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Guest Post: My Writing Space by Victoria Dougherty

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The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty is the kind of historical fiction I love to read, and while I couldn’t fit it in my schedule, I just had to share it with my readers.  Check out this synopsis from GoodReads:

In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels. But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions.

Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.

When you read as many books as I do about WWII and other eras that involve war, you often wonder what the writing spaces of the authors look like.  So without further ado, Victoria Dougherty has been kind enough to share with us her own writing space. Please give her a warm welcome.

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My home office is, I suppose, a bundle of contradictions.

First of all, it is small. It’s only half the size of my husband’s home office.

I’m kind of like the wife who drives a Chevy while her husband gets the Cadillac, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s cozy in there and I feel safe.

Its walls are red – hardly a safe color, but it keeps me alert. My desk is a granite slab that used to serve as a bar in our old place, and there’s a fireplace with an antique wooden mantel showcasing two Byzantine icons (one of Christ, the other of Mary), a matching rosary, four family photos, a clay ballerina my middle daughter sculpted for me, an Indian flag (we’re not Indian, don’t ask), one dragon-themed baby shoe from Hong Kong, and a signed, framed World War II cartoon featuring Mussolini being led around on a leash by the Axis powers.

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On this framed cartoon hangs an authentic Mother’s Cross – a ribbon necklace with a metal Reich symbol that was given to women who’d born children for Nazi Germany. Nobody in my family did – we’re both Catholic and Jewish, so we wouldn’t have volunteered for such an honor (nor would we have been asked).

The thing is I like to surround myself with objects that inspire my work, and for good or ill, Nazi’s and Communists are part of my fiction universe.

Most of the mementos in my office are gifts, except for the Mother’s Cross. I bought that from a collector of Nazi memorabilia. He was selling his collection because he felt people wrongly assumed that he liked Nazis, when in fact, he was just a history buff. It had caused some uncomfortable moments at a few of his wife’s dinner parties.

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That, in and of itself, could inspire a couple of novels.

My desk, the former bar, sits on an old, Oriental rug fouled by various pet stains. My dog’s ashes (the dog responsible for most of the pet stains) sit in a wooden box on a little table in the corner next to my bookshelves. This box is lorded over by a framed faux New York Times obituary for the late canine (written by my husband) and titled,Milo Steven Dougherty, Asexual Glutton Canine, Is Dead. It goes on to describe our late beagle mix as “a single-minded ‘perfect eating machine’ who loved Snickers cheesecake, tacos, hollandaise sauce, White Castle microwaveable cheeseburgers, shrimp risotto, anything on the McDonalds breakfast menu and fecal-caked baby diapers.” Rest in Peace, my friend.

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Being writers, we have a predictable quantity of books in our house – about 7 floor-to-ceiling shelves’ worth, but the bookshelves in my office are mostly filled with my children’s various pictures and art projects: my daughter’s soccer team photo, my son’s first short story (about the Civil War), and my youngest child’s Kindergarten scrapbook.

There’s also a taxidermied baby alligator among my kids’ artifacts, but I can’t for the life of me tell you how it got there.

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On the wall at my left hangs a framed photo of my wedding, a large black and white print of an old woman walking through the streets of Prague, another old black and white – this one of the Tower of Silence in old Bombay, a newspaper clipping of my grandfather’s performance in the 1936 Winter Olympics – he played on the Czech National Hockey Team, a portrait taken of my husband on his first birthday and one taken of me and my first child, my son, when he was one. The rest of the walls are bare.

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But there are two hand-made Czech marionettes that flank my one picture window. This is my favorite of the two. I call him Vladimir the Great. He holds a violin in one hand and a beer in the other, and reminds me so much of my grandfather, Dede, who could play any instrument by ear. He could also drink you under the table, although Dede would have never, ever tolerated a five o’clock shadow like this fellow.

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Essentially, my home office holds my life. I care little for jewelry and other fancy things (don’t get me wrong, I don’t knock them and like a fine bauble as much as the next girl) so, if I had to flee my house in the middle of the night, the way my grandparents did, the only things I would take with me as I rushed my family out the door are in my office. Deeply personal relics that tell the story of my life and the stories that fill my imagination.

Thank you, Victoria, for sharing your space with us. Please check out the rest of the tour and pick up a copy of her book.

03_Victoria DoughertyAbout the Author:

Victoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.

For more information, please visit Victoria Dougherty’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

  • Anna

    That’s definitely a unique writing space! The book sounds fantastic.

  • Mystica

    Read the book and liked it. The era is very familiar but the Czech background was totally new to me. Liked the book very much. Review on my blog.

    • Thanks, Mystica. I’ll have to check it out! I am very interested in this one and have it downloaded on the Kindle for reading on vacation

    • This is one reason I want to read this book; the Czech aspect sounds intriguing.