- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) - As a girl growing up in Voronezh, Russia, Lena Mikado loved the Southern classic novel, “Gone with the Wind.” Of course, she was reading it in her native language - Russian.

“I was the biggest fan of ‘Gone with the Wind.’ I read it probably like six or seven times,” she said.

But, she says, none of the strength or charm of the story was lost in translation. And it made her long to see the American state where the plot unfolds - that, of course, being Georgia. As fate would have it, she got her chance.

“I was in the exchange program in college to study. And you don’t get to choose where you go…you usually go to a big place like New York or California,” she said. “When they told me I was going to Georgia I was shocked. I was thinking something weird is going on.”

That wasn’t the end of the stars aligning for Mikado during her time working on Sea Island and practicing her English. That’s where she met an interesting fella named Chris Harrison. Of course, at the time, Mikado wasn’t looking for a romantic relationship. In fact, she was engaged to a man in Russia.

“Chris is originally from London but grew up here on St. Simons. He moved here with his mom and dad when he was seven. He was was my trainer at the Beach Club,” she said with a smile.

“He was 17 years older than me and, of course, I was a girl from Russia. He told me that I was the worst waitress in the world so he married me instead.”

The unbelievable turn of events seemed straight out of a romantic-comedy. The newly minted Mikado-Harrison thought her tale would make a good story. In fact, she and her fellow Russian exchange students all decided to write down their experiences with the goal of combining them to create a novel.

“I was the only one who did it,” she said with a laugh.

The fact that her friends didn’t contribute to the cause never deterred Mikado-Harrison. Always an enthusiastic writer, she decided to keep going. Eventually, she had enough for a book.

“I wanted to write the story of how we met so that our son would know,” she said. “Our son, his name is Liam Ocean, so I called my book ‘My Journey to the Ocean.’”

While she wanted to publish her work, she didn’t want to subject such a personal story to editorial criticism. Instead, Mikado-Harrison decided to self-publish through Amazon.com.

“I work in translating and I have worked with editors before and I just didn’t want this to be edited for content. I wanted it to be our story,” she said. “But I did change the names, except for ours.”

Since publishing her work, she’s gotten rave reviews from those who’ve purchased it through the site.

“People really love it. It’s not really ‘chick-lit’ but it’s a light, fun read. It’s good for summer,” Mikado-Harrison said.

And now the couple will also be able to, one day, share it with their other son, 2-year-old Maxmillion Sky. But while Mikado-Harrison is now officially a published author, she has kept her “day job.” She works with an Atlanta-based firm, translating video games into different languages.

“It’s mainly from Russian to English,” she said. “But the company does other languages.”

In addition to being a writer, translator, wife and mother, Mikado-Harrison has another interesting talent - belly dancing.

“I teach belly dancing at OmCore on St. Simons,” she said. “I love (owner) Patricia (Ploeger). It’s really a lot of fun.”

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Information from: The Brunswick News, http://www.thebrunswicknews.com

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