An Alternative Author Interview:
TCL’s Countdown Questions.
This week I’m featuring author
After reading Olga’s latest novel, “The Charmed Wife,” I realized that it was a book I couldn’t get out of my head. The mixture of fantasy, fairy tale, and contemporary reality was just so unique, and frankly, terribly refreshing after all of my reading of literary, historical, fiction. Plus my regular readers know I’m not into the fantasy/magical genres AT ALL, so you know it must be very special to keep me fascinated from beginning to end. Because of that, I think I have some back list reading to do, and that’s why I asked her if she’d participate in my little alternative author interview (and my first one of 2021)! Let’s see how she replied to my five, fast, and fun questions.
- If you could visit five (5) places you’ve never been, where would you go and why?
Travel is my second passion, with literature being the first, and the two are inextricably linked in my mind – I want to visit places I read about and write about the places I visit. Eventually I would like to go absolutely everywhere, and the immediate wish list changes, but here are some of my top choices:
- Egypt, because I like the idea of starting at the beginning. I once spent a couple of years attempting to read all of the world literature in chronological order, and The Book of the Dead, tedious and fascinating in equal measure, kept me company (and sent me off to sleep) for weeks.
- Corfu, because everyone who knows Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals will pine after the island.
- Patagonia, because, until I see it for myself, I will suspect that Bruce Chatwin invented the place.
- Japan, for numerous reasons.
- Prague, always, because it is the most magical place I know. Technically, I have been there – I lived there for five years as a child, and have gone back time after time – but it is never the same twice, and no travel wish list of mine, whether long-term or short-term, would be complete without it.
- Name four (4) foods or dishes that you enjoy so much that they’ve practically become part of your personality.
- Tea (I am Russian, after all.)
- Lemons (I’ve discovered that most dishes are improved by a squeeze of lemon.)
- Pretzels (Just the pretzel-flavored salt, really.)
- Apples (Their taste always takes me back to my childhood, to the apple trees that grew at our dacha near Moscow.)
- There is the past, the present, and the future – if you could choose, which of these three (3) would you prefer to live in, and why?
I would love to visit the past for a stretch – say, spend a month in Alexandria Library or watch the dome of the Florence Cathedral being erected – but ultimately, I’d stick with the present. The future, quite frankly, does not inspire me with great confidence, and I’m ever mindful that in the past, I’d be quickly run over by some carriage or dispatched by a dinosaur, nearsighted as I am. And, more importantly, at no other point in time would I have had access to the art, the places, and the opportunities that I am grateful to have at the juncture of these two centuries.
- Best and/or worst – you choose which – name two (2) of either your best moments of your life, worst moments of your life, or one of each.
With almost five decades behind me, I’ve had my share of both – changing countries, losing people, publishing books, dreams put on hold, dreams coming true, marriages, divorces, children – so I’m afraid I couldn’t narrow it down just to two.
- Name one (1) book you’ve read in the past year (or so) that you wish you had written, and why.
I never find myself wishing I’d written another writer’s book: the more I admire someone’s writing, the more unique their style and their worldview seem to me, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else penning their works. That said, I recently read and loved Tove Jansson’s memoir, Sculptor’s Daughter; it was luminous and wise, and I can’t think of a more fitting approach to describing that wonder-filled time in one’s life, one’s childhood. If I ever undertake anything resembling a memoir, I will certainly keep her example in mind – but, of course, I will then strive to write something very different, something fully my own.
We also love Prague, and have been there several times (the picture above is one I took a few years ago). Hope you can get back there again, soon. (Can you believe I’ve never been to Egypt, even though I live next door in Israel?)
Olga Grushin was born in Moscow and moved to the United States at eighteen. She is the author of three previous novels, Forty Rooms, The Line (published in the UK as The Concert Ticket), and The Dream Life of Sukhanov. Her debut, The Dream Life of Sukhanov, won the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, earned her a place on Granta’s once-a-decade Best Young American Novelists list, and was one of The New York Times’ Notable Books of the Year. Both it and The Line were among The Washington Post’s Ten Best Books of the Year, and Forty Rooms was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction of the Year. Grushin writes in English, and her work has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives outside Washington, DC, with her two children.