An interview about Love After You Have Gone and death of freedom of expression in Turkey for Linda’s Book Bag.
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Onder. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Love After You Have Gone in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
Previously, I would define myself with only one word. Journalist. Now, I am defined with a few words. A journalist who is paying a price. If one desires to be an independent journalist in countries like Turkey, he/she must be aware of factors such as the antidemocratic pressure and the possible loss one might be in. In the newspaper and television companies I worked at, I prepared several newsletters and documentaries on the uprising political pressures that are causing social disorder. Chasing only the truth for news, I am just one of the many journalists who are deprived of their freedom of speech and press rights. For that reason, I am one of the journalists who is wanted to be silenced. The institution I worked for was forcefully shutdown, and nearly 200 of my coworkers were arrested. Hundreds of my other coworkers have abandoned the country and are living in exile due to life and imprisonment threats. I am one of them as well. Around the globe, there are many evil leaders striving to silence journalists and writers so that the people would not be able to retrieve accurate information. However, just like my coworkers, I will not give up and continue to write as a journalist. This is because writing our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and dreams is no different than breathing.
(I can’t imagine how it must feel to be working under such pressure Onder.)
Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Love After You Have Gone?
Love After You Have Gone, describes love stories in the search for life, as families are influenced and bombarded with radicalism. As the 1990s are described in this story, there are kids and teenagers who have terrible lives due to radical religious rules, and there is their struggle as they try to keep straight. The hypocrisy and the unpardonable sins that hide behind Religion can be seen in real life examples. As a young man keeps his lost love in his heart with a bloody photograph, and looks for a new lover to forget the past, he is halted by the inexorable radicalism as he gives effort to fight against this hypocrisy. Every sentence in this book, describes how lovers struggle in countries with strict religious and political enforcements, and how threat can lead to deaths, how families are broken down. And it also describes the ones who rejoice in such mercilessness.
You’re a journalist by trade. How did writing fiction compare with journalism?
Journalism is a profession that is concentric with both life and society. As you do your job, you get to know different lives all around the globe as you analyze and observe them like sociologists or anthropologists. This experience expands your imaginary world to a point where it is larger than your reality. As I sought for the truth and gained experience as a journalist, I realized that this painted my imagination with new colors and sounds. After a while, you want to have others hear these sounds that boil in your imagination. Every new color and sound seated in your conscience, turns into a secret that you cannot hold within you. And instead of whispering this secret to each individual’s ear, you want to shout out on the top of your lungs to a crowd. You want people to know the greening spring, shining sun, and the wild storm within you. These words become your companions. You shout out your secrets as you write them for such crowds. You gift your audience your imagination that you developed through your experiences, so that they can grow new dreams within themselves.
(What a beautiful way of describing the writing process.)
There are some challenging themes in Love After You Have Gone. Why was it important for you do explore oppression, love and hypocrisy in this way?
Hypocrisy is the name of the lovers’ executioner. I am not only creating boundaries within love. Hypocrisy is the murderer of anything that is done through one’s heart and love. Hypocrisy is insidious. Loves and friendships continue as hypocrisy hides itself within them. It really can be senseless when it comes to love. However, it will show up one way or another even if it is on the death bed. It will transform loving hearts into a fire pit. It will only leave back ashes and disappointment. Love After You Have Gone describes the hypocrisy in radical religionism and how lives and lovers are destroyed by the social pressure. There are stories of the struggles of those who rebel against this hypocrisy in Love After You Have Gone. And this struggle is the story of societies who have not yet been introduced to real democracy.
How involved were you in the translation of Love After You Have Gone from Turkish to English?
Love After You Have Gone was actually going to be introduced to the audience in Turkey, in the Turkish language. However, after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, many journalists were threatened so I had to move out of the country. It would not be comparable to the hardships my coworkers have been through in prisons of course; however, living in exile is just another form of imprisonment. I didn’t want this novel that I wrote to be a victim of this punishment. I said to myself, “Even if my novel can’t be introduced in Turkish, as a journalist ready to fight for the truth, I will have to do the best I can.” It shouldn’t only be only Turks who hear my voice, it should be people from all around the globe. Because, now, shouting out the truth and the good is very crucial. For that reason, I translated my novel into the English language. Headquartered in London, my publisher, Bookcity.Co, prepared my novel for publication and allowed for it to be placed in amazon.com, barnesandnobles.com, and iTunes for further distribution. Love After You Have Gone now tells stories of the struggles lovers face with hypocrisy , to whole new world that exceeds the limits of prison walls.
Love After You Have Gone has a cover that seems very intense. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
I would like to thank my publisher Bookcity.Co, who helped me with the cover. They executed a well done job. This cover represents the huge chaos in a big city, the social disorder that is uprooted with hate, the broken hearts, and the average lives contaminated with radicalism. At the same time, it represents the determination of youngsters who are trying to fight the dark truth of radicalism.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
When I am not writing, I prefer to read. Lately, I have been reading novels about Nazi Germany. Books like Alone in Berlin describes the civil struggles against Hitler’s dictatorship, and I had the chance to read this again. These books that describe real events and stories from those time periods, are great sources to use when comparing to today’s world. These books are like school textbooks that describe methods of cruelty and oppression of different time periods. At the same time, graphic novels started to appeal me a little more. The graphics add a different richness and taste to the enjoyment that one has while reading. It also takes me back to the childhood comic books I read and the enthusiasm I had.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Love After You Have Gone should be their next read, what would you say?
When you witness the struggle to fight against the religious hypocrisy, you would have a different perspective on life and love.
Thanks so much for enlightening us about your writing Onder.