Many will have heard of Hedy Lamarr – she was considered the most beautiful woman of film, had one of the most controversial film roles of the 30s and she was reportedly the inspiration for Anne Hathaway’s version of Catwoman. Not as many will have heard of the other side of this remarkable woman – the inventor and mathematician. She and her colleague George Antheil laid the ground work for frequency-hopping spread spectrum, which is the basis for the spread-spectrum communications technology we use pretty much daily in the form of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Lamarr was born Hedwig Kiesler to Jewish parents in Vienna on the 9th of November 1914. In the late 1920s she was discovered as an actress by German producer Max Reinhardt. After her theater training in Berlin she returned to Vienna and started working in the film industry. It was there she met and married military arms merchant Friedrich Mandl. A very controlling husband, Mandl took Hedy along to business meetings and keeping her more or less locked up at their castle home Schloss Schwarzenau, where according to Lamarr herself both Hitler and Mussolini attended parties. These business meetings and conferences introduced Lamarr to the idea of applied science, and was the start of her scientific interest. What she overheard during those meetings would spur her scientific efforts at the start of the second world war.
Finding her situation unbearable, she eventually escaped to Paris where she met talent scout Louis B. Mayer. On his insistence she changed her name to Hedy Lamarr and on her arrival in Hollywood in 1938 Mayer promoted her as the world’s most beautiful woman. This was the start of a Hollywood career that would span two decades and 25 films.
When World War II began, Lamarr wanted to use her scientific interest and the information she overheard during Mandl’s business meetings to thwart the plans of Nazi Germany. She began investigating ways to bypass jamming and detection of radio controlled torpedos. After several years of working by herself she brought in avant-garde composer George Antheil to the project, and together they devised an invention which hopped between 88 frequencies. The U.S. Military were not interested – they thought Hedy would do more for he war effort by promoting war bonds – and the invention was forgotten for twenty years. Then, during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, it was used by U.S. ships to during the blockade.
It wasn’t until 1997, however, that Lamarr was recognized for her research when the Electronic Frontier Foundation honored her with a special ‘Pioneer Award’ and she became the first woman to receive the BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award. A year later, Wi-LAN Inc. acquired 49% of the patent for an undisclosed sum and thanks to that we now have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology, among other things.
In 2014, Lamarr and Antheil were inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame.
The Tale of Genji is not an unknown work by any stretch of the imagination – it is considered a Japanese classic and a very important work – but here in the western world few have heard of it and I think it is well worth noting that the first modern novelist in recorded history was a woman. The novel itself is divided into three parts, consisting of 54 chapters in total, and it curiously ends in mid-sentence (scholars have debated if the ending is actually the intended one or if there may be parts missing). Many different versions of the book exists, some with small differences and later editions with extra chapters written by other authors, but the original has unfortunately been lost to time.
Lady Murasaki was an author and poet born somewhere around the year 973 AD in Japan and in the early 11th century she entered the service of Empress Shōshi as a lady-in-waiting. Her true identity remains uncertain. There exists no portraits of her and no literary descriptions, and the name Murasaki comes from one of the major characters in her novel. It is believed she may have been Fujiwara Takako – a lady-in-waiting mentioned in a court diary in 1007, but no one knows for sure. She died somewhere between 1014 and 1025.
Besides The tale of Genji, she is attributed authorship of The Diary of Lady Murasaki – a diary written in three distinctly different parts – and Poetic Memoirs, a collection of 128 poems.
Meet Alysha Kaye, author of the newly released novel The Waiting Room, and the first writer to be interviewed on my blog!
Alysha was born in San Marcos, TX, where she also received her BA in Creative Writing from Texas State University. She worked in marketing for a brief and terrible cubicle-soul-sucking time until she was accepted into Teach for America and promptly moved to Oahu. She taught 7th grade English in Aiea for two years and also received her Masters in Education from University of Hawaii. She now teaches in Austin, TX and tries to squeeze in as much writing as possible between lesson planning. She dreamt about The Waiting Room once, and offhandedly wrote her boyfriend a love poem about waiting for him after death. Somehow, that became a novel.
I found out about her through another blogger here on wordpress (theowllady), and the cover and summary were enough for me to know that I needed to read her book. So, I purchased the kindle-version and after reading a mere third of the book I contacted Alysha about taking part in her blog tour promotion of the book. Today I hope to learn a bit more about how The Waiting Room came to be and what the experience of writing, publishing and promoting the novel has been like:
RT: Now, I absolutely loved The Waiting Room, but before we talk about the book itself I want to say that I also really like the cover – how did it come to be? Alysha: Thank you! It was a very difficult decision for me because I’d always pictured a very simple “waiting” cover–perhaps just a chair in front of a window, etc. However, I had an amazing graphic designer through Expert Subjects and she sent me about 30 different concepts. I held a vote on WordPress and Facebook and the one you see was the clear winner.
RT: For me, two things in particular really stand out: first, all the various life-and-love stories we get a glimpse of throughout the book. Where did you get the inspiration for all of these personal destinies? Alysha: A lot of them were adapted from short stories I’d written in the past. One in particular (the one set in Ewa, Hawaii) was published last year in the Hawaii Review, while I was teaching there. I definitely think a part of myself went into each of Jude and Nina’s lives- their love represents love that I’ve had, love that I wish I had, love that I’ve seen other people have… I find inspiration everywhere.
RT: Second, I really like that everything is so open to interpretation. There’s no single faith or world view that dominates and yet I found it to be very spiritual and philosophical – is that open-mindedness a part your own beliefs? Alysha:I’m really glad you caught that- I definitely didn’t want any reader to think that I was secretly trying to push my own viewpoints. It’s open to interpretation because that’s exactly how I feel about faith and spirituality- open! I don’t think anyone should ignore the possibility of any religion or belief.
RT: You’ve said that The Waiting Room started out as a poem based on a dream – what made you turn it into a novel? Alysha: I couldn’t get it out of my head! I thought about it all the time. The poem turned into what I thought would just be a short story. Then I just kept writing and writing and writing…that’s the trick I guess haha just don’t stop! I need to remember that for my next project…
RT: Was it a difficult decision to choose self-publishing? Alysha:Not at all. I didn’t want to wait years for an agent or publisher to respond to a query letter! My novel had already been collecting dust for a few years, so I wanted to act fast. Self-publishing is amazing. You have complete creative control! However, now that it is out there, I may look into traditional publishing. It feels a bit like selling out though! I really like being an “indie author”…so we’ll see.
RT: Being an English teacher and a writer I’m guessing you have read quite a lot in your life – are there any authors in particular you would say have been a strong influence for this book, or your writing in general? Alysha:I started writing this book immediately after I’d read The Time Traveler’s Wife. Such an amazing, heart-wrenching love story. I was so captivated by her writing. [RT: the author in question being Audrey Niffenegger]
RT: You’ve done a week of this blog tour now – what has this experience been like? Alysha:It’s been so great! I love connecting with bloggers and fellow writers. The WordPress community has been so incredibly supportive. I definitely want to do more of this!
RT: So now that the book is out and being promoted, what are your plans for the future? Alysha:Well, unfortunately, I think I may need to hire a PR specialist. The marketing is hard work…and the only reason I’ve had time for it is because I have all summer off. So many next steps…PR, decide if I want to try and traditionally publish it, continue writing the next novel (I have about one chapter written so far)…
RT: Lastly, is there anything about this whole experience – writing the book, publishing it, promoting it and going on this blog tour – that turned out very different from what how you imagined it? Alysha:The social media aspect of it has been VERY surprising. I honestly didn’t think creating a Twitter, for example, would help me sell my book haha it seems very futile. But it really has helped! Having the time to keep up with it, however, is proving to be the most difficult part! #overwhelmed 😉
There you have it Dear Reader! If you are at all into books about romance, philosophy and life after death I highly suggest you give this excellent novel a chance. For me, it has been one of the most pleasant reads of the year and I know I will return to it again and again.
The Waiting Room:
Summary – Jude and Nina are the epitome of that whole raw, unflinching love thing that most people are jealous of. That is, until Jude dies and wakes up in The Waiting Room, surrounded by other souls who are all waiting to pass over into their next life. But unlike those souls, Jude’s name is never called by the mysterious “receptionist”. He waits, watching Nina out of giant windows. He’s waiting for her. What is this place? How long will he wait? And what will happen when and if Nina does join him?The Waiting Room is a story of not just love, but of faith, predestination, and philosophy, friendship and self-actualization, of waiting.