Your real name and pen name?
Zalka Csenge Virág is my real name (Hungarians put the family name first). I don’t have a pen name; by Hungarian standards my name is unique enough. By American standards, definitely unique!
About your education
I have a Master’s degree in Archaeology (I specialized in the Roman era), a Master’s Degree in Storytelling (yes, you can get a degree in that, at East Tennessee State University!), and I am currently working on my Ph.D. in American Culture Studies. I am mostly interested in contemporary storytelling, and the use of traditional tales in game design.
What career did you plan during your education days?
I originally wanted to be an author and an archeologist, but what I have always been most interested in are the stories. Then, when I was in college, I found out that storytelling is a profession that still exists (and people get paid for it!), and decided that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Storytelling became something that encompasses everything else for me: writing, history, archeology, education, etc.
If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?
Rosita Forbes. She was a traveler in the early 1900’s and I enjoy her travel journals a lot. I wish I was braver to visit some of the places she went to.
What is your favorite genre and why?
I think my favorite would be historical fiction. I was trained as an archeologist so I admire it when an author can take a bunch of facts, fill in the blanks, and turn it all into and exciting and coherent story. I am really picky about historical fiction books, though. It is easy to tell when someone has not really done their research, and then the author loses my trust. Also, it has to be written well.
Another genre that I really love is “mythic fiction.” It has been getting more and more popular lately. As a storyteller that works with folktales and mythology, I enjoy reading new twists and adaptations on old stories. Once again, this is a genre that is hard to do extremely well, but when it is done, it is amazing.
My third would be travel literature. I enjoy reading people’s travel journals, especially from the 19th and early 20th century.
Which of your work published so far?
I have a collection of three short historical novels published in Hungary, titled Útban az ég felé (The way towards the sky). My second book just came out in the USA, published by McFarland. It is titled Tales of Superhuman Powers, and it is a collection of folktales from all around the world that have superpowers in them – invisibility, super speed, telepathy, etc. I wrote down my versions of these folktales, the way I tell them on stage, and also included a lot of background information on each story. It was an amazing and fun project to work on.
What are your forthcoming writings?
I would like to circle back to historical fiction, and write something from the Roman era. I am also working on a second folktale collection. I am participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with a series of short stories, we’ll see what comes out of that.
What are your future plans?
Whatever I do, I will definitely keep telling stories. And I would like to travel as much as I can.
What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?
I am really particular about doing my research, especially when I work with cultures other than my own.
I like to know where my story is going before I start writing it, mostly because if I just write away, I get easily distracted.
I write a lot better when I have motivation. I either set myself a deadline, or participate in a challenge, or have a writing buddy to keep me on track.
I also like to bounce ideas with someone else. If I do all the work without talking about it to anyone, I get wrapped up in it and can’t see if something doesn’t make sense from the outside.
Your dream destination on Earth?
That’s a long list! Storytellers love to travel. Right now Greece, Ireland, Peru, and Indonesia are high on my list. I have been to Italy and Spain a number of times, but I would not mind returning again.
Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?
I am Hungarian. I have been in many of the countries close to Hungary (Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic). For storytelling, I have traveled to Switzerland, Italy, and Spain. I have visited Rome a number of times - it is probably my favorite city in Europe. I have spent the last two years in the USA, this is my second time studying here. Out of the American cities, I really enjoyed New Orleans, and Appalachia as a region is gorgeous.
My favorite places are the ones that have a lot of stories. For example, I have two collections of folktales from Prague, and when I visited the city, I could find all the places the stories talks about. Naturally, Rome is the same way. This summer I performed at a festival in Andalucía and visited some famous Spanish cities like Granada and Córdoba. Granada was absolutely amazing. I can get lost in a place’s history when I travel. That is usually more exciting to me than sandy beaches or nightlife.
Your favorite color and why?
Yellow. It is a very cheerful, bright color.
Your favorite book and why?
Wow, that’s a tough one. I have more than one favorite book. On GoodReads, I have a full separate shelf for my all-time favorites. Some of them are The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Fables by Bill Willingham, Lamb by Christopher Moore, The Squire’s Tale by Gerald Morris, the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, and lately, the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. It is a really eclectic mix…
Your favorite food?