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Teaching by example

While her latest book is based in historical fiction, some of Cheryl Lodico's novels involve autobiographical themes, including her experience after 9/11. Photo by Nat Valentine
TimesLedger Newspapers

In many ways, Cheryl Lodico’s new novel, “Escape from the Maelstrom,” is as much a tribute to her grandmother as it is a work of historical fiction.

“The protagonist, Karina, embodies the courage, strength, kindness, compassion and great capacity to love that my grandmother always possessed,” says Lodico, discussing her novel’s heroine Karina Kikorov. Lodico adds that love for her grandmother is abundantly evident within the pages of the novel.

A longtime Whitestone resident who taught English on Long Island’s South Shore until retiring in 1996, Lodico’s latest novel incorporates background information from World War I, the Russian Revolution and America in the early 19th century.

Noting that her 16th and latest self-published book is partially autobiographical, Lodico explained how her family came to the United States from Odessa, Russia in the 1890s. “The book’s heroine, Karina Kikorov, was modeled after my own grandmother who lived through the pogroms in Odessa and escaped from Russia at age 16,” she says.

Set in Moscow in 1912, Lodico’s book of historical fiction, released earlier this year, follows the journey of a plucky Jewish woman who was forced to escape her native Russia due to religious persecution.

Lodico recalled that her ancestors were compelled to “run out of the country” because they were Jewish and were generally mistreated.

However, despite her family’s difficult times in Russia dealing with issues of persecution, Lodico maintains that the country is still intriguing. “Reading about the Russian countryside is very interesting. When you read about it, you actually feel you’re on the land and can experience the terrain,” she says.

In addition to fashioning the book’s plot from her own grandmother’s experiences, Lodico, who attended Queens College and wrote her thesis on influential poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, kept her novel a family affair by tapping her grandchildren for the names of several characters.

Although most of her books were written in the last decade, Lodico recalled that she began writing earlier in her career in the ’70s and ’80s, but was forced to shelve many of her ideas due to her busy teaching schedule. She taught at Lawrence Middle School from 1966 to 1996.

Many of Lodico’s other books have dealt with varied topics including agoraphobia, panic attack and the aftermath of 9/11. “I think that people can learn a great deal from my books,” says Lodico, who credits her teaching experience for helping her to write.

While admitting that she wanted to be an author earlier in her life, Lodico explained that her teaching experience proved ultimately invaluable. “I think my background as a teacher makes me highly qualified as an author and moreover as an author who can teach history via books.”

As an author who “loves to write books with happy endings,” Lodico adds that in the future she would like to pursue writing Harlequin romance novels.

“My books carry nice themes of life and hope,” she says. “I want to share my books with as many people as possible.”

On her motivation to write, Lodico says that “if only a few hundred people read [her books], it’s still worth it,” mainly due to the instructional quality of the books. She noted that hours and hours of meticulous research has gone into all of her books.

Asked about her experiences with self-publishing, Lodico says it can be tough.

“It’s very difficult. Self-publishing houses charge you a fee upfront for their services and then they charge you if you have any mistakes in your copy.”

Further, she said that making money as a self-published author isn’t easy.

“I don’t believe I’m making much money from my books,” she admits. “And they take a lot of time to write. The initial costs vary from company to company.”

However, Lodico added that Red Lead Press and Outskirts Press were among the most reasonable houses with initial fees averaging a few hundred dollars or more.

Reflecting on her writing, Lodico prefers to take a philosophical approach to being an author.

“Not everything is about money. Not everything can be measured in terms of dollars and cents,” she says. “I just want to share my books with people.”

For more information on author Cheryl Lodico, visit cheryllodico.com.

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