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"Budapest Romance is a tender love story, where passion duets with restraint."

Interview: Rozsa Gaston, Author of ‘Budapest Romance’

Rozsa GastonRozsa Gaston writes playful books on serious matters. Women getting what they want out of life is one of them. She writes mostly women’s fiction with a heavy dose of romance thrown in. She studied European intellectual history at Yale, and then received her master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia. In between, she worked as a singer/pianist all over the world. She lives in Bronxville, NY with her family.

Her books include Budapest Romance, The Ava Series: Paris Adieu, Part I and Black is Not a Color, Part II, Running from Love, Dog Sitters and Lyric. Her upcoming novel is Sense of Touch, a fictionalized story of Anne of Brittany and Queen of France. Gaston’s motto is “stay playful.”

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Budapest Romance. When did you start writing and what got you into contemporary romance? 

Thank you, Blogcritics. I began writing about eight years ago when I was downsized from my job as a marketing professional at a hedge fund. I stayed home, wrote my first novel, kept a close eye on my daughter’s entry into elementary school and realized I was having more fun than I’d had for years in my corporate career.

I took an online romance writing class with a smart and supportive romance writer and writing instructor named Terri Valentine. I chose the romance genre for a few reasons: 1) I like writing about romance. It’s a positive subject. Without romance, most of us wouldn’t be here; it’s a genre that will never go out of style. 2) I like the rather strict structure of the romance genre, with its many conventions that must be observed in order to satisfy readers. This speaks to me as a former professional musician and songwriter. A pop song is a three and a half minute composition: verse, chorus, verse chorus, bridge, verse, chorus. Done! Romance writing is similar. 

What is your book about?

Budapest Romance is about an American woman and a Dutch man who discover each other in the thermal bath spas of Budapest. Both are there to heal. Kati from the loss of her father and Jan from the neck injury he received in a motorcycle accident that resulted in consequences his son now lives with forever.

Their attraction to each other is immediate, but Kati’s New England restraint introduces Jan to a new way to pursue a woman. Is she holding back from him because her wealthy Hungarian businessman friend is a rival for her heart? Determined to win her, Jan introduces Kati to Budapest’s leisurely pace of life over six magical days as Kati introduces Jan to her own leisurely pace of sensual exploration.

When Kati returns to New York, their relationship continues. She visits Jan in Holland, where she meets his son. Jan comes to New York but Kati’s corporate job with frequent travel soon gets in the way of their unfolding relationship. When her Hungarian businessman friend stays at her Manhattan apartment, Jan’s feelings spin out of control. His wife left him for a wealthy man. Will Kati do the same? Jan backs off from Kati before she can hurt him in a way he can’t bear being hurt again.

Kati flies to Holland to find out why Jan isn’t returning her phone calls. When she gets there she can’t find him. Instead she bumps into Jan’s new office colleague, an attractive brunette who looks a lot like Jan’s ex-wife. She lets Kati know she and Jan went camping together the weekend before. Heartbroken, Kati returns to New York, thinking she has lost the man she loves and blaming herself for prioritizing her career over Jan.

I won’t reveal anymore, but I promise you a satisfying ending to Kati and Jan’s sweet but spicy story.

Budapest Romance newDid you have a mentor who encouraged you?

Yes. Terri Valentine, author of Sea Dream, Traitor’s Kiss, Outlaw’s Kiss, Yankee’s Caress, A Christmas Caress, Louisiana Caress. She’s strict but kind, and is a big stickler for rules and conventions. I needed that when I first began writing, still do. She can get very upset if you use the word “very” too many times in your manuscript. Oops.

Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing? 

Yes. I thought everything I wrote was genius and was disappointed to discover not everyone else did. On the day my first book, Paris Adieu, came out in 2012, I expected a solar eclipse, perhaps a new star in the sky, or at the very least a bidding war between New York’s top six publishing houses (now down to five). I still do, and I’m waiting. But while I’m waiting I’m knocking out books. Budapest Romance is my sixth.

What was your inspiration for Budapest Romance?

In 1997 I traveled to Budapest at the end of November to settle my late father’s estate. I stayed at a thermal spa hotel where I discovered the delights of soaking in Budapest’s thermal pools. The city is built upon over one hundred natural hot springs and is known as Europe’s ‘City of Baths.’

With ten days to while away while finalizing paperwork, I made the acquaintance of a fellow traveler taking the waters at my hotel. Ready for safe adventure but not encouraged by the cold, gray weather to walk around, we decided to visit thermal bath spas all over Budapest. They are numerous and inexpensive.

During my stay there I discovered aspects of Hungarian culture that led to new discoveries about myself:

1) Hungarians embrace pleasure.

2) I’m half Hungarian, but being born and raised in New England by my American mother’s family, I had no idea what that meant. After my time in Budapest, I knew I was no longer just a New Englander with a Hungarian-looking face. My soul is half-Hungarian too.

3) By the time I left Budapest I had fully embraced my Hungarian side. There have been hot tubs, jacuzzis, and pools in my life ever since, anytime I can get near one. I love hot tubs, especially being in an outdoor one in a snowfall. Bliss! 

Who is your audience? 

Females, any age. Budapest Romance is a tender love story, where passion duets with restraint. I especially hope younger women will read this book, as there is much discussion of the joys of experiencing a new romance in a way that safeguards a woman’s sense of security and self-esteem. SOOO important for girls to learn about in this age of hooking up and rushing headlong into physical relationships without regard for long-term consequences. I don’t mean pregnancy or diseases. I mean psychological consequences, such as the sense of oneself and one’s value a woman carries with her throughout her life. 

What do you hope readers will get from your book? 

I hope that female readers will come away from my book with a deepened sense of how to value themselves in a relationship, take their time, and not let a man rush them into anything. Kati manages this pretty well in  Budapest Romance  (much better than I ever did in real life. Ahh, the joys of fiction writing …) Her interested but restrained behavior ignites Jan’s sense of protectiveness as well as his desire, turning him into more of a man than he ever knew he was capable of being. As a result his passion for Kati turns into something much deeper, but you need to read Budapest Romance out exactly what. And I don’t mean just falling in love, I mean a M _ _ _ _ _ _ _ P _ _ _ _ _ _ _.

I also hope readers will come away from this story with a sense of the balance of sweetness and spice that typifies Hungarian culture and which so charmed me when I visited Budapest. The same balance of sweetness and spice is what keeps Jan and Kati’s feelings for each other in check until both of them can be sure of their love for each other. If it had been all spice between them their relationship wouldn’t have lasted beyond Budapest, and if their feelings for each other had just been sweet and tender, Jan would never have said to Kati what he did on the final page of my tale.

Are you disciplined?

Very. I work from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every weekday. I go for a run from 2 to 2:45 p.m. and end my run at school where I pick up my kindergartner. I knock off on weekends to spend time with my family and believe me, by Monday morning I can’t wait to get back to my magical writing world, my very own thermal hot spring inside me. 

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work? 

Yes. Please visit me at www.rozsagaston.com to find out more about my books. Or visit my blog,  www.finewinesfinequotes.com. If you want to chat or help me develop my storyline for the third book of my Ava Series, come like me and comment at www.facebook.com/rozsagastonauthor. 

Where is your book available?

Budapest Romance is available on amazon.com in paperback or ebook editions and at www.audible.com as an audiobook narrated by actress Romy Nordlinger of All My Children and One Life to Live.

If you haven’t tried listening to a book instead of reading one, audible.com is offering Budapest Romance audiobook FREE with a 30-day trial membership. Here’s the link: www.audible.com/BudapestRomance. Audible.com allows you to cancel your subscription easily and immediately anytime. Some of my friends downloaded Budapest Romance, canceled their subscriptions a few days later and were able to keep the book at no cost. But other friends continued their audible.com subscriptions and now not only listen to books while they drive or work out but let their kids listen to the audiobook editions of their assigned school reading so they can get their homework done faster. That’s what I’m doing with my daughter. She just finished To Kill a Mockingbird on audio.

What is your advice for aspiring authors? 

Finish your projects. There is nothing more tedious than listening to someone talk about a novel they started writing but never finished. All it tells me is that that person is not a closer.

If you’re going to author a book you have to finish it, then publish it. Whether the book is good, bad or somewhere in between, you’ll feel great about yourself forever for having finished it and gotten it out there. You will be a published author. No one can ever take that away from you. 

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” 

I agree with the last half of Orwell’s statement when he mentions being “driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” I am so glad that most of my demons or bad habits — a tendency to perfectionism, obsessive compulsiveness, unrelenting determination to finish projects — feed my drive to write books and deliver them to the world. World — please read them; each one is a gift from my soul to you.

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers? 

Stay playful, darlings. And read Budapest Romance.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

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