Rising Star Spotlight: Rozsa Gaston


You've lived an interesting life!  First, where did you grow up and what was it like?
 I grew up with my grandparents in West Hartford, CT. My life was completely conventional until I met my father Zoltán Nagy when I was 16. He was a Hungarian refugee from Transylvania. I understood almost nothing he said, even when I managed to cut through the dashing Hungarian accent. All I could glean was that he had a big rollicking intellect filled with reference points and European cultural history that I wanted to know more about. I wrote about him in Black is Not a Color, in a fictionalized tale.
My dad worked at Pan Am airlines. From the moment I met him, he urged me to take advantage of the two free airline tickets he could offer me annually. My first trip was to Guatemala alone when I was 18. A few trips later I circumnavigated the globe flying Pan Am Flight One: New York, Honolulu, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Delhi, stayed on the plane in Tehran, then visited Frankfurt, and finally arrived again in New York. I don’t think I ever had more than $100 in my pocket on any of those trips. My father’s offer of those two free airline tickets per year changed my life.
What prompted you to take a European intellectual history major at Yale?  And, what is the difference between that and a regular European history major?
European intellectual history focused on major movements that shaped Western civilization: the Medieval era, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment. I liked the idea of learning history in broad brushstrokes. Besides, regular history would have included military history, which I wanted to avoid.
What were you hoping for when you achieved your Masters in International Relations from Columbia?
My goal was to return to my job at the United Nations in a professional position, instead of a general administrative one. A Masters degree was required for a professional post. I was following my role model, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who had also gone to Columbia for international affairs. But when I graduated, no professional jobs were available to American candidates due to the U.S. being in arrears on its UN dues. I headed downtown to work on Wall Street to pay off my student loans.
Explain how all this transitioned into writing novels!  Take us on that journey!
I was working at a hedge fund when the last financial downturn hit. My entire department was laid off. For the first time in my life I collected unemployment. During that year I wrote my first novel. While writing it, ideas for a few other novels came along, most notably one set in Paris. My tale of a 19-year-old American woman’s experience as an au pair to a Parisian family caught the attention of an agent and in 2012 got published. Because there was a lot of romance in it, I billed it as a romance novel, but it was truly the story of a young woman’s empowerment, journeying from clueless to knowing her tastes and being comfortable in her own skin.
After Paris Adieu came out, I was hooked. My daughter was in kindergarten and I realized how perfectly the writing life suited my desire to be there for her when she came home from school. The writer’s life works for me. I’ve got enough ideas for future books inside my head to keep me going to age 100 and beyond...

Read the entire interview in the February 2019 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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