The adage drummed into any new writer is that you should ‘write what you know’ and fortunately for me I know Russia and England very well.
I was born, brought up and went to university in Moscow, and, like Tonia, met and fell in love with an Englishman. We set up home in Moscow and had children. Everything was wonderful but …
Isn’t there always a ‘but’? Post the ‘soft’ revolution of the late 1980s Russia had descended into chaos (this will be the setting for one of my future books which I’ve tentatively entitled ‘Hotel Rus’) and it was dangerous chaos. For a time Russia became a kleptocracy – a country run by thieves – and for people, like my husband and I were, trying to establish a business quite scary. I think if it hadn’t been for our children we’d probably have toughed it out but in the end we decided to up-sticks and relocate to the UK. I arrived there in 1998 and it’s been my home ever since. The impressions and experiences I’ve had living and working in England form the basis for the story of Tonia’s adventures … though with certain embellishments.
I am not, as Toni is, a full-time writer (I wish!) but as I spend most weekends bashing out and polishing what I write when I’m on my daily commute to-and-from London it wasn’t terribly difficult to extrapolate this.
I am not, as Toni is, a keen cyclist. Working in London and witnessing the regular near-misses between cyclist and truck has put me off cycling for life (when my daughter, who’s at Oxford Uni, got a bike I almost passed out). But the plot of ‘Ghost Love’ needed Toni to cycle …
I have not, as Toni has, lived in an English public school. I’ve taught in one (Russian is quite a popular foreign language in the UK) and my children won a scholarship to one of the oldest, spending their sixth-form years (17 to 18) there so I’ve a pretty good idea of the ethos of an English private school. For the record neither of my children are great fans of a boarding education …
I have not, as Toni has, a daughter (Rosie) who is a ballet dancer but as I work in a ballet school I’ve been able to form an understanding of how ballet dancers think and act (this I’m going to explore further in ‘Hotel Rus’), experience I was able to use in describing the ballet-obsessed Rosie.
I have not, as Toni has, a daughter (Roxy) who is a punk rock singer but as I toured the UK when I was trying to make it as a nuJazz singer I know the ins and outs of the music business. I think it’s one of the most difficult businesses in the world and definitely the most exhausting: physically, emotionally and morally. That’s how I’ve portrayed it in ‘Ghost Love’ but I can’t say any more than that without giving a plot twist away.
I have not, as Toni has, had creepy paranormal experiences over FaceBook.
And I most certainly to not have, as Toni has, a homicidally-inclined acquaintance!