I was born and brought up in a small village in Chernobyl region, where there is nothing but endless forest and endless railway tracks. There is absolutely nothing to do - maybe that’s why I have always entertained myself by inventing crazy adventures in my head. Exaggeration, juxtaposition and unexpected plot twists always came naturally to me, even before I took any creative writing courses. This is also why it felt so obvious that I should write a novel as opposed to a memoir.
My stories always have a cinematic lucidity to them, at least in my mind. I relive each scene with my characters, seeing every detail, smelling every aroma and hearing every sound. When I was writing about my protagonist’s knee injury, I literally hurt my leg so badly that I could not walk and almost needed surgery like she did.
In 1990, when I was only 9 years old, I left my village for the first time. I went to Southern Italy to stay with a local family who had volunteered to host ‘Chernobyl children’. When I came back home to Ukraine almost a year later, the country I had left behind did not exist any more. Fun days at the beach near Naples with abundant fresh fruit and pasta were exchanged for long queues just to get a loaf of bread and the effective absence of physical money. I decided there and then to leave the country as soon as I could - and so I did.
I went on a student exchange program to study Law at a German university, and ended up staying there for my entire master’s degree. I then went to Barcelona for my postgraduate studies. Having very little money, I had to queue up at a soup kitchen for the homeless. As much as my legal status allowed me, I worked as a waitress, cleaner, promo girl and even as a translator of police interrogations from Eastern European languages into Spanish. At one point, my entire worldly wealth amounted to 20 euros and my parents bought me a bus ticket back to Ukraine. I was very close to desperate, but a few days later I got a job at the Spannabis exhibition in Barcelona, translating from Dutch into Catalan (whereas I spoke German, Spanish and Italian). Somehow I managed (but that’s another story).
My language skills helped me to get an internship in an investment bank in London. I didn’t have a clue about finance, but the employer was willing to sponsor my UK work permit and pay me £40k a year! The bank needed seven people to market their trading platform to European customers. I happened to speak all seven languages for the required countries. Since I knew nothing about finance, we agreed on a three-month probation period in which I would do the job for half the price, cover all the regions by myself and study finance. In case you are wondering, I did not fail.
Towards the end of my banking career, I had a Russian client who wanted to become the first civilian to land on the Moon. Space tourism being a hot topic and Richard Branson being The Man, I went to the first available event he was speaking at, raised my hand and ventured a question. Richard would not be Richard if he thought something was impossible. He invited me to speak to his assistant and a few days later we were already having a discussion with the head of technology at Virgin Galactic, at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington... followed by the VG Spaceport in the Mojave Desert, Nevada. In the end the deal did not happen, but in this case the process was much more valuable than the result.
Though already an eager storyteller, I only started writing after having read an extract from Fifty Shades of Grey. It made me quite furious that its female protagonist did not make a single choice for over a half of the book. She was just thrown into things, never making anything happen herself. Even interviewing Christian Grey in the opening scene was not her idea. I found the book so uninspiring and so demeaning to women, especially in our progressive era, with a ‘new day on the horizon’. I felt I could do a better job and portray a truer image of a modern woman. My protagonist has the courage and nerve to stand in the way of powerful men’s business interests, because she does not believe what they do is right. That said, Fifty Shades of Grey did provide some inspiration for the sex scenes in my novel.
I locked myself in for ten months to write Snow Job. I had a very clear plan and was disciplined in executing it, defying the myth of “inspiration”. All the creative, unedited writing would be done at night (I am most productive after midnight). I would do the editing first thing in the morning. During the day I would train intensively (swimming, cycling and running) and play with my dog (an adopted stray German shepherd), only to start writing again in the evening.
As soon as I finished Snow Job I met the love of my life; I had been single for almost ten years before. Writing this novel was fun and a struggle at the same time. It was also a kind of therapy, for self-searching and understanding my own values. Just as my protagonist realises her worth through the course of events, I realised mine by writing about them. Only then did I meet the most amazing man to share it all with.
I generally strive to live an eco-friendly, healthy life. I stand against overconsumption in every aspect of my life, from eating habits to shopping. I need neither expensive handbags nor jewellery, nor do I stuff my shelves with things I do not need. I do not see myself flying a private jet or wearing a fur coat. However, I do have some leather shoes (alongside with non-leather) as a sheer necessity. In general I work towards improving the quality of my life, as long as it is not at the expense of the environment or other people.
About the author: After growing up under Communist rule in the Ukraine Jenni Ferchenko established a career in the finance sector after achieving an internship with Lehman’s Brothers, London back in 2006. Her years within the sector working between London and Moscow has provided the inspiration behind her debut novel. Today Jenni Ferchenko lives in an undisclosed location enjoying a quieter life as a singer-songwriter and author. Snow Job; The Great Game by Jenni Ferchenko (published by Clink Street Publishing 1st February 2018 in paperback and ebook) will be available online from retailers including amazon.com and can be ordered from all good bookstores.