Recipe for a short story in Russian

I’ve always felt this natural affinity with Russian culture and literature (not the most popular thing to say in the current climate, I admit, but culture has nothing to do with the present regime in Russia; regimes come and go, culture endures despite their efforts to thwart it). Ever since I discovered that Anna Legat, the greatest prima ballerina of all times, happens to be my namesake, I have been having this irrational fantasy that maybe – just maybe – my dad’s ancestors hadn’t arrived from Germany, but from the glitzy St Petersburg, wearing tutus and humming tunes from Swan Lake. And that may explain why I felt so at home with the characters from Russian Short Stories from Pushkin to Buida.

There is nothing to rival the breadth and the depth of the Russian soul captured by some of the greatest of Russian writers. You feel swept away and carried into the depths of every story, only to come up for air at the end of it and be instantly pulled in again by the next one.

There are several master strokes to each story one can only hope to emulate.

Firstly, each story has something to say, something to contemplate, something to register at the back of the reader’s mind. It is usually a deep philosophical question which is very cleverly reduced to a small, everyday occurrence that somehow manages to burst out of the straight jacket of triviality. It leaves you deep in thought.

Secondly, the plot yields to the character. People come to life in these stories. They are all sorts of them – such richness of personalities and their quirks and secrets; their delusions and their simple-mindedness, their vulnerabilities and their killer-instincts. It’s all there, throbbing and competing for air. The landscape – the famous Russian landscape – isn’t a setting; it is a character too. It plays its part to perfection.

Thirdly, humour. It is only ever so subtle. It lives in the undertones of the language (excellently captured by Chandler), in situational comedy and in the characters’ minds. It also lives in the shadow of the darkness and fear that are never too far, squatting in that bigger, grander house next door.

Fourthly, the silence and the understatement have their role to play too. The stories don’t quite end. It’s up to the reader to conclude them in her mind. The stories rely on an intelligent reader who can take them further.

Bobok is probably my favourite, but then I am biased towards Dostoyevsky as one of my idols (no, not as the flawed, prejudiced human being he was, but as an amazing writer). It is a story of a little man overhearing the dead in a graveyard. The dialogue brings them all to life! This quote makes you think, The wisest person of all (..) is the one who calls himself a fool at least once a month – an unheard of ability in this day and age. In the olden days a fool understood at least once a year that he was a fool, but nowadays – not a hope!

My First Goose by Babel left me covered with goose-bumps! Try it to learn about the survival of the fittest in Bolshevik Russia – read it.

Whilst Chekhov’s The Lady with the Little Dog made me think that life was too short to waste it, Lermontov’s The Fatalist made me reflect on whether any of it really mattered because as he put it, After all, the worst that can happen to you is death – and death is inescapable.

But then again, just contemplate the afterlife for a minute, as in The Greatcoat by Gogol, and that may put even death in its place. Perhaps revenge lives just that little bit longer than death? And if revenge does, then why not everything else?


Don’t let life get away from you

don't let life get away from youLife Without Me is just about that – Georgie is trying to take a grip on her life that is slipping away from her. But taking a grip when you’re in a coma is easier said than done! Then again, there are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of…



Paula may have made it… to Heaven

My summer writing project is at an end. The first draft of my comedy novel, Paula Goes to Heaven has been completed. Just in time, as I am about say goodbye to summer holidays and re-enter the land of the living (and go back to work to earn a living – sad face).

Dead as a dodo, Paula emerged from my debut novel, Life Without Me. She was the heroine’s wayward and rather wicked sister who inadvertently committed suicide. It was really meant to be a cry for help, but Paula got carried away, and then there was no going back.

She is now on her way to Heaven, though her route to paradise isn’t as straight and narrow as she would like it to be. For one, she is re-directed to Hell and instructed to abandon all her hope. But Paula never does as she is told. Plus, she has a child to deliver from Evil.

While I am waiting for my first draft to undergo a cooling-down period before editing, I have been playing with the cover. With my new graphic tablet (that’s me finally catching up with technology!) I have mocked up two provisional covers, jut for fun. Which cover looks better?

Notes from a cruise (next book?)

Day 1 We set off for Dover and entered a torrent of rain, which followed us all the way. There is nothing closer to my heart than the companionable British weather! We passed many a weird road sign, but one truly stood out. It was one of those temporary yellow signs warning of calamities such […]

via Just cruising: a lazy mode holiday — Anna Evans-Wylie

Life Without Me – trailer

Life Without Me is a prequel to Paula Goes to Heaven. It introduces Paula in all her earthly prima donna glory.

Life Without Me is currently on special at £0.99/ $1.25 kindle and £7.99 paperback on Amazon

Paula Goes to Heaven

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Does this woman belong in Heaven? Don’t answer it – it’s a rhetorical question.

Do you remember Paula from Life Without Me? The washed-up actress with a chequered past and a ferocious sexual appetite? You may remember that she is dead. Your memory does not deceive you – she is. And she is on her way to Heaven. It’s a long and bumpy road, considering that her starting point is in Hell. Plus she has a lot of baggage: two men and a child.

So, this is my summer writing project: a story of Paula’s journey to Heaven. Will she ever get there or will her past catch up with her? Do you have the nerve to find out? Huh?

BTW: Life Without Me is now on special at £0.99 Kindle and down to £7.99/£6.60 for a paperback. A chance to discover Paula’s humble beginnings!

Interview with Wiltshire Times

I am talking to Wiltshire Times about Nothing to Lose, book #2 in the DI Marsh series.

I might have a new case for DI Marsh – the mystery of the missing ‘t’. Have a look!

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Medicinal value

My teapot and I have suffered minor contusions of late: I’ve been constantly knocked down by bouts of colds and flu, and my teapot’s lid was dropped (by me) and a chunk of it chipped off.

My mother always told me that there was nothing a plaster could not cure, so I plugged the crack in my teapot with a strip of waterproof plaster, and voila it is as good new! See?


Unfortunately, no amount of plasters could stem my runny nose… Perhaps a bandage? Has anyone tried that remedy?