I was born in Riga, Latvia and grew up in a stage family, spending my childhood on concert tours with a Russian Romani troupe led by my grandfather, Andrei Kopylenko. It consisted of singers, dancers, musicians, even acrobats. This sounds glamorous, and, at times, it was, if you don’t count hauling stage equipment and costumes from one train station to the next, eating hotel food (sometimes getting sick from it and swearing to never eat hotel food again… then breaking your promise in the next town), and never knowing what kind of an audience you’ll get. Will they slump over in their seats asleep halfway through the show or chase the performers after, begging them to autograph their galoshes? It might not have been glamorous most of the time, but it was certainly magical. Kind of like living inside a book, side by side with fascinating characters who surprise you every time you think you got them. These people taught me that doing what you love is never easy, but it makes you who you are, or rather reveals what you’re made of at your very core. I’ll always admire each and every one of those performers, my grandparents and parents included, for showing me that artistic creativity of any kind is a serious trade that requires years of practice and dedication.
I moved to America at fifteen, went to Hollywood High Performing Arts Magnet School, which was like experiencing culture shock on steroids. Before moving I really imagined America being like the movies and the music videos. Remember the barely clad hunks and goddesses dancing in the streets alongside Elton John in “I’m Still Standing”, or Bangles’ “Walk Like An Egyptian”? That was my America. The place where people were carefree and unburdened. Of course I didn’t find too many Americans dancing in the streets, but I wasn’t disappointed for too long and quickly set off on a quest to get to know this country. Meanwhile, my dad, after many unsuccessful attempts to break into Hollywood music business, opened a psychic shop and developed his skills as an exorcist and a healer (something he was never allowed to do under Soviet rule), and my mom moved to Las Vegas on a whim and became a change girl (her version of chasing the dream).
Since then, to sum up, I’ve graduated from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, worked in the film industry, got married, had a couple of awesome kids, ran a piano studio, obtained a dual American-Italian citizenship through ancestry research (ancestry.com rules!), moved to Florence and then Rome, Italy with three humans and one cat, came back to the States, pitched an urban fantasy to a literary agent, ended up writing American Gypsy: A Memoir instead, and most recently, got a fellowship for my next book project at the Black Mountain Institute-Kluge Center in partnership with the Library of Congress.