In February, I was Dean Contover’s guess on the popular show “The Current Buzz” from Chelmsford Telemedia. We discussed Soviet era politics, Vladimir Putin, the stability of the Baltic countries, and of course, Amber Wolf. Click to watch!
Last October, I was delighted to be the guest on Veronica Andrew’s popular TV show “Off the Shelf,” where we discussed Amber Wolf and much more. Click to watch!
On 14 July, 2016, I did an encore interview on Jan Lewis’ TV show, Be My Guest. Click to watch!
Novelist: ‘Most people have stories in them’ By Alana Melanson, firstname.lastname@example.org Updated: 06/05/2016 07:33:12 AM EDT
CHELMSFORD — After a long career as a computer engineer, Ursula Wong knew there was something else she had to do: write.
“I think most people have some stories in them,” the Chelmsford author said, “and there were a couple I really wanted to get into.”
She has been writing now for six years, and is about to release her second full-length novel, an historical fiction piece titled “Amber Wolf.” The book is being published through Chelmsford-based Genretarium Publishing, owned by her friend and mentor, Dale T. Phillips.
In her earlier years, Wong, 61, was educated in physics and mathematics at George Washington University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She worked for more than 20 years at Digital Equipment Corp. and Fidelity Investments. Upon her retirement, she took writing classes at UMass Lowell and local community colleges to hone her craft.
Wong said she felt compelled to write about strong women who struggle against impossible odds to achieve their dreams. While her characters are fictional, many are inspired by real people she has known or read about.
Wong, who is of Lithuanian ancestry, was inspired to write “Amber Wolf” after finding a manuscript among her uncle’s possessions after his death. It was an early draft of “Tarp Dvieju Gyvenimu” by Vytautas Alantas, which her uncle, Frank Alexis, was translating into English. Loosely translated to “Between Two Lives,” the story portrayed Lithuania at a crossroads in summer 1944.
The Nazis were gone, and the Soviets had returned for a second time since the beginning of World War II.
“Lithuanians were deciding whether to stay and oppose Stalinism, wait for the West to push the Russians out, or leave their country,” Wong wrote in the preface to her book.
Wong’s own grandparents fled Lithuania during the Bolshevik invasion shortly after World War I. She was drawn in by stories of the Lithuanian partisans, who fled into the woods and engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Soviets in a fight for their lands.
“It’s basically a tiny farm country,” Wong said. “The farmers put down their pitchforks and they stole guns, and they started fighting the Russians.”
Wong spent months researching and reading so that she could create a fictional world that closely paralleled the real lives of Lithuanians during World War II.
“Amber Wolf” begins with 21-year-old Ludmelia Kudirka hiding in the attic of her family’s summer cottage in Vilkija while Soviet officers rape and kill her mother.
In flashbacks, Ludmelia recalls fleeing her home in Kaunas under rockets and gunfire and going to the cottage, meant to be her family’s refuge to wait out the war. Her brother, Matas, was killed. Their father, Victor, a history professor who protested the Soviet invasion by writing and distributing pamphlets calling for a free Lithuania, was captured and deported to Siberia along with most of the country’s intellectuals.
Victor’s act of opposition put his family in danger, leading the Soviet officers to seek out Ludmelia. The story follows the Soviets during their “frenzy of pillaging and murder” through Lithuania. It goes back and forth between Ludmelia’s struggle for freedom and the perspective of the Soviets searching for her while they booze, rape and “guide the peasants into the Soviet way of life.”
Following her mother’s murder, Ludmelia hides the body in a food cellar, grabs her rations and her father’s gun, and escapes into the forest, heading toward Paunksmis Lake.
Ludmelia finds and joins a partisan resistance group in their fight for freedom. The book shows how she evolves, and what becomes of her in this time of crisis, Wong said.
Wong provides a window into the minds and emotions of each character, as readers learn of their tragically intertwined lives. Even the Soviet officers, in the midst of plundering the country, are given small moments of humanity as they remember their own simpler, more peaceful times.
In the title, amber refers to both the color of Ludmelia’s hair and the fossilized pine-resin jewelry treasured by Lithuanian women. Wolves, a cultural symbol of independence and strength, play a big role in Lithuanian lore, including the origin story of the country’s capital, Vilnius.
Wong’s first novel, “Purple Trees,” released in 2014, follows the story of 17-year-old Lily, a Central Massachusetts farm girl whose dead father appears to her as she tries to navigate her life and cope with a dark secret. Wong has also had short stories published in the compilations “Insanity Tales” and “Insanity Tales II: The Sense of Fear.”
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