This interview appeared on the website of Oval Short Fiction, accompanying the publication of my short story, ‘Jesus Was A Girl’ in Oval’s first print issue.
Generally I prefer conducting interviews to giving them. This one occured over a series of emails with Ben Fergusson, editor of Oval Short Fiction. The magazine has since ceased operations, but I still love and cherish the plain orange A3 cover of Oval’s first issue. (My mother keeps my original copy, even though she doesn’t speak English.)
The final text, as it appeared on Oval’s website, is reproduced below.
This story focuses on a fairly misogynistic and potentially unlikable character.
How did you go about approaching the challenges that this throws up?
All my characters are in a certain way some sides of me, so approaching
them is like trying to understand myself. The biggest challenge in it is
resisting the temptation to appear likable. So I am delighted you find my
character potentially unlikable. It means to me that I have braved up some
of my “big bad wolf” sides.
Did you have a particular time and place in mind when writing the story? The
voice and evocation of place are very strong, but in another way the setting
seems quite mysterious.
The story doesn’t reveal the time and happens in a fictional place. I love
storytelling precisely for that power it gives me – the power to create my
own little universe and use the words to paint the vision in a reader’s head.
You’re a Ukrainian writer, writing in English and in this story writing in quite a
specific style of English. Did you make a conscious decision to write about an
experience quite far removed, linguistically, from your own?
The specific style of English is mostly the “side effect” of being a Ukrainian
writer. My university teachers used to say that “my English was not
English”. I am fully aware of it. However, I rather see it as my advantage.
I am not sure whether it was a conscious decision, as I really didn’t sit and
think on it. It was intuitive. At the moment I am emerged in a certain
linguistic environment, and using its language feels natural to me.
Do you think that being bilingual changes the way you write or how you think
Absolutely. When I write in a foreign language, I experience the world from
a totally different perspective. Language is an intricate mechanism that
operates you, while you think you operate it. Different mentality comes as a
part of a package with it. So a different language does change the way I
write. Staying committed to one language is like staying committed to the same
partner for an entire life. I admire it and this is hard work too. But I also
think that using one language only limits my perception of life.
Do you also write in Ukrainian? And if so, are you a different writer in this
Yes, I do. And, yes, I am. I also noticed that in my native language my
protagonist tends to be female, while I use a male narrator when I write in
Is short fiction important to you as a reader?
I love short fiction. And for me, the shorter the short fiction, the better. I like
it sharp and well-rounded.
Has there been a short story that has been particularly important for you, either in
terms of your own writing or just for personal reasons?
I have short stories that I like and that have inspired me, for example the
ones by Junot Diaz. But in all honesty, I must admit that so far it has been
longer prose that can move me deeply and really has an impact on me.