Welcome to all new followers of my blog!
As it is 9th May – Victory Day – which is a huge holiday in Russia, I was going to write about my family’s connections with World War II. Unfortunately, when I was in Moscow last time, my mum was not in the mood to look through the old photos which I had planned to use for my blog, so this will have to be postponed until next year. Instead, I thought I would ask you some questions.
What is the primary aim of writing? My answer would be ‘to entertain’. But having finished ‘Ghost Love’ I came to believe there is another task: to make readers pause and think. One of the ways to do this is to set your story in a time and a place with which the readers are probably unfamiliar and by having them vicariously experience events they’ll find it intriguing.
‘Ghost Love’ is set – in part – in Moscow circa 1990, the time when Communism was collapsing and the Soviet Union was mutating into the Russia we know today. A pretty seismic shift in world politics when the Iron Curtain was drawn back and the Russian people for the first time in a couple of generations reconnected with the rest of the world. So I started writing ‘Ghost Love’ on the assumption that the fall of Communism was engraved in the consciousness of all of us. I was disabused of this when a Russian friend of my children came to visit. We got talking and I was amazed to find he knew nothing about this “Second Russian Revolution”. Having been born post-1990 he’d never experienced life in Communist USSR with its queues, shortages, the mindless adherence to Marxism/Leninism and the complete absence of decent shoes and jeans in the shops (it’s this last item that most annoyed me as a student!). There’s a feeling current in Russia today that the West is somehow seeking to belittle Russia and the Russians so the question we posed to ourselves was: if we don’t know our history why do we suppose people in the West would be interested?
My husband (who can be a very provocative sod when he wants to be) suggested to said friend that the majority of people in the West wouldn’t be able to find Moscow on a map which the young man thought ludicrous. Russia is an important country … everyone knows where Moscow is! So we put the assumption to the test. We drew a blank map showing the outline of continental Europe and asked people we met to mark where they thought Moscow might be located. The results (admittedly drawn from a very non-random and not statistically significant sample of 12 people) were illuminating. The nearest anyone got was 200 miles and a couple … well, the one who twinned Moscow with Paris was suitably embarrassed.
What this told me was that books are important because they get people thinking and that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it? And by-the-by, I’m now busily translating ‘Ghost Love’ into Russian and the first copy is going to my children’s friend!