Interview with Author Olga Tymofiyeva

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I’m a human being, I’m Ukrainian, I’m a scientist, I’m a mother of a 3-year-old boy, and now I guess I can say I’m an writer.

I was born in 1981 in Kyiv. After having lived in Ukraine and Germany, I now live in the US and work as an Associate Professor of Neuroimaging at the University of California in San Francisco.

Being a scientist by trade, I write scientific papers all the time. I got into fiction writing because I HAD to share these thoughts. I had no other choice.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

It all started with me watching Professor Michael Sandel’s mind-blowing lectures titled “Justice,” which are available online for free. That’s how I learned about John Rawls’ “veil of ignorance” thought experiment which is at the heart of the Just City VR game. Originally, when I came up with the idea for the game, I wanted to create an actual VR game. Then a board game. But later I came up with a realistic, low-budget version: writing a book. 

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

The key message of this book is actually a quote by Professor Robert Sapolsky “You don’t have to choose between being scientific and being compassionate.” 

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

Young Adult genre is just so real… I also wanted people to read about all those things in the book early on in their lives.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

Maybe I would sit down with Nathan 20 years later and ask him how he is doing. (This doesn’t mean I’m thinking about writing a sequel – ha-ha!)

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I found running giveaways on Goodreads helpful, especially when you offer print copies. I offered 30 copies and over 2,200 people signed up. (You do pay about $100 for the giveaway though, and have to mail the actual books). 

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

• Follow the “recipe” for writing a captivating story that you can find in “Story Genuis” by Lisa Cron. Don’t worry about “beautiful writing.”

• Get a book coach and pay for “deadlines” (you’ll lose money if you don’t submit your pages by the deadline).

• Find a writing buddy (or buddies). Meet every week in person or online for 30-60min. Tell each other what you’ll be working on, then mute yourselves, and at the end share how it went.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Are any new books/projects on the horizon?

I think there is a self-help book somewhere on the horizon!

About the Author

Olga Tymofiyeva, PhD, was born in 1981 in Kyiv, Ukraine. After having lived in Ukraine and Germany, she now lives in the US and works as an Associate Professor of Neuroimaging at the University of California in San Francisco. Just City is Olga’s first fiction book, which reflects her passion for science and critical thinking.


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