Jennifer Ciotta, author of the novel,I, Putinwill be speaking at Bernard'srestaurantin Ridgefield, CT Thursday, Sept. 13th. We are excited to meet with her, and get to know a little more about her fascinating portrayal of Vladimir Putin. So, if you are in the area, be sure to stop by Bernard's and listen to Jennifer talk about her story. Here's a sneak peek : )
What was the inspiration for I, Putin?
Vladimir Putin himself was the inspiration for the book. I had served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the former Soviet republic of Estonia from 2000 to 2002. In August 2000 the Kursk tragedy occurred. The Russian submarine, the Kursk, exploded with 118 sailors on board. Putin did not react for four and a half days to this crisis, thus sending the Russian people and media into a fury. Even the Estonians, who think of the Russians as “occupiers,” were moved by the dying sailors. This is when I said to myself, “Who is Vladimir Putin and what makes him tick?” Putin’s non-reaction to the Kursk crisis sparked my 12-year journey of researching, writing and editing this novel.
How long did it take you to write I, Putin?
12 years overall. The first seven years I researched informally, and then I spent two years at the Gallatin School at New York University, in the master’s program. My first year at NYU, I formally researched, and the second year, I started to write the book. I completed a master’s degree in Russian studies and creative writing. Then I spent another three and a half years writing and then editing the novel.
What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?
From childhood, I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. I would say my favorite children’s book is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. From adolescence into adulthood, I have a major literary obsession with J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” It may be a cliché answer, but to me, as a writer and editor, Catcher is perfect from narrative voice to rising action to conflict, and the editing style can’t be any better. I’m also heavily influenced by Willa Cather, Jamaica Kincaid, and of course, a few Russian greats like Gogol, Bulgakov and Dostoevsky.
If you could live during any time period in history, which would you choose?
I think most people would expect me to answer in the time of the Czars. But I’m very fascinated by American history. We’ve changed so much in such a short time. I would say I’d like to “visit” 1950s America to observe the time period. It was such a restricted and oppressive time for women, and after the war, men came home from battle and divorced their wives and found new families. Women, who were the backbone of America working in the factories in the absence of their men, were forced back to the household. That’s why I say “visit” because I’d like to stay in the 1950s for a while and observe and then come back to present day. I wouldn’t do well there; I can’t cook, I’m not domestic at all and I’m an exotic-looking woman. It would be too hard.
Do you have a certain place or a writing routine that helps to spark your creativity?
I write in my office. I don’t have a routine nor do I go on these 24-hour binges of writing, like some authors do. I don’t have the gift of patience. But when I do sit down to write, I write very fast. I can pump out 6000 words in half a day, no problem.
If you could have dinner with any three people, living or dead, who would they be?
I’ve been asked this question in many interviews, so I have an answer ready. Vladimir Putin, J.D. Salinger and my grandma.