© Ksenia Ryctycka 2012-2015 
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Ksenia Rychtycka
A Conversation with Ksenia Rychtycka What was the inspiration behind this collection of short stories? The earliest stories in the collection were started while I was earning my MA at Columbia College in Chicago. I grew up in the Detroit Ukrainian-American community and was raised with a very strong sense of that background – for instance I learned to speak English at the age of five, I attended a Saturday Ukrainian-language school, I was involved in a Ukrainian scouting organization, etc. In a sense it was like growing up in two cultures. When I went to college and began writing fiction I purposely avoided using my background in my work. It wasn’t until I got to Columbia and a few years had passed that I felt compelled to write about the background that I came from and knew, and that was when my stories really came alive. I started writing this collection around the time the Soviet Union was collapsing and that was also a motivating force. I traveled to Ukraine one year before independence was declared, and then a few years later, I moved to Kyiv for a few years. It was a challenging and exciting time and those experiences also fueled the stories for “Crossing The Border.” When did you become interested in writing? What writers particularly inspired you?  I’ve been writing, in one form or another, since I was a child. Books were always a part of my life and both of my parents were Ukrainian writers so I like to think it’s in my genes. My mom is a poet and my father wrote novels so writing was not a foreign idea in my family. There have been many writers who have inspired me over the years in different phases of my life. I have always loved Jane Austen and I always have great pleasure in going back to her novels. Some of the writers who really helped me with my own writing were those who tackled similar cultural issues in their own work. These include Edwidge Danticot, Jhumpa Lahiri, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Yiyun Li, Junot Diaz, and Louise Erdrich.  A.S. Byatt, John Fowles, Margaret Atwood, Janice Kulyk Keefer, and Haruki Murakami are also writers I greatly admire. What surprised you the most during the writing of this collection? As far as the process of writing is concerned, I didn’t realize just how many revisions it would take before I felt that each story, and the collection as a whole, was complete. Sometimes it takes a great amount of time to get the right perspective to tell the story.  For instance one of the stories “Homecoming” was written during my days at Columbia. I set that story aside and then years later revisited it and ended up rewriting the whole piece from two different points of view. There’s only a few paragraphs that remain from the original. The other surprise was discovering thematic links that I was not conscious of during the writing process. Obviously, the cultural links were very intentional. But when it came time to provide my publisher with input for the book cover I was initially at a loss until I realized – after discussion with my husband – that birds through the notion of flight or as visual images were present in most of the stories. It was an interesting and very timely discovery! Some of your stories are set against the backdrop of political happenings in Ukraine. How difficult was it to connect the personal with the political especially for an audience unfamiliar with the country? At heart I think that we as readers are always interested in the personal. Lives continue in the midst of political upheavals and repressions and it is those everyday universalities that unite us no matter the country we live in. The lonely woman who crashes strangers’ weddings in the Midwest and the elderly woman who ventures out in the midst of a revolution to buy a cage for a lost bird are linked together in ways that transcend culture. I tried to provide some sense of the political reality that my characters were dealing with and obviously the experience of living in Ukraine, working with local people, and getting to know the culture on a personal level, was essential in writing some of the stories. So it was a very natural blend. Why did you choose to end the collection with the 2004 Orange Revolution? I wanted the book to end on a positive note, during this great moment of possibility for change. Although events in Ukraine have not gone the way many people had hoped, it was still an amazing and breakthrough time. I also had left Ukraine a few years before the Orange Revolution and I felt that this was a good stopping point, that the stories worked together as a cohesive whole. What are you working on next? I’m currently writing poems and have a project in mind about four medieval historical women who were sisters.  This may or may not turn into a prose piece! 
Crossing The Border  Q&A