Born and raised in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, 34-year-old Elena Molchanova has been writing since the age of 13. Now she has written and self-published her first novel, Trinidead.
Seen through the eyes of Harvey, a 65-year-old British academic enjoying a vibrant island lifestyle, Trinidead is a psychological thriller set in modern-day Trinidad. It centres around a charming couple from London, Miles and Petra, who are new to the island. Gregarious and open-hearted, Harvey ushers them into his social circle, oblivious to the disturbing nature of the pair’s relationship or their dark mission, which is about to hit close to home.
Molchanova explained that, as a child, she would write short stories, as well as memoir-style narratives based on what was happening in her life at the time. At age 19 she moved to the UK to study for a degree in media and cultural studies and television studies at Kingston University in London. “I’ve been writing my whole life. It has been, I think, my true line of my creativity but never in a professional way. Regardless of what I did for work, it was always something I fell back on, a true passion of the heart.”
Molchanova visited TT at the end of 2009 and, she said, it changed the course of her life. She was only supposed to be in the country for three months but fell in love with the islands and its people. She stayed and eventually got a job at an advertising company working in motion graphics and video production.
Now TT is her home. With artistic outlets such as The TT Film Festival, The Studio Film Club, and Bocas Lit Fest, there was “magic in the air” for creative people and TT felt like the place for her.
Initially, living in TT was a drastic change for her as she tried to find her place. The change sparked the idea for the book as she wanted to tell a story about a stranger in a strange land, using some of her experiences to create the scenery and atmosphere. However, she was busy working and socialising so did not develop the idea.
In 2015 circumstances changed again. Molchanova and her partner, now husband, began travelling for work and pleasure. They moved to and through different countries and she had time on her hands.
While living in the US, in California, she thought, “It’s now or never. It felt like life has given me this opportunity to develop that old idea that I had. Considering that I had six years of experiences in Trinidad behind my back I decided to give it a go and started writing.”
Asked why she wanted the setting of the novel to be TT, Molchanova said she wanted people who have never been to the country to be able to explore it through her book and possibly want to visit. And from the feedback from friends who said they felt transported as if they now had a good idea of the vibe of the place, she believes she succeeded.
Molchanova and her husband returned to TT about four months ago and they now live in Maraval. While abroad she visited TT and Russia every year but she has not lived in Russia for half of her life so, although the country of her birth will always have her heart, she said TT feels more like home.
“For me this book is my love letter to Trinidad. It was important for me to document and have it be authentic, so I was never going to write it from the point of view of a Trinidadian because I’m a foreigner and can only speak from my experiences.”
Molchanova once dreamt of Trinidead as a movie but she was aware that much was involved in making a film. She described herself as an introvert and likes to work on her own so she wanted to figure out the process of the project by herself. Still, she said at times during the writing she wished there were more people to bounce ideas off but eventually she had her editors.
“I knew for me this would be something between me and myself. I can be alone with this until the end pretty much. I think it would be great if it was a movie at some point but for now, I’m happy to let it go and let other people have fun with it.”
What next to write
Molchanova hopes to write another book but, whatever it is, it will not be a psychological thriller. She said the thriller/detective aspect was the most challenging thing for her and she did not think she would ever write in that genre again. She initially chose it because she read many in the genre and wanted to write with the pacing and excitement she looked for in such books. However, she said in her writing she was more interested in character development and relationships while the plot is simply a mechanism for that development. But in a thriller, she said, the plot is the most important thing.
“If I write another book, I think next time I need to find a way to explore things I’m really interested in without having to put myself in these very tight corners from which I have to find my way out.”
Despite her reluctance to write another novel in the genre, Molchanova already has an idea for a sequel to Trinidead. She said it is tempting to spend more time in a world she created because she is familiar and comfortable with it and how it works, and already knows the characters.
Therefore, she might release a few chapters for her fans but her life has changed in the five years since she started the book and has other things to say.
“I’m glad that I did it but now I feel I need to move on. I think the main purpose of writing a book is when you really have something to say and it’s burning your insides and can’t not write it.” At the moment, Molchanova has an idea for a dystopian novel but, she said, with the way things are going with the covid19 pandemic, it feels like “too much” so she may reconsider.
In the meantime, Trinidead is available at Paper Based Bookshop, located at the Normandie Hotel, St Ann’s and on the self-publishing platform Blurb.com at https://www.blurb.com/b/9921145-trinidead.