Hello Elena and welcome to Passages to the Past! Thanks so much for stopping by today to talk about Wrapped in the Stars!
To begin, can you please tell us a little about yourself and Wrapped in the Stars?
I am a Child Psychologist and I have been writing stories since I was a teenager, but I only became serious about my writing about four years ago. The story of Wrapped in the Stars became firmly planted in my head and I couldn’t stop writing. I am currently finishing my second novel and starting my third. I like to write stories about women and I like to place them in extraordinary circumstances that challenge them.
In Wrapped in the Stars, Maya Radelis is an aspiring physician who believes she caused a patient to die and is now questioning whether she was truly meant to be a physician. She volunteers in Guatemala for a while, but then finds herself still questioning her future and, on the way home, impulsively takes a flight to Scotland. One evening, she gets lost in the labyrinth of old streets of Edinburgh and finds herself in front of an antique store. A century-old moonstone engagement ring catches her attention and she has just enough money to buy it. What she doesn’t know is that the ring has memories of another woman’s life trapped in it. And this woman was a physician during the WWI. Maya decides to follow the memories and find out why is it that she happened to be in Edinburgh and find this ring. Was it meant to be? What I love about Maya is that she is very strong inside, but it takes some time for her to recover from her PTSD and show her strength. If you stick with her story, you will see her strength and you will root for her all the way and feel proud of her.
What inspired you to write Wrapped in the Stars?
I have always loved dual-timeline stories. I got the idea for this particular novel when I was in Edinburgh with my family about 4 years ago. I stood in front of an antique shop on the Royal Mile and noticed the display held beautiful rings. I absolutely love antique shopping and thought a ring would be a great item to have. And then I shuddered as a thought occurred to me. What if I buy an antique jewelry item and it has memories of its owner attached to it? This idea of memories transferring from people to objects wouldn't leave me alone.
Then I started looking for a great story of a woman to go with a ring that would be found in an antique shop. The story came to me quickly but in a sad way. My grandmother, Zoya, passed away and left me a diary filled with pages of family history. One of the pages discussed early life of my great-grandfather, Mark. As a Jew, he was denied entry to Ukrainian universities and had to travel to Switzerland in order to study in medical school. He spent years studying in Switzerland and then returned during the Russian Revolution. I thought—what if Mark met a woman in Switzerland and she was the greatest love of his life?
What type of research did you do for the book?
I studied many biographies written by women and men who studied medicine in Swiss Universities at the time Rebecca studied medicine. I also read biographies by first women physicians to learn of the struggles they had in medicine and what kind of work they chose to do. I read about WWI and Swiss history. I read Lenin’s biography as written by his wife. I read books about Ukraine during WWI, even though I grew up in the country and knew quite a bit.
My greatest disappointment was that I wasn’t able to find my great-grandfather’s name in the admissions’ archival records. I searched through thousands of names but never saw his.
What was the hardest scene to write?
There are two scenes that make me cry very hard. I sobbed when I wrote them and I still cry when I think about them. I’ve had read message me and email me when they get to those scenes about how emotional they felt when they read them. I don’t want to say what they are, because it will spoil the story. But they involve heartbreak.
What was your favorite scene to write?
My most favorite scenes took places at Lake Thun in Switzerland. Both women have a love scene in the same place, but a hundred years apart and I knew that I wanted to write this scene even before I knew what the story was going to be about. I just had these images in my mind of these two different women and men but in the same lake house, at a different time, making love.
What would you like readers to take away from reading Wrapped in the Stars?
I would like for them to be inspired by the two women in the novel: Maya and Rebecca, who both have so much strength and courage. And, more than anything, I want readers to learn to believe in the power of synchronicity, or coincidences, in our lives. Pay attention to the messages the Universe sends you. Believe in soulmates (friends or lovers).
How much of Wrapped in the Stars is fiction and how much is based on fact?
The character of Mark is based very loosely on my great-grandfather. All the historical figures (Lenin, his wife, Professor Kocher, and some others) have been carefully researched and their background and their presence in Bern is absolutely a fact. Their meeting with Rebecca and people around her are fiction. All the modern characters are fiction.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
When I was a teenager. But then I became a psychologist and have been writing nonfiction which is terribly time-consuming. Only recently, have I found some time to write fiction.
What has been your greatest challenge as a writer? Have you been able to overcome it?
Learning to write in English as it’s my second language. I’ve had to rely on some excellent editors to help me express my imagination with correct grammar.
Who are your writing inspirations?
Susanna Kearsley, Sara Gruen, Tracy Chevalier, Diana Gabaldon
What was the first historical novel you read?
The Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
What is the last historical novel you read?
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
If there was a soundtrack for your novel, what songs might we find on it?
I listen to movie soundtracks, especially James Newton Howard when I write my novels.
What are three things people may not know about you?
I am a vegetarian. I love to cook and cook every night. I am terrified of snakes.
What appeals to you most about your chosen genre?
I found it incredibly exciting to learn about the early 20th century. I bought objects from the time, cooked some food from the time, and bought lacy clothes. I wanted to feel like Rebecca.
What historical time period do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?
I love anything written about the 18th and 19th century.
What do you like to do when you aren't writing?
Playing with my dogs. Going to the movies. Hiking. Going to antique stores or bookstores.
Lastly, what are you working on next?
I am finishing a suspense novel set in modern time. I also started a romance novel set in Italy, not sure yet if it will be a historical or not. There is a mysterious painting in it, so it could go either way.
Sounds fascinating! Thanks so much for spending time with us today, Elena!
Wrapped in the Stars by Elena Mikalsen
Publication Date: February 19, 2018
The Wild Rose Press
Paperback & eBook; 384 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Struggling with guilt over her sister’s death and the stress of her medical residency, Maya Radelis runs away to Scotland. She gets lost in an alley, where a robin mysteriously appears, leading her to an antique shop where she buys a century-old moonstone engagement ring. After having a dream about the ring’s former owner, Maya quickly realizes that there is a mystery associated with the ring, and it was not an accident that she was led to buy it.
The novel follows Maya from Edinburgh to Paris to Bern, and, finally, to New York as she discovers why she was meant to find the ring and learn about Rebecca, a young Jewish woman practicing medicine in Bern as the Great War unfolded and the Russian Revolution was planned in Switzerland. Maya especially wants to learn about the love story between Rebecca and Mark, a young surgeon from Ukraine, who Rebecca fought to keep safe during this turbulent time in Europe.
While in Paris, Maya meets David Fischer, a fellow American, who helps Maya learn Rebecca’s story. The attraction between David and Maya grows, and they discover that their meeting was not by chance. As Maya returns to New York from her travels, Rebecca’s courage and strength help her face her own troubles.
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound
Praise for Wrapped in the Stars"Written with passion and expertise, Elena Mikalsen’s WRAPPED IN THE STARS is an intelligent and beautifully crafted story that proves the power of love while illuminating the historical struggles of women in medicine. I love books that teach me something while also being thoroughly entertaining, and Mikalsen’s debut does just that." -Kelli Estes, author of The Girl Who Wrote in Silk
"Mikalsen effortlessly weaves past and present in this engaging tale. WRAPPED IN THE STARS spans countries and centuries, testing the boundaries between love, loyalty, fate, and following your heart. A delightful debut!" -Jessica Topper, author of Louder Than Love
"Mikalsen's debut draws you in and takes you on a richly detailed journey, from Edinburgh to Bern, to Paris and New York. A tale of aspirations and familial pressures, of serendipity and the choices we make, WRAPPED IN THE STARS thoughtfully explores how we can take control of our lives." -Amanda Stauffer, author of Match Made in Manhattan
"In WRAPPED IN THE STARS, with a touch of magical realism and a sprinkle of quantum physics, Elena Mikalsen blends the present with the Belle Epoque past, deftly weaving two points of view into two timeless romances into a can’t-be-put-down novel." - Suanne Schafer, author of A Different Kind of Fire
About the AuthorElena Mikalsen was born in Ukraine and came to New York City as a refugee with her family at age 17. She is somewhat obsessive about travel, but, when at home in San Antonio, can be found browsing through bookstores or antique shops with her family and two adopted pups. When not writing stories, she is a Pediatric Psychologist, working at a Children's Hospital, helping children cope with chronic medical illness. She actively blogs and gives interviews on issues related to child and adolescent mental health. WRAPPED IN THE STARS is her first work of fiction. She has two other works in progress.
For more information please visit Elena Mikalsen's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Blog Tour ScheduleMonday, February 19
Review at Donna McCabe
Tuesday, February 20
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Wednesday, February 21
Excerpt at Short Book and Scribes
Friday, February 23
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, February 27
Review at History From a Woman's Perspective
Thursday, March 1
Feature at A Bookaholic Swede
Monday, March 5
Review at Donna's Book Blog
Wednesday, March 7
Feature at Teaser Addicts Book Blog
Thursday, March 8
Feature at Passages to the Past
Friday, March 9
Review at Cup of Sensibility
GiveawayDuring the Blog Tour we will be giving away a signed copy of Wrapped in the Stars and a Book Scents Candle! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 9th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US & Canada residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
Wrapped in the Stars