Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Interview with historical fiction author Marina Raydun

Marina Raydun is here today. She’s talking about her writing and 2 of her novellas, One Year in Berlin and Foreign Bride.

Welcome, Marina. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an NYC indie author. I was born and raised in the former USSR (born in Russia, raised in Belarus). However, having moved to the United States at the age of 11, I consider this country to be my true home. Skipping 6th grade, I entered 7th in Brooklyn, New York, where I live to this day. I hold a B.A. in History, as well as a J.D., though I do not currently practice law. I’ve been writing for myself since I was a teenager but these two novellas are my first published works of fiction.

Please tell us about your current release.
This is a book of two novellas. They differ from each other greatly, in themes and inspirations. I’ll go over them individually.

One Year in Berlin is a story about a young woman named Rachael. She is a granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor and finds herself having to live in Berlin for at least a year because of her husband’s career opportunity. Even though she believes she is strong enough to not be held back by her family’s history (along with its long-held fears and prejudices), Rachael feels herself growing a bit unhinged on German soil; her new life becomes riddled with nightmares and visions, her past and present get confused. We watch her go through this year-long ordeal, unsure if she’ll ever find herself again.

Foreign Bride is a tale of two people from different countries (and cultures) looking for love. Bobby is a middle-aged man from London, while Sofiya is a younger woman from Moscow; they find each other in the context of Russia’s “mail-order bride” industry. Their feelings for each other seem genuine, despite the rather calculated manner in which they met, and yet, they can’t seem to relax and enjoy each other’s company. We are privy to their deepest insecurities and bouts of self-destruction as we watch what such things can do to a potentially happy couple.

What inspired you to write this book?
One Year in Berlin was in part inspired by my own nightmares (though, needless to say, I’ve fictionalized them for publication). Unfortunately, given that I am Jewish and come from Eastern Europe, the subject of World War II has always hit a bit close to home. I believe that unless we continue to study and talk about this dark chapter in our history, we cannot truly do our best to ensure that such atrocities never take place again; nor can there ever be any forgiveness. Because of this, I really felt it was important to try to tell a story showing three perspectives that bring little, if any, good—one that’s stuck in the past, one that’s knee deep in denial, and a third that refuses to see what the fuss is all about given how many years have passed.

Rachael’s nightmares can also be read as a metaphor for her feelings towards (or fears of) her husband. This novella can be read entirely as a relationship piece. How you’d rather interpret this one is entirely up to the reader; I wrote it dually on purpose.

Foreign Bride, on the other hand, was inspired by my fascination with the “mail-order bride” industry. The footing in these types of relationships is anything but equal—at least one party is out of her/his comfort zone. Expectations also differ greatly from those one would reasonably anticipate in a more ordinary setting. Not to say that these relationships are always doomed to abuse and mistrust. Absolutely not! There are legitimately happy couples out there who are genuinely grateful to this industry for helping them find each other. Still, I’ve always wanted to look deeper into this world, wanting to play around with the various themes involved. One morning, during my subway commute, I visualized the first chapter and had to write it down. I took it from there.

Excerpt from One Year in Berlin, Chapter 1:
Darren eyed his wife with a hint of worry from behind the thick, pseudo-intellectual frames he used for reading. He put down his copy of The New Yorker and threw his arm around her, pulling her into his side.

“Relax, Ascher, whatever it is you are thinking about, odds are—you’re overthinking it,” he ordered in his effortlessly confident tone as she let out a snort into his black, fashionably worn-out leather jacket.

Darren was used to a strong, tough wife and suspected that having to watch her deteriorate would not be easy.

“Look! It says I’m German,” she whined cautiously.

Excerpt from Foreign Bride, Chapter 2:
When it was Bobby’s turn, her heart seemed to stop beating to allow her ears to hear better.

“London,” he answered simply.

Sofiya was used to hearing these men declare with pride that they were from New York but really being from Albany, or saying that they were from Frankfurt but really meaning Aachen. Chances of this man being from London were slim, she knew.

“Really? London-London?” she smiled, lifting her eyebrows skeptically.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on a full length novel, aiming for publication late this spring (2014). A reader of mine once described my stories as those about “relationships with a twist.” I love that description and find it to be very accurate. This upcoming novel will sure be a “relationship (or two…or three) with a twist (or two…or three)” type of work, set against the backdrop of a murder-mystery.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I wrote my first short story in high school, but it wasn’t until a little later in life that I realized that I love writing for its own sake; that crafting stories and characters simply makes me happy. I’ve always been a bit afraid of titles so I’m not sure when I officially labeled myself a “writer,” but I’ll say sometime during a sleepless night in college.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am not a full-time writer. As a mom, my daily routine is fairly busy, but I try to carve out time to write every single day. I think it is important to do so for the sheer exercise of it. Even if the piece will not pan out to be a story you’ll ever publish or even share with a friend, it’s vital to give your brain that workout. Right now, about two hours a day is all I am able to commit to this passion but I try to make this time as productive and focused as I possibly can.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t start with an outline. I always have to write out the first chapter fairly thoroughly before going back and working out an outline for the entire piece. I like to try to give my characters as much freedom as possible to tell me where it is they want to go.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to be a singer (and an actor). Growing up, I never really wanted to play with “real” toys; instead, I’d play records and act out concerts or musicals (all in front of imaginary but sold-out arenas, of course). I don’t think those dreams have ever truly seized to be my ultimate fairytale-type fantasies but for a brief moment in time, as an adolescent, I also wanted to become a teacher and a lawyer. I guess I’ve always wanted to create something.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I would like to thank them for taking a chance on a new name and for reading my creations. It means the world!

If I could give anyone a piece of advice, it’d be this: go after your dreams! Pursue them aggressively! The longer you wait to pursue them, the harder it’ll become to eventually make them a reality.


Thanks, Marina! Happy writing!

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