Every so often, I receive a request from people asking to be interviewed for this column and I am so happy when this happens because these people tell me stories that are fascinating. Still, like many, I, too, have my favourites. And I am very sure that Violet’s story is one I’ll remember for a long while. Without further ado, let me introduce you to Violet Niggl aka Violeta Barrett …
Aneeta: Violet, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
Violet: Thank you, Aneeta for giving me the opportunity to present myself and my love story to your readers.
Aneeta: Let’s start with something about you: where were you born, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living and where do you live now?
Violet: I was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., of Italian ancestry. Until my mid-thirties, I lived there up to the time I met and married a Canadian and moved to Canada where I lived for 37 years. After my husband’s death in 1993, I moved to Ft. Myers, Florida where I reside today. Currently, I am a retiree after a forty-two year career in both the public and private sectors where I held executive positions in both sectors. But since I don’t believe that upon retirement, one should retire from life, I am now an aspiring author.
Aneeta: Through Mayra, I know that you’ve written a book called FIRST LOVE. Please describe it.
Violet: FIRST LOVE is the embodiment of a dream which I had two years ago. It is a memoir of a first real love that I had in 1956. So vividly did the details return to me that it felt as though I were in a time machine. I had met Jorge while on a trip to Mexico, where I had gone to escape and recover from a painful, failed marriage. Jorge was my tour guide and we fell in love. A forever love. When our tour ended and I returned to N.Y. we wrote to each other. I saved all his letters … 76 of them and it was through those letters that we kept our love alive. Friends asked why I would have kept the letters. They were too beautiful to destroy, and ultimately, as life has shown us many times, there was a reason for keeping them, for without them I could not have written my book.
FIRST LOVE is a compelling memoir, a nostalgic and emotional journey where principles, love and obligations collide and force unexpected decisions. Energized by the Mexican culture and Jorge’s charm, I was soon caught up in the joy of being loved. But before long, I had to return to my obligations, leaving Jorge behind. For the next few years, we shared a forbidden passion-until the forces of morality prevailed.
Nearly fifty years ago, Jorge and I fell in love, changing our lives forever. Our heartfelt story, relived through a dream, proved to me that “true love never dies.” It is not affected by time. It is ageless. It is eternal.
Before my English version of the book was completed, I was encouraged to translate my book into Spanish in the hope that if Jorge was still alive, he might see it. The Spanish title is PRIMER AMOR. That was when I decided to add the sub title Just Once in a Lifetime which in Spanish is: Solamente Una Vez en la Vida. This was partially the title of our love song, (Solamente Una Vez) and the addition of “en la vida,” which was an inscription I put in a cigarette case I gave Jorge for his birthday.
Aneeta: Why did you use a penname?
Violet: My first name is actually Violeta. Jorge spelled it with one ”t” and so I wanted it written that way. At first I wanted to hide behind a pen name because I had always been a very private person … until now. So I chose the surname of my favorite woman poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Now I just believe it fits well with the title, with the cover, with the story.
Aneeta: How did you go about publishing this book?
Violet: Initially, it was a short story. I had no plans other than to have two copies made; one for me and one for Jorge, if I could find him. But when I sent it to an editor to review and proofread it, he said, “This is the best thing I’ve read all year. You must make this into a book and publish it.” With that kind of unexpected comment, I began to rethink my idea. By adding the love letters, it became a book. I searched the internet for a publisher and as they say, the rest is history.
Aneeta: I’m sure that there are elements of storytelling in your book. As you know, this website caters to storytellers. So, what aspects of storytelling did you focus on when writing your book?
Violet: The oral tradition was alive and well in my family. My dad was a great storyteller and did improvise and embellish his stories of his travels around the world. If FIRST LOVE were a work of fiction, I would have probably done the same. But this story is a true memoir, exactly as it happened (plus I have the letters to prove it.) So the elements of storytelling could possibly be my descriptions of the sensory effects Mexico had on me, the charming Mexican images I used from Jorge’s letters that I believe enhance the book, and the occasional use of Spanish words that hopefully embellish the writing.
Aneeta: Violet, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Violet: Storytelling eventually advanced to films and TV movies. That is my dream for FIRST LOVE. To be able to tell my story not only in writing but on the silver screen. Our world needs love more than ever before. My message is clear: there is nothing more important in life but to love and to be loved. All else are “things.”
Furthermore, it is my belief that to write a good story…a great story, one must be inspired. Jorge’s letters were my inspiration. Only now do I fully understand how deeply I was loved and how that love enabled me to open my heart.
Aneeta: Violet, thank you very much, once again.
Violet: Thank you, Aneeta for giving me the chance to express my thoughts and feelings in such an unbiased fashion to your readers. I truly appreciate it.
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