Ivan, you are the only writer I know from the former Soviet Union. I've passed through Byelorussia but never really got a chance to visit there. What can you tell us about where you live? Anything about yourself you are willing to share?
Byelorussia, or Belarus, is a very beautiful country. It’s often called a land of blue lakes and green forests. Nature is gorgeous here, believe me. I live in Vitebsk, the cultural capital of our country where lots of music festivals are held every year. It’s rather a gloomy place as we have here only around 3 months of sunshine, which probably influences me and my writing, but I still love this place.
You speak and write English so well. I'm envious! How did you learn such great English? Do you find it difficult at all to write in a language other than your native Russian?
Well, I had great teachers at school and university who inspired me to study English. This language sounds very beautiful to my ear. I studied French at school, German and a bit of Polish at university, but none of them can compare to English. Writing in English is challenging at times, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s really hard work, but it’s an amazing feeling when I have a finished manuscript on my hands that I’m happy with.
You seem to enjoy writing about conflicts that are very black and white, dark and light. Do you do that on purpose?
I love the contrast between light and darkness. Even if we take ourselves, all of us have light and darkness within us, and it’s we who choose where we belong. The sharp contrast of Light and Dark was used in the first book of The Beholder series to introduce the world of the Lightsighted and Darksighted, and I didn't want the readers to get confused. In Book 2, Path of the Heretic, I added some shades of gray to this world, which I hope made the book more enjoyable. No spoilers here, sorry!
What made you choose Americans for your main characters?
I've always had doubts about whether my characters should be American or let’s say Russian. One of the reviewers of The Beholder mentioned that the story could take place anywhere in the world, which probably happened because I couldn't decide on the setting and the characters up until the end. I decided against Russian characters because it might lead to people comparing it with The Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko.
Do you foresee continuing to write in this same 'world', or are you writing new things?
The Beholder and Path of the Heretic are the first two books in THE BEHOLDER series. There will be another one about Jason, called Creatures of Lumen, and hopefully one more written from Emily Ethan’s point of view where the readers will get to know about Emily’s life before she meets Jason.
Apart from that, I do have a great idea for a YA futuristic novel not connected with The Beholder series, which I’m excited about, but I’m not sure when I’m going to get to it and finish a first draft.
You are one of the first of my writer friends to indie publish. How has your experience been so far?
Self-publishing is tough. Writing a book is only the beginning of the hard work. After that you have to realize that there are thousands of writers out there (both indie and traditionally published), so you just can’t expect to sit and hope that once you've published your book people are going to buy hundreds and thousands of copies of it. I spend hours promoting my books everywhere I can. One of the best places to promote books is Goodreads, where I’m always happy to meet new friends and offer them copies of my novels, hoping that they will enjoy my writing and post reviews. I also contact a lot of bloggers, and I have to say most of them are really nice people. They are really busy promoting our work, which is really cool. I don’t know what I’d do without all their help and support. Self-publishing is tough, but it’s also a lot of fun and chatting with really nice people, so I don’t regret I went indie.
What were your writing influences? Did you always want to write, or was there a catalyst that made you suddenly decide to go for it?
Some ten years ago I had no idea I would start writing, let alone writing in English. I loved and still love reading books in English (I never read books in my mother tongue). So I thought it would be a great idea to write a book and devote it to my girlfriend (girlfriend at that time, now wife).
Do you have a goal with publishing? Are you going to become the Byelorussian J.K. Rowling?
The Byelorussian J.K. Rowling? Haha, it’d be nice! Not sure where all of this is going, but I’m happy to know that people enjoy my latest release, Path of the Heretic. It means I need to keep writing more and let as many people know about my books.
Do you have a particular target audience for your books? What books are out there whose readership might love yours?
The Beholder series may appeal to young adult and adult readers whereas Diary of the Gone, a paranormal suspense novella, is aimed at 13- to 15-year-olds, although adult readers seem to enjoy it as well. I always try to create an exciting story that won’t let the readers get bored, but will keep their attention until the very end.
Thank you for the interview, Ted! It’s a real honor for me to be featured on Cross Words!