Interview with Jenya Doudareva

1. What was your early life like? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Russia and lived there until my teenage years when I moved to Canada. My childhood was pretty cool – I lucked out with parents who took me to all sorts of extracurricular activities and took me travelling. I also had lots of freedom to run around outside unsupervised, explore my city, and get into trouble (as long as I got out of it successfully). My favourite activity though was being alone in my room with books and encyclopedias and legos. I did not welcome intrusions!

2. What made you want to write?

I don’t remember, and I don’t think there was ever a singular reason for it. Maybe it’s because writing is fun, or maybe because I want to leave some sort of reminder that I lived, or perhaps it’s due to some other reasons that I haven’t thought through very deeply.

3. What are your writing habits like? Are you always working on a story or poem?

I try to write daily, however I have noticed over and over that unless I have something specific to write about…the output is not good, to put it mildly.

4. Can you discuss your literary influences, or at least name some writers whose work you greatly admire?

There are so many great writers out there! There are a few that I keep coming back to over and over and re-reading their work, though: Philip K Dick, Don DeLillo, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, David Mitchell, Sylvia Plath.

5. How important is community amongst fellow writers, do you get along with other writers?

I don’t know many other writers, unfortunately. I am an engineer and have never taken writing classes or hung around other writers. I do think communities are important, however I like to see the silver lining in my isolation from other writers – I like having my own perspective on what and how to write, and I like my observations about the world to come from very disparate, far from literature, places.

6. If you haven’t already, do you think you will ever write a novel?

Maybe I will! At this point, I don’t think I have a coherent enough story that I can tell.

7. Do you feel a sense of home? Is there a place like that to you?

I do … I am happy to call Toronto, Ontario home for the past 14 years. Almost half of my life! I totally wrote a poem about that at some point with the main takeaway being that Toronto is a pretty cool place to feel like you don’t belong… and be totally okay with that.

8. Do you have any writing rituals or superstitions, before you start to write?

I do not have any.

9. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It depends on a day. Sometimes writing feels cathartic and sometimes it bums me out.

10. Are you a science fiction fan? If so what attracts you to the genre?

I am a huge science fiction fan (please refer to my response about influential writers and calculate the percentage of sci-fi writers in that list). I like science fiction because since its beginnings it has grown to be an incredibly wide genre. Space travel and battles? Damn right! Depressing futuristic setup on our own planet with an underlying message being that we are very flawed as a species? Tons of that in sci-fi! Romance? Absolutely! Time-travel? Alternative histories?…Sci-fi fans of course can get pedantic over what is hard sci-fi and what’s soft sci-fi… but in the end I find that there is so much that one can take away from this genre, and get inspired or warned by.

11. Do you think literature can help readers make sense of their lives?

Life is hard and then it ends (though it has great things to it too of course). Everyone needs a way to deal with underlying questions about their own existence and their place in the world, and to choose how to do so. For some, literature is an excellent tool not only to escape the mundane but also to enhance their own worldview. It lets you feel what you haven’t felt a minute ago and imagine places that you may never travel to. To me, such things make life richer.

12. How autobiographical are your stories/poems.

I don’t intent my work to be autobiographical – I think that a great thing about works of fiction is that you can create an entire worlds full of lives that are not yours. Some of my poems are for sure autobiographical when they are a snapshot of my feelings. Some are not.

13. I would be remiss if I did not ask. What is your favourite films and TV shows?

I don’t get to watch a whole lot of TV so I’m definitely out of date. I like Futurama and Third Rock from the Sun. What year is this again?

14. Are you political? What do you think of the current political climate?

I am not political and I wish I could live under a rock. Politics is inescapable, sadly. I think at any point in time, the “current” political climate would be described as complex and turbulent. Problems and particular injustices change, but the fact that there exist many assholes in the world seems to stay the same.

15. How do hope your stories/poems will affect people?

I hope my stories make at least a few people say: “hey that was neat”, and that my poems make at least a few people say: “holy crap I feel the same way!”

Jenya is an engineer who likes to tinker with technology and with words. Her poems are available on Amazon and have also been featured in Clementine Poetry Journal, and her paper on algorithms for safe irradiation of brain tumours is available in an operations research journal somewhere.