Wednesday, January 19, 2011


by F. Solomon

It was interesting to interview my friend and fellow Horsewoman Lisbeth Eng, right after we had both given presentations at the last RWANYC chapter meeting. Lis was a pro, after all, she has been in the spotlight with her acclaimed new romance In The Arms of the Enemy, where she shows off her skills in Italian and German. She will tell you in a second that she is not fluent in either language but uses both, with her love for research and history exploit, to create the world in her romance novel. She was on an ambitious blog tour and has an upcoming date, where she will speak about her novel at the Deutsches Haus.

Lis is the perfect combination of hardcore historian and editor, as well as softcore goofball. Warm and engaging, her conversation about opera sparked my interest before the season; her ken of the subject mesmerizing. Yet she can poke fun at herself easily if the occasion arises; yet aside from her delightful sense of humor there is nothing laughable about her. She dreamed of publishing her first novel and now she has.  It was amazing to sit with a good friend and find out things about her I did not know! I am sure you have been following Lis' book appearances and blogs, continue to follow her here for some interesting bits and pieces...

Two Italian professors walk into a classroom...and I was in love with one of them. I was not sure whether to consider it a crush or true love, but then I came across the term "unrequited love." I accepted the fact that it can still be love, even when it is not reciprocated. Whether he was aware of my feelings or not, I will never know. The other professor was a bit older, probably in his 50s or 60s. He lived in Italy as an adult during WWII, and told us stories about the Italian Resistance, which years later inspired my WWII romance novel. We used to sing songs about the Resistance in the Italian Club (of which I was "presidentessa"). The first professor was the club's faculty advisor and several other female students had crushes on him, too. He was very charming. I was attracted to older men. My late husband was 12 years older than me.

I learned almost all of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas; they involve a lot of unrequited love. They are light operas and are different from grand operas, such as La Boheme, which usually end in tragedy. Light opera is what it sounds like. Lighter in theme and, like a romance novel, the female and male leads end up HEA.

I participated in a foreign studies program sponsored by my college and spent one summer in Italy. I could speak passable Italian at that point. I enjoyed sitting in the piazza eating a gelato and watching the people go by. Decades later, that ended up in my novel.

My love of opera drew me to study Italian and it became one of my minors, along with French. My major was English. In college, I took things I thought were interesting and fun. I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and sometimes I still ask that. I took sign language and would practice with a deaf student who was an art major.

I met my husband Kenny at a singles group, which happened to meet at my church in Staten Island. I was 26 and I was one of the younger people in the group. My father attended and he was in his 70s. Kenny was not a member of the church but was one of the leaders of the group, along with my father. The meeting would start with a "rap session," and as the leader, Kenny would ask open-ended questions. This was followed by a "wine and cheese" session where people could mingle. Well, it turned out Kenny was interested in me and we talked at lot during the "wine and cheese." Then he asked if I knew Arthur, and I said, yes, he is my father. (I figured if my father knew him he was probably "safe.") Kenny gave me a ride home that night and the rest is history.

When I lived in Staten Island, I attended the Unitarian Church with my father. Now, I live in Manhattan and have recently become a member of The New York Society for Ethical Culture. Both are very different from traditional religions. We feel that it is up to the individual to decide whether to believe in God or not. The important thing is to be a good person and to try to make the world a better place.

I was inspired to volunteer for Amnesty International by my father, who was a "freedom writer" for them back in the 1970s and 80s. They write letters and petitions on behalf of political prisoners or "prisoners of conscience." Amnesty has helped many, many people all over the world.

For years, I had fantasies about getting my book published, with a beautiful cover, and having a book launch party to celebrate with all my friends. For my day job, I was assigned to write an "Operations and Procedures Manual". Scenes strike me at odd moments, such as when I am walking to work or in the shower. I decided to write a page in the style of a romance novel for the manual, just as a joke to share at my book party. It was a scene between an account executive and his assistant regarding a client who had died. In the romance version, I included quotes like, "Oh my heavens, is he really dead??!! But how do you know? And how do you know she is really the widow?" I had been given permission to use space at my office for tmy book party and I read that scene, when people from my company showed up. There were a few chuckles. It was fun. It was my celebration. I had really written a novel and it had been published. Sometimes, that is still mind boggling to me.

I love to travel. I especially like Europe, because the countries are democratic and the people have similar values to ours. In 2002, my husband and I went to Italy. We included Verona in the trip because I wanted to get a sense of the city since my book takes place there. The reason my book takes place there is that during WWII, the occupying German army was headquartered in Verona. "Romeo and Juliet" takes place in Verona too, but the romantic connection is pure coincidence. We also went to Venice. I wanted so badly to have a gondola ride, and insisted on a gondolier with a stripped shirt and straw hat, the traditional costume. I spoke to him in Italian but said, "si, si" a lot because I didn't understand all that he was saying. He explained what they had to learn to become gondoliers. Someday, I'd love to go to Oktoberfest in Munich. (I have visited Munich but not for that.) I've also thought about going to Times Square for New Year's Eve, but only if I can stay in a nice warm hotel overlooking the crowd. I wouldn't want to be outside in the cold!

To celebrate the millennium in 1999, my husband and I went to Charleston, SC, not quite as exciting as New York, but still a cosmopolitan city. I had been searching for something special to do for that occasion and found a very stylish hotel in SC that had a millennium package. It sounded fancy and fun. I bought a dress that was black velvet and tulle with sequins and a matching crushed velvet jacket. When I showed it to my husband, we both realized he was going to need a tuxedo to match my elegant attire. As it turned out, it was a black tie affair so we fit right in.

Generally I do not like to shop, though I do like window shopping if I am a tourist. I do not own a lot of shoes, and I go for the comfortable ones. When I was younger I would force my feet into pointy shoes a size too small.

I hate to waste things. For ecological reasons I always recycle; I even reuse a paper plate. I took home the extra napkins from our Starbucks table. I ask cashiers not to give me a plastic bag when I go shopping, if I can fit the item in my purse.

I do not hate anyone, though I might hate what they do. Perhaps I am being naive, but I don't want to abandon my humanism. Though I do realize there are people who are as close to being totally evil as one can be, like Hitler or Stalin.

I am half German, and I had always thought about studying the language, and became even more interested in it while I was writing my book. My book involves Germans and Italians, and I read many memoirs by German soldiers for research. Since I had studied Italian, I could add a few phrases, and decided I wanted to do the same with German, to add a little "favor" to my novel. I took some classes and found it a very difficult language. Word order is very important. And unlike French and Italian, where two genders are enough, German has three -- masculine, feminine and neuter. Strangely, words like "das Mädchen" (the girl) is neuter, not feminine as you would expect. There is a German expression that I do not like: "Kinder, Küche, Kirche" (children, kitchen, church) because it implies to the "proper" place for women. It seems very old-fashioned and sexist to me. However I do like "Schwarzwälder Kirschetorte" (Black Forest cake) both to eat and to say!

I listen to classical music more than anything else. I love Beethoven's 9th Symphony. The 4th movement includes a choral section, which is rare in a symphony. The words are based on a poem by Schiller, "Ode to Joy," which in German is "An der Freude". It is about joy, and the music and words make my heart soar!



  1. Great open and interesting post, and Lis, I can't wait to read more...

  2. Thanks, Anne, and thanks so much to Fidencia for giving me the opportunity to reveal the "little-known" side of Lisbeth Eng!