By Dana Tudose Tianu
Born in rural West Sussex, South-Eastern England, Arabella McIntyre-Brown is a British writer and editor who has been living in Magura, a small village in Transylvania, for the past 9 years.
She first visited Romania 15 years ago and spent a day in Magura. She found it to be a magical place, full of inspiration and reminders of her childhood. Arabella recently published A Stake in Transylvania, a book that was launched with a reception at the British Ambassador’s residence in Bucharest in late September. The book was first published in Romanian, with the title: Din Liverpool in Carpati.
Arabella also published several children’s books, in bilingual editions: Dragons over London/Dragoni pe cerul Londrei; Floss, the lost puppy/Floss, catelusul pierdut; Dahlia’s Pet detectives/Dalia si micii detectivi; Floss and the Circus/Floss si circul.
Dana Tudose-Tianu interviewed Arabella for our OZB readers, hoping they would, too, be inspired by the idea that there are magical places in Romania where people can find their balance and happiness.
Are you trying, through your latest book, to get readers to fall in love with Romania/Transylvania? Why do you think there’s so much magic and mystery foreigners are attracted to when it comes to Transylvania, but it doesn’t seem to reach Romanians so much?
What I wanted to do was to reveal what I saw from my windows, at this end of a remote mountain village in the Carpathians, now. Modern, real-life Transylvania has nothing to do with folklore or a clever Anglo-Irish writer’s gothic vision. There is enough intrigue and entertainment in this village without resorting to 19th century melodrama! Transylvania is one of the strongest brand names in the world, almost entirely because of the enduring appeal of Dracula. Romanians know that Dracula has very little to do with Romania, so they know the magic of the real place, the wildlife and landscapes.
What inspires you the most right now? Is there a muse already for a next book?
There is a book about my sister, Ginny Fiennes, to be written this winter, and more books about Floss, the puppy who lives in a village rather like mine. The first book (Floss the Lost Puppy) seems to be very popular, so I’m now finishing the third in the series. Then there is a series of crime novels patiently waiting to be written…
Would you see your children’s books as plays? There’s a healthy appetite for children’s theater in Romania.
I’d LOVE to see Floss on stage! The first book would work well, a simple story with a small cast and a setting that could be made to work for theatre. What a great idea!
Can you compare being a writer in England to being a writer in Romania/Transylvania?
Being a writer in UK v Romania… hmmm. The publishing industry in the UK is highly sophisticated and extremely competitive; it’s very hard for a new writer to break out without a famous name or a startlingly original book. Romania is a little easier in that respect, but probably easier for a foreign writer like me. New Romanian writers find it tough going; the whole book world in Romania needs to persuade readers to buy more books to boost the spiral of reading, writing, publishing, reading… Books are phenomenally good value – the cost of two cappuccino coffees, but they last at least a lifetime, can be read over and over, offer entertainment, emotion, information, inspiration. The cappuccinos last maybe 10 minutes and aren’t even really good for our health.
What did you gain, and did you lose anything in all these years of living here?
What did I lose and gain from being here? I see little of friends and family in the UK, but with social media that’s not as drastic as it was. I miss bluebell woods in spring and Stilton cheese, the arts worlds (available here too, of course, but difficult to reach as I live an hour from the nearest city). I miss British charity shops and farmers’ markets, my favourite pub in Liverpool… What I’ve gained is a rediscovery of my rural childhood, a whole world of wildlife and nature, time to watch and listen, peace and solitude, and time to dream. As well as my mental health, repaired without drugs or doctors, just with time in this little corner of heaven.