Tell us a bit about you and your background.
I was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (ex Yugoslavia) where I spent most of my adult life. I also acquired most of my higher education there (B.A. and M.A. degrees in languages and literature). With my husband and son, I immigrated to Canada in 1991, half a year before the country was engulfed in a civil war. After graduating from the Faculty of Education, Queen’s University, Canada, I started working for the Department of National Defence and began my career path as a foreign language curriculum and testing specialist. With a full-time job that involves a lot of international travel, too, I currently write only as a hobby.
What are your hobbies away from the computer?
Gourmet cooking and entertaining friends and family, reading, running and other fitness activities, travel, walks in nature.
Do you start a new story with the plot or characters first?
I think of the characters first and have a rough contour of the plot in my mind. I allow the story to evolve organically without much planning.
Have you traveled to any locations that appear in your books?
I’ve traveled to most of the locations I mention. For example, in Poisonous Whispers, parts of the plot unfold in Vienna, Rome, Barcelona and Glasgow. Glasgow is one of the cities I have not visited yet. England and Ireland are also mentioned in this book, and I was fortunate to visit England several times. I dream of travelling to Ireland because I feel a strong attraction to that country. My bucket list is much too long for one lifetime.
Can you share a tip about what you do when you get stuck in creating a story?
When I get stuck, I simply stop writing and let the story ferment further in my subconscious mind. I also believe in synchronicities, that is meaningful coincidences that come into your life when you need them. And invariably, whenever I’d hit a reef in my storytelling, I would hear a story from a friend or an acquaintance during my travels that would inspire me to continue writing. When it comes to Poisonous Whispers, I simply trusted the process because I believed this book was destined to be born. I will never forget sitting in an airport in Europe and having the “Aha” moment, and knowing without a speck of doubt where the story needed to go in order for the plot line to come full circle.
What was your biggest surprise in the editing/revision process?
I was shocked to see my characters assume a life of their own. They became alive and started to control the storyline. I was especially surprised that the heroine would reveal a certain secret to her husband almost ruining her marriage. That was so unnecessary and cruel!!! When it comes to editing itself, the realization that it is an almost never-ending process, that it is almost impossible to catch every single error discouraged and frustrated me many times. And I’m not even a perfectionist in my everyday life!
What’s your dream vacation destination?
A hot climate with white pebbled beaches surrounded by pine trees, buzzing with cicada song and infused with the scent of brine and Mediterranean grasses. I believe I’m describing the Adriatic coast where I used to vacation, and which I will always miss.
In what genre do you read?
I read both fiction and non-fiction, commercial and literary prose, but literary fiction is my preferred genre. I enjoy the depth of literary thought, and I crave books that make me stop after every couple of pages and contemplate life.
What do you hope readers gain from your stories?
I hope that readers derive pleasure from reading my debut novel; I hope they read it slowly, visualizing the pictures of both the physical and emotional landscapes I painted; I hope they lose track of time once they step into the multi-layered worlds I created; I hope the heroine’s pain-laced journey touches them, and also shows them that pain and loss, and poor judgment can deepen, strengthen, humble and redeem us. And I hope they like and relate to my characters in spite of their flaws and moral fallibility.
“Don’t you ever forget about me…,” he whispers during their secret encounters. Like a curse, these simple words now haunt Leandra, a reputable psychiatrist, who finds herself in emotional chaos after the sudden breakup of her illicit affair. Unable to heal on her own and tormented by dreams in which supernatural forces create havoc with her fate, she desperately turns to David, a colleague psychiatrist, asking him to take her through past-life regression therapy. She hopes that this unorthodox and somewhat suspect technique will explain her profound connection to the lover who has abandoned her so abruptly.
The sessions take Leandra through 17th and 19th century Ireland, Italy and England, where love, loss and betrayal are the leitmotifs in an ambiance of co-mingled fantasy and reality. In her hypnotic state, Leandra recounts a saga of intoxicating love, dizzying passion, flaming lust and profound heartbreak. Despite the painful answers she finds under hypnosis, Leandra still cannot let go of the hope to reunite with her lover. Ultimately, the shattering revelations from her past-life incarnations, along with the turmoil over her ruined marriage, become the stepping stones of her introspective path to healing, self-discovery and an appreciation of true love.
A tiny streak of pale light is cascading softly down the cell window and making a shy sliver in the veil of darkness. I open my eyes, disoriented. I do not move; I do not even dare blink until I get my bearings. Then I remember and freeze in horror. I sit up, an aching all over my body and cold dread in my heart. Instinctively, I try to disentangle my matted hair with my fingers, but it is hopeless. All around me, I smell mold, decay and death. How can I survive another day in this hole? The sound of the door opening with a screech makes me jump in terror.
The gaoler walks in; a heavy set of keys dangling and jingling in his hand.
“Come. You are being moved in preparation for tonight’s execution. A verdict was reached.”
I speak not but follow him. We climb a steep staircase. Below us, I hear moans and yells and what sounds like the death throes of those hopelessly lost to the world and forgotten by justice, compassion and mercy. Again, I am feeling dissociated from the event of my calamity; I see my body walking, but my soul is not in it and indifference over what might happen floods me. Death is not the end. Death offers me salvation from pain, from the torment of living a human life.
We leave the jailhouse and enter the house across the street to the village inn. The inn owner, James Bourke, looks at me with hatred and disdain. He also always hated my husband because his wife had hoped my husband would marry her. She was in love with him, and when he married me she tried to kill herself. James married her later, but has always known that she never stopped loving my husband.
The gaoler takes me upstairs to one of the guest rooms and locks the door behind me. The room is wide and clean even though sparsely furnished. The bed is large and looks inviting and I realize how exhausted I am. On the bed is a white, thin chemise and I immediately understand thisis what I will wear tonight when I am pushed off the bridge into the water that is cool even on the hottest of summer days. Will I have the strength or the will to swim and save myself? What surprises and almost delights me under such grave circumstances is a bathtub in the corner of the room. There is steam rising from it and I immediately undress and slip into it, relieved to be able to wash off the dirt, the grime, and above all the horrible stench on my body. I rub myself raw trying to clean my skin. Washing my hair is more difficult because at home I have servants who help me with bathing, dressing and undressing. I have been spoilt by marrying a man of wealth and power. Where is my husband now? I crave his protection. If he saved me now, would I give up Kieran, would I give up love in order to live? I surmise I would.
After I have washed, I come out of the tub feeling more exhausted than ever. At the same time, I realize I have not eaten for over a day and devour the plate of bread, cheese and apples ravenously. As I am eating, I can feel tears stream down my face; they are tears of silent despair and hopelessness. My chest is heaving with pain and I have difficulty swallowing the last few bites. I throw myself on the bed thinking my weeping and sobbing will continue forever, but I fall asleep. One would think that my dreams would be filled with the terror of the situation, but instead I dream of Kieran. In my dream I accuse him of being a weakling, of not fighting for our love. He just looks at me sadly and his eyes are filled with tears of powerlessness. He is also saying something in his defense, but I do not understand his words. I wake up feeling a sharp pain stabbing my chest and I gasp for breath. I feel like I am suffocating. I take a sip of water from the pitcher on the floor and the pain subsides. Outside, the moon is peering out from behind a cloud and I realize I’ve slept through the whole day. It is time to get ready for a new chance at life or for death.
I use the chamber pot and wash myself again with the bath water that is no longer clean. I tie my hair into a braid and pin it up. If I had scissors, I would gladly cut it off so it does not weigh me down once the cool river takes me in its wet embrace.
I sit on the bed waiting for my fate to open the next chapter of my life. I do not understand why I am suddenly so peaceful, and I cannot be certain if it is tranquility or resignation that has filled my heart.
I have no reaction when I hear the key turn in the lock and see the homely face of the gaoler appear in the doorframe. He is carrying a large red candle and in its light his toothless smile appears eerie and foreboding.
“Are you ready, my lovely, to face the savior? I must say ‘tis a shame to see such a nice body go to waste and be eaten by the fishes and snakes, but you are not the first or the last wretched witch this village has put an end to.”
His laughter is broken by a cough that must be tearing up his insides. It is so strong that it overwhelms him and he has to bend down to cough out something awful that seems to have been stuck in his throat. What a horrid man!
From a 5-star review
“The writing is exquisite—a book of depth, sophisticated in style, literary in nature. Ms. Begovic displays strong lyrical and poetic writing filled with symbolism and universal truths. The book also holds an element of suspense that keeps the reader wondering about the relationships of the characters until the surprise ending. A beautiful story, a compelling read.”
Beverly Knauer, Author of “The Line Between”
As far back as she can remember, Jana has been fascinated by storytelling and intoxicated with the written word. As a young child, she began spinning stories, talking to an imaginary friend and devouring fairy tales. Her love of reading and writing drove her to study languages and literature. She works for the Government of Canada in the field of military language training. She was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, but has lived in Canada since 1991.
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