Banafsheh Serov, author of The Russian Tapestry
Tell us about your latest creation:
The Russian Tapestry is a tale of love and turmoil based on the true story of my husband’s grandparents, a romance that spans the years of the Great War and the Russian revolution, and is set in the ballrooms of St Petersburg, the streets of the rioting city, and the POW camps.
At the start of the war, Alexis Serov is a commander in the Tsar’s Army and Marie Kulbas, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is a Law student in Petrograd. Their story and eventual love affair is a tapestry of family and Russian history, a weaving of truth and imagination, fact and fiction.
I first became interested in the story of Marie and Alexei when I was dating my now husband. Visiting his house, I saw a painting of Alexei in his dress uniform, wearing a breast full of medals. As a long-time lover of Russian literature, I started imagining the glittering world they inhabited, their first meeting and love affair.
Where are you from / where do you call home?:
I was born in London and spent my childhood years in Teheran. My family fled Iran in ’82 in the midst of Iran/Iraq war to Turkey, where we were caught and spent time in a detention centre while our refugee status was decided. We later immigrated to Australia that same year, arriving in Sydney in August ’82 where we’ve been living ever since.
When you were a kid, what did you want to become? An author?:
Growing up I had grand notions of joining the corporate world after graduating from Uni. I loved marketing and economics (still do) and saw myself climbing the executive ladder. It was only whilst doing a post-grad degree at Macquarie Uni did it dawn on me that I’m not suited to working in a corporation. The thought of writing did not come to me until much later in life.
What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:
I think I’m still growing into my craft and wouldn’t want to think that my best is already behind me. Hopefully I’ll continue to improve with every book.
Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:
We have a small house with no spare room/ space that I can turn into a office. I write on my dining table (I have a picture of it on my Facebook). Thankfully its a fairly long table which allows me to easily spread my papers and books. Everything is cleared off in the evenings and filed away in special baskets slotted into my bookshelf.
When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:
I read a variety of books, but I have a particular soft spot for Australian authors. I’ve just finished Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and have started reading The Asylum by John Harwood.
What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:
The first book I remember reading on my own was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I stayed up all night to finish it. I still remember the thrill of wanting to know what’s going to happen next and not being able to fall sleep until I find
If you were a literary character, who would you be?:
I quite like Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With The Wind. She is sassy, resourceful and brave. I wouldn’t however waste my breath on Ashley, instead I’d be gunning for Rhett Butler from the very beginning.
Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:
I run, practice Yoga, and do a bit of belly dancing, but not professionally. What is your favourite food and favourite drink?: I love Persian Cuisine. If you haven’t tried it already, do yourself a favour and do so. As for drinks, after a particularly hard day, nothing beats vodka with freshly squeezed lime juice.
Who is your hero? Why?:
I adore Geraldine Brooks. Year of Wonders literally took my breath away and since then, I’ve read all her books. I love her skill in seamlessly weaving history (often choosing real life characters) into her fiction. Vikram Seth is another one of my heroes as is Tolstoy and Hugo for their sheer ability to write epic novels.
Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:
I’m not particularly worried about books disappearing. Book lovers (and I include myself amongst them) love owning physical books. From the weight of it in our hands, to the smell of the ink on the page, it adds to the overall experience and enjoyment of reading a book. Smart phones and tablets are probably the biggest challenge to people’s reading habits. With entertainment, social media and games readily available at their fingertips, it’s easy to get distracted and neglect time spent reading.