stories, preserving the seeds of truth and reconnect with the tales passed down through generations.
Within the pages of Dreamland you’ll discover the historical provinces of Banat, Crișana, Maramureș, and Transylvania, each with its own distinct personality and heritage. Discover Banat’s pastoral landscapes, Crişana’s golden rivers, Maramureş’s snow-covered wonders, and Transylvania’s multicultural tapestry.
This is not a traditional history book or a collection of stories. Instead, it is a collection of vivid impressions, lived experiences, profound reflections, and eloquent snapshots of an extraordinary life. I tried to brings these stories to life with passion, lyricism, and a dash of wit.
Is your recent book part of a series?
Yes. Dreamland is the second title in the Romania in 100-WORD STORIES, Folklore, and History series, and it transports the reader to Dreamland, Romania’s mystical western territory.
I see that you’re an animal lover and that animals are a big part of what you write. Please, tell us more.
Absolutely! My love of animals is more than just a theme in my writing; it’s a deep passion that runs through the very fabric of my literary creations.
When I was growing up in Romania, we lived in an apartment and shared some pretty close quarters with our dog Tar, a German Shorthaired Pointer of liver color. Anyone who has ever cared for a puppy will recall that they rarely sleep through the night at first. Here, in South Africa, we were lucky to share our lives with three generations of dogs, most of them with some kind of Rottweiler blood in them, so cuddly teddy bears. Our last two girls, loving and playful, came from the animal shelter. Today, I cherish those memories. I drew on them when I wrote my books of fog poems or my children’s stories about a dog and a different wild animal!
Interested in learning more about the millennial bond between man and dog I researched dogs involved in wars, which inspired me to write two more of my books. Even my present work in progress has dogs, and it’s a historical fiction trilogy set in medieval Transylvania.
What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?
Short story writing is like trying to fit a giraffe into a phone booth—you have to be concise. Like catching a unicorn, you only have a nanosecond to hook readers with an opening line. And what about the characters? They’re similar to speed dating in that you want love at first sight in just a few paragraphs. Then there’s the art of subtext, which is like an Easter egg hunt for readers. But we must resist the novel urge; it’s like trying to keep a bonsai from growing into a forest. And what about titles? They’re our one-time deal, like naming your child. Furthermore, feedback frequently leaves us wanting more—just like our readers! Finally, we strive to leave a lasting impression, similar to how a one-act play lingers long after the curtain falls.
So, writing short stories? It’s a combination of discipline, magic, and Goldilocks’ porridge-seeking abilities. And, don’t forget, it’s the path to our imaginative worlds, where every word sings and every sentence matters.
How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?
Choosing a genre is akin to selecting an ice cream flavor from an endless parlor. You’re like a kid in a candy store, wanting to try everything. But the genres began to whisper in my ear, like mischievous little gnomes. The whimsical tales in the children’s books tugged at my heartstrings, promising giggles and wonder. Imagine a cheetah and a dog becoming best friends! Wouldn’t it be fun to write about it? So I did.
Then, like a rollercoaster ride through a dark tunnel, the contemporary thriller genre swaggered over, dressed in a military uniform and wagging the tail of a MWD (military working dog), offering me heart-pounding excitement and suspense. It was impossible to resist going to Afghanistan!
But historical fiction, like that wise librarian / Indiana Jones in the corner, draws me into its cozy world with tales of bygone eras, urging me to discover the secrets of the past. And it’s the genre that enchanted me with its spells.
So, you see, I was chosen by the genres, each of which added a layer to my writing personality. I savored each experience.
If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?
Dreamland: Uncover Centuries of Romanian History & Folklore in Just 100 Words! Get Hooked, Get Dreamland!
What else have you written?
Happy Friends is my first children’s book series I wrote. 12 short stories that can be read together or individually following the adventures of Little Tail, a small dog who leaves his serene life in search of something else, namely Snow, only to meet her, as well as making new friends. But he misses his old friends and return home, where he realizes he belonged all along.
Animal Stories for Kids is six book series about unbelievable, exciting, and inspirational TRUE friendships between unexpected pairs of animals: a cheetah and a dog, a lion and a dog, an elephant and a sheep, a bear, a lion and a tiger, a chimp and a dog, and human and the first military working dog during WW2.
Puppy, 12 months of rhymes and smiles and As Good As Gold are two books of poetry by a dog lover, for dog lovers.
Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy is my first historical fiction book.
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting For is a contemporary thriller inspired by the war in Afghanistan. It depicts the life of Afghan population by focusing on a small community caught in this dreadful war and in the local web of deceit. But it also depicts the life of a group of US Marines and their MWD, military working dogs, deployed in Afghanistan.
My book series Romania in 100-word Stories, Folklore and History, comprises of Transylvania’s History A to Z and Dreamland. This historical fiction book set is meant to invite the readers to look into the past of a fascinating corner of East Europe, Romania. They will be surprised, and in a positive way, but the extraordinary history of this place, by its incredible myths, and meaningful legends, as well as by the feisty women and valiant men who shaped its past, influencing its future.
Eye on Sibiu roofs, Romania (above)
Corvin Castle, Romania (above)
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
The most enjoyable aspect of writing a novel is that it feels like you’re embarking on a grand adventure. It’s like planning an elaborate feast but not knowing how all the ingredients will come together. My favorite part of the process is gathering exotic spices from all over the world, filling your senses with the promise of flavors yet to be discovered.
Then there’s travel – oh, such wonderful travel! Even if it’s only in your head, you get to travel to new worlds, meet interesting characters, and visit places you’ve never been before. It’s like going on a vacation without wearing sunscreen.
But don’t forget about the good times. Of course, there are the rabbit holes that you will inevitably fall down. You’re researching the history of medieval castles one minute and reading about penguin mating habits in Antarctica the next. Isn’t it all part of the journey?
And when it comes to food, that’s where the real creativity comes into play. Attempting to recreate medieval dishes – or t least flat breads.
Each word woven is a carefully chosen thread in the grand tapestry of novel-writing, and each sentence crafted is akin to an artful dish prepared for discerning guests—the readers. As the author, you toil over the stove of imagination, blending the ingredients of plot, character, and setting into a flavorful story. You extend invitations to your audience, hoping they will partake in the banquet of your words, savoring each sentence as if it were a delicacy and finding the same satisfaction in your story that one would find in a sumptuous feast. It is, in essence, a literary symphony, a prose dance, and a manifestation of the writer’s heart and soul.
The least enjoyable part? I don’t know. I love to rise super early to carve time to write. I love to edit and polish my sentences. I love feeling like a bloodhound with my nose on a trail. Perhaps the least enjoyable is killing my darlings – the painful act of cutting out a character or a subplot that you love but doesn’t serve the story. In essence, it’s the necessary but often frustrating task of refining your raw creativity into a polished gem, and it can feel like chipping away at a beautiful sculpture to reveal the masterpiece hidden within.
What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?
What a wonderful question! As a fan of historical fiction, I enjoy how these books transport me through time. I get to travel through time, meet kings and peasants, and dodge the occasional charging knight or hang out with strong women. Who wouldn’t want that? Plus, let’s be honest: nothing beats the feeling of saying, “Oh, I can’t go out tonight; I’m time-traveling to Tudor England, or medieval Transylvania.” It’s the ideal reason for introverts like me! In a nutshell historical fiction is my time machine to the past, and I can’t get enough of it.
Reading all of an author’s books is like entering a cozy, familiar world where their writing style becomes a soothing lullaby. With each book, you become more aware of the author’s distinct cadence and narrative voice. It’s like having a close friend tell you stories by the fire on a cold night. You’re familiar with their quirks, turns of phrase, and storytelling magic, and it’s a delight to watch them evolve and surprise you within the framework of that comforting familiarity. It’s similar to savoring a favorite dish prepared by a skilled chef—you can’t help but relish every bite and savor the nuances that distinguish it as theirs. I read all books by Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen.
And the flip side of historical fiction! What I dislike the most are historical inaccuracies. Like having knights with cell phones or Marie Antoinette ordering pizza. Okay, maybe not quite that extreme. I prefer historical fiction that is well-researched and historically accurate so that I can fully immerse myself in the past. It’s like going to a Renaissance fair and seeing someone dressed in a spacesuit—it just ruins the illusion.
How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
Oh, let me tell you, researching Transylvania and Romanian history for my books was like embarking on a thrilling time-travel adventure! It required more research than you might think – I practically had to dust off my personal time machine. To stay fueled, I scoured libraries, archives, and historical records, not to mention countless cups of strong Romanian coffee.
In terms of locations, Sibiu, Brasov, Sighisoara, Transylvania’s country side, and Bucharest became real playgrounds for me. I wandered their cobblestone streets, sipped local wine in their medieval inns, and eavesdropped on past conversations. It’s all about immersing yourself in the details, smells, sounds, and quirks of history in order to bring those stories to life.
Writing historical fiction is a lot like being a detective, and I loved every minute of the journey through time, unearthing the treasures of forgotten stories and weaving them into my stories. It’s the kind of research that makes you feel like a time-traveling explorer, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! It resulted in numerous blog posts that you can read on my website, as well as a solid trilogy set in medieval Transylvania – which I am currently editing.
Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?
I am a very early writer, usually up before our neighbor’s rooster announces the crack of dawn. Just let me have my coffee mugs and my peace. Of, and my daily walks.
How would you define your style of writing?
My writing style is reminiscent of a tapestry woven with historical threads, vivid imagery, and a touch of poetic prose. I try to transport readers to different eras or unexpected locations, immersing them in the sights, sounds, and emotions of the past. It’s like strolling through a living museum, where the characters and landscapes are alive and the stories are windows into lost worlds. I hope to evoke a sense of time and place through well-chosen words and rhythmic patterns, bringing history to life in a captivating and entertaining way.
Would you like to write a short poem for us?
I wrap myself in muted feelings
Thick blanket like the horizon
Where a new promise surges
Through the lost vacuum of indigo dusk.
Dew drips between my fingers
Whispering, rolling towards the wisp of dawn
each drop arresting the crimson light
in golden arrows, hope’s alight anew.
Ripe daylight splits open
And I am caught at its heart, a pulsating pit,
So I return home glancing behind me
Where fog anchors in corners with one last breath.
Mpumalanga, South Africa (above)
South Africa (Indian Ocean (above)
Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?
Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
Pork crackling. It refers to the crispy skin or layer of fat from roasted or fried pork, a Romanian delicacy.
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?
Origami made by my children and garden flowers picked by my husband, out of the blue
If you could duplicate the knowledge from any single person’s head and have it magically put into your own brain, whose knowledge would you like to have? And why.
Knowledge is a double bladed sword, it comes with life experience too and on those I prefer to place my own PG stamp. I love life. I love to discover and learn on my own, at my own pace, and make decisions – good or bad – that I learn from.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
Have you ever played a practical joke on a friend? Ever had one played on you?
No, thank you
What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
Loyalty. Trustworthiness. Empathy.
Care to brag about your family?
I love them to bits. They are the best in the world. The rest is private.
If you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allot the funds?
A children’s cause, an old age home, and an animal shelter.
If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?
I would love to know how to fly an airplane.
What was your favorite year of school? Why?
I loved the six years I spent in medical school. I made some great friends, I travelled a lot, and I learned some pretty cool things, like how to dissect a human body. Something that came in good use recently. In my historical fiction WIP, of course.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
Being born in Romania, that I don’t eat pig meat and it is a personal choice.
What makes you angry?
People who run late.
What music soothes your soul?
Classical and choral.
What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?
Anatomy. The human body is an amazing puzzle.
If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?
Bones. Rizzoli & Isles. Only Murders in the Building
If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?
What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?
Pride & Prejudice, 2005
Pânza de păianjen (Spider Web) by Romanian author Cella Serghi
Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who monopolize conversations.
Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Coffee. Coffee. Oh, and coffee.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Reduce the use of cars. Plant a tree. Read more.
What simple pleasure makes you smile?
Spending time with my family. Talking to our dog. Writing. Reading.
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