I truly adore all the writers who I get to interview here, but today, my guest, Rebecca Strong, has particularly captured my heart with her honesty and her humor . . . and her love of cookies and wine. Learn more about her and her new book below .
1.Tell us about your book.
When I left the USSR several weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall, I didn’t think I’d be back. Yet sixteen years later—almost to the day—I found myself living in St. Petersburg with zero idea of how this new, capitalist, post-Soviet society functioned. I spoke fluent Russian, had no accent, and yet I stumbled when it came to navigating the everyday life of the new Russia. People looked at me as if I had fallen off the moon. If my language was perfect, why was my knowledge of how to live non-existent?
It was an incident at a bakery, which I describe in my Quartz piece on why I wrote this novel under a pen name that generated the idea for Who Is Mr. Plutin? and it was the stranger-than-fiction reality of today’s Russian society that provided a perfect setting. Called Kafka-esque by at least a couple of reviewers (and I am taking this as a huge compliment, especially on a 100-year anniversary of the Metamorphosis), the novel is a mix of light spy-fi, humorous women’s fiction, satire, and mystery that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Here is a short blurb:
When Vika Serkova wakes up in a luxury apartment in St Petersburg, Russia—married to an oligarch and an elite undercover Russian spy—all she can remember is being an American and living in New York. Her new, Dom Perignon and caviar-infused life is delightful, but only until her husband drops an ultimate bomb about why she’s forgotten everything and about her current assignment for the Russian president. The assignment implicates her family members in a conspiracy big enough to cost them their lives and Vika must save them—but only if she can manage it with most of her memory still MIA and her opponents set on destroying each other even before Vika’s manicure dries.
2. What do you do when you’re not writing?
I feel guilty over not writing and eat too many cookies in the process. When I am not doing this, I am raising a daughter, walking a dog, and not-washing dishes.
Also I paint. My pieces have been called whimsical, dream-like, and too uplifting by some people.
3. Describe the first 2-3 steps of your process in writing your book.
(1) Find a café that looks cozy. (2) Order coffee and cake. (3) Procrastinate while eating the cake. (4) Start writing. …. (435) Realize that you’ve written your first draft by the seat of your pants and your arc needs work. Go back, revise your plot, move some scenes around, fill in gaps. (436) Open a bottle of wine.
4. Which is more difficult – drafting or revising? Why?
Drafting is torture for me. I produce too many shitty first drafts and spend a lot of money on cookies. Maybe it’s because the tonnage of the whole work is still ahead and it terrifies me that I won’t be able to lift it ever. Maybe it’s the white screen. Or maybe it’s the whole starting concept. Starting is hard.
Revising on the other hand is a beach vacation. With a lot of mixed drinks.
5. What is your favorite part about being a writer?
Reading what I wrote when it sounds at least decent. Re-reading it and making it sound better. Finding just the right word, the right metaphor, the right rhythm.
6. What is your least favorite part about being a writer?
Starting that thing I am about to write. I avoid it at all costs.
7. When you write, who do you imagine as your reader?
I don’t really think of my reader – characters, settings, and story arcs occupy most of my brain crevices when I write.
8. How did you learn to write?
I first learned how not to write. I spent my childhood and adolescence living in the Soviet Union, and our teacher’s preferred methods of teaching were intimidation and criticism. Most of the time when tasked with writing an essay on a Russian classic, we copied forewords. Because there was no Internet back then, our teacher couldn’t easily catch us, and for years I associated writing with stiff words, sentences that took entire paragraphs, and deep silence in the classroom as she passed out our grades. After moving to the US and taking creative writing classes, I realized that writing was actually more than that. Writing was fun.
9. What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
Keep putting words on paper, and don’t edit yourself as you go along. Edit later. Embrace your shitty first drafts. Hang out with other writers. Take a walk.
10. If you could inhabit the setting of one book, where would you live and why?
Harry Potter. I’ve always wanted to do magic.
Plenty of wine near by. Some good cheese, crackers, grapes. If a good review – re-read. If a bad review – ignore and pour more wine.
Rebecca Strong is a pen name of a writer and an artist who lives in Spain. Rebecca is always careful about her acquaintances, and her knowledge of geopolitical rivalries is purely accidental. She tweets @StoriesColors, Facebook-s at www.Facebook.com/
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