Sergei Kourdakov, a former KGB agent and Soviet naval intelligence officer, defected from the USSR at the age of twenty. A year later we met at my Federal Government office in Washington DC. We were watched and followed. “Even you could be spy,” Sergei whispered. My book, A Rose for Sergei, is the true story of our time together.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sergei Kourdakov - Controversy Is A Powerful Motivator

Recently I participated in an online interview about writing A Rose for Sergei.  Thank you, Ms. Andrews for featuring my book on your blog, your flattering review, and the “Five Star” rating. Review and interview questions follow:

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“I rarely pick up nonfiction books to read.  When I do read them, I almost always enjoy them, it's just that I prefer to live in my little fantasy land. :)

A Rose for Sergei is not your typical nonfiction - at least, it wasn't for me.  It's as if I was watching a real life thriller/romance unfold right in front of me.  While there seems to be some mystery surrounding Sergei's life, this story shares a side of him that many people who know of him probably don't consider.

It's all very well written, and the ending tugged at my heart.  I have to agree with the author that it is a story that needs to be told and shared.  After reading this, I'm very interested to learn more.”


1. What made you decide to put your story into book form?
This was a true story I never planned to tell, let alone publish.  After I saw a documentary movie discrediting Sergei Kourdakov’s book, The Persecutor, I knew I needed to write A Rose for Sergei.  Controversy is a powerful motivator.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
Sergei Kourdakov was a Soviet defector and former KGB agent.  It would be forty years before I put the memories of our time together into book form.  Once I made that decision, the words tumbled effortlessly onto the paper.  I already knew the events; the story is a part of my life and was always there.

3. How long did it take you to put this work together?
It took over a year for my book to be ready for publication.  Because I met Sergei at my Federal Government office, I was required to submit my manuscript to the Department of Defense Pre-Publications Office.  It was a nail-biting two months before I received word that my book was cleared for publication.

4. What was your least favorite part of the writing process?
In order to write about Sergei, I had to relive the events leading up to and after his tragic death.  When you write, you just don’t tell, you show what’s happening.  Those chapters were the most difficult for me to write.

5. How would you describe your writing style?
Being a memoir, I used more of a conversational style of writing.

6. What would you like your readers to take away from your work?
I would like readers to take a second look at Sergei Kourdakov’s life.  A Rose for Sergei is a continuation of Sergei’s story.  It reinforces his book and reveals what his life was really like in the United States.

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?
That’s an easy question for me.  My writing goal is for people to know that Sergei’s story is real.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Going Back In Time – Would You Like Yourself?

The following question was posted in an on-line writers group that I follow:  “Think back to when you were 21 years old.  What was the best with you back then?  What was the worst?  Would you have liked yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself?”  The author was writing about a 21-yr-old male in the early 70’s and was looking for inspiration.

That’s an easy question.  The age and time frame were perfect for me—Sergei Kourdakov and I were both 21 in 1972.  I began composing a short comment, “First, I’ll say I was happy with the decisions I made all those years ago.  They made me who I am today.”  Then I stopped writing my response and deleted it.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized there is no easy answer for me.  If I actually went back in time it would be difficult to conceal the things I knew were about to happen.  I signed out of the discussion group for the evening.

I was intrigued.  The idea of going back in time to meet myself stayed with me.  So, if I could go back in time, what would I say to my 21-year-old self?

* * *

My time travel machine doors open to reveal I’ve arrived at my destination.  It is the fall of 1972.  I’ve just stepped into the living room of my apartment in Arlington, Virginia.  I see the shocked look on the face of a young woman with long, sandy blonde hair.  It is me, only forty years younger.

Older Self:  “Hi.  It’s me.  Or should I say, it’s you in the future.  You look shocked, but don’t be.”

Younger Self:  “How?  What?  Yes, I’m shocked.”

Older Self:  “I can’t stay long, and I can’t say anything to change the future while I’m here.  I just wanted to say hello and see how you’re doing.”  I see a smile finally creep across her face.

Younger Self:  “I love being 21.  I’m having the best time.  I really like my job with the Federal Government, and I just got my own apartment.  I’m about to go on my first date with this handsome Soviet defector I met at work yesterday.  He’s 21 also.  But you already know this…you know about Sergei Kourdakov, don’t you?”

Older Self:  “Mmmm…very much so.  Yes.”

Younger Self:  “I’m sooo happy, but I’m concerned.”

Older Self:  “What are you concerned about?”

Younger Self:  “Sergei told me he’s being followed.”

Older Self:  “All I can tell you is to keep making good choices in life.  And you’re stronger than you realize.”  The time machine starts to flash a warning.  “It’s time for me to go.”

Younger Self:  “But wait, please wait.  Before you leave I have to know one thing.  Can you at least tell me if I’ll be just as happy in the future as I am now?  That shouldn’t change the future if I know that.”

Older Self:  “You will be incredibly happy.  That’s all I can tell you.  Oh, guess what?  You’ll write a book some day.  I think I can tell you that, too.”

Younger Self:  “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen.  I’m not a writer.  Oh, that’s Sergei at the door now.  Wait, don’t you want to see him before you have to leave?”

Older Self:  “I can’t, you know that.  I can’t do anything to interfere with the future.  He must not see me.”

I step into the time machine and wave to my younger self who I know has a whole wonderful life ahead of her.  In the blink of an eye I’m back in the present.  There was no way I could warn my younger self that Sergei will die from a horrible accident in a few months.  She/me will have the strength to overcome that tragedy.  I couldn’t risk Sergei seeing me either.  He would surely have noticed that split-second-flicker of concern in my eyes.  He would know that something was terribly wrong.  I could not change the course of events to come.