Thursday, May 10, 2018 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Meet Geza Tatrallyay

The Write Way Café welcomes Geza Tatrallyay, an author with plenty of varied experiences and a love of research to draw on when writing his books.

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? 

     I have been writing poetry since my teens, and still do (I now have two poetry collections, CELLO’s TEARS and SIGHS AND MURMURS published and a third one, EXTINCTION, on the way). Then in my early thirties, I wrote down the story of my family’s escape from Hungary, just so my children and other family members would have it (the memoir, FOR THE CHILDREN, was finally published in 2015). When we were living in Vienna, I started thinking about writing a novel that would be a takeoff on Graham Greene’s THE THIRD MAN, and the wonderful movie made from it. I finally tackled the subject in 2009, and TWISTED REASONS was the eventual product, after much polishing. As I was writing, the characters took on a life of their own, and it became imperative to turn it into a trilogy.

What was your path to getting these books written and published? What type of research did you do?

     I submitted TWISTED REASONS to many publishers, and finally, in 2014, it was a wonderful authors’ collective, Deux Voiliers Publishing, that agreed to publish the book. Ian Shaw, the head of the group just “got” the book and what I was trying to do. What‘s great with DVP is that all the benefits of being published flow to the author – the publisher is a not-for-profit cooperative, and authors do all the work of bringing the book out. And besides, their mission is to launch other authors, so they urge you to go on to mid-sized bonafide publishers for subsequent books.
     I have to digress to say that while I was seeking publication for TWISTED REASONS, I quickly wrote another thriller, ARCTIC MELTDOWN, that I self-published in 2011, electronically, through Smashwords, simply to see what that all entailed. I am now thinking of reworking that book and having Black Opal Books, the publisher that took on the remainder of the Twisted trilogy, publish it.
     In any case, after TWISTED REASONS, I went on to write TWSITED TRAFFICK, the second book in the trilogy, which was picked up by Black Opal Books, a good mid-sized publisher of mysteries and thrillers. They will also be bringing out TWISTED FATES, the third book in June of this year, as well as another independent international political thriller I wrote while living in Bordeaux, THE RAINBOW VINTNER. That will probably come out later this year or early next year.
     A lot of research went into these books. First, on the disastrous Soviet program to build an atomic bomb. The more I got into it, the more I was shocked by the utter disregard for human life and the environment that the Soviets displayed in this pursuit, and I think that comes through in the novels. Secondly, I did a lot of research on the relationship of some of the criminal gangs operating out of Russia to the so-called state and the oligarchs. The arms and human trafficking and other nefarious activities of these gangs are sanctioned by the state and it is Putin and his cronies who rake off some of the profits. The research on this world – especially the human trafficking – was emotionally difficult, but I felt I needed to incorporate much of it into the novels if for no other reason than to expose these activities.

Where did the idea for your stories come from?
     As I mentioned, the original idea was to do a modern-day takeoff on THE THIRD MAN story. And since we were living in Vienna at the time, and the International Atomic Energy Agency was there, the story evolved naturally from there. But as I delved into the research, the series developed into an exposé of the “merchants of evil” as I call them, and their links to the current rogue Russian régime. Since many of these gangs deal not just in arms but also other illicit trading, human trafficking was the next big topic to try and write about. Hence TWISTED TRAFFICK.

Why did you pick the setting you did?
     Vienna is one of my favorite cities, and we were living there at the time, so it was natural that I would write a novel set there. The city still has much of the post-war and Cold War aura of intrigue to it – it is still very much an entrepôt of spying and trading. The other settings – Hungary, Russia, Georgia, Montenegro, Greece, St. Pierre et Miquelon, the US – were natural choices based on the flow of the story.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
     Some of the characters are takeoffs on actual people. Certainly, Greg’s background has some of my, and my family’s, story woven into it. Omi is a composite of my mother and grandmother, Kálmán of my father and the husband of an aunt.

Did you face any blocks while writing the books, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
     I can’t really relate to writer’s block. For me, the story creates itself in many respects. The characters take a life of their own and run with it. If I can’t immediately solve an issue that has come up, I sleep on it, and usually during the night a wonderful solution turns up … Or else, during a long walk …

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the books and after?
     Certainly, one surprise was the degree to which the story “wrote itself”. I did do an outline of each of the books, but there were developments, twists and turns, that emerged along the way. As I mentioned above, some of the research I delved into brought surprises and much learning.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about nuclear materials, arms trafficking, and human trafficking?
     I learned a lot about Russia and the Russian role in arms and human trafficking. Also, as I mentioned, about the utter disregard for human life and the environment in the Soviet nuclear program. For one, they used prisoners from the gulags to do the dirty work – for example, they would send them into a nuclear reactor after an accident to manually dismantle radioactive rods. After four or five days the prisoners would be so weak and close to death that they couldn’t work any more – they would just take them out and shoot them. Another piece of learning was regarding the extent to which Mayak and the surrounding area – and the other secret atomic sites – are still contaminated to this day. And the horrors of human trafficking.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
     I write wherever I can. All I need is my laptop. In short, I don’t really need or have a defined writing space.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
     Graham Greene’s little book, THE THIRD MAN, obviously because of the inspiration it gave for TWISTED REASONS. The Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy, because in some ways it freed me to write the Twisted trilogy as I wanted to. On another note, Julian Barnes’s THE NOISE OF TIME – an amazing story about the Russian composer, Schostakovich, during Stalinist times.

What are you working on now? 
     I have just completed a third memoir, THE FENCERS, the story of a Romanian-Hungarian fencer who approached me at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, where I represented Canada, to help him defect to Canada. It is a wonderful story, really fun and personal for me to write, and I am now seeking a publisher for it. I am also working on a third collection of poetry, EXTINCTION. In addition, I have been doing research on a non-fiction book about the contribution of Hungarian conductors – like George Szell, Antal Dorati, Fritz Rainer, George Solti, Eugene Ormandy, and others – to classical music in America. These men came here, immigrants like me, and revolutionized orchestras in all the great cities in the US, making them world-class. This story needs to be told. I have also been trying to plot my next thriller, likely to be set in San Francisco, but it is early days.

Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?  Which one and why?
     As I mentioned up top, I have had two collections of poetry published, with a third one on the way, and two memoirs, also with a third one looking for a publisher. I love to try my hand at different genres, and will no doubt write a historical novel sometime. One thing I enjoy is doing research and the learning I get from that – I love to pass this on to my readers by working the results into the novel.

If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
     I don’t see writing as a job – for me it is a passion! It neither has the drudgery of a job, nor does it provide me with a stable income I could live on.

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
     Rewriting. Polishing. I am the type of writer who, once he/she gets the story down, likes to do maybe one rewrite and then go with it. It is my wife who keeps reminding me that that is simply not enough. One has to polish a manuscript to perfection – that is what I find hard to do.

All my books are available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Also, most bookstores can order them. There are buy links on my website:

About Geza:  
     Born in Budapest, Hungary, Geza escaped with his family in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution, immigrating to Canada the same year. He grew up in Toronto, attending the University of Toronto Schools, where he was School Captain. He graduated from Harvard University with a BA in Human Ecology in 1972 (after taking a break in his studies to work as a host in the Ontario Pavilion at Expo70 in Osaka, Japan). Geza was selected as a Rhodes Scholar from Ontario, attending Oxford University and graduating with a BA/MA in Human Sciences in 1974; he completed his studies with a MSc in Economics from London School of Economics and Politics in 1975. Geza represented Canada as an epée fencer in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
     Geza’s professional experience has included stints in government, international organizations, finance and environmental entrepreneurship. Since 2004, he has been semi-retired, managing a few investments mainly in the clean energy sector and devoting himself to his family and his writing. Geza is a citizen of Canada and Hungary, a green card holder with an American wife, a daughter living in San Francisco and a son in Nairobi, and currently divides his time between Barnard, Vermont, and San Francisco.

Find Geza here:  Website     Twitter     Facebook     Linked In


HiDee said...

You have some fascinating stories to tell. Thank you for being with us today Geza!

Lynn said...

Thank you for being on our blog! Your writing is amazing.

Anonymous said...

Geza, thank you for sharing your intriguing stories (and poems) with the world. You have so many ideas and experiences to offer.

Geza said...

Thank you all for your support and the very positive comments! Geza

Zari Reede said...

What a fascinating life you have had. I love the interview, but curious to know what your dream job would be. I read the part about writing is your passion, but what else would put the cherry on top?

Geza said...

Hello Zari - thank you for asking and making me think more about it.

Creating or directing a film would be something I would like to do, although I recognize the infinitely greater complexities of that task than writing a book.

Being a musician would be a dream -- composing a piece of music, or conducting an orchestra, but alas, these are endeavors out of my reach because of the lack of talent...

So I stick to writing...


Zari Reede said...

I think I would like the same, except that I would have to leave my animals behind too often and I love writing with them:)

Mollie Blake said...

Fascinating post, Geza. I have researched sex trafficking in the UK for one of my stories. It was harrowing but very useful. I have a help page on my website for readers who can relate to any issues raised in my books. Thanks for sharing. x

Geza said...

Great idea, Mollie.