Sit Down Saturday
Today I am sitting down with Alexandra Bogdanovic, author of Truth Be Told.
Welcome, Alexandra! Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me!
Me: What books/authors have influenced your writing?
Alexandra: This is a good question – one I generally have a hard time answering.
The people who influenced my writing most aren’t actually authors. They’re the sports writers and editors who mentored me when I began writing for a daily newspaper in high school. I started by writing small blurbs with the game results, who scored, etc. During what was essentially a four-year apprenticeship, I learned to write “game stories” and feature stories.
Without that small, but dedicated group of people who helped nurture my talent all of those years ago, I never would have become an award-winning journalist and I wouldn’t have the ability or the courage to share my story.
Me: How did you come up with the title(s)?
Alexandra: I was listening to the radio one day and a song came on that included the lyrics, “truth be told.” It just resonated with me.
I found it especially appropriate because my book is a brutally honest account of how I met, fell in love with and married the man of my dreams only to find out that he self-identified as and planned on having gender reassignment surgery to become a woman. I also share what happened after I discovered this shocking secret.
Me: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Alexandra: “Truth Be Told: Adam Becomes Audrey” is a memoir, so it is based entirely on events in my own life.
I felt compelled to tell my story because it provides a different perspective on an oft-told tale. While many members of the LGBT community share their stories in their own books or through the mainstream media, we seldom hear how their experiences affect their families and friends. I wanted to give those people a voice and to let them know their stories are important, too.
Me: What books have most influenced your life most?
Alexandra: That’s another good, but tough question. I discovered my own “voice” as a young writer, and while it has grown a bit over the years, I’ve been determined not to be swayed by anyone else’s style. So in that sense, as a writer, I can’t honestly say I’ve been influenced by any books. I can’t say, “I read this book and decided to become a writer,” or “I read this book and decided to change my writing style.”
Now, as a voracious reader, I’d say the books that influenced my life most are those I read as a child. They were the classics – The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables… There are almost too many to mention!
Me: What book are you reading now?
Alexandra: I’m reading Witch Wraith: The Dark Legacy of Shannara, by Terry Brooks. I love science fiction and fantasy, and Terry Brooks is one of my favorite authors.
Me: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Alexandra: I’m sad to say, no. But that’s not because there aren’t any great new authors out there. It’s because I’ve been so wrapped up in my own work, I haven’t had a chance to pay attention to anything else.
Me: What are your current projects?
Alexandra: I am getting ready to start the research for my second book, which will be based on my father’s life as a staunch anti-Communist and political refugee in post-World War II Europe.
Me: Do you see writing as a career?
Alexandra: Yes. I plan on writing at least two more books. And since I’ll need a day job (unless I hit the lottery or land a really sweet publishing deal) I also plan on transitioning into a new career where I can capitalize upon my writing skills. I’ve already devoted more than 20 years to a career in community journalism. Now I’m ready to try something else.
Me: If you could change anything in your book, would you?
Alexandra: No. It’s not perfect – I don’t think there’s any such thing as the perfect book – but I’m proud of the final product. I wouldn’t change a thing.
Me: How did you get started with the writing venture?
Alexandra: I was born to write.
As I said earlier, I started writing for a daily newspaper when I was in high school. I essentially did a four-year apprenticeship while I was in high school and a one-year college internship at the same paper. I officially began my journalism career soon after graduating from college in 1991 and the rest is history.
Me: Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Alexandra: It is mentally grueling. The quest to find just the right word to convey an idea in just the right way… It never ends, especially if you’re a perfectionist!
Me: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Alexandra: If this is something you really, really want to do, go for it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it or it won’t amount to anything. But be realistic. Very few people become rich or famous doing this. If you’re just doing it for the money, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.
Me: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Alexandra: Yes. Thank you for your interest in my work. If you take nothing else away from this book, please remember that no matter what you see or read in the mainstream media, there is always another side to the story. Don’t take anything you see or read at face value.
Me: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Alexandra: The hardest part of writing “Truth” was that I was telling my own story.
Me: What genre do you like writing the most?
Alexandra: To date I’ve only written a memoir, so I’d say that’s my favorite!
Me:Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Alexandra: Of course! Don’t we all?
For me the best way to avoid it is to do “block writing.” I just write anything that comes to mind and worry about cleaning it up later. That way I don’t get stuck and waste time trying to make something work.
Me: Do you write an outline before every book you write?
Alexandra: No. I definitely flew by the seat of my pants when I wrote “Truth.” I think it worked out because I was writing about my own experiences and I knew exactly how I wanted to share what happened.
Me: Have you ever hated something you wrote?
Alexandra: Absolutely! As a reporter it happened all the time. A deadline loomed. The right words proved elusive. An editor demanded copy. Just spell check, hit save and send. File it. Forget about it. Start the next story. It’s all I could do.
What is your favorite color?
What’s your favorite food?
Puppies or bunnies?
Definitely puppies! That being stated, I have a 14-pound cat named Eli who is full of attitude and enjoys acting like a pit bull!
Chocolate or vanilla?
I didn’t want to tell anyone about my past, much less anything about Adam. After all, I had come to Virginia to put it behind me and start a new life.
Nevertheless, curiosity abounded. People wondered what brought a single young woman from the New York City suburbs to Warrenton, of all places. I told them — a bit gruffly — that I needed a change of scenery and that I had left everything I’d ever known to join the staff of what had once been one of the best suburban newspapers in the country.
I never imagined the first person I’d confide in would be a high-ranking cop. Yet somehow, even though we’d only known each other for a few months, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could trust Major Paul F. Mercer Jr.
“I got married at a horse show — at the Hampton Classic Horse Show, one of the most prestigious shows on the east coast,” I told him on what promised to be a typically hot and humid June day. “It was a fairy-tale wedding. We got married on the grand prix field. We had a horse-drawn carriage, seventy-five invited guests and three thousand spectators. Oh, and it was on TV,” I added, almost as an afterthought.
Traffic on Route 50 crawled past the Upperville Horse Show grounds, and then came to an abrupt halt behind a motorist who wanted to turn into the wrong gate. Major Mercer stepped off the grassy shoulder to talk to her and quickly pointed the wayward driver in the right direction.
“So what happened?” he asked when he returned to his cruiser.
“What?” I said.
“You were saying you had this fairy-tale wedding. Apparently, things didn’t work out. What happened?”
I wanted to tell him. I just didn’t know how.
Sitting on the ground behind his black Ford Crown Victoria, I began pulling up blades of grass. One by one, I let them slip through my fingers.
“I’ll tell you,” I replied, eying the trim, uniformed man with short, prematurely gray hair who, as third in command, was also the public information officer at the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office. “But only if you promise not to tell anyone else.”
“I promise,” he replied, becoming uncharacteristically grave.
“Okay.” I took a deep breath, dropped my gaze and resumed uprooting the grass. “So, you know what a transsexual is?” I asked.
Rip, up came another fistful of grass. Rip, rip, rip. Tattered blades fell softly back onto the earth.
“Well, Adam — a couple of years after we got married I found out Adam is really a woman — or wanted to be a woman. We got divorced. He went and had the surgery and everything, so he’s … she’s Audrey now.”
I bit my lower lip and dropped another handful of shredded grass before I finally looked up, dreading a look of dismay, disbelief or disgust and half-expecting to see his trademark grin.
He remained serious. “Alex,” he paused. “I’m a country boy but I’ve also been a cop for a long time and I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my career. I can’t understand why anyone would do that, or begin to understand what you’ve been through. I will never tell anyone and I will never tease you about it — unless you open the door. Okay?”
He extended his hand and I reached up to take it. The lithe major’s strength surprised me as he pulled me to my feet.
“Okay,” I said, meeting his gaze and returning the handshake. “Thanks.”
It turned out to be the first of many conversations we had about my ex. The subject became a matter of dispute, debate and more “counseling sessions” than I cared to admit. Paul was never shy about doling out personal and professional advice, and teased me relentlessly about billing me for it. He also kept his word and never joked about Adam unless I fired the first salvo.
As much as I loathed talking about my ex, time made it easier to share my story with friends, sources and coworkers. More often than not, I broached the subject when female acquaintances bemoaned the rough times in their own relationships.
“That really sucks,” I would inevitably say after listening to their tale of woe. “But I bet I’ve got a story that tops it.”
In time, it became an inside joke among my closest friends.
“Trust me,” one of my best pals, Christiana, said when the dinner party conversation at her house once turned to crappy relationships, “Alex has a story that can top that.”
Alexandra Bogdanovic was born in Bronxville, N.Y. and grew up in Greenwich, Conn. She knew she wanted to be a reporter at age 12, and received her first byline in the Greenwich Time when she was a high school freshman. By the time she graduated from the Convent of the Sacred Heart in 1987, she’d been covering high school sports for a daily newspaper for four years.
In 1991, Bogdanovic graduated from Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in writing. She officially began her journalism career as an editorial assistant at The Advocate in Stamford, Conn., soon after graduation. After paying her dues at a daily newspaper, Bogdanovic decided to devote her efforts to community journalism in order to have a more direct and meaningful impact in the towns and villages where she worked.
Bogdanovic covered police, courts and municipal government at several weekly newspapers in the New York City suburbs from 1996 to 2003. As a reporter for The Sound Shore Review, she received recognition from New York Press Association for a story about poor emergency response to a bomb threat at an elementary school. One of her greatest challenges while working in Rye was covering the mutual aid response and local reaction to the Terrorist Attacks of September 11.
After receiving 10 Virginia Press Association awards for her work at a twice-weekly newspaper in Warrenton, Va., from 2004 to 2012, the veteran reporter returned to Connecticut.
She enjoys spending her free time with family and friends, chilling with her cat, Eli and watching and photographing high-goal polo.
You can buy her book at these places!