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 killer.
Cooper: This book can be classified as
a tragedy, did your Russian background influence you?
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 basketball
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.” Please explain.
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 Of Forever.
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.
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.