Thursday, October 7, 2010

Lina’s Story: Every Book Holds an Adventure

I read since I was able to recognize letters. I wrote since I was able to join Russian syllables into words. And I traveled since I was old enough to imagine.

I was one of those kids who read a book a day and even more, if my parents forgot to turn the lights off for the night. I read at dinner, covering the book with the tablecloth. I read with a flashlight under the blanket, and I read underneath my school desk while the rest of the class listened to the teacher. I was already ahead of the game, so while my classmates recited the Russian alphabet, I devoured The Adventures of Thomas Sawyer in translation, hiding it beneath my fat ABC hardcover – without the slightest idea that one day I would be able to read the original in English. 
When my grade moved onto three-word sentences, I moved onto The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

To me, the books and adventures were one and the same. Every book held an adventure, a travel to foreign lands, a journey to the alternate universe, a voyage to a magical land that could only exist between the covers worn out from use – and inside my imagination. The best books were always those that kidnapped me entirely and left me nostalgic after ending too soon. The characters with whom I had just flown through time and space, escaped narrow deaths, and discovered life in parallel galaxies, were gone once the story was over. Then I would pick up a pen and think up new adventures for them – all by myself. 

Growing up in an oppressive society caused many fears, but there was one thing that never intimidated me: a blank piece of paper. Winters were long and time was plenty in the cold snowy city of Kazan, four hundred miles northeast of Moscow. Founded by Tatars – the descendants of Mongolians who shared Turkish roots and language, and later conquered by Ivan the Terrible, my city nested in a cultural niche of its own.

A trip from Russia to New York amounted to twenty hours. A journey into the American culture took twenty years. Somehow, somewhere, I realized that besides writing literature and poetry, I also liked writing crime stories. Maybe it was my childhood desire to see evil being punished or maybe it was because my first English books were mysteries. And since many of them finished too soon, I picked up my computer and started typing my own stories in the language I couldn’t quite speak at the time.

My first novel, Inescapable Presence, set partly in Russia and partly in United States, is an international suspense, set in the early nineties during the failed KGB putsch. The second one, Painstalker, a medical and forensic murder mystery, features Dave Higgins, a half-Irish, half-Jewish, Brooklyn NYPD detective, on the search for a deranged lunatic, killing young women for their ovaries. Dave retires and becomes a private investigator in E-Predators, a sequel and a Clockwork Orange-like thriller for the Internet age. In it, Dave must trace a web-based gang of four sociopathic young men who break into one community’s homes. Lastly, Death by Scheherazade’s Veil, is a bellydance mystery set in Astoria, New York, in which Sasha, a young aspiring dancer, and her two friends embark on solving a murder of their beloved bellydance teacher, a crime deeply rooted in the Turkish cultures and traditions.

Where do I get my ideas? I haven’t quite figured that out. I hear voices in my head. They tell me stories. I write them down. Do you? Tell me!


  1. What a fascinating journey you've been on, Lina. And your novels have an interesting range of cultures and subjects. I can't wait to read them! P.S. Love that photo!

  2. Hey Lina,
    Great post. Loved learning about your childhood. It's impressive how/when you started reading and writing. I can't wait to read your mystery novels. :) By the way, I get my ideas while sleeping- in the form of dreams. Strange, but true. :)

  3. Lina, your childhood sounds so much like mine, despite growing up on opposite sides of the world! Including hiding the book I was really reading in class. :)

  4. hear voices, you say ....

    hmmmm .... in all the years I've known you I would've never suspected you of such crimes ;)

    Love the picture!

    Your Al'hen!

  5. Great premise for a blog! And people are reading them still, but most people are so used to them now, they see right past the format. They just think of it as a website. Very happy to see you in the pool, and to learn more about the evolution of a writer.

  6. Lina, do you ever get back to Russia? Do you have a desire to visit? What fun it would be to go there with you! It's one place I'd love to visit. I had two years of the language, but that's not nearly enough, of course.

  7. I have actually been to Kazan! Way back in the '80s on a Peace Cruise down the Volga. What an amazing trip that was.
    I also read constantly, especially under the covers at night. I really want to read your books, they sound great!

  8. Kaye, thanks for visiting! I've been back three times, even brought my entire American family with me, inclduing the kids, what an adventure that was! :) It did them good. Haven't been back for 5 years now; must admit, the last time I found my city so Westernized, it was a little upsetting. Now I'm waiting for the 3-year old to grow up a bit, so I can take him as well.

  9. Maybe I'll join your family for the next trip. I could adopt you or something. (Just kidding, don't run!)

  10. Hi Marianna, nice to e-meet you. I think I was still there when you sailed by on the Volga cruise! I do remember starting to see a few foreigners in the 80s, usually in the city center, nearby the Opera House - which was very unusual. Kazan had a high security clearance because the MIGs were built there. In fact, my mother's Ph.D topic had something to do with stealth planes.
    Amazing how small the world can be, isn't it?

  11. It always amazes me too, how small the world is, Things like this happen again and again. I love it!

    It is great to e-meet you too! I'm really happy Heidi told me about this blog!