Sunday, March 25, 2012




Hello Katherine, thank you for the opportunity to interview you and to review your novel, "Natasha Down Under" can you tell us more about your novel and the inspiration behind it?

Firstly, thank you for featuring me on your wonderful website.

My young adult novel, Natasha Lands Down Under, came about as a vehicle for my family’s real life stories. When I was young, I was mesmerized as my father discussed his early life at the dinner table. He painted pictures of life in Vladivostock and Shanghai in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and also described incidents involving my family during World War 11. Years later, I wrote down these stories for my children. To keep this family history alive, I created the character of Natasha to carry these stories in a book, but she ran away with the novel and the stories ended up just part of her background.

Being a lover of history myself, this book seems to be a great learning tool for children and I can imagine a lot of teachers would love adding this to their reading lists. Have you been approached by schools interested in doing so?

I have made many presentations at schools and have a comprehensive Teacher’s Guide on my web site. The kids are very interested in the time period – World War 11, post war 1950’s and the Cold War. The history of China during the Japanese occupation and civil war afterwards is fascinating and not well known in the West. Kids relate to history when told to them by someone who has lived it and is passionate about it.

Your own history is quite interesting being born in Shanghai, China to Russian parents right on the end of a World War with other wars and fighting yet to come. What are some of the stories that your parents told you about that time.

One of the most riveting stories happened to my father in Shanghai. During the tumultuous war years, he earned his living by buying appliances from Europeans who were leaving China, and, being able to speak Mandarin Chinese, selling these appliances to the Chinese. He used U.S. dollars, as the local currency was so unstable. Once, returning home after a sale, soldiers surrounded a group of men, including my father. The men were lined up and told to take out their wallets and then it was announced that anyone with U.S. dollars would be shot. My father stood there, with his wallet in his hands, knowing it contained U.S. dollars, waiting to be shot. Another story concerns my uncle, who was ‘displaced’ during the war. We still do not know what happened to him.

What plans do you have for your next book and when might we see it in print?

As yet I have not started another book, although I have been asked many times for a sequel to Natasha Lands Down Under. I have begun to take notes that I add to from time to time, but that is a long way from a finished book.

Who are some of your inspirations in the literary world, and what are some of your all time favorite books that you've ever read?

I love books, so I have so many favorites. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is one that comes immediately to mind. Just now I am reading Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje and I love the atmosphere that he creates. Margaret Atwood is another favorite author, although not all her books are equal in my eyes. Books that say something significant about the human condition are ones I enjoy, although I love a good mystery, and no one is better at that than P.D James. I belong to two book groups and love the challenge of reading something I would never have picked up on my own.

Your novel has won the gold medal in the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards for Young Adults. How did this make you feel?

It was absolutely thrilling. Such a validation. When you write a book, you give it your all, but can never be sure if it measures up. Your family and friends tell you they love your book, but you feel, ‘Yeah, sure, they have to say that’. But when an outside body picks it out from a group of its peers, it is such a wonderful endorsement.

What is some of the most important advice that you think parents can instill in their children today?

I think it is important to encourage kids, after they hit a roadblock, to continue doing something they love- be it a sport, or writing, or whatever. Perseverance is so important in any endeavor and we are always running into challenges, no matter what area we choose to work in.

Do you feel that a lot of children today do not take enough interest in the history of the world?

When I give talks at schools, the kids are fascinated by the history. If it happens to be a small group, I open the discussion up to them, and kids get very involved. I think kids are interested in history, but not in a dry presentation of important dates or just reading from a textbook. If they can feel the tension of a conflict, the jubilation at its conclusion, if they can identify with a person there at that time, then they are involved and intrigued by what happened and how life was different.

If so what do you think we can do as parents to make them take more notice?

Every family has a history and stories from its past. In the U.S. many families migrated here from somewhere else. These stories can form the basis for dinner time conversation when the kids are a captive audience. As they become more interested, they can check out facts and research Uncle’s John’s time in Korea or Aunt Susie who now lives in Italy. Hopefully this family interest will broaden out to more general world history.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors you'd like to share? Also please leave us your links so we can read more about you and keep up with your developments in the literary world!

The best advice I was given was to keep writing. That’s the only way to learn. When you have written something, put it aside for a few days and then look at it again. That’s when you see the flaws. Joining a writer’s group helps, too. My group insisted on cutting out all adverbs and using stronger verbs. They also felt that a cliché was an opportunity to write something fresh. I always keep these things in mind now. And, of course, keep reading.

Links –

Amazon: 4&sr=1-1


Thank you again Katherine for this wonderful opportunity, I do hope we can do this again in the future!

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