Friday, April 23, 2021

Maria Kuznetsova

Maria Kuznetsova was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and moved to the United States as a child. Her first novel, Oksana, Behave!, was published in 2019. She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband and daughter, where she is an assistant professor of creative writing at Auburn University. She is also a fiction editor at The Bare Life Review, a journal of immigrant and refugee literature.

Kuznetsova's new novel is Something Unbelievable.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title does a lot to take the reader into the thematic ideas in my novel – that, while there is a certain order to a generational family saga that spans centuries and continents, at the end of the day, the result can be called "something unbelievable."

What's in a name?

Names – and nicknames - are so important in Russian-speaking culture. In my book, last names are important, too – Larissa sheds her family name to take the name of her husband, who comes from an illustrious family. Natasha, an actress whose first name becomes a running joke because many of the Russian prostitute roles she tries out for are also for people named Natasha, sheds her last name – which was the same as her grandmother's – to take an American last name that would make her seem like a more Americanized actress. Natasha also gives her daughter, Natalia, the same name as her grandmother's mother – so in the end, there is still something that binds all these generations of women, whether they shared the same last name or not.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Very surprised! As a teenager, I didn't feel like I had "permission" to write about characters who weren't American - like Natasha the actress, I wanted to fit in and shed my immigrant identity. I would be shocked that all of my characters were born in Kiev and spoke Russian – and I would also be surprised that I took so much interest in my family's past and history.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Generally, beginnings! I never know how the story really starts until I find the right ending.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I do see a lot of myself in my characters - usually a worse version of myself for comedic purposes, to be honest.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

The Bachelor!
Visit Maria Kuznetsova's website.

--Marshal Zeringue