BackStory: Six Questions with Lita Kurth

Aleksandr Ulyanov, 1887

BackStory: Six Questions with Lita Kurth
Author of The Revolutionary’s Brother

What inspired you to write ‘The Revolutionary’s Brother’?  How much research did you do while writing and editing, and did you discover anything that surprised you?

I had read that Lenin’s brother was hanged for being a revolutionary student activist, and it made me wonder what it might have been like to have a family member publicly hanged and to have to send someone to collect the body. It personalized Lenin. I’m always interested in the personal motives behind a public career.

I did a little research; as a history major, I had the basic background. I think I looked up how to make a Molotov cocktail!! I was struck by the discovery that poor children would scour the train tracks for any little odd bits of coal.

Who are your favourite historical fiction writers and why?

Oh, I hardly know where to begin, so I’ll start with books I’ve read recently: Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk, personalized so deeply for me, the ways individual people responded to the idea of Egyptian independence, and how colonized people (whether in a family or in a country) cope with and accept (or don’t) their colonization. Then the extremely eye-opening Buru Quartet by Indonesian writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who was imprisoned for twenty years, and who recreates unforgettably the intelligence, courage, and strength of people who, in the eyes of colonizers were mere concubines—and their mixed-race offspring—with almost no rights in their own country.

What is your favourite part of the writing process? Your least favourite?  What do you like most about writing flash?

I love writing the first draft. I hate the uncertainty of whether it’s finished or not, whether the wording is appropriate or not.

I personally love historical flash. Like all flash, it makes history more real; we see it as if glimpsing a dramatic interchange in a train window as it rolls by.

I like that it’s small enough that I can keep the whole thing in mind and can carefully consider each word (unlike novels, for example)

How far does your flash fiction range?

From absurd humor and minor baubles of daily life to matters of life and death, of extreme historical importance.

How important is historical accuracy to you in your own writing?

Sometimes I’ll elide a few details for a clearer plot, as long as it could have happened that way. I really dislike anachronistic attitudes and ridiculously modern language and hope I avoided them.

What, if anything, do you have in common with your main character?

To see oppression oppresses me.

Lita Kurth MFA- Rainier Writers Workshop, has published in three genres and been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net Awards. She teaches creative writing and co-founded a San Jose’s Flash Fiction Forum. “This is the Way We Wash the Clothes” won an award from Lunchticket.

Photograph of Aleksandr Ilyich Ulyanov, 1887, from Российский государственный архив социально-политической истории. Ф. 395. Оп. 1. Д. 132. Л. 1, via Wikimedia Commons.