Harley Michel, Protagonist of “The Doctor and the War Widow” by Viola Russell

Who are you?

I am Harley Michel, a lonely schoolteacher in the vibrant city of New Orleans, and the protagonist in Viola Russell’s THE DOCTOR AND THE WAR WIDOW.

What is your problem in the story?

My life is currently devoid of any real adventure. I teach high school and go home every afternoon to my chocolate lab, Nico. My beloved mother recently died, and my husband John died ten years ago in Iraq. My colleagues, sensing my loneliness, challenged me to enter an online dating site. I was reluctant to do it, and some of the early dates were a disaster. Then, I met an older, handsome Egyptian doctor named Abisi. He also is widowed, and his marriage was marked by unhappiness and loss. Throughout the story, we both must adjust to each other and learn to trust after a great deal of grief.

Do you run from conflict?

I don’t think many people “like” conflict, but romance with Abisi, my new lover, puts me on the path toward conflict with my mother-in-law, some of my family and friends, my school administration, and even a psycho ex-girlfriend of Abisi’s.

How do you see yourself?

I see myself as a more than competent teacher and as a very creative writer, but I’m not a person who trusts easily. I long for adventure and for someone with whom I can restart my life and share adventures.

How do your friends see you?

My friends see my life as sad and lonely. Not all of them know of my secret writing life. No one understands the intensity of my feelings for my late husband or the passion I feel for Abisi, my new lover. None of them would believe I’m a tiger in the sack.

Do you have a hero?

My mother Eden was my hero. She taught me to respect myself and follow my dreams. I do that with my writing. I also know my mother would want me with someone I love and who could share my life with me. She wouldn’t want me to succumb to grief or to wallow in self-pity.

Do you have a goal?

My goal is to be a successful writer and to leave behind the paralyzing conformity of my current life. In many ways my life is good, but I am too locked in my comfort zone right now.

What do you regret?

I regret not having a child with my first husband. We tried but weren’t successful. I also regret that I didn’t follow my heart and pursue my writing much earlier.

Has anyone ever failed you?

In the novel, Abisi fails me on an issue of trust, and I wasn’t sure I could forgive him.

Did you get along with your parents?

I was the adored only child of my parents. My father used to take me riding on his Harley. That is how I acquired my name. My mother and I were best friends. I’m mourning her when the novel begins.

What is your most closely guarded secret?

I secretly write contemporary and historical romances. My colleagues and administrators have no idea I do this. My books are adventure-filled and deal with frank issues of sexuality.

What are the last three books you read?

I’ve recently read TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN by James Lee Burke. I love mysteries set in Louisiana, and Burke is a poet. I also recently re-read Barbara Tuchman’s A DISTANT MIRROR because I want to write a novel in that time period. Lastly, I read Julia Baird’s IMAGINE THIS. It’s a wonderful portrait of growing up in Liverpool in the 1950s and provides a compelling look at John Lennon’s early life.

If you could change one thing in your life, what would it be?

My life is too safe, too ordered. The writing is fulfilling, but I sometimes need someone and something to take me from the safety of my computer. Working at the computer is fine, but need to leave the isolation of the computer–only to return and create a better world when I write.

How do you envision your future?

I hope that life with Abisi will be filled with new experiences, challenges and love.

Where can people find out more about you?


Viola Russell, Author of “The Doctor and the War Widow”

What is your book about?

The Doctor and the War Widow is about Harley Michel, a lonely widow who has also just lost her mother. On a dare, she enters an internet dating site. After some disastrous encounters, she meets a handsome foreign doctor, but their past entanglements and hangups threaten their happiness. Harley still grieves for her husband, killed in Iraq. Abisi, the doctor, is also widowed, but he was once involved with a woman who still harbors feelings for him. She causes him and Harley a lot of grief.

What inspired you to write this story?

Well, internet dating is a very timely topic, and I liked the idea of two people who had a complicated history getting together.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

Most people want to find true love, and many now internet date. Harley and Abisi have complicated pasts and lives. Many people who have a history do.

Tell us a little about your characters.

I don’t have a favorite character, but I think both of them are admirable. Harley wants true love but is holding onto her past. She has to change a great deal and take risks. Many people fear that.

Who is your most unusual/likable character?

I loved writing the character of her friend Donna. She is a true friend and very laid back.

What is your goal for the book?

I’d like people to see that risk-taking is acceptable and that true love is something we should all seek. Sometimes, loving means getting hurt, but it can also lead to real romance. They travel from New Orleans to London and then to Liverpool. It’s in Liverpool that he proposes marriage.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

I love red wine when I write.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t always follow my dream. I only really started pursuing the craft in the last few years.

What writer influenced you the most?

Louisa May Alcott. I read “Little Women” and thought I was Jo. She made me want to write.

Where can people find out more about you and your books?