Saturday, September 21, 2019

Tanya Jones, Author of Somewhere In Between: Notes with a Russian Accent

russian memoir, russian short stories, Putin’s Russia, Soviet Russia, Brexit, American dream, tanya jones, somewhere in between
Today we are interviewing Tanya Jones author of a new memoir, titled “SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN: Notes with a Russian Accent.”

Tell us a bit about yourself.
Oh. It’s so hard to talk about myself. But I'll try.  

Once upon a time in the Soviet Union there was a girl named Tanya Meshavkina. Her mom worked in a library and her her dad spent almost his whole life working in the editorial office of the regional newspaper. Book stacks were placed in every room of their apartments, including the kitchen. We were reading and reading... 

My dad wrote a historical novel, Permianka – Bitter Salt. The money from the book was spent on polished furniture that lasted them a lifetime. Then dad wrote a story, “Tuesday - is the bureau day”. But while he was still making improvements, perestroika broke out and the single-party subject became irrelevant. 

I was granted my first Certificate of Creativity from “Pioneer” magazine for the best story dedicated to commemorating the Revolution. Nevertheless, I was more and more in doubt about my future: should I be a director of a village council, or an archaeologist, or a journalist? My dad kept saying it was easy to walk the beaten trail, but difficult to find your own one. He was very happy to find out I was going to work in radio. I was recruited as a reporter for the youth editorial department. 

What an amazing time that was! I flew in a helicopter to see geologists, visited Soviet student construction brigades, collective farms, and state timber industry enterprises. I always tried to be open and to speak people’s minds for them. Sometimes it worked really well. I still keep a postcard: “Dear Tanusha! Thanks a lot for fighting sluggards. Our hearts are with you fighting for the truth! Construction team from Maykor.”

Then there was years of work at newspapers. In 1994 I was awarded the Golden Pen diploma of the Union of Journalists of Russia. 

In 2009, I launched the site balakovo-news.ru. The plans had a lot of things, but without financial support. Meanwhile, competitors appeared with both finances and plans. And I got a chance to leave the country and start all over again. 

I had to forget about the Russian university diplomas and go to Swindon College to learn English. First, there were courses for immigrants (ESOL 1 and 2), and then the English GCSE. At the same time I did take writing class, collaborated with Highworth Link magazine.

And this year I launched my first book. 

russian memoir, russian short stories, Putin’s Russia, Soviet Russia, Brexit, American dream, tanya jones, somewhere in between
Describe your book, “SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN: Notes with a Russian accent,” in a few sentences.
It’s a memoirs or genre notes about the last days of The Soviet Union with its endless queues for food and soap. About poverty and oligarchs that appeared in post-soviet Russia. About reality of life in Moscow and far end provinces. About journalism and reporters. About phenomena of Putin. About American dream and political correctness. About immigrants, issues with translation and mastering the word ‘brexit’ in Russian language.

Who do you think would most appreciate this book?
Anyone with an interest in soviet and modern Russia. Maybe this book can help to better understand Russian society, politics, culture. At the same time is deeply personal memoirs so this book might find interesting those who love nonfiction or those who enjoy stories about real people. 

What inspired you to write this book?
Memory is the key word. We want to remember what happened to us in the past, what we achieved or wanted to achieve, what we did and what we did not. With time, our memory is slowly erased, becoming less bright. And the memoirs are like confirmation that your life really existed.

I understand perfectly that if you are not a super star like Kim Kardashian, your life doesn’t count. And yet...

You have an interesting perspective as a journalist. What originally got you interested in journalism?
Who owns the information, he owns the world. Joke. But seriously journalism’s all I ever wanted to do because that profession it’s a constant movement, self-development, the discovery of new people, cities and countries. It’s not just work, but rather a state of mind, then what you need to live and breathe. Plus it runs in the family. My dad was the editor at the newspape, my brother Sergei founded a newspaper, “Parma News”, which was considered the best-designed newspaper in Russia. Now he is a media coach. 

What are some of the most salient things that you remember about life in the Soviet Union?
Stability, confidence in the future and humanity – that’s what missing in modern Russia.

Additionally, you write about life in post-Soviet Russia and Putin. What can you tell us about what life was like then?
I will cite an anecdote.
Clinton asks God: When will my people live happily? – In twenty years, God replied. Clinton went away crying.
Yeltsin asks God: when will my people live happily? God went away crying.
You’ll know more from my book.

At the age of 50, you decided to move to England. What prompted this move? Is life in England what you expected?
It’s not what, it’s who. My husband John. As for the life in England: we are really VERY DIFFERENT. This is a completely different culture from interpersonal relationships to social priorities. As russian writer Lev Anninskiy has so rightly pointed out about England, “the individual in their civilization is cherished. Not a person but a simple lump of matter walking on two legs. Its right is hallowed.” 

What part of Russia did you grow up in? Is life different in Moscow compared to other parts of Russia?
I grew up in the Urals, where usually four months were cold and the remaining eight months were very cold. But I’m hardened. And as provincial I can tell Moscow and the rest of Russia are two different countries. Moscow is a showcase. A high standard of living is artificially maintained here. About 80% of all the country's finances are rolls in Moscow. Taxes from Muscovites go to Moscow. Taxes from the provincial are also go to Moscow. If Moscow lives in the 21st century, then the province is sometimes still in the 19th. In the hinterland there is sometimes not even electricity.

You also write about political correctness. What are some of your thoughts on this?
In October 2008, as part of a delegation of Russian journalists, I went to the election of the 44th President of the United States. A day before elections, one of my colleagues made a joke: “Under certain circumstances, tomorrow may become a “black Tuesday”. Thankfully that’s turned out okay. 

Another example. African-Americans inhabit the poorest areas of Dayton. Old flaky houses; dirty and poorly dressed children running in the courtyards. Their parents mostly don’t work but live on benefits, and have children. And then they live on benefits again. When their children grow up they live on benefits too. So what is behind this political correctness: a feeling of guilt or a common consideration of ethics? 

Local teachers demanded that Tolkien's works must be excluded from the school сurriculum only because the writer did not have a single positive image of dark forces. According to the rules of political correctness, out of 4 hobbits, one was supposed to be a woman, the second black, the third Asian, and the fourth gay.

George Orwell once wrote that political correctness is a doublethinking when someone says one things but means another. Personally, I think that PC in America it’s an exceptional example of good idea brought to the point of absurdity. 

Are there any authors who have influenced your writing style?
No. With style are usually born. Style is a person. I should say style is a gait, such is its own literary gait. In the process of creative life, the style can be honed, improved ... But it is usually born with it.

My favourite authors are Conan Doyle, Vladimir Nabokov, Francoise Sagan, Sergey Dovlatov, Haruki Murakami. I can re-read and open new things in Milne’s book Winnie-the –Pooh or laugh again reading Martti Larney's The Fourth Vertebra. Joanne K Rouling taught me that books should be logical.  

What do you have in mind for your next writing project?
Tasty book. About eternal. About food. 

More Information
Buy the book on Amazon. 
Like the author on Facebook. 
Check out Tanya Jones' Amazon Author page.

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