29 Nov 2013

Janna Yeshanova: “Love is Never Past Tense”

2 Comments Book Reviews


“Love is Never Past Tense” by Janna Yeshanova is a great love story at heart. Two people fall in love by the Black Sea during the times of the USSR and in the whirlwind of their attraction the two get married. But they are too young to appreciate what they have and divorce, only to experience the regret and continuous magnetic pull towards each other.
Circumstances and wider political developments push the two further on their individual path.

The book is beautifully written and told with a complex narrative that takes us back and forth in time. Such fragmented telling of a story does not always work for me but in this case it succeeded to show the disjointed nature of their relationship, the back and forth of their feelings for each other and the inevitable ending. A good choice.

The romance part of the book is heart breaking and took this often cynical reader by surprise. The portrayal of Communist and post-1991 Russia is brilliantly done and made the story so much more than ‘just’ a romance. For me this turned into an unexpected compelling reading experience. Making the outer circumstances and the changes in Russia have a personal impact on the characters brought the tragedy home to me.

Enjoyable, insightful, sad but a very worthwhile read.

Interview with the lovely and excitable Janna:


Tell us a little about yourself as writer and a person.

As a person?.. I am a life coach and a leadership trainer.  I have an MA in Russian Language and Literature from the Soviet Union and an MA in Applied Behavioral Science from the US where I specialized in Conflict Resolution. I taught this subject for years at Antioch University (Yellow Springs, OH).  My chairman once said that when I am in the class with my students the walls are shaking when they laugh. Does it tell you anything about me as a person?  Once in a while, my profession also helps me to deal with the people whom I dearly love J

The novel happened unexpectedly.  I just realized that all written papers that are sitting in a pile on my desk need to be sorted out and have some sequence.  Then, I tried to define this pile and the best definition for it was “novel”.

What made you become a writer?

A desire to share.

Were you always going to write in this genre?

Love Is Never Past Tense… is a historical epic romance.  It’s my first book.  The next one will be a sequel.  Also, I started writing a book related to my profession. Definitely, this will not be a romance novel.  It will be a How To… book.  The framework is already in place. The book is on conflict resolution and overcoming adversity.  It will offer techniques and support stories based on my life experience, education and my observations.  The working title for this book is I Am From The Second Floor, and here is the story behind it.

Once, when I worked at a huge corporation, I was taking an elevator to go up.  Suddenly, a woman stepped in.  I feel uncomfortable being in such close proximity without communication, so I said “Hi.”  The woman looked at me several seconds, obviously surprised by my accent, and asked “Where are you from?”  “I am from the second floor” was my reply.  She laughed, and I thought this could be the name of my book.  We’ll see… 

What is a one line synopsis for Love Is Never Past Tense?

“How could he possibly know that she, a complete stranger, would inexplicably affect his life and be with him forever whether she was at his side or not?”

Is it a memoir or fiction? How much about this book is auto-biographical?

It’s both.  Love Is Never Past Tense… is a novel, based on a true story.

Tell us a little about the history of the book. How long did it take you to write and publish?

The book started by itself years ago and that start became the first part. The other parts were finished in a couple of months. When the publisher in Russia took it, the book was not yet ready.  At that time I was in Moscow almost half a year. There I met a publisher from Ukraine who said that publishing in Ukraine would be three times less expensive than in Russia. So, my husband and I went to Ukraine.  It turned out that publishing the book was three times more expensive and took much –much longer than it would have in Russia. Plus, the publisher offered a cover that he already placed on some other book a year earlier.  He thought that I’d leave back to the US without realizing it, but someone just by chance showed me a book from the same publisher that had exactly the same cover.

We had a return ticket to the US and no cover. In frustration, I shared it with a lady who tried to convince me that life is wonderful in all its manifestations. She had a daughter, who was an art school student and this young lady created a cover for the Russian version of the book overnight.

We flew back home, realizing that life was not as bad as I thought.

The novel, as I said before, was started in the previous millennium. It was finished within a couple months on a beach of the Black Sea in Crimea, in a restaurant with open windows looking into the all shades of green and blue, colors of my favorite sea. This inspired the cover for the first edition of the English version. The second edition of the book also came with a new comprehensive cover.  Everybody loves it! I love both of them.

English is not my native language. It’s my third language. My native language is Russian, but the thought of translating it was very natural and simple. When the translation started, I became horrified. I could not find idioms that would carry the same weight of the words. I felt any deviation from translating the details that one can feel, hear and see would betray my book. I wanted to preserve and convey the juice of the language that expresses the pictures of the environment, relationships, jokes, and everything we live in.

I worked with several editors. My Russian book was on my lap, and we were going sentence by sentence through it. At that time, I had a feeling that they all hated me simultaneouslyJ. Two of them were native English speakers with PhDs in the English that I was attempting to bend.

After the editorial work was over, the manuscript was read by many people from different professions, different ages and educational level. When I realized that they love the book, I decided that it was time to publish it.

I am admitting that to translate and edit the book was much harder than to write it in Russian.

Why did you decide to tell this story?

You know how sometimes we share events from our lives, our feelings with other people and say: “Don’t tell this anyone”? I decided to tell “this” to everyone, because some “secrets” are too good to keepJ.

Which part of the story was easiest to write and which one the hardest?

The first part, the love story, was the hardest:  reliving emotions, gathering the facts from the past for the sake of being able to convey the genuine story to the reader and to connect on an emotional level.

The second part, which talked about exodus from the Soviet Union, was “flying from under the feather”

Who would play the characters in a film?

Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt.  She is very animated and expressive, and he is “the” Brad Pitt! J

That was quick!  Is this a real project?

O Yes! Everybody who reads the book says that they see a movie.

I also want to share with you a little story related to Love Is Never Past Tense. Two years ago, when the book was not yet published, I was flying after my seminar from Philadelphia, PA. On my lap, I had a proof copy of the book. I was scanning the lines, double checking for mistakes.

Next to me was sitting a man who asked me what I was reading and I told him. He asked me to show him the book. I gave it to him and he started reading it and did not give it back to me until we landed in Chicago.

He was a PhD graduate from Yale. He handed me his business card and asked me to let him know when the book was published. He said he wanted to buy it. I took the card and sent him the book as a gift. After he finished it, he called me and said that he sees a great movie created from this book.

A year later he and his wife organized a huge event with presentation of Love Is Never Past Tense. They flew me to Omaha, offered me a great hotel, place an article in a local newspaper!

As a matter of fact, this January, I am going the Sundance festival in Park City, Utah. I hope to make some connections with the people from the movie industry. This is not about meeting famous people.  It’s about famous people meeting me J.

What is your life like? What do you do for pleasure and work when you are not writing?

What do I do for pleasure?  Everything I do I do it with pleasure.  So, it means to me that I do everything for pleasure.  Writing, conducting a seminar, a life-coaching session… I love this so much!  Hiking swimming, knitting, being with the family and friends and cooking for them – I love it! Lying down unattended on a beach – I love it!  Looking out at the patches of forest under the airplane wing – I love it! Theater, movies, books… What else?  Festivals, trips, oceans, forests – love it all!

Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?

Russian classics like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Turgenev and later Michael Bulgakov contributed to my development. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salinger, Hemmingway shared with me so much through their pages that they became my life friends.  Haruki Murakami has space for his books on my shelves… Once in a while, I am going back to my bookshelves and every time I am discovering something new that I did not notice before…

My favorite books are on my Goodreads profile and on my Love Is Never Past Tense Facebook page.

Albums?  Beatles, Pink Floyd, Abba, Toto Cutugno, Brahms, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Mozart.  Llove Tchaikovsky, Trans Siberian Orchestra, Andrew Lloyd Webber, a lot of contemporary singers, Russian singers… The list is so long that it may take the whole page…   Who said they don’t like Ricky Martin or Adele?  I do!

I love Tott Cutugno – very eclectic! What are your views on independent publishing?

It’s difficult, but considering my tendency to see the opportunities instead of obstacles, I can say that one who chooses it has a lot of options: the design of your book, your cover, choice of your audience, and change of new editions, yes trailer – no trailer.  Independent publishing gives you a lot of control about all these variables.

Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?


Absolutely!  I got a chance to hear from two teen friends that Switch by Karen Prince, was very involving, and they learned a lot from it.  Isn’t it what we want for our kids, development and useful time use? My seven year old granddaughter was captivated by the The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool by P.J.  LaRue. I enjoyed Simon O’Kill’s Nobody Loves a Bigfoot Like a Bigfoot Babe. I never readUrban Fantasy before, but I couldn’t stop reading…  As a life coach, I was interested in readingHappy Divorce by Rossana Condoleo. I highly recommend the book to the people who have in mind a ride through this trouble. There are many good reading choices among the authors of ASMSG http://asmsg.weebly.com/asmsg-authors.html

Absolutely!  I got a chance to hear from two teen friends that Switch by Karen Prince, was very involving, and they learned a lot from it.  Isn’t it what we want for our kids, development and useful time use?  My seven year old granddaughter was captivated by the The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool by P.J.  LaRue. I enjoyed Simon O’Kill’s Nobody Loves a Bigfoot Like a Bigfoot Babe. I never read Urban Fantasy before, but I couldn’t stop reading…  As a life coach, I was interested in reading Happy Divorce by Rossana Condoleo. I highly recommend the book to the people who have in mind a ride through this trouble.  There are many good reading choices among the authors of ASMSG http://asmsg.weebly.com/asmsg-authors.html

What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?

My friends would say that I am funny and open, creative and energetic; and that I have strong interest in ellipsis …  My oddest qualities are best described in Love Is Never Past Tense…  

What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?

What is my favorite animal? Dog! Can’t stop thinking about my Pekingese Nikki’s curious and understanding eyes! Sure, my favorite animal is Dog, but I love them all!  If I could have dolphins at home, I would’ve felt I had new friends, and maybe, I could’ve started understanding their high pitch language.   Also love horses.  I love everything that moves and has four paws!

My favorite color is green. It includes all earthy colors. Favorite outdoor activities: hiking and swimming.

What would you take to a remote island?

A GPS transmitter and a radio: The first – so they know where to find me.  The second – so I can tell them when to come looking!

Who would you like to invite for dinner and why?           

Sandra Bullock.  Why?  I’d ask her how she stays so cheerful and gorgeous all the timeJ

What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?

My blog is on Goodreads and on WordPress  http://jannayeshanova.wordpress.com/

My Facebook page for Love Is Never Past Tense is https://www.facebook.com/loveisneverpasttense

Twitter : @NeverPastTense  and @JannaYeshanova

What else would you like us to know about you and your books?

The books are inspirational.  If I could make it, everybody can! 

Love Is Never Past Tense… can be found on its website www.loveisneverpasttense.com

where it can come with my autograph.  

Amazon: http://ow.ly/qhOql

and other vendors. All versions are available. 

I’d love to share with you, Christoph,

the book trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quPSNk7EnoA

 I like it and I hope you’ll like it as well.

Wishing best to everybody and sending my love to the whole world! 


Janna Yeshanova, MA, MEd.

Life-Spark, LLC
3136 Kingsdale Center # 110
Upper Arlington, OH 43221

Book trailer: http://ow.ly/q5RMm 
Amazon: http://ow.ly/q5Sdx 


11 Oct 2013

Julia Gousseva: “Moscow Dreams”

2 Comments Book Reviews




“Moscow Dreams” by Julia Gousseva is one of the most captivating and engaging books I have read in some time.
The teenage heroine, Marina, is preparing for her future education with a view to Linguistic and English language when the 1991 political developments in the Soviet Union bring uncertain and volatile times for her and her peers.
In the struggle for Democracy Gorbachev is being kidnapped, McDonalds opens a restaurant in Moscow, Yeltsin announces the end of the Soviet Union and the end of the Communist Party.
Reading about it as it is being told from the perspective of a teenage girl I feel that I understood the dynamics of the times only now properly for the first time. Marina and her friends experience the changes together but every one of them has different dreams, different goals and different backgrounds. 
While the political changes aren’t always good (food rationing and crime waves to name but two) the characters reflect perfectly the conflicting emotions and experiences of the new era.
Marina and her friends are great characters that not only drive the plot easily but they are people you can perfectly relate to. Gousseva does an excellent job at showing the unique moment in time in modern Russian history for us foreigners from the West, so we can understand better how it impacted personally and in a wider cultural context.Giving us some historical and political background and fleshing it out with youthful romance Moscow Dream is exactly the kind of novel I love. 
Written in excellent prose, perfect pacing and just the right amount of emotions this is a touching, informative and wonderful reading experience that I cannot recommend enough.


Your novel is set in Moscow at a time of great changes. Can you briefly explain how much of the story is biographical and how much was researched?

I lived in Moscow in 1991 and worked as a Russian-English interpreter for a British cameraman. I described all the events in the story from personal experience since we spent the three days of the attempted coup in 1991 walking and driving around Moscow, participating in various gatherings, and taking pictures. I had to research some specific details, such as days of the week when the coup happened, the exact quotes from Yeltsin’s speech, numbers of tanks involved, things like that.


summer 2011 398

Can you tell us a little about yourself now, where you live and about your life since Russia?

After the coup failed, Russia suddenly felt like a much more open country. Western companies opened offices in Moscow, travel restrictions for Russians wanting to go abroad were lifted by the government, and there was an overwhelming feeling of new opportunities that we all wanted to experience for ourselves.

At the time, I had just graduated from the Moscow State Linguistics University and wanted to try everything that this new life had to offer. My interpreting skills took me all over Russia and the former Soviet Union, from Western Siberia to the Arctic regions of the Komi Republic to wineries in Moldova and film studios in St. Petersburg. I felt that there was no van, bus, helicopter, train, or plane that I had not been on.

One of my jobs got me involved with an educational organization that administered US graduate school exams. The American lady I worked with in that organization encouraged me to take those exams and apply to graduate school in the US. I did (just to do it! because the opportunity was there!) but quickly realized that the incredibly slow speed of the Russian postal service would prevent me from having any chance of even getting my application in on time to a US university. I was about to give up when the University of Arizona sent me their fax number. That sealed the deal. I was not only accepted but given a chance to work as a graduate teaching assistant to help with tuition payments. I took the chance. Now, many years later, I have a Masters’ and a PhD from the University of Arizona and teach writing full-time for Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. I love every minute of it! And the sunshine still feels like a gift every day. I’ll take triple digit summer temperatures over the frozen darkness of the Arctic polar night any time!

How did the idea for the novel come to you?

The coup of 1991 is the only revolution I have personally experienced, so the choice was easy. I just had to write about it

Did you have any say in the artistic cover art and how was that process?

As I’m learning now, most writers find graphic designers to create their covers. And that’s smart. My only attempt to find a graphic designer for that cover was a disastrous one, so I decided (not so smart!) to design the cover myself. I wanted to show a young couple in an outdoor setting – thus, the couple by the wrought-iron structure. That structure reminds me of the embankment of the Moskva River where a few important moments of the book take place. I also wanted to convey the feeling of instability and change by including a leaning Kremlin tower. The concept of “kremlin” and the fort itself has been a constant in the history of Russia since at least the 14th century, but it was in the early 1990’s that it felt that all the familiar concepts and life itself were shifting, changing, and becoming unstable. No more constants! And, of course, the sky had to be dark and cloudy – no political statement here. Just the reality of Moscow weather.

What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?

The best aspect of writing is writing, in all its stages. The worst? Having to stop to make dinner, run errands, or vacuum. Luckily, I live in the desert, so gardening takes care of itself. Just throw a few rocks and garden gnomes around, and it’s all done!

What do you do when you don’t write?

I’ve always loved dancing (no connection between passion and skill though!), and now I am a Zumba fanatic. If I don’t go to a Zumba class at least five days a week, my life feels incomplete.

What are you writing now?

I am in the process of editing my latest novel titled Anya’s Story.  It is set in Russia in the early 1990’s and traces the lives of two young women, Anya and Katia. 

Anya’s life takes her from Moscow to a small town where her husband serves as a submarine officer in the Russian Northern Fleet. She thinks that her life as a military wife will bring her stability and security, but that doesn’t work out the way she expected. 

Katia stays in Moscow, goes to college, but gradually gets drawn into business ventures. At that time in Russia, many business ventures quickly became dangerous, as Katia soon finds out.

Earlier, you asked me about cover designs. I’m absolutely thrilled with the cover for Anya’s Story. It was created by my friend Vardan Partamyan, a talented writer of dystopian fiction and a perceptive graphic designer. Why perceptive? One night, Vardan and I talked about possible images I wanted to see on the cover. My vision for the cover was blurred at best! The next morning, I woke up to find this amazing cover that he designed and sent me. Thank you, Vardan!

Links to connect with Julia: 

Moscow Dreams on your Amazon site: http://bookShow.me/B00ALGW286

My review of Julia’s Short Stories

“Twelve Months of a Soviet Childhood: Short Stories” by Julia Gousseva is a wonderful selection of short stories about the author’s childhood in Communist Russia but thankfully her approach is fresh and charming.

Telling a story for each month of the year Gousseva takes us back to a simple time in her life. Yes, Communist rules determine a lot of her life but the book does not bemoan hardship or missed material goods. It is a sentimental journey into all-day-life and special occasions of her life.

Having had relatives on the other side of the Berlin Wall I have found it always very hard to imagine just how life was for people in ‘The East’, and many comparisons of our and their lives tended to focus on TV, VHS and Cigarette brands. All very justifiable points, but to portray life the way Gousseva does is a true gift.

Gousseva introduces most of her stories with author notes, giving background information on cultural or climatic factors that come into play in her writing later, but the stories concern what would concern a child on either side of the iron curtain: A music box, the family garden, or questions like: How do we feel when we benefit from a friend being punished? What does a hedgehog perceive? 

The location of these personal memories and stories could be almost seen as secondary, but with the author’s thoughtful notes and the many interesting small facts that are included, Gousseva draws a vivid picture of life in her Russia.

I would like to thank the author for sharing the memories with us and allowing us some further insight into a world we would otherwise know little about. It is wonderful to learn that there were so many good moments and so many pleasures despite oppression and deprivation.

Cover for the soon-to-be-released book:

ANYA'S STORY cover from vardan

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