Q&A with Paullina Simons

nzgirl 2001 – www.nzgirl.com

nzgirl caught up with Paullina Simons on her recent visit to New Zealand and chatted to her about life as a best-selling author.

Paullina, how did you start writing?
Initially, I thought about becoming an author when I was a small girl in Russia, and from that time on my other jobs were just a distraction. I didn’t think that I would be a writer when I was growing up because I didn’t write anything at the time – but it was a dream of mine. The thing I love most about writing is that you can be so moved. I move myself by what I write, because it really comes from my heart on to the page. It makes its way into people’s hearts, because my words can really affect people in an emotional way.

How do you go about writing your novels?
What I don’t do when I’m writing is structure what I’m going to do. Some people do plot their story, but for me once you do that the magic of writing is gone. I want to live the story as I live my life – I write until I can’t see the scene any more and then it’s time to take a break. In The Bronze Horseman the characters just grew very real, and you see their lives like you see your own.

You went back to Russia to research The Bronze Horseman. What was it like there?
Sadly there weren’t any changes in Russia when I went back to research the novel. There were some Western advertisements and shops with Japanese and English signs on them – but as far as most people live nothing’s changed at all.

What was it like growing up in Russia?
I didn’t really have anything to compare it to. I lived in a city and had summer in a village in the country. We didn’t have meat except for about once a week, but I thought that was normal. I really do want to take my husband and children there so they can see what it’s like where I grew up.

What inspired you to write The Bronze Horseman?
I had been asked to write a book about Russia, but I was very scared as I didn’t think I could do it justice. And then a scene came to me with my hero and heroine – I felt their love for each other and I knew they were in a desperate time. I saw the possibilities of a story coming from them – it’s not enough to write about Leningrad and the war and communism and Stalin – you need a story behind it. I finished the book in October last year. Since then I’ve written another 1300 pages in the sequel to The Bronze Horseman, I’ve written the prequel to the book and a screenplay based on t he book – oh, and I’ve written a non-fiction book about my trip to Russia.

What are you up to for the next couple of months?
I have to finish the sequel and send it to my British publisher – I’m also going to start a new book, set in contemporary America. The Bronze Horseman’s also being released in the United States and there’ll be some promotional work to do for that.

What advice could you offer to budding writers?
If young people are really serious about writing I recommend reading absolutely everything you can get your hands on. Read good books, good literature, and books which have had an inspirational effect on people. Don’t worry about writing classes. Just write as much as you can – in a journal, on scraps of paper, short stories if you can. Just write something, and don’t worry about what you don’t know or haven’t experienced. Take a piece of paper and a pen and go for it.
Be careful what you wish for.