BALCONY ABOVE THE SEA
She Couldn't Outrun Herself, But When She Faced It, There He Was
This time, Tirza Schaefer heads east to a little Bulgarian village at the coast of the Black Sea, not too far from Burgas. Keturah is an author from London who is running away from a life she doesn’t want anymore and an ex-boyfriend and his current girlfriend who are stifling her to death. She has plans to stay in an apartment overlooking the Black Sea and simply work on her book. Then she meets Luben, the driver who takes her to the apartment from Burgas airport, and her resolve as to staying away from all men falters.
However, you can run from others, but never from yourself. The London situation catches up to her in unexpected ways and Keturah has to take a hard look at herself and determine how she wants her life to look like and whom she wants in it. Luben helps her in this and without noticing at first, points out not only their cultural differences to her, but also differences in their outlook on life. After a beach party, however, Keturah starts to see things more clearly.
If only there wasn’t this publishing contract that could destroy all she has gained.
The Book's Creation
It was quite an unusual way of how this book was created. It wasn’t the normal kind of spinning stories in my head. It began with one of my goals for 2016, which was to have 25 books out and published by the end of the year. I published 12 the previous year, 2015, and had 13 to go. So I wrote a lot. I achieved my goal that one of those books would be a children’s book, which was how How Picasso Makes You A Genius (published book #23) was created.
And then I sat here, thinking of where my next novel would take me, so I went within for the answer, tapping into my own inner wisdom. I'd got an answer. Loud and clear, it rang in my head, a single word: Bulgaria!
I’ve never really looked behind the former Iron Curtain, the Eastern Bloc had never held any particular interest to me. I had no idea why, of all places in the world, Bulgaria was the answer. But I didn’t question. Okay, I did. But my inner voice remained unwavering, adament it had to be Bulgaria. I probed in my memory what I knew about Bulgaria and drew pretty much a blank. Somewhere in Eastern Europe, probably Mediterranean coastline (nope, as I found out later, it was only the Black Sea), capital Sofia. That was all I knew. Needless to say, I had to learn a lot more to be able to create a coherent story in this location.
I started to research country, people, traditional music, architecture and LGBT rights, geography, demography, education, medical care and mentality. I learned that Bulgaria is close to the Mediterranean, but that the coastline is actually a fairly thin strip of Greece and the only coastal stretches Bulgaria has is bordering the Black Sea. I learned that Sofia is right at the other end and if you wish to fly to the coast, you don’t land there, but in Burgas airport. The countryside is rural and people are traditional.
I got ideas about a little village where old men discover the internet, where men invite women for dinner and don’t expect to have sex at the end of it and where people live in communities where they spend their entire lives with each other and need to work on having good relationships, because life, as opposed to the anonymity of a metropolitan city, would be unbearable if you were at war with every other villager living around you.
As much as I saw the love and mutual support, I also saw the suffering of those who didn’t fit in, who were different. So the hero received a lesbian sister in my story and the problems of people accepting others with a non-straight sexual orientation were not highlighted, but mentioned. Yes, Balcony Above The Sea is still a romance novel, but it goes way beyond that. It whisks you away into a different world and through the storyline unfolding, you learn about a country that most people probably don’t know much about.
There is no lecture, there is conversation between characters, people getting to know each other and opening up, sharing their pain, but supporting each other in changing this into joy, from the young gay man who learns that his inclination is not unnatural to the old man from a small fishing village, who gets excited about having his picture taken and posted in the internet for the world to see.
And while the female lead falls in love with our hero, she learns that if you run from yourself, you’ll always catch up with your own problems – unless you face them! Writing this book has opened a new world to me, even the researching of the lead characters’ names, Luben and Keturah, was special and held beautiful surprises. And while my characters went on a journey of not only travel but also self-discovery, in writing it, I discovered a whole new world I had not known about before. And who knows, I may one day find myself getting off a plane at a Bulgarian airport. The country has certainly made it on my bucket list.