SALT LAKE CITY — After growing up in Argentina during the military regime of the late '70s and early '80s, Utah resident Marcia Maidana learned to love books as a form of escape. She never imagined that one day she'd publish a book of her own, let alone in the United States.
Despite learning English as her second language, Maidana published her first novel, a historical romance with elements of mystery and magical realism, titled "Awaken" in 2017. Its sequel, "Alive" (Satin Romance, 288 pages) came out this October.
As a child growing up in Argentina's unstable political years, Maidana said she experienced a difficult world where food was barely affordable and often ransacked from the stores before her family had a chance to buy any, where people were thrown in jail for gathering in groups deemed too large and where the government kidnapped thousands of children on a regular basis.
Books were a luxury. The only book Maidana remembers having in her home was the Bible, which she said she read cover to cover when she was 8 years old. When she was 9, she got a library card, but could only check out one book a week. That wasn't enough for her, so she began volunteering at the library so she could read when she was there.
"Reading was a great comfort," Maidana said. "It took me places that were better. I could dream and find happiness in circumstances that weren't that perfect."
When the dictatorship ended, money was still scarce in Maidana's family and she ended up leaving school to work. Then, she joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she was 15 and met a young American missionary. They married when she was 18 and she immigrated to the Kaysville, where she still lives today.
In the U.S., Maidana was able to learn English and finish high school, but also felt lonely and isolated away from everything that was familiar to her. She thinks this in part led her to studying her family history to lessen her "longing for Argentina."
Six years ago, Maidana was learning about a man in her father's Italian line whose wife died at a younger age, but the man never remarried although he lived for another 30 years.
"I think his love was so strong and so special," Maidana said, and she started wondering how things might have been different if something a little magical had happened.
That's when the idea for her first book "Awaken," a time travel romance, popped into her head.
"I wasn't thinking to become a writer, rather the story made me a writer," Maidana said. "I fell in love with the idea and I wanted to see how it would play out."
She eventually wrote out the story of a young woman named Florence Contini, who, during the Great Depression, leaves her service at a monastery for employment under a wealthy, reclusive general with a painful past. As she and the general start to fall in love, Florence discovers that she is the very image of the general's deceased wife and goes back in time to learn the truth of their story.
After working on it for five years, she sent her book out to agents and publishers and, to her surprise, got offers from two.
"Some people said I couldn't write a book, especially not one in English because it's my second language," Maidana said. "But it had been engrained in me from a really young age that I could accomplish anything if it was the right thing and I worked hard enough, so I did keep writing."
Since "Awaken" is a romance novel, Maidana had at least one publisher who felt a downfall of the book was its lack of sexual content. Maidana said she's also had some reviewers who said they enjoyed the book, but wished it had more explicit material.
"In the end, I think I knew what I wanted the story to be like," Maidana said. "I knew I wanted to write something uplifting that would help people to realize we can enjoy a book even if it doesn't have elements that the world wants in them."
Maidana knows there are also people who appreciated that "Awaken" is clean. It's hit No. 1 on Amazon's bestseller list for time travel romance, it won the bronze medal in the historical mystery category of the Readers' Favorite competition and was a finalist in the 2018 British competition the Wishing Shelf Book Awards.
At first, Maidana had no intention of writing a sequel to "Awaken," but wrote one when her publisher suggested it.1 comment on this story
"It was interesting to see that even though I wasn't thinking to write a sequel, the first book was set up for a sequel," she said. "Now that the second book is done, I realize the story would not have been complete without it."
Maidana said she intends to keep writing and is already working on her next book. She hopes her writing will leave a legacy to her three children to show them that they can do whatever they set their minds to.
"No matter what others say, your potential and worth is infinite," she said. "The possibilities are limitless if you are willing to put forth the effort to go after your dreams."