Interview by Jennifer Dale - March 2015
Avid reader becomes aspiring author: and an interview with Iulia Calota, writer of The Love Project
In 2007, feeling that Romania was no longer big enough for her dreams, Iulia Calota travelled to London at the tender age of 27. She had grown up near the Black Sea where she enjoyed long summers playing outside, but like many people her age, she looked abroad to further herself. On arriving in London, Iulia worked as an account manager for a major advertising agency for six years before she quit her job to write her book, The Love Project. Leading her to this life changing decision was a path she had embarked on at the age of 33 when she decided she was ready for love in her life. Whilst searching for love, this soon-to-be author stumbled across her true self in the process. The Love Project is Iulia’s personal memoir of the journey she undertook during that year.
Evidently, writing is now a fundamental part of Iulia’s life. But before this she was an avid reader, and remains so today. In Iulia’s opinion, everyone has a story to tell and the world will always contain people wanting to hear it. There is a story for everyone and a story to be told by everyone. In her own words, Iulia opens up about not only her own book, but the books which shaped her life and her own writing. In this sweet and honest interview, the author reveals to us how a reader became a writer.
What is it about reading that you love so much?
I grew up in Romania during the communist regime and, perhaps fortunately, with only a few hours of TV a day, so when I wasn’t at school or outside playing with the neighbours’ kids, I was reading. My mum instilled the love of books in me and she would ask me to tell her in my own words what I’d read. She would also encourage me to write from a very young age.
What were your favourite books as a child?
Sometimes I liked a book so much, I would read it a few times. As was the case with ‘The Jungle Book’ or ‘The Adventures of Dunno and his Friends’ by Nikolai Nosov, which I had read fourteen times. I wish ‘Harry Potter’ had been available when I was a child, it would have kept me busy for a very long time!
What book has had the most profound effect on your life?
There are many books that touched a chord within me; it’s tough to pinpoint just one. Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’ had a profound effect on me as a woman on the journey of self-discovery. ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed was so powerful because it reminded me of my relationship with my own mother. ‘Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon delighted me with its language and atmosphere. All of Milan Kundera’s books have shaped my thinking and extreme, terrifying stories like ‘Bitter Moon’ or ‘The Beauty Thieves’ by Pascal Bruckner blew my mind and pushed my understanding of the world.
Your book, The Love Project, is a book I feel any modern woman should read. How did it come about?
At 33, after having been single for 6 years, I decided to take control over my love life. I figured that there must be something about love I didn’t yet know, something that prevented me from being in a relationship. I thought that if I immersed myself in all the available literature, from popular dating books to psychology and biology, I would become more savvy and able to apply the things I learnt into my own life.
Have you found the writing process difficult, as a first time author?
I found the whole process extremely difficult. I was yet to find a system that worked for me as a writer and to continue to refine my work into a narrative story that was true but also a pleasurable reading experience. My biggest breakthrough happened after attending Circle of Misse writing retreat in France last year and I have been able to make remarkable progress since with the help of my writing mentor from the retreat. I find editing to be the most difficult stage of the writing process but also the stage when you can finally see your work coming to life.
How will you feel when The Love Project is finally published?
It would be the biggest achievement in my life so far. They say everyone has a book in them and I believe that to be true, but not everyone faces their fears, not everyone believes in themselves as writers, not everyone fights to find the time to write in between work and other daily commitments and not everyone finishes writing something they’ve started. Finishing this book would be like running an ultra-marathon. Anything after that would be easy.
Do you think you will continue writing once you have finished The Love Project?
Being a Romanian in London, I have experienced first-hand some of the challenges of being an immigrant and I’d like to work on a story about immigration from the point of view of a character thrown into atypical circumstances. Another idea came to me when I interviewed midwife and charity worker Robin Lim in Bali two years ago and I heard her opinion about how loving, non-traumatic, natural birth delivers happy and whole individuals who, together, can heal the planet from pain. What if the birth experience was the blueprint to the rest of an individual’s life? What would be its implications for the future of humanity?
What books are you reading at the moment?
I like to read a few books at the time. I have a hardback copy of David Mitchell’s ‘The Bone Clocks’ on my bed side table from which I read before I go to bed, a Kindle version of Yann Martel’s ‘The Life of Pi’ on my phone which I read during my daily commute, Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist Way’ as a permanent resource I go to when I need to tend to my creative self and an old disintegrating copy of ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’ travelogue by Paul Theroux, found on the island of Phu Quoc earlier this year, which I am yet to finish reading in between my other books.
What inspires you to write?
Anything. I live my life observing the world and having the innate desire to write about my experience of it. I find immense inspiration in everything around me, in the relationships, in the world trends, in how the city evolves. Sometimes I see a person on the tube dressed in an eccentric outfit and I think that they’d make a great character and I make a note on my phone so I don’t forget them. Sometimes, I am my own character and when I find myself in an unusual situation I think ‘This would make a nice scene in a story’. The world is full of stories, all you have to do is to pay attention and listen to its whispers.
What would you say to someone who has a story to tell?
Believe that the world wants to hear your story and it’s your duty to deliver it to the best of your abilities!
Iulia now shares a life with her fiancée in Highgate, London. When they are not jetting around the world together, you can find Iulia writing in coffee shops and adjusting to a diamond ring poised on her finger after being so accustomed to the single life. Look out for her book The Love Project later this year.
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