Today I am welcoming Kyra Robinov into the Indie Spotlight.
Kyra Robinov is a Manhattan-based writer who works in many genres—fiction, non-fiction, musical theatre, and children’s literature. She draws much of her inspiration from the incredible stories she heard growing up about her family’s remarkable experiences.
After fictionalizing her grandmother’s story of a young mother surviving the Russian Revolution in her historical novel, RED WINTER, Kyra decided to focus on her father’s life. Her recent nonfiction release, HiSTORY, spotlights a daughter’s perspective on a bygone era and a man who struggled before ultimately achieving financial and personal success.
Kyra’s passion for the arts and storytelling originated in ballet and drama, and often, but not always, relates to her Russian Jewish heritage. She has worked on multiple live theater pieces. She wrote the book and lyrics for TO DANCE, a musical inspired by the true life
of Russian Jewish ballet dancer Valery Panov, which was featured at the NYC Fringe Festival in 2015.
Her whimsical Nature Stories In Verse—MATT McFLACK & HIS FLYAWAY KITE, DANCE OF THE SEASONS, and THE FOLLY OF POLLY THE PENGUIN—introduces young readers to the importance of perseverance, the different times of the year, and combatting climate change. The books are also available on Audible.com.
Kyra’s latest release is URGE to ROME: My Quest to Become Sexy, Sultry & Migraine- free, a personal recollection about the challenging year she and her family spent while following their dream to live abroad.
What made you decide to publish your books independently? What was your path to publication?
My main reason for writing is that I love it and just felt I had to. I’d worked in film and theatre before having children. Once I became a mom, and decided I really wanted to enjoy every moment I could with my family, I found my previous lifestyle difficult to maintain. Writing books at home proved much more manageable. Still, it wasn’t until my children were teenagers that I had time to focus on my writing. After spending an amazing year living in Rome, I decided to turn our adventures into a travel memoir. I worked on it for a long time, submitted it to agents and received countless rejections. In the meantime, I wanted to get some of my family history down on paper. My father, mother, and ancestors all lived fascinating lives.
Not wanting to go down the submission/rejection route and wait years for publication, I decided to simply self-publish. After all, I was more interested in getting the story on the page for my family and anyone interested—for posterity—than in writing for a living. Once I published RED WINTER and saw the benefits of self-publishing, I made up my mind that that was the way I wanted to go.
What made you decide to write in your specific genre rather than other genres? Have you ever written in other genres?
The first book I published, RED WINTER, was written as historical fiction, even though it is largely based on a true story. I chose fiction for several reasons. First of all, it felt more accessible for readers. Originally, I’d written the story as nonfiction, based on my father’s retelling of the events of his childhood. But once I did some research to fill in some gaping holes in his memory, I found that I was writing about two vastly different stories. I didn’t want to be unfaithful to my dad’s account, but I also wanted to provide a truthful background. Since he’d been so young at the time, his memory was selective. Ultimately, I decided to tell the story through a young mother’s POV. This enabled me to step back from my dad’s recollection and be creative at the same time. I wrote my next two books as narrative nonfiction. Perhaps I had more confidence; I also felt the subject matter called out for a completely truthful retelling.
Do you only read the genre that you write?
No, I read everything—anything that piques my interest: novels, nonfiction, articles, plays, screenplays, poems. You get something different from every genre and I find it all inspiring.
What are you currently reading? Watching on TV? Is there a type of music you listen to for inspiration?
I’m reading Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead. And listening to Swan Dive on Audible. I’m addicted to Succession on TV and recently finished Dopesick, American Rust, and The Morning Show. Loved them all.
I love opera and often listen to that while writing, but also found myself drawn to Russian and Italian folk music while writing my books set in those countries.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Keep writing. Don’t give up. Get all your thoughts down before figuring out how you might want to shape it. Write something that would interest you to read and don’t let others dissuade you. But do listen—with a very discerning ear—to readers’ reactions to what you write. They may not put their finger on exactly what might be amiss, but if you think about it a while, there may be some golden kernels in their critiques. Just don’t take anything personally. For me, writing is a journey of self-discovery. Use it for its benefits.
What are you working on right now and what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I am editing a manuscript my maternal grandmother wrote about her life which I just want to preserve for family. But I’m taking notes and hoping to use much of her experience—along with my mother’s life as a ballerina—for my next work. Still not sure if it will be fiction or non, but I suspect it will be fictional and center on three—maybe four—generations in a family of strong women. I sense the potential for conflict, growth, and universality.
It is the winter of 1920. While the peaceful remote city of Nikolaevsk- on-Amur in far Eastern Siberia is frozen from the world, a band of Bolshevik revolutionaries infiltrates the town and arrests the majority of the population: businessmen, bourgeoisie, foreigners and Jews. Luba’s husband, Ilya, a prominent newspaper editor and lawyer, is among those jailed and tortured.
Overnight, her comfortable, upper class life is upended and Luba finds herself on the run with four small children and a mother-in-law. Pigsties…abandoned warehouses…opium dens—these are just a few of the places Luba is forced to seek refuge as she tries to elude capture and stay alive. Will her former servants, a Chinese cook and a Russian coachman, help or turn on her? The little-known history of this exotic time and place is seen through the eyes of a reluctant heroine grappling with adversity and loss during the dangerous political chaos following the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II.
In 1920, at the age of eight, Moisye Kaptzan spent months hiding in squalid pigsties and opium dens after Bolsheviks murdered his father and hunted the surviving family during the Russian Revolution’s aftermath. Three years later, when the Great Yokohama Earthquake flattened that Japanese city, eleven-year-old Moisye was buried under rubble as his house crashed down upon him. Trapped in Shanghai as a young man during WWII, he outwitted brutal Japanese occupiers while assisting Jewish refugees running from Hitler. Undaunted by disasters, Moisye Kaptzan relied on his keen understanding of human nature and fluency in multiple languages to thrive throughout these tumultuous times. A tale of grit, perseverance, and survival…this is HiSTORY.
URGE to ROME
I could have gone to a shrink. But a year in Italy sounded so much more appealing. My fantasy was that by changing my address, my insecurities would vanish and I would magically become the sexy, sultry, and migraine-free woman I was always meant to be. After 9/11, the stress of daily life in NYC consumed me and everyone else. Throw in a couple of aging parents, two adolescent children, a workaholic husband, and a defective I-can-and-must-do-everything-perfectly gene, and it’s probably not unexpected that migraines had become a way of life for me. The idea of moving away, combined with visions of a slower, quieter life where we’d have time to “chew” our food, “breathe” the air, and take frequent weekend jaunts, was extremely enticing. When the stars aligned enough to make our adventure possible, we jumped at the chance. Little did we know what awaited us.
Who is next on Indie Spotlight?
Mary Hollendoner is passionate about travel and the outdoors. Originally from England, she moved to California for its rock climbing and sunshine, worked a season on the Yosemite Search and Rescue team, but then ended up climbing the corporate ladder at Google for a decade to fund her travel obsession. She has bicycled across Central America, motorcycled across Mexico, driven the length of Australia, and backpacked around Europe, S.E. Asia, and Africa – all as a prelude to the epic drive through the Americas that is the subject of this book. She’s written for travel, climbing, and retirement magazines, and this is her first foray into a full-length book.