1. Tell us something more about ‘Flowers Forever’? What is the book all about?
‘Flowers Forever’ (published in the United States by World Wide Art Books) celebrates the four-decade artistic career of Elizabeth ‘Lizo’ Shahenian, an award-winning American Armenian artist.
2. How did you come up with the idea to write this book? Was it challenging to write your first non-fiction?
I was approached by Elizabeth on Twitter to review her paintings for her book, an opportunity I grabbed with both hands, without knowing how I was going to do it. The difficulties of taking the plunge from romance writing to non-fiction aside, my hesitation had a lot to do with my unfamiliarity with the art scene in the United States. I had heard about American artists like Andy Warhol and admired the works of Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Williem de Kooning, but all my observation had been perfunctory. I was more clued in to the art scene in Europe, and had avidly followed the life stories of master painters like Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and Vermeer. One reason for that was that I spent a long time studying and working in London, which, indisputably, is the melting pot of European art and culture. It was Elizabeth’s trust and confidence in my writing abilities that kept me going through this project. That besides, the few days that I spent with her at her studio in Los Angeles gave me the opportunity to understand her work and know her world inside out.
3. How much time did it take for you to write this book?
I started writing the book in Dec 2017 and completed the first draft by the end of Jan 2018. Over the next few months, I rewrote the whole manuscript many times over. I finished the book in the autumn of 2018 and it was a pleasant coincidence that Lizo invited me for the book launch in 2019, that too on my birthday. She had planned it as my birthday present.
4. Tell us something more about your stay with Lizo in Los Angeles? How was it?
I was very excited to be in Los Angeles, especially as Lizo had told me that the city had been an inspiration behind many of her paintings. It made me want to know LA more intimately. Albeit, at the time I visited her in 2017, I didn’t know how I was going to do it since I didn’t drive, nor owned a car in the US. Lizo stepped in to help. We would sit in a corner of her studio from early morning till five, before venturing out to a new tourist destination each day. If we were playing on a slot machine in a casino one day, we were roaming the streets in downtown LA on another. I can never forget the long, leisurely stroll we had along Santa Monica’s pier or the dinner we had on Hollywood Boulevard. Having coffee and cake at one of the swanky cafes at The Americana at Brand was memorable, too. But most of all what I remember from my week-long sojourn is waking up to a cup of Armenian coffee every morning. Or coming back to her studio in the evening after a tour of the city and relaxing to a song of Raj Kapoor’s ‘Awaara’, or a melody of Tchaikovsky if that suited our mood better.
5.Tell us about your next book?
I just finished writing a romance novel. It will be out soon.