How do you become a children book writer?
Funnily enough, it isn’t quite the route you would expect. I graduated from The Russian Plechanov Economic University with an expertise in Financial Analysis for banks and other financial institutions. I then worked for the Government in the Moscow region, and I used to see it as my future career. But maternity changed me totally, I found that there was nothing really more useful than being a mom. That’s why I stopped my career as a civil servant and concentrated on my family. When my third baby was born, I noticed my mum telling stories to my eldest daughters. I found the stories funny and cute. I decided to write them down and also put some illustrations towards them. It was 2014 and the first book is created was “Mum’s fairy tales”. There are 14 stories about a kind fairy, Baba Yoga, who lives in the forest and brings up two foster-children. Baba Yoga can heal anyone from any strange illness and knows many magic secrets. One of her foster-sons is not a usual child, he is made of straw, his head is full of fur-needles which make him smart and sharp. His name is Strashilok (the Little Scarecrow). Another is a baby-dragon, Zardon, he almost became victim of a big black spider, but Strashilok had saved him with a sword. Our characters are fool as all kids, are naughty sometimes, and later, as they grow up, start travelling all around the world. They help everyone, who needs support.
How did you find the illustrators that work on your stories?
I find illustrators to work with by advertisements as freelancers. I examine their portfolios with pictures and then ask them about test-pictures using exerts from my books. Then we agree about the payment and deadlines and make the contract. For my books, I prefer detailed water-coloured arts. I check illustrations when it’s only a draft and then a coloured version only when I agree on the outline of the picture. When I have any doubts, I seek advice from my family. Their opinion is very important to me and usually helps me make my mind up
How do you create stories? Do you draw inspirations from the Russian folklore/culture?
All the books are different. In fact, some of them (“Mom’s fairy tales”, «In the Blue Sea”, “In the Kalahari Desert”, “In Antarktida”, “The Guest from the Jungles”, “Save Ded Moroz”) have connections with Slavic culture and folklore. Heroes of Slavic myths and fairytales appear in these story, however, the plot and the language are much more contemporary with today’s langauge. The other two books are fantasy stories. A young reader and the characters are brought to another world, where fire rolls, dwarfs, kolduks, which were imagined by us, and ancient people – the protectors of the world – reside. Just like in our world, there’s great temptation of dark forces and goodness that always wins. Fantasy makes positive and negative traits of characters more obvious. Thus, a child is learnt to see the difference and choose between good and evil. Now, a fantasy novel for children “The reflection of Sirius” is finished. This book is filled with adventures of Lusar, the son of King Jupiter, who is chased by the King of the Sun, Amather, pining for the incredible power of his heart. Lusar, who had been saved by angels, is hiding on our planet in a shape of a dog. Narration about the events in alternate time and dimension goes along a description of a day of one girl’s life.
Who is the favorite character you created and why ?
Who is my favourite character I created? That’s a difficult question. As the one about “which child you love the most?”. All my characters – are my “children”. But the most interesting character is the one, I am working on or writing a book about at a certain moment. I go through everything, every emotion and feeling, with her/him. This character becomes closer and more familiar to me like a new friend.
How easy (or difficult) is it to be an artist in Russia these days?
I don’t know if it was easy or difficult to be a writer in Russia in the past. But now … It’s even difficult to be a good person. Or a good friend! It’s very responsible to be a children’s writer! I often think it is like being a school teacher. It seems like it’s nothing special, but the whole personality of a child is formed by influence of his/her parents, teachers and… books he/she reads! Promotion of a writer is nowadays up to this writer only. I perform a lot for children for free at schools, libraries and even at the College of Fine Arts as an invited lecturer for students. I take part in conferences of the Union of Writers of Russia, the biggest association of writers in my country, created just after the revolution of 1917 in the USSR.
What’s next? A new book?
The next book will be about a little kitten. It will be a collection of short funny stories for kids 3+. I wrote all my books in co-authorship with my mum. She makes the skeleton, and then my part comes: I fill it with details, descriptions and dialogues. Afterwards, I work with artists, layout designers, printing houses and try to improve the marketing and sellability of the books.
Follow Natasha at @mamskazka