Lucas Dines is a new author. Originally from New Mexico in US. After finishing his doctorate in clinical psychology from The George Washington University, with the need to change his life, he sold all of his belonging, packed two bags and with a one-way ticket moved to Macedonia.
Tetovo was his city of luck, where he worked for more than four years as a university professor and principal of a secondary school. He returns to Tetovo from South Korea where he currently lives, this time to promote his book Sons of the Soil, a story that throws light on Macedonia and the Balkans on 1902.
Dines showed readiness to share with our readers new information and to help us quench our curiosity about his new book. Read below!
An American that writes about a story that is taking place in Macedonia, is not a usual thing, can you tell us how you got inspired?
- I was inspired by the people. I lived in Macedonia for a total of 4 years, all four in Tetovo, and I was moved by the people. I felt like no matter where I looked, no matter what question I asked, no matter who I met, there was always a story to be told. Life in the Balkans is slower and sometimes people in the West believe it is simpler, however, I quickly found out that is not true. In fact, life in the Balkans, and Macedonia especially, is so rich and complicated. There is depth in its land, in the people, and in the lifestyle that is an unending source of inspiration for a writer.
Can you remember and describe an event or story that left you special impressions of Tetovo?
- I have a million stories to tell about Tetovo. I have two blog posts on my website (lucasdines.com) dedicated to Tetovo and Bozofse stories, so I won’t retell those. Another one I will tell about, though, is my first experience of local elections. All of my friends and colleagues had advised me to stay home and not go out, and of course I didn’t listen to them. To make a long story short, I went walking through the city just as PDSH began their celebrations in the center of the city. I distinctly remember walking through the crowd and a man pulling out his rifle and shooting it in the air. Then I remember going to my balcony and watching the bullets trace through the night sky as the celebrations continued. It was surreal and a true introduction to Tetovo.
Did living in Macedonia for several years had an influence on your mindset? What?
- I honestly believe that I grew up in Macedonia. Before I had moved to Tetovo, I was working as a psychologist in the Veterans Affairs hospital in Washington, DC. I was very much entrenched in normal American life. Then I moved to Tetovo and everything changed. I was an outsider struggling to insert myself in a completely different culture. I learned what it was like to have no power and water. I had to figure out how to manage communication and relationships in a completely different manner. Everything was strange and confusing. I had to adapt, or go home a failure.
I slowly adapted and I truly became a new person. I learned the value of things and services. In the US we expect things to work and take many things for granted. After having lived in Macedonia, I am pleasantly surprised when things work and I’m grateful for services when they are provided. I now focus more on the relationship between people versus just a transaction. We Americans are very upfront and focused on the transaction, whereas in the Balkans the people are more focused on trust and the relationship. Americans are business first, then relationship. People in the Balkans are relationship first, then business. I really love this aspect of the lifestyle and love how it is expressed through endless coffees and long lunches spent talking and connecting. Maybe some business will get taken care of, maybe not, but that is not important.
Macedonia changed me in many other ways, but the most significant changes were my gratefulness for what I have as an American and my closer attention to relationships in my life.
In the preface of your book you say: I also dedicate this book to Tetovo. The city I love and hate so much. Why?
- I think anybody who has lived in Tetovo knows exactly why I would say this. Tetovo is so rich in character, beauty, and wonderful people that it just grabs a hold of you. The mountains and the river. The painted mosque and the teqe. Slow walks down the main road, maybe having a coffee at Tivoli and a tulumba at Amfora, greeting 50% of the people you see because it is such a small community. These aspects of life in Tetovo are amazing. But then you get home and your power is out, or you can’t shower because there is no water but shop owners are spraying water all over the concrete sidewalk. During the winter you can barely walk down the road because the city hasn’t paid the bill for a snowplow. Corrupt politicians openly stealing from everyone as long as they can until they are caught…and just pay off the judge with the money they had originally stolen. This is side of Tetovo I hate, but it never will outweigh the side of Tetovo that I love.
Even being a fiction history, your book has characters and events that date since 1902, stories that very little are mentioned even in our school books, how did you achieved to get these information and how hard was it?
- I had to do A LOT of research. Most of the available information was from primary sources like letters, old newspaper articles, and diaries. Most of my research was about the time period, in particular means to travel, weapons, and political realities. Another major part was my research regarding Gotse Delchev. I tried to base his character on who he might really have been. Since he is a real person I had to make sure his details were more accurate than the other characters. The Albanian characters are totally fiction, but based on real people, so they didn’t require as much research other than my own personal experience with Albanian culture. I will have to warn anybody who is thinking about writing in the historical fiction genre, it is really difficult, and it is twice as difficult when writing about Balkan history. Every country has its own version of history and it was really hard trying to figure out what’s true and what’s not true. This was an area of concern for me. Eventually I had to make a judgement and go with one version of Gotse Delchev and Iane Sandanski. Are they Bulgarian? Are they Macedonian? What did they believe? These are questions I had to answer and it was very hard.
There are comments that rate your book as bias, and say it favors one nationality more than other, how do you comment it?
- I am 100% sure that not a single person writing those comments actually read the book. That is the irony. All these people claiming I am biased, which would require a close-reading and complicated analysis of my work, have not even opened the book. Just like in real life where people scream racism and bias between Balkan groups, they do that only by judging the surface versus looking into the complicated characters of each individual. That would be too hard. The easy way is to just take a stereotype and apply it. Just like my book. They looked at the cover and wrote all sorts of nonsense online without even reading it.
Going further, I would say that my book is fair. It doesn’t favor one or the other. All groups are explored and the dark side of all are exposed. I invite anybody to read it and, with citations from the text, debate its fairness or bias. I would actually encourage this, hope for it, and challenge people to do it.
Did the sales, promotion and fame that the book got reached your expectations?
- I am very proud of the impact the book has had on audiences in Macedonia and in the US. I am self-published so I do not have a large company behind me doing the promotion and marketing. It’s just me and my good friends, who have been amazing in this whole process. Writing has always been something that I do for enjoyment. I have a normal job that pays the bills. Writing is a hobby that I hope I can keep expanding. In terms of sales, I doubt I will ever make as much money as I have invested in the book. This was a labor of love. I wanted to write something that will last, that my kids could read, that the people of Macedonia would have access to if they chose to look beyond the cover. Money and fame were never the primary goals.
Our readers are mostly young people from Macedonia, what would you suggest to them and what would be a word of advice to them?
- Don’t lose hope. Change is possible but it will be incredibly difficult and require unbelievable sacrifices. The government is hopelessly corrupt. Your politicians are thieves. Don’t look to your government for answers, rather look to each other. The most dynamic force in Macedonia is the family and the local community. Start small around friends and family and change your world there. Then expand. Don’t wait for the thieves to figure out a way to steal from you. Don’t wait for your politicians to block initiatives. Do it yourself. Change your world. Take power from your pathetically corrupt government and give it back to the individual, the family, the neighborhood. I can’t tell your readers what form this will take, but until the politicians realize that they serve the community vs. themselves, then nothing will change. March. Boycott. Students taking personal responsibility for their learning. Increased entrepreneurship. Whatever form it takes, make sure it is thoughtful and goal-directed. I have seen a lot of protests in Macedonia, especially from students, and often they are simply out of laziness. For example, students don’t want to take a test so they protest the teacher holding them accountable for their lack of studying. That is nonsense. Don’t waste your power as citizens on silly protests without direction or real benefit to the community. Fight for what’s important.
If I had any advice to the young people of Macedonia, then it would be this: fight for rule of law. There is no rule of law in Macedonia, therefore nothing functions. All of your energy should be invested in holding the judicial branch of your government accountable. They are the true failures in Macedonia. The judges are the last line of defense for the people. Politicians, police officers, professors, doctors, and government workers who are stealing from and raping the people of Macedonia must be held accountable, or nothing works. These degenerates who are destroying the lives of so many continue to harm because they know they will get away with it. Change the rule of law first. All else comes later.
Are we going to read anything else by Lucas Dines soon?
- I hope so! I have some pretty good ideas right now and I’m working on a new project, but I can’t divulge those details. They are secret 😉 /bonzo.info/