Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Rules for Thursday Lovers: Yana Stajno on Art and Fiction


Yana Stajno (YS, personal archive)

Today I am thrilled to host an interview with a multitalented artist, Yana Stajno, whose debut novel Rules for Thursday Lovers is about to be launched on the 16th of July by Clink Street Publishing. The book is already available on Amazon (UK, US).

Yana has a curious biography. Born in Zimbabwe in a Polish-French family, she studied at Cape Town University and fought apartheid in South Africa, then moved to London and has become an established artist, whose paintings and others works have been exhibited and sold all over the world.

Having previously written plays and short stories, Yana is not a novice in a literary world. I had acquainted with her two years ago and had a pleasure of reading the manuscript of her novel before it got published.  And now, as it is out in the world, we are here to discuss it.

41waM0DSUrL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Welcome, Yana.  My first question is about the premise of your book, Rules for Thursday Lovers. What is it and why have you chosen to write on this topic?

> I love writing dramas, especially comic dramas. Usually my themes are around people taking on things that are too big for them. I thought that the attempt of arranging rules around sharing a lover was very rich territory for both drama and comedy.

When I read your book, I thought that though your characters do things that are generally considered wrong, I mean adultery, their behaviour is actually also good, since they are trying to break free from the unhappy marriages and find their true selves. Do you think modern relationships cannot be viewed in the traditional moral way anymore?

>I’m not sure that relationships have ever conformed to tradition. That’s a myth we like to believe.  Just like new music always seems unbearable to older generations who never seem to remember their new music was just as unbearable to their elders. People always desire new pleasures in a time-old way.

A comedy writer myself, I find it hard to know where the humour comes from. As if it’s been channelled straight from the ether onto the page, I’m just a bystander. How do you come up with funny situations in your book? Are they based on your life experience, other art, observations of other people or you think you channel them from your subconscious intuitively?

>Francis Bacon said that his art was influenced by everything he had seen. I think my funny scenes come from everything I’ve experienced, heard about and mused about. It does seem to work the best when I work very fast and roar with laughter myself. Mind you, this is what I do when I’m finishing a painting and it’s a bit disconcerting for other artist working in studios nearby.  

Art is what you are known for professionally. To me, you paintings seem so vivid, so full of life, which is understandable, since you grew up in the sunny Africa. My question is how does your art influence your writing?

>It influences me in countless ways. But mostly, it gives me the courage to describe things in broad brush strokes and not explain too much.  People can make sense of things with the lightest of guidance I’ve found.

To write a novel is probably very much like to paint a picture. You need to have a composition in mind, different elements serving the main theme, etc. What differences and similarities do you find between the writing and painting processes?

>Yes, it’s similar but also different. My paintings can take anything from twenty minutes to several months but not longer. Writing seems to need an awful lot of rewriting and editing. If you did all that work to a painting it would kill the work in my view. I think much more about composition in writing than I do in painting. In painting I’m putting down marks as a reaction to what I’m seeing, while allowing my unconscious to intervene. With writing I work much more from my imagination. It is a distillation rather than a freshly plucked observation. The one thing that is similar though is that an idea for a piece of prose or painting comes to me in a particular size. I have to recognise that something is a short story rather than a novel, or a small ink study rather than a huge oil painting. It’s silly to stretch the one into the other. Too many novels are really just short stories in my view. 

Reading your novel I found myself sympathizing with Jake and Angie, while Fiona was definitely the most interesting character in it for me. Do you think creative people need to be somewhat mischievous and naughty in order to be interesting? And if you were given a choice between a kind but boring and an interesting but unkind person seating next to you on a transatlantic flight, which one would you choose?

>There’s no contest. I much prefer sitting next to a kind, boring person on a plane or anywhere.  I might love to write about tiresome people but I don’t like spending time with them. Also, if someone is ‘boring’ they are usually shy or quiet and these people usually have hidden depths.  Society very much undervalues introverted people. Kind people make wonderful friends.  ‘Boring’ people are very nice to draw.  I love Fiona, but she would drive me bonkers.

> As Rules for Thursday Lovers is being released this month, I have the launch question: what do you have in store for readers, have you planned any promotional events?

Yes, I am having a book launch at the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green on the 16th July from 7-9pm. You are all welcome. I am also running 2 competitions. Because there is a Scrabble scene in my book, I am inviting people to send photos of their Scrabble on location games to my Twitter account – @YanaStajno and I will send free books to the providers of the quirkiest photos.  The second competition is this – I will be sending a limited edition giclee print to the first 3 readers who tell me the chapters these paintings are describing.  I’m attaching two photos below. The details are also on my website –


Yana Stajno’s art (picturing scenes from her novel)


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