Interview with Author Daniela Petrova
It is my pleasure to present an interview with Daniela Petrova, author of the debut novel, Her Daughter’s Mother, released June 18 by Putnam.
Her Daughter’s Mother is a suspense novel about a woman in her late thirties who has it all—an apartment in Manhattan, a great job as an art curator at the Met, a long-term live-in relationship with a Columbia professor—except they haven’t been able to become pregnant after years of trying. Their last chance is a donor egg cycle they can barely afford. But when he unexpectedly leaves her three days before the precious embryo transfer, she faces the impossible choice of having to give up on her dream of having a baby or proceed without his consent.
Daniela Petrova grew up behind the Iron Curtain in Sofia, Bulgaria. After the fall of Communism, she moved to New York where she cleaned apartments while taking English classes at the YMCA in the evenings. She is a recipient of an Artist Fellowship in Writing from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Her work has appeared in anthologies, magazines, and newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Salon, and Marie Claire among others. HER DAUGHTER’S MOTHER (Putnam, June 2019) is her first novel. She lives and writes in New York City.
Where did you get the idea for the book?
I struggled with infertility for nearly ten years. I was in the middle of an anonymous egg donor cycle and thought, What if I were to run into my donor? Of course, I would recognize her—I’d seen photos of her—but she wouldn’t know who I was. Would I be tempted to follow her? To learn more about her? The possibility seemed at once exciting and frightening. I knew her health and education history, her hobbies, the eye and hair color of her grandparents. But I had no idea what she was like.
Did she laugh with abandon or shyly cover her mouth? Did she sing in the shower? Did she spend her free time at the gym or curled up on the couch with a book? Hungry to find out more about her, would I be tempted to follow her? I never ran into my donor. I didn’t even get pregnant but I liked the idea of a pregnant woman encountering her donor and stalking her, unable to suppress her curiosity.
Can you tell us more about communist Bulgaria?
I grew up in a poor working-class family in Bulgaria during the Communist era. We were five people in a one-bedroom apartment—my grandparents slept in the kitchen, my mom and I in the bedroom, and my uncle in the living room. I didn’t have a room of my own until I was 18 when my mother and I were finally granted the right to purchase an apartment. We didn’t have central heating and during the winters, we all huddled in the kitchen by the kerosene stove, reading, cooking or knitting.
There were only two TV channels. Programing didn’t start until 5 pm and there were very few shows for children. I waited all week for Sunday when there was one episode of Tom and Jerry or The Pink Panther. So I fell in love with books. I joined the library when I was 7 and never stopped reading.
As a kid, the one thing I craved more than anything else, the greatest delicacy, was bananas. They were available only in the winter and at a limited supply and when word spread that a certain store had bananas, people would line up outside in the snow, waiting for an hour or more. But there was never enough, and half of the people would go back home empty-handed. Till this day, there is nothing more enticing to me than the smell of a banana.
When did you come to the USA?
I came to the US in 1995 at the age of 22, barely speaking any English. I’d dropped out of the university in Sofia in my third year to marry the man I’d fallen in love with two years earlier in Bulgaria. He was an American of Bulgarian origin and worked as the superintendent of a luxury building in New York.
I’d naively thought that I would continue my education in America, but it didn’t take me long to realize that college here was insanely expensive and I wasn’t going to be able to save enough money, working as a cleaning lady and a nanny. I’m indebted to a lot of people who helped steer me in the right direction and eventually I was able to enroll at Columbia and finish college while working full-time at the library there.
How does your background influence your writing?
I’ve explored my childhood in Bulgaria in many of my poems and a few short stories. More and more, I’m writing about my experience as an immigrant in America. My debut novel, Her Daughter’s Mother, explores how as an immigrant, you often feel the importance of your heritage quite deeply and you want to pass it on to your children. Which is why my protagonist, whose last chance of becoming pregnant is a donor egg cycle, wants a Bulgarian egg donor. So that her child would have the genes of her people.
My next novel—also a domestic suspense—delves into the immigrant experience, from the point of view a young Bulgarian woman who comes to New York in the 90s—before social media, Skype and even emails—and finds herself a virtual prisoner to her American husband.
Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imagination?
I love fantasizing, making up people and stories. I tried using real people in an earlier novel but I felt restricted by the actual characteristics of the people I’d chosen. They didn’t exactly fit the story and I had trouble manipulating them. So, for Her Daughter’s Mother, I allowed myself to make up the characters.
I wrote character sketches in the beginning, but Lana, Katya, and Tyler didn’t really take shape until I started writing. As narrators, they very much influenced the story. Especially Katya, whose powerful voice surprised me; she took over her own narrative and pushed the story into a direction I hadn’t anticipated.
Can you share something about you most people probably don’t know?
I was once hired by a private investigator to stake out a husband whose wife thought he was cheating.
What are you working on right now?
My second novel, which is also a domestic suspense story that takes place in New York.
Daniela, thank you so much for this interview – wishing you all the best and love your hats! Can you please provide us with a buy link and how we connect with you?
Thank you – it was my pleasure!
Thank you for reading this interview and supporting authors!!!
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