Saturday, January 2, 2010

Janet Skeslien Charles

From a Q & A with Janet Skeslien Charles, author of Moonlight in Odessa:

What prompted you to write about Odessa? Are you Ukrainian?

I studied Russian at the University of Montana. Students learned the language using the grammar-translation method, which means we rarely spoke. Instead, we spent our time memorizing rules and translating sentences like “Pavel works at the factory.” I received a Soros teaching fellowship in Odessa, Ukraine, which allowed me to meet two goals: to practice my Russian and to do two years of community service. Working in Odessa was an eye-opening experience. I’m not Ukrainian, but would love to be considered an honorary Odessan.

Where did the idea for Moonlight in Odessa come from?

The subject of e-mail order brides is important to me. While I was in college, I had a job translating letters from lonely Montanan men and desperate Russian women. I later met the women and saw the marriages that had come from this correspondence. While in Odessa, I came across men who’d flown half way around the world looking for love. Two of my close Odessan friends married Westerners. I spent time with them and their husbands. Although my friends were smart, savvy women, they had no power in their marriages. In some ways, they were worse off than they had been in Ukraine.

You mentioned that you knew some e-mail order brides. Did you have anyone in particular in mind when you wrote the novel?...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue