by Paullina Simons
Interviewer: Elise Cooper
Red Leaves by Paullina Simons was first published
in the 1990s. Re-published this April it is as relevant
today as it was back then. The first half of the book
explores the relationship between four Dartmouth college
students whose friendship seems to be unraveling. In
the second half the mystery unfolds. The nude body of
the star basketball player is found frozen in the snow
in the campus woods. Called in to investigate Detective
Spencer Patrick O’Malley realizes this is the
same girl he met and had asked out on a date. Recognizing
the three friends are people of interest he must find
the truth behind all the secrets in order to find the
Cooper: This book can be classified
as a tragedy, did your Russian background influence
Paullina Simons: I think it was a combination
of my Russian background and my American life. Anyone
reading Russian books realizes the stories are more
pessimistic and a person’s destiny plays a large
role. But since coming to America I added some optimism
to my stories. Although some of my readers might be
disappointed because I make sure my characters end up
where they need to be.
How did you get the idea for the story?
Paullina: When I was thinking about my next
plot I envisioned a dead girl in the snow in a fictional
setting. But after I saw the Dartmouth campus I new
it was perfect. Then I started to put the pieces together:
how did she get there, and what role would the
Cooper: Interesting how you named Kristina’s
Paullina: Do you know he is the only dog in
all of my twelve novels! I thought about the dog in
the O. J. Simpson case. Both were watchful and probably
saw something but were unable to say anything. What
also made an impression on me was reading a book as
a little girl about a dog that was so bonded to its
owner he searched and found the body. When I was at
Dartmouth I could not believe how many dogs were on
the campus, including large dogs such as Shepherds,
Labs, and Golden Retrievers. They are even allowed in
the dorms. I found the canine life in New Hampshire
fascinating and unusual.
Cooper: Since sports plays a role in
the plot, what is your favorite sport?
Paullina: Actually, I am a baseball and hockey
fan. I like how hockey is a fast and thrilling sport
when you watch it live. Regarding baseball, I will defend
it to the death with my favorite team the New York Yankees.
My dad used to say it was like the philosophy of life,
with many intricate pieces. It is not just action and
movement, but strategy and psychology.
Cooper: Why did you make Kristina a
Paullina: The reason I made Kristina a basketball
player was that the Dartmouth team actually won several
awards. I like the idea she was the best in a sport
where the college excelled.
Cooper: You have a quote that is so
relevant today, “I wasn’t allowed to have
another opinion in that damn school you sent me to.”
Paullina: When I was in college I was so frustrated.
I could not understand why it was not a bastion to getting
at the truth. Every time I took a course on the Soviet
Union professors were actually saying stuff I knew was
not true. I was not allowed to question them in class
because they did not want anything to interfere with
their narrative. I was told ‘see me after class.’
I do think today it has gotten a lot worse and this
is not a good thing.
Cooper: What about your next book?
Paullina: It is also a re-published book that
brings back Detective O’Malley in a new setting,
New York, and with another mystery, trying to find a
girl who disappeared. This book, The Girl In Times
Square, has never been published in America. I
have to say it is actually my daughter’s favorite
book of mine. I know many people ask me if I will write
a series with Detective O’Malley, but currently
I have no plans for that, although I might explore him
in a future book. As we speak I am writing an original
book that has never ever been published, The End
Cooper: What do you want readers to
get out of the book?
Paullina: A good entertaining story. I hope
they find it thought provoking and are engaged with
the characters and their lives.
MyShelf.com and Elise want to thank Ms Simons, for
taking the time to give this interview.
Paullina Simons is the international best-selling
author of novels such as Tully, Red Leaves, Eleven
Hours, The Bronze Horseman and Tatiana and
Alexander. She was born in Leningrad in 1963 and
now lives in New York.