TBP: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
NS: I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, went to college in Providence, Rhode Island, and since graduation have lived in New York City. I write books for children and young adults, mostly fiction. Some of my books are HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT, CONFESSIONS OF THE SULLIVAN SISTERS, THE SECRET TREE, and, most recently, THE BOY ON THE BRIDGE. Next spring Scholastic will publish two new middle grade books of mine, SWITCHED AT BIRTHDAY and the third book in the newest 39 Clues series, UNSTOPPABLE. I also play bass in the all-YA-author band Tiger Beat. Libba Bray is our lead singer, Dan Ehrenhaft plays guitar, and Barnabas Miller plays drums and sings.
TBP: Describe The Boy on the Bridge in nine words or less.
NS: American girl goes to Russia, falls in love. Complications.
TBP: You actually spent a semester abroad in Russia during the 80's. What made you decide to write a story that loosely incorporated those experiences.
NS: I'd always thought of that time in Russia--the Soviet era--as kind of dreary, but a few years ago I saw a documentary about the famous ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev. It focused on his defection to Paris in the 1970s, and the story was so dramatic and glamorous. It struck me that enough time has passed that that part of history has taken on a dramatic gleam. The Soviet Union is long gone--it's like a lost civilization. And I spent time there. I knew that lost place. I realized that experience was valuable and had the makings of a great story.
TBP: What is one of your favorite memories from your time spent in Russia?
NS: I loved the parties where everyone would crowd into someone's tiny apartment, someone would strum a guitar, and everybody would sing songs, old and new, all night.
TBP: What is the one thing you miss the most about Russia?
NS: I miss speaking the language and hearing it spoken all around me. It's a strange and beautiful language. I do get to hear it sometimes in New York, especially on the subway.
TBP: In The Boy on the Bridge, Laura is proposed to by Alyosha. You, too, had a boyfriend while in Russia. Did he propose as well? How did things end between you too?
NS: My Russian boyfriend did propose to me while I was there. I didn't know what to do. So I told him I wanted to finish college and then decide. I had a year of college left. We wrote to each other all year, but in the end I decided I wasn't ready for marriage and said no.
I wrote an essay about this for the New York Times Modern Love column that gives a lot more detail if you're interested. You can find it in the Style Section on Sunday, August 4.
TBP: Did you keep in touch with any of the people you met or were friends with in Russia? If not, do you wish you had?
NS: I kept in touch with Sasha, my Russian boyfriend, for years after I left. He even came to New York to visit me once the travel restrictions in the USSR lifted.
TBP: What would you say was the best thing you ate while there? The worst?
NS: My two favorite foods were pelmenyi, slippery little pasta dumplings with meatballs inside drenched in butter (yum), and these puffy cookies that I don't remember the name of. The worst food was any kind of meat. It just didn't look good.
TBP: Have you been back to Russia since your semester abroad? If not, do you ever consider going back someday?
NS: I went back once for a short trip a year after my semester abroad. I would love to go again and see the new Russia but I haven't had the chance yet.
TBP: What would you say was the most important thing you learned during your time abroad in Russia?
NS: I learned how to really speak the language. I haven't used my Russian much since, so I've forgotten a lot of it, but I loved learning idioms and slang and proverbs and all the interesting nooks and crannies of another culture.
I also learned a lot about how living in a different culture can make you see the world from a very different point of view. There's more than one way to see things, and I like to try to see life from a lot of different angles. It makes things interesting.
TBP: Anything else you'd like to add before you go?
NS: I've attached three pictures. One shows me when I was a college student in Leningrad. Another shows the outside of the dorm I lived in, Dormitory #6. And the third shows a doll that my Russian boyfriend painted to look like me. If you read the book you'll see why it's important.
I hope you all enjoyed hearing about Standiford's life while she was in Russia! I highly recommend that you check out her books. Thanks for dropping by and I'd love to hear what you have to say. :D