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Interview with Lenore Myka
by Daniel Y. Harris

Lenore Myka

Congratulations on the publication of your first book, King of Gypsies, winner of the BkMk Press G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. Would you tell us a bit about your short fiction and The King of Gypsies.

KING took me 5 years to write and another 4 to get published. Needless to say, the book has been a labor of love. Most of the stories are linked geographically to Romania and address the challenges individuals faced immediately after the end of communism there. It is very fictional, however much I was inspired by my experiences of living there. I used as much imagination as I did memory to realize these stories. I also am an intuitive writer. I start with an image, generally, and write from there. The stories in the book are a result of that process and are as surprising to me as they might be a to a reader.

How important is the ethos of Romania for your fiction?

I'm reluctant to generalize about the Romanian ethos; my guess is it's much different now than it was when I lived there. But if I were to generalize, my sense of the ethos at the time was disenchantment. Romanians suffered tremendously under the Ceausescu regime and expected more from capitalism. When it came around to "save" them, they found many of the same people in power; a common saying at the time was Romania's last communists were its first capitalists. There was a sense of hopelessness; many young people wanted to leave. At the same time, there was a lot of pride-in the culture, the beauty of the landscape, the artistic heritage and history. My hope was to infuse the stories with this dichotomy. In the end, I'm not sure I succeeded.

Would you tell our readers a bit about the gypsy and/or Romani people both in your fiction and in Romania.

I'm no expert on the Roma population but what I can tell you is this: The Roman population throughout Europe is divisive; there's a lot of xenophobia surrounding them both in the media, politically and within communities. The population is insular; some facets of it do not recognize the nation states in which they live and so may not abide by laws. It's not fully understood how the population reached Europe though generally it's believed they were brought over as slaves. Just like every cultural group, there are also many Roma who are highly educated and integrated.

In my stories I was looking at the challenges of being Roma--particularly as a child. Public attitudes can impact an individual from an early age and I wanted to explore how being raised in such an environment might influence the adult a child eventually becomes.

Which are some of your favorite characters in your short fiction pieces?

I love all of my characters equally, but for different reasons.

What fiction writers have influenced you and why?

The list is huge! But off the top of my head: anything by Mavis Gallant, Stuart Dybek's THE COAST OF CHICAGO, Lewis Nordan's novels, especially SHARPSHOOTER BLUES. Alice Munro, inevitably. Debra Eisenberg, Lorrie Moore. And further back-Chekov, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, Edith Wharton. I think all of these authors have taught me how to write from the most complex and human of places.

How would you describe the style of your fiction?

I'm not one for categorization. I try not to think too much about my "style" as a writer, just like I don't worry too much about my voice. Both of these things are always changing because as a person I'm always changing. I just let the writing take me where it will on any given day and hope that what comes out is something I can feel proud about.

Will you be doing a book tour?

I will! Mostly in and around New England, though I'll travel as far as Buffalo (where I was born), Chicago and DC.

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