Fall 2019 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Sofiya Pasternack

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the September/October 2019 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Fall 2019 Publishers’ Previews, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Anya and the Dragon (who’s not so bad) live in Russia before it was Russia, a place where Christianity, Judaism, and ancient magic coexist uneasily.

1. I kind of want a domovoi now. Do you have one?

Every house has one! Domoviye (that’s the plural) will bring good luck to clean, neat houses with nice, polite people living inside. If you keep a clean home and you’re nice, your house will be a great place to live. Some people will tell you this is just what happens when you take care of your home and yourself, but nah. It’s domoviye.

2. How much did you know about Kievan Rus’ going in?

I knew what the folklore said, but that was an amalgamation of several centuries and not terribly historical. When I decided to make the story more historical, I found the interplay of cultures back and forth across Kievan Rus’ to be utterly fascinating. As a result of this novel’s research, I know loads about the Khazar Khaganate, Varangians, and the Byzantine Empire.

3. You ask, “If you kill something that understands death, do you believe you have murdered?” Well?

When Babulya asks Anya this question, she’s trying to help Anya make a difficult decision without telling her what to do or think. Instead, she’s asking Anya questions to allow her to come to her own conclusion. And, like Babulya, I want my readers to come to their own conclusions. So what do you think, readers?

4. Who is your favorite dragon in literature?

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. Ruth, the white dragon, stood out to me because he was small but mighty. He got made fun of for being a little guy, but that didn’t stop him from kicking butt and being generally awesome.

5. Sequel ready to go?

You better believe it! In Anya and the Nightingale, Anya and her friends travel to Kiev and are tasked with capturing a highwayman who attacks travelers with weaponized sound. Fans of Slavic folklore might recognize it as a retelling of the story “Ilya Muromets and Nightingale the Robber.”

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