Today's interview is with Dora Levy Mossanen.
1. Tell me about yourself.
Dora—I was born in Israel and moved to Iran with my family when I was nine. Although I didn't know it at the time, I joined a culture and a community rich in legend, mythology, folklore, and superstition. What I did find out very early on was that I had an invaluable source of knowledge and history right next to me—my late grandfather, a renowned historian, whose books are being taught in universities around the world. At the time, I spoke only Hebrew, but I learned Farsi in less than a year, wanting to understand my grandfather, who spoke of Mahaleh, the Jewish Quarter, being the shah's dentist, and the dangers of being Jewish in a Moslem country.
In 1979, not long after I had started my own family, all of our lives were turned upside down by the Islamic Revolution. I was forced to leave Iran for America, where I was followed by the same set of expectations…to cook, clean, to raise my children. So, I embarked on finding the proper school for my kids, the proper orthodontist, and the best Iranian market with the most tender beef shank, the purest turmeric and most aromatic saffron, and the freshest mint. Once my wifely responsibilities were taken care of, I went ahead and rebelled. I went back to school! Got a bachelor's degree in literature, then a master degree in professional writing. And after three novels that take place in past historical eras, I garnered the courage to write Scent of Butterflies, a contemporary story that mirrors a historical time I’ve personally experienced.
2. Your new book is called Scent of Butterflies. Tell me about the book :)
Dora—Ah! How I love this title: Scent of Butterflies, which reveals so much about my protagonist, Soraya, about her heightened sense of smell, about her obsession with butterflies as she lures them to her gardens in Bel Air, traps and studies them, analyzing their different scents in ways only Soraya can do. It’s important to know that Soraya, who feels betrayed by her best friend, Parvaneh, which means butterfly in Farsi, is beginning to fail to distinguish between her friend, Parvaneh, and the hordes of colorful butterflies she taps. This is the story of a revolution, of obsession and loyalty and revenge. But above all, it is the story of a love so deep, it will forever change everyone involved.
3. What inspired you to write this book?
Dora—A certain tumultuous period of my life. But that’s probably too simple an answer. I started writing Scent of Butterflies more than twenty years ago—yes you read right—when my personal life was going though an upheaval. Betrayal. Separation. Cultural shock. What else shall I say? And being a novelist with the power to change history, I found solace in writing, found pleasure in creating characters such as the incomparable Soraya, who loves so intensely she has no qualms destroying her best friend, Butterfly, the woman she believes has stolen her love. In addition, the political background of the Islamic Revolution, which I personally experienced, plays an important role in Scent of Butterflies, affording the reader an intimate look at the politics of the time and the events that led to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and its affect on Iranians.
4. Why is Soraya the character to read about?
Dora—Soraya is an exceptional woman, who refuses to be bound by the suffocating mores of her culture, a woman who will dare commit acts we might wish to commit if we find ourselves in the same situation, but can’t imagine doing. She loves fiercely and passionately, and I lived my life vicariously through her for many years. I was sorry to say goodbye when the book was finished. I hope you feel the same way.
5. What is coming next from you?
Dora—My next novel takes place in the past again, this time in Iran during World War II. It’s the story of a dentist who introduces Novocain to the country. But his success and fame proves to be a curse. The powerful Director General, who has become dependent on the doctor to take care of his rotting teeth, refuses to allow the doctor to travel out of the country to have his daughter’s eyes checked. Until… Well, until the Director General’s beautiful wife and the kind eunuch, Tulip, step in. Stay tuned.
1 copy of Scent of Butterflies
1. US and Canada only
2. Ends Jan 25th
3. Just enter :)