Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sizzling July Interview with Aleksandr Voinov!

So, the time has come, my twisted and kinky lovelies, to end our romp through this Sizzling July heat! 
To wrap things up, one of my favorite authors is here!
Meet Aleksandr Voinov!

Welcome to My Twisted & Kinky World!
Hi Brenda, thanks for having me! Twisted and Kinky, eh? I’ve come to the right place!

Let's start off by telling everyone a little bit about you!
Well, I’m Aleksandr Voinov, I’m an m/m writer, and my most “famous” work is probably Special Forces, which I’ve written as “Vashtan”. Since then, I’ve written action thrillers, paranormal, historical and sci-fi stories and last year I’ve co-started Riptide Publishing with a couple friends. Since then I’ve been really busy. In the offline world, I’m an emigrant German working and living near London (the one in Europe) and I work in financial services, where I plot to take over the world.
I just loved, loved, loved Special Forces! But I don't think you have written anything yet that I did not love!

So, I know when I sit on writer panels I am always asked this question. When did you start writing?
Depends what you call writing. I’d say I’ve made up stories all my life and unlike some people, I never stopped and then I even wrote them down. But when I sold my first horror short story to a magazine in Germany (it got me 5 times my monthly pocket money, so I was suddenly RICH! RICH!), I thought, hey, I’m a writer. It took a while to repeat the sale, but once I knew what I was doing, I sold a number of novels in Germany and when I left my country, I switched to English and kept writing. That’s it in a nutshell.
I am so glad you switched to English and I am sure many of your other fans are too!

What inspired your first book? What was the title?
The first short story was a “haunted house” story which wasn’t that good, though it was decently written. The second story was about a cyborg that gets hunted and killed by the new political regime. It was bleak as hell, even nightmarish.
You do nightmarish really well so I can only imagine!

The magazine editor-in-chief turned it down because it was so awfully bleak, but he called me six months later, all aflutter and asked if the story was still available. Sure it was—there is no other paying market for sci-fi in Germany. And he told me that despite his best efforts, he couldn’t get my story out of his head and even though it was a stretch for the magazine and really quite horribly dark, if he can’t forget a story when he was reading a hundred or more per week, he knew it was a winner and he’d go with his gut instinct.

At the bottom of it, the story was inspired, I guess, by being bullied at school, and possibly by my mother’s illness. She died two years later of cancer, and the (female) cyborg had cancer too, though at the time my mother hadn’t been diagnosed. Yes, I mentioned it was bleak. But it’s a ripping good action story.
It's the bleak stories that tend to stir up our emotions and take us places we normally would not go.

Have you always written erotica?
Oh no. I had to learn how to write sex. So many of my stories had huge sexual tension between at least two of the men, but I was writing mainstream fantasy and sci-fi and these books are targeted at heterosexual teenage and young adult nerds, so my homoerotic undertones were widely seen as disturbing (though my women readers loved it!).

I learnt sex writing probably while roleplaying online. Expressing things in emotionally intense ways was in part to entertain my roleplaying partner. And it was fun and hot and I learned how to do it properly. Then I wrote Special Forces, which was really only envisaged as “soldier porn”, but suddenly it had all these romance reader fans. I was a bit shocked and thought romance? That’s not what I’m doing.
I have never thought of Special Forces as "soldier porn" but I can see how that thought could occur. I am not surprised that the romance fans gobbled it up though. Special Forces takes the reader through every emotion and is a fantastic love story. By the way gang, you can get Special Forces  to read for free on Aleks site!

But I clearly was – my characters fall in love, explore each other, have sex and have cool adventures, but I’m writing about relationships. And I write sex because it reveals character and I think I’m good at it, and my characters often demand it. (Some are shy, but many can’t wait to get their kit off.) But I cut my teeth in the mainstream, so lots of other stuff happens in my stories, too. But generally speaking, I’m most comfortable in explicit queer, usually gay, sometimes genderqueer or bisexual fiction, which includes sex. Sometimes a lot of sex.
A lot of sex is good but without the in depth characters and the plot, it is just porn. Porn isn't what you write and I think that is why so many of your fans fall in love with your characters and the sex is just a bonus.

What made you decide to write erotica?
I’m really enjoying it. Every writer has to work out how comfortable they are writing sex. Some are not comfortable at all, others go at it like porn directors. In my view it’s absolutely vital to stay at one’s comfort level. I explored mine, I explored kinks and sexual practices (like bloodplay, breathplay, BDSM, power exchange, fisting, the works), and quickly found out that, as far as some of my characters are concerned, there are very few limits. Silvio for example has basically no sexual limits.
Silvio…ummm *drools* He is one of my favorite characters that you have shared with us! I will never think of a Desert Eagle the same! *grins* For those of you who have not met him yet, you are surely missing out and should check out Dark Soul.

Other of my characters are sexually more “sane” though. So, I realized I was good at it, and I love to turn readers on and give them a fantasy that they can indulge in. It’s like running around handing out chocolate to strangers. I like to make people feel good. Sex is a natural stress-buster. Also, it felt artificial to slam the bedroom door shut, so keeping the camera on and showing people all the things I couldn’t write in the mainstream felt like a huge liberation.

How would you classify your erotic writing?
I’ve written m/m/f ménages, m/m and m/m/m. I’ve co-written het scenes. I’ve covered everything from erotica to romance to mainstream writing with sex or even without sex. Whatever works for the characters and is necessary for the story.

Do you have a specific writing style?
If I trust my reviewers, then “trademark Voinov” is intense, immersive, gritty and unconventional. I enjoy playing with expectations and I rarely pull my punches. The idea is to grab the reader and not let them escape until I’m done with them. But I hope they can relax and smile happily afterwards.

That’s the whole thing – I like to entertain, but it’s not easy of fluffy by any stretch. Basically, I try to keep inventing new stuff, and I hope readers will never know what they are getting when they open one of my stories. And at the same time get my style and voice that can be challenging and is sometimes pretty involved and complex, but I have readers who love exactly that, and that’s my audience. It’s never easy, always intense, hopefully sometimes clever and twisty.
This is what I love about your books. I know that they will be intense but I never know which way that intensity will come from and I don't have to worry about the "reality" being sugar coated. *grins*

What is the process you use for writing?
It depends very much on the story. Some I have completely in my head while I write, with others, like Skybound, I’m flying totally blind. Others I had a vague idea how they’d go, like Scorpion, and it totally surprised me when my main character, Kendras, did something unexpected and turned the whole thing around after the first third. But usually, I’m flying pretty blind with a very vague idea where I’m going. I’ve outlined some books, though, and I might do it again.
I am always surprised by the criticism I receive for this writing style. Traditionalist say stories should be outlined but we have to do what works best for us.  

Is there a message in your novel(s) that you want your readers to grasp?
I’m writing to entertain, not to teach, but if there’s one message, it would be what I call “the triumph of the human spirit”. My characters struggle a great deal, they often suffer, but in the end, they usually make it and get their reward. Often, they are healed or transformed by love, which personally I find a really uplifting message. For all the struggling in my books, there’s perseverance and faith and loyalty and love. One message might be “never stop fighting” or “we’re all equal in the face of love”, but I won’t go out of my way to preach it in a book. 
How do you come up with your book titles?
They often happen fairly early on. Dark Soul was there immediately. Scorpion used to be called “Scorpion and Steel”, or “Scorpion in Amber”, but then I saw the title “Dragonfly in Amber”, so that was out, and Steel, the mercenary, turned out to be the evil guy, so only “Scorpion” was left. Incursion was originally “Glyrinny Incursion”, then a friend told me that nobody can spell “Glyrinny”, and also, “Incursion” sounds nicely ominous, possibly threatening.
I think they were right about spelling "Glyinny"!

So, often, the first title sticks, or is twisted very slightly and then sticks. I’ve rarely completely renamed a book. The worst case was Dark Edge of Honor, which was originally called “Father of All Things”, which is a Herodotus quote: “War is the father of all things”, and since it’s a gay military sci-fi romance, we loved the title, but Carina Press didn’t like it and after some wrangling we agreed to change the title.  It’ll always be “Father of All Things” to me (and my co-writer Rhi Etzweiler), though.

Are your plot lines based on real life experiences or are they purely fiction?
The plots not so much (I’ve never murdered a king or destroyed an empire or hunted a shapeshifter, though all of that, apart from murder, would be cool), but the core conflicts are biographical. We’ve all had loyalty conflicts or conflicts with the family, or a struggle about who we are. Or a crisis of faith, or love that was threatening our normal, well-ordered life and would change us forever. All I’m doing is to twist them and make them bigger (and more interesting), and, voila, book happens.

If you had to name one character you have written that was the most like you, which character in which book would that be?
All my characters have some traits of me, but I think I’m probably most like Martin in an as-yet unpublished novel. Like me, he’s thrown into the financial services industry in London and is way in over his head and a bit of a misfit. I also think I might have given Nikolai Krasnorada some of my traits. (I’m saying that, but I don’t quite know yet how he’s going to turn out.)
Oh now my interest is peaked! You know me, I will be harassing you about when that 'as-yet unpublished' book will be available!

Are there certain characters or stories you would like to go back to?
All the time. I want to fix the weak stories and rewrite and edit them and then I slap myself in the mirror and tell myself to move forward, not backwards. But characters keep coming back. Silvio’s been with me for twenty years and I’ve written at least three novel’s worth of stuff about him. I first had to become a decent writer before I could hope to nail him. I did, eventually, in Dark Soul.

Do you travel much concerning your books?
Not yet, although this year I’ll be travelling to a convention in the UK (The GLBT Meet in Brighton in September) and GRL in New Mexico. I’m mostly going to represent Riptide Publishing and meet author friends. I don’t travel for pure research, but I tend to set stories in places that I’ve visited or where I’ve been.
I think many authors become inspired when they travel.  At least I know I do!

What other types of jobs have you held before becoming an author?
I’ve been a financial journalist, a cashier at a racing track, a security person for an event hall, a teacher, a writing coach, and a freelance editor (not in that order). I’m a financial editor now, and personally, working in the “real world” keeps me sane and connected to other people. When I wasn’t working, my mind was slowly spinning out of control. Working a day job keeps me out of trouble, off the streets and a roof over my head.

What current projects are you working on?
Right now, I’m working on three stories. One is a full-sized WWII novel (I’m one third done) and the next is the sequel to Country Mouse, which I’m writing with Amy Lane. The third story is a story about Nikolai Krasnorada, the son of Vadim Krasnorada of  Special Forces, and it’s for Riptide’s “Blood in the Boardroom” submission call. After that, more WWII stories. I think I’ll stay in that time period for a while. It’s just such rich material.
*bounces with excitement* I soooo can not wait to learn more about Nikolai!

Most authors offer some sort of e-pub of their work. Do you offer traditional paper versions as well?
Riptide offers paper of stories that are a certain length, yes. Incursion or Skybound won’t be paper, they are both way too short (though there might be a time when I have enough short stories to do an Aleksandr Voinov collection). But we like paper and try to make it happen where it’s possible.
A shorts collection would be awesome. *begins to bounce again*

What is your latest release and where can readers find it?
The latest one is Incursion, which can be found at Riptide.

What is the toughest criticism you have ever received? How did you handle it?
One of my greatest mentors once read my second fantasy novel and she said “you’re a lazy bastard, resolving the whole book like that. You’ve wasted the whole book on that shit? You’re a coward, lazy. I know you can do better than this shite, and now you can hate me and rage at me, but after you’re done, I’m putting down the phone and you’ll sit down on your lazy ass right NOW and go the HARD way and write the ending the way it has to be written, and you know it. Have courage and work hard. Doing anything less is selling yourself short and messing with the reader, so you won’t. I won’t let you.”

So I hated her for a while, and then I threw away the last three chapters of that novel (it was already contracted and I’d thought I’d been really clever and I’d been proud of the first version). I then sat down and worked really hard and re-wrote the whole thing and sent it to her with hate pulsing in my throat.

Her response: “See. I knew you can do it.”

After that, nothing I heard could really hurt me anymore (and I love and respect her for ripping my head off when I needed it, though I was absolutely desperate for her approval). Writing’s not a place for an ego, and she killed mine before it could get too big. At the end of the day, I owe the book and the reader the best I can do. Whenever I face a difficult edit, I think of her and smile—I’ve done it once, and early in my career, I can handle editing and rewrites and honest, even brutal feedback. It keeps me humble.
I think finding that kind of honesty is hard. Hard to find and hard to take when we do find it but overall (when the ego is checked at the door) it makes authors better in the long run. You are proof of that!

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything? If so, what?
Oh gods, please not. I’ve earnt my scars and I’m keeping them!

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Master the craft, work hard, stay humble, keep the faith and trust your editor if they are good. Your editor is your last, best defense against awful reviews. It might hurt, but it’s usually worth it. In the end, you do owe the book—and your readers—the best you got. You cannot give anything less.
Great advice… as always!

Thanks for dropping by My Twisted & Kinky World!
Thank you for having me, it was fun! 
Anytime sweety! It was a blast having you here.... not get back to writing about Nikolai!

If you missed these other Sizzling Hot Interviews, check out the archives to the right!

Amara - July 1-3
Evan J. Xaiver - July 4-6
S.L. Armstrong - July 7-9
Brita Addams - July 10-12
Leigh Ellwood - July 13-15
Blaine Arden - July 16-18
Leigh Jarrett- July 19-24
A.D. Cooper - July 22-24
Giselle London - July 25-27
Rachel Haimowitz - July 28-30
Aleksandr Voinov - July 31-Aug. 2

Be sure to stop back on August 3rd for the 0.99 Indie Hoopla Tour!


  1. *waves* hi guys! :D

    Great interview. I'm glad you switched to English too. I'd be missing out on so much sock rockin books and ... who would I stalk if not you? :p

  2. *waves back*

    Hey girl!~ Thanks for stopping by! I am glad you enjoyed thwe interview. I had fun doing it!