Today is a great day here at my blog, and yet a sad day too. I'm excited because Aleksandr Voinov is here today courtesy of Riptide Publishing for an interview, but it's sad too because we're talking about the end of his amazing series, Dark Soul. Not only will we be chatting but Aleks is offering a giveaway too. So get comfy and enjoy my chat with the wonderful Aleksandr Voinov....
AV: Hi Jody, thanks for hosting me on your blog!
TSP: What was the one moment in your life that made you want to be a writer and how did you get where you are today with your writing career?
AV: I don’t think there’s a defining moment. I was the kid on the playground who made up elaborate stories, for even simple things like playing catch. Why exactly was I supposed to flee or run after somebody? The action itself made little sense, and wasn’t very compelling to me, so I made stuff up, often throwing in the basics of plot: motivation, obstacles, and backstory.
Once I could write, I did, usually meshing together ideas from miles of kids’ books and TV shows that I liked. At sixteen, I had my first sale, selling a short story for five times my monthly pocket money. Then it all became clear: Writing was the key to Big Money and fame (I wish!). That delusion lasted for a few weeks, but I kept writing through the inevitable disappointment and sold the next story in my early twenties (enabling me to pay three months’ rent). And then the trickle of small successes became more constant, I sold five paper novels in pretty short order, I landed two literary agents, and after that, there was no stopping. At least, until I got disenchanted and did stop and made the switch to English.
TSP: What is a typical day like for you since you have to balance your day job with your writing job?
AV: I’ve just switched jobs from an investment bank to a ratings agency (now there’s a company that will never go down while all the banks are burning!), which made trying to find time for writing quite “interesting”. As the new guy on the team, you just have to work harder, and there’s much to learn. But generally speaking, I’m just really well organized.
With a partner, a social life (usually involving other writers) a house, a publishing company and a writing career, it’s like juggling a dozen flaming swords, but I’m getting pretty good at that. I do a lot of work on my commute, in my lunch break, and when work is slow, at my desk. Holidays are for catching up on writing, marathon editing sessions and getting out of the house. It works, but I am a workaholic and that helps.
So, I get up at just before seven, get ready, grab a bus, then the train to work. During that time I read or edit. I go to work, then use my lunch break for food and emails, sometimes a spot of editing. Go home (while reading/editing), eat something, then I’m at the computer answering emails and attempting to write (I don’t watch TV, which means my evenings till about midnight are work times). It’s not that exciting, but slow and steady does it.
TSP: Do you think that living in a foreign country has any influence on your writing, ie. setting, characters, etc?
AV: Absolutely. London is a fascinating city and you meet all kinds of people from all walks of life. There’s also what you’d call the “immigrant experience” – leaving your country and living, thinking and writing in a foreign language is a fairly drastic change. But it has enriched me beyond my wildest hopes what I could have done with my life in Germany. At some point, I just jumped, and not only did I land safe and sound, but I landed in a place where I could actually bring my talents to bear and be happy. So, while getting here was a scary thing, it has paid off for me.
TSP: How has the digital revolution affected your career and how you market yourself?
AV: To be honest, the way the print industry works really killed my joy in writing. It was slow, it was ponderous, and very often there are petty little powerplays that have nothing to do with the quality of a book or the talent of the writer. The things I wanted to write—the same things I’m still writing—didn’t have a market in Germany.
Indie publishing, m/m, which is overwhelmingly a thing of the English-language market, the fans and infrastructure that exists in English liberated me that I could not only write the things I wanted to write, but also publish them and get them into the hands of readers. I can now connect to my readers in ways that would have been impossible to even imagine just ten years ago. Basically, the whole indie and e-revolution happens just in time before I ended up writing just for myself or myself and five friends. Marketing has never been easier or cheaper, and the same goes for getting organized, sharing information, supporting other authors and receiving support. It’s a fabulously dynamic little place to be and has taught me a lot about publishing and reignited my passion to be published at all.
TSP: Do you have an eReader or is your preference print and do you actually have much time to read for pleasure?
AV: I don’t read much fiction – I mostly read submissions for Riptide, non-fiction research books, and the occasional hotly-recommended book by an author I don’t know or a classic novel. I read submissions on the Kindle while on the way to or from work, I proof on a print-out (I just see more on paper), and I do like my non-fiction to come in dead tree formats (so I can underline and put notes in). So for me it’s a question what do I read where and for what purpose, but I do love both my e-readers (Kindle and a Sony) as much as the paper. I’ve even bought some books in paper that I already owned in the e-format and vice versa.
TSP: You mostly write in the m/m genre, what is it about this genre that draws you to it? And what do you think has made it become so popular with readers?
AV: My main characters were always gay or bisexual (even during my print days), and always had a relationship going or were healing from an ended relationship, or were looking or stumbled across love. In a way, it’s my default setting. There are many interesting theories why people write gay fiction or trans fiction or lesbian fiction or bisexual fiction, but I think in my case it’s just how I’m wired and I’m bored by much of the heterosexual fiction out there (unless it’s really well-made). It simply isn’t written with me in mind; it’s for heterosexual, cisgendered people, and there are more stories out there to be told than the same old thing. I’m not dissing heterosexual fiction – far from it, many of my friends are hetero and cisgendered and read and write those books, but it’s not a natural fit for me.
Why is it popular? I assume every reader brings their own motivation to it. I have gay male readers, lesbian readers, lots of trans* or genderqueer readers, and hetero readers, so I wouldn’t dare build a theory that encompasses all of them.
TSP: What can you tell us about the Dark Soul series? What's the newest book about and where is the series going from here since it's coming to the end?
AV: Dark Soul was my attempt at a “new” format – an episodic m/m novel. It’s about Stefano Marino, a bisexual mob boss and Silvio Spadaro, a mob killer, who both have their issues, fall in lust and then in love. It’s definitely an impossible love – the Cosa Nostra is a very bad place to be gay, and if anybody finds out what you’ve been up to, you end up dead.
The newest book is the fifth and last part of the series that wraps it all up. Where do we go from here? There is potential to give one of the characters, Franco Spadaro, his own book (he does find a man who can deal with him, hard as that sounds), and then there’s some stories to tell about Silvio’s past with his mentor and lover Gianbattista.
TSP: Any other WIPs you'd like to tell us about?
AV: I’m actually entering a bit of a quiet phase right now. While I’ll have a couple short things to publish for the rest of the year, I’m currently gearing up to write the first in a series of WWII novels. The research alone is stupendous, so that might take the rest of the year, but it should be worth it. I’ve carried those ideas around for a long time and am excited to devote myself completely to those projects in 2012.
TSP: On my site I like to tell people about my favorite things. So what are your favorite things, the things you can't live without?
AV: My partner, and my friends and readers, above all, who keep me sane. I am a bit of a book junkie (my house is stuffed full of books) and I think I’d struggle to be fully happy in any place that is not London (I do love to travel, but I’m living near the best city on the planet, at least as far as I know). So, yes, my library, a great vibrant city crammed full with history and weirdness just outside the door. To thrive, I need properly-made Italian coffee, and I love good restaurants, good food, and also to sit in the garden doing absolutely nothing, or taking care of my bonsais. Oh, and fountain pens and blank notebooks. And my phone (for email, mostly). Very important.
TSP: Thanks so much for visiting my site! The Dark Soul series is intense and amazing, as is the rest of your backlist, and I look forward to wherever your creativity takes you!
AV: Thank you! You’ll be the first to know about the next books!
THE DARK SOUL SERIES:
Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London where, after four years in financial journalism, he is now making his living as an editor at an investment bank, freelance writer and creative writing teacher. At 35 years of age, Voinov has written about 13 novels and commercially published five with German publishers. After many years working in the horror, science fiction, cyberpunk and fantasy genres, Voinov has set his sights now on contemporary and historical erotic gay novels. He published his non-commercial work as Vashtan.
Voinov's natural form is the novel, as all short stories eventually turn into novels. Described as a "workaholic speed-writing freak" by fellow writers, a "creative writing class drill sergeant" by his writing 'padawans', Voinov is a self-confessed geek and has enlarged his days by 12 secret hours in return for the sacrifice of ten albino virgin pygmy hippos.
Voinov's characters are often scarred lonely souls at odds with their environment and pitted against odds that make or break them. He described the perfect ending for his books as "the characters make it out alive, but at a terrible cost, usually by the skin of their teeth. I want to see what's at the core of them, and stripping them down to that core is rarely pleasant for them. But it does make them wiser, and often stronger people."
Voinov's style has been called "dynamic to the point of breathlessness", "dark to the point of fatalism" and "disturbingly poetic" by publishers and literary agents.
Voinov has just barely enough time to take care of a Chinese elm bonsai standing on his desk, goes weight-lifting, and confuses opponents as a left-hander in foil fencing. Intellectually, Voinov is drawn to the dark side of human nature and history. As a trained historian, Voinov is fascinated by wars, religion and the conflict between the individual and society (see "Test of Faith" and "Spoils of War").
Interest at the moment include professional chess players, raising bonsais from seed, Swedish massage, tailored suits, and networking with writers and literary agents. The interests are subject to change from one day to the other, and Voinov single-handedly sustains three bookshops in London.
Email address: email@example.comWebsite URL: www.aleksandrvoinov.com
Blog URL: http://www.aleksandrvoinov.blogspot.com/
Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3074905.Aleksandr_Voinov
Goodreads Group: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/38618.Aleksandr_Voinov_s_Group
Two winners will each receive Dark Soul swag packs, with some signed cover flats as well. Tote, notepad, and other goodies from the Dark Soul series.
-Giveaway is OPEN TO US & CAN.-To be entered just leave a comment, along with your email addy.
-Winners will be chosen randomly and contacted via email for their information.
-Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM CST on 3/28.