Today I’m chatting with author Elena Mikalsen about her debut novel, Wrapped in the Stars. First, a little about Elena’s debut, women’s fiction which will be published by Wild Rose Press February 19, 2018.
Struggling with guilt over her sister’s death and the stress of her medical residency, Maya Radelis runs away to Scotland. A robin seems to lead her to an antique shop, where she finds a century-old engagement ring. Curious about the ring, she follows the slim paper trail, wondering if it is only coincidence that her dreams reveal the story of a Swiss woman physician who wore the ring during World War I. In Paris she meets fellow New Yorker David Fischer, a lawyer with family in Switzerland as well as America. He helps Maya follow the memories stored in the ring as they lead her around Europe. The attraction between David and Maya grows, and when they discover a connection between the ring and David’s family, they learn, bit by bit, more about the ring’s earlier owner. Will Maya’s own life have the same tragedy of lost love?
Below is a little teaser from the book:
He took her hand gently and led her away from the window and onto the crowded ballroom floor. Her heart was beating wildly. It had been years since she attempted to dance at a ball. She had always been terrible at dancing and swore she’d never do it again. She hadn’t had to, either, since going to the university. Why did she agree to dance now? What was she thinking?
The music started. She felt his hand slide gently around her waist. Suddenly, she was flying on the dance floor, despite her clumsy feet and her terrible, heavy dress.
“You deceived me. You’re a great dancer,” Edward whispered in her ear, his mustache tickling her and his breath warming her neck.
Minerva Spencer: Let’s talk about where you got the idea for Wrapped in the Stars?
Elena Mikalsen: I got the idea when I was in Edinburgh with my family. I stood in front of the antique shop (the picture of the exact shop is below). It was dark, cold, and misty. My feet very terribly achy from a day of walking on cobblestones. My husband said, “Do you want to go warm up in this store? The jewelry here looks like something you’d like to buy.” It was a tempting idea, as cold as we all were.
And then I shuddered as a thought occurred to me. What if I buy an antique jewelry item and it has memories of its owner attached to it? What if those memories then attach to me and change my life? I looked at my perfect family and shook my head. I didn’t want someone else’s memories. I was happy with mine, no matter how achy my feet were.
But this idea of memories transferring from people to objects wouldn’t leave me alone. And this book was born just a month after
MS: What’s the story behind the title?
EM: I came up with the idea based on the song I listened to often as I wrote Maya’s character. The song is by Ed Sheeran and it’s “All of the Stars.” Stars represent destiny and fate and this novel is about destiny and fate. The stories of men and women in this story are neatly wrapped around together with fate.
MS: No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
EM: The story features Lenin, the famous Russian Revolutionary, who happened to plan the Russian Revolution as he resided in Bern at the time that my characters lived and fell in love there.
MS: Tell us about your favourite character.
EM: I love both of my women, even though they are very different from each other. Maya is a modern physician, who grew up after losing most of her family. Even though she is a modern woman, she struggles to be strong and stand up to others and know what she wants. However, she finds her voice and strength in the end, she just needed some time. Rebecca is a woman from Edwardian times, surrounded by protective family members, yet she knows exactly what she wants and how to get it and is the finest physicians and advocate for women in Bern.
MS: If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
EM: I would spend a day with Rebecca in her clinic for women, helping her treat underprivileged women and children.
MS: Are your characters based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?
EM: Mark is a character based on my great-grandfather who came from Ukraine to study medicine in Switzerland. Maya’s grandmother is based on my grandmother.
MS: Let’s talk about how long it took to write this book?
EM: It took me 3 years.
MS: What kind of research did you do?
EM: I studied many biographies written by women and men who studied medicine in Swiss Universities at the time Rebecca studied medicine. I also read biographies by first women physicians to learn of the struggles they had in medicine and what kind of work they chose to do. I read about WWI and Swiss history. I read Lenin’s biography as written by his wife. I read books about Ukraine during WWI, even though I grew up in the country and knew quite a bit.
MS: What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
EM: Several chapters about Maya’s life in Ukraine.
MS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
EM: I am very organized in my writing, with many charts. But I start by just writing all my ideas down. So, I am a mix.
MS: What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
EM: When I fall in love with my characters and they start telling me their stories all the time and I can’t stop writing. I can write almost all day long at that point.
MS: What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
EM: I work full-time and I often don’t have enough time to write.
MS: Can you share your writing routine?
EM: I write early in the morning, usually at 6 am to 8 am. I also write late at night. 8 pm and until I can’t stay awake again. I write most of my weekends.
MS: Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
EM: I struggle to write in December, because I usually wear myself out during NaNoWriMo (The National Novel Writing Month, during which you write every single day).
MS: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
EM: Don’t let your insecurity stop you from writing. I was afraid to write for many years because I thought my grammar was poor. I didn’t know there was editing software and there were editors around.
MS: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
EM: I have 2 half-written books right now that I am working on.
MS: Do you have any writing quirks?
EM: I have to have music on when I write. It’s soundtracks that I put together for each novel I write.
Thanks for joining me, Elena and congratulations on your debut!
I am a debut Women’s Fiction author. My first novel, WRAPPED IN THE STARS, will be released in February of 2018. It was short-listed for the Del Sol First Novel Prize in 2017. I am somewhat obsessive about travel, but, when I am at home, in San Antonio, I can be found browsing through bookstores or antique shops with my husband and two children.
When not writing stories, I am a Pediatric Psychologist helping children with chronic medical illness. I write books about women who have a chance to change their lives. My stories take place in the United States, in Europe, in cities, in small towns, anywhere my characters take me. I blog on issues of mental health for teens and adults. I enjoy working with the media due to my expertise in managing anxiety, stress, and parenting issues. I provide consultation to authors on writing about mental health. My nonfiction writing can be found at
If you’d like to learn more about Elena or her book or get your hands on a copy, you can check out one of the links below: