Interview with Olta Totoni

 

Q: When did you start writing?

A: My first poem dates back in 1994. I wrote a poem for my lovely mother. I was ten years old. I thought that this would be the biggest surprise for my mother on 8 March (which is the Mother’s Day in Albania). I did not write anything for a long time and my inspiration came back in 2002 when I began writing small excerpts of my life without the intention of publishing anything. It was in 2008 that I published my first article and since then my writings were published in the Balkans and overseas.


Q: Who are your biggest inspirations/your favourite writers?

A: I have read many books and I have been introduced to many writers, their world perspective, their styles of writings and their experience. At first, I was fascinated by French Literature. Honore de Balzac, his way of describing the characters and settings, the messages he conveyed were real and down-to-earth. With the passing of the time, I was influenced by British and American writers. This influence came from my studies-British and American Studies. We were assigned to read one novel per week. I read Emily Dickinson and she influenced my writing of poems, without titles so that the readers can put their own titles in them. British literature is very special to me. I can mention here writers like Samuel Becket and Harold Pinter both “father and son” of the Theatre of the Absurd; Doris Lessing who is the voice of the British feminism. I also have translated excerpts from British literature and it has helped me in understanding their writings. Translation is also a way of rewriting the poems, short stories, literature in general etc. Recently, I have been acquainted to a new “love” and he is the prolific writer Anthony Burgess. Literature doesn’t have borders for me.


Q: What time of day do you do most of your writing?

A: Writing is a complex process that requires a lot of inspiration and concentration. Sometimes, the inspiration plays tricks on us, writers. There are periods in which you do not get a pen to write (even though I use a pencil). Sometimes, you keep on writing and writing and writing and none can stop you from doing this. Time and place is not important for me. I may be in a bus, by the sea, in a bar, at home, in the university, in the woods, at night, during the day. It depends on what inspires me. My imagination is infinite and I break the standard rules of writing.


Q:  Why do you write?

A:  Writing for me is an internal need. It is like the release of thoughts, ideas and feelings. It makes me feel better when I express my thoughts through writing. According to me, this is a way of communicating with others. You communicate through words and messages you want to convey. I believe in the power of words and I believe in the freedom of speech. I have never limited my thoughts. I write the way I think and that makes my writing genuine. I love the originality and purity of ideas. I write because that makes the readers reflect on their experiences, their lives and their perspectives. There is a triangle created between a writer-his/her writings and the reader. I write because the readers can get informed but not persuaded by my writings. They see with my eyes and they can see clearly.            

                                                  


Q: Do you have any favourite quotes from writers?

A: Throughout my readings, I have kept notes on the quotations that seemed very meaningful to me. Sometimes, after a long time I read them and see if they give me the same sensation they gave me when I read them. My favourite quotes are from the American writer Carson McCullers. She has written them in the novel “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”:

“I am a stranger in a strange land.” 

“All we can do is go around telling the truth.”                                                                                   

“She stood in front of the mirror a long time, and finally decided she either looked like a sap or else she looked very beautiful. One or the other.”

 


Q: What is one piece of advice you would give new/aspiring writers?

A: I would say to them to stay always motivated and never stop writing. They should not be discouraged by others. They should read a lot in order to write a lot. A good writer should have their mind focused on reading other writers. Sharing the experience with friends and family can be of great help. I was lucky to share my writings with my mother who appreciated literature a lot.

 


Q: Do you have any collections, chapbooks, or other books available for people to purchase?

A: Yes, of course. Recently, I have published the book “Diary of the Time”. It is a collection of articles published in magazines and newspapers. There are 29 articles and one interview (in English and Albanian). This book contains 14 articles dedicated to the British culture, literature and politics. There is an introduction that is dedicated to the future/aspiring writers and especially those that will be focused on British studies. It is a guide for new researchers that will go in depth of British Culture and academia.

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