Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine when it was still a part of Russia or, to be precise, the USSR. I grew up in a family that exposed me to literature, the arts, and music. Enjoying reading and writing from an early age, I always wanted to become a writer, but being a subject of religious and ethnic persecution, I was unable to pursue my dream in my motherland. When I was 26 years old, together with my husband and daughter I fled the country. We went first to Vienna, Austria, then Rome, Italy, until finally entering America as refugees.
In the US, I graduated from NYU and worked as a physical therapist all while raising my family, but I never gave up my love of writing. I worked very hard to learn English to be able to write in the language of my new country.
One of my great surprises was running into a former high school teacher here, in America, who had also emigrated from Russia. During our meeting she suddenly pulled out some notebooks of my old writings that she had saved and brought with her to the US. I found that very encouraging.
In my spare time I still enjoy reading, writing, laughing, playing Scrabble, spending time with friends and family, attending stage performances, travelling, and participating in outdoor activities. Sadly, I was widowed at an early age, but my sister and my children are my biggest supporters.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
My book, Adventures of Little Yaga and Her Friends, is a middle grade/young adult fantasy/adventure. Little Yaga, a main character of the book, is a teenager who lives with her old hag of a grandmother. Their house is situated on top of a chicken leg, deep within the Enchanted Forest. Little Yaga is troubled by her own appearance. While all the other Forest creatures have magnificent fangs, thunderous roars, and bony legs, she looks like a human. She even wears custom crafted dentures to give herself fangs! In her quest to fit in with the Foresters, Little Yaga listens to her great-aunt, an old enchantress, and travels to the human world where she meets a group of teenagers on the run from an evil sorcerer. Together with her new friends she returns to the Forest.
Scraggard the Immortal, the ruler of the Forest, uses the energy of humans to remain immortal. When he captures Ashley, a human girl, Little Yaga takes pity on her. She gathers a group of both old friends and new to help Ashley escape from Scraggard and save the Forest community from his malevolent reign.
As Little Yaga discovers the secrets of her forest home and her own origins, she comes into contact with creatures and settings straight out of Russian fables and mythology.
In creating this book, I was inspired by the modern technological advances and wanted to show how they sometimes seem to work like magic. I thought it would be interesting to draw parallels between the modern technology and good old fairy-tale magic. In my novel I play with this idea. For instance, the characters from the enchanted forest think a remote control is a magic wand and a cell phone is a magic looking glass, while the human characters believe the magic talking stove is a programmed mechanism and a magic piece of coal is a voice activated device.
How do you create your characters?
The moment I grab a pen or open my computer to work on my writing, the characters from my imagination come alive. They act and behave the way they desire sometimes taking me by surprise.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
I’ve always been inspired by exposure to great literature. As soon as I started reading literature on my own around age nine or ten, I began writing. Unconsciously, my first pieces imitated the styles of the authors I was reading at the time, no less than Tolstoy, Chekov, O’Henry, Maugham (whose works were translated into Russian), etc. Today I hope I’ve got my own writing voice, but a good piece of literature still sends chills through my body and causes my hand to reach for a pen or my computer.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
To immerse myself into writing I must feel comfortable. If it’s late at night (when I do most of my writing), I need my bed with three pillows under my shoulders and a heating pad under my feet. During the day I love writing on my couch in the family room with a throw over my feet and a cup of coffee on the side table. If I have a chance to write soon after dinner, my kitchen table with a piece of fruit or a cup of hot tea does the trick.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
Any interesting story, event, memory, travel experience, or even a smell can spark my imagination and turn into an idea or plot for a future piece of writing.
What do you like to read?
A good piece of literature with rich language that stimulates my imagination and content that provokes my thought process would always be a reading of choice. Just recently I finished two novels by H. Murakami. Now I am reading a memoir about a Russian-Soviet poet, Vladimir Mayakovski.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Never give up. Even if you need to learn a completely new language. Even if nobody yet appreciates your work. As long as you enjoy the process and are satisfied with the outcome, keep writing.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I was twenty-six years of age when I came to the US and did not speak or understand a word of English. Nevertheless, my goal was to write in English as I wanted to become an American writer. It was a big challenge, but today I am proud of my accomplishment.
I would also like to thank Denise for this wonderful opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences.
Adventures of Little Yaga and Her Friends.
Genre of book:
Middle grade/YA Fantasy/Adventure
Web site, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads; buy pages info:
omilla.net; https://www.facebook.com/OMilla2017/; https://twitter.com/OMilla2017; https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34975757-adventures-of-little-yaga-and-her-friends; https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Little-Yaga-Her-Friends/dp/154073028X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494022441&sr=8-1&keywords=adventures+of+little+yaga+and+her.
- By now the girl appeared terrified; she was shaking like a leaf and looked as if she were expecting Little Yaga to bite her. Little Yaga was enjoying her effect on the girl. She regretted not being able to howl or roar, which would’ve made a much stronger impression. However, she could show her pinkish false teeth with the brown fangs, and so she did. She stretched her lips into the meanest smile possible and snapped her teeth together right in front of the girl’s nose. On seeing that the girl was ready to faint, and Little Yaga, suddenly feeling sorry for her, finally spoke. “Hello yourself,” she said. “Who are you, and what are you doing here?
- A few minutes later, they were standing on the bank of the rapidly flowing Milkshake River, which smelled like Ashley’s favorite mixture of strawberry, raspberry, and watermelon. A note posted on the trunk of the weeping willow growing on the riverbank said, “If you want to cross it, drink it.” Instead of leaves, there were small green cups dangling from its branches. Ashley’s eyes lit up, and she reached for a cup, but Little Yaga grabbed her hand and forced it down.
- Scraggard snapped the screen back on, and Stanley thought the image it displayed looked just like one from Google Earth.
“Mr. Scraggard, you’ve got Internet?” he asked, surprised.
“Your Scraggardness,” Scraggard corrected the boy without taking his eyes off the screen.
“Your Scraggardness, have you got the Internet?” Stanley repeated his question.
“What kind of net?”
“The Internet. Isn’t that Google Earth up there?”
“Who’s Google? Never heard of him.” Scraggard looked at Stanley in annoyance. “This
is not Google’s Earth; this is Scraggard’s Forest.”
- “What are these beasts?” Kikimra shrank back, keeping her distance from the growling creatures.
“These ‘beasts’ are called Segways,” Eric said. “Don’t be afraid—they don’t bite. They’re not your hungry jackals; trust me. We’ll use them to get to Scraggard’s palace.”
“How?” Little Yaga asked nervously. “Do they fly?”
“No, you ride them,” Sean explained as he hopped up on the horizontal platform of one of the Segways and circled around for a few minutes. “It’s fun!” he exclaimed with a grin, hopping off.