The Dancing Dove would like to welcome author Aleksandr Voinov! Aleks was kind enough to take a few moments out of his busy schedule to do an interview with us! I hope you enjoy it. =)
Aleks is the author and co-author of many popular M/M romance books including "Test of Faith," "Special Forces," "Spoils of War" and many others. Aleks has written about 13 novels and has published with five German publishers. He has been called a "workaholic speed-writing freak."
The Dancing Dove: When/where was your first book published?
Aleksandr Voinov: That’s a tricky question, since I published five fantasy/sci-fi paperbacks in Germany. I think the first one was in 2001ish, but I had two short story sales before that. The first sale ever was when I was around 15/16.
The first English-language fiction sale was a historical m/m short story, “Deliverance”, which is about a Templar choosing between faith, hour, love and obligation. “Deliverance” went into the “Forbidden Love” anthology by Noble Romance.
TDD: What was it like when your first book was published?
AV: I think I was high for about three weeks to actually see something solid with my name on it. I did what everybody does – run around telling everybody, expecting the world to stop and worship me and I thought I was God’s gift to literature. It took a few years to beat that out of me.
TDD: I see that you have a book coming out soon with Carina Press. What’s it like working with the new publishing house? Are they any different than the smaller M/M publishing houses?
AV: My editor, Deborah Nemeth, originally worked at Samhain, so I met her when I subbed something to Samhain which she turned down. We stayed in loose contact and then she told me that she’s going to join Carina. So I subbed to them because Deborah went there, rather than because of the publisher.
The editing process itself was super-smooth and very pleasant. Deborah has a real passion to support the writers she works with (it’s a co-prodcution with the awesome Kate Cotoner). So far I’m well impressed with Carina.
Are they different? I’ve had limited experience with other UK/US publishers. What’s definitely different is the contract. Carina’s contract is more modeled after Harlequin’s, so you sign different rights away and the royalty rate is also quite different.
TDD: You’ve been published with a whole slew of publishing houses, is there one that’s your favorite or that you prefer to work with?
AV: So far, I’ve had mostly positive relations with publishers. Noble Romance is great, Dreamspinner and Carina, too. I’ve had a bad experience with one publisher – basically their acquisitions editor was rude and told me I write like a beginner, which means I’ll never sub to them again. After twenty years of publishing, that was the singular case where I felt the publisher was full of sh*t.
TDD: I know you’ve tried your hand at self-publishing through Smashwords with “Spoils of War.” How did that work out for you?
AV: It worked out great, actually. We self-published “Spoils of War” (which is co-written with Raev Gray and deals with Achilles meeting Ares after having been killed) because we donated the story to eXcessica and didn’t have the exclusive rights anymore, which means we couldn’t sell it to a traditional publisher. On the whole, we’ve made as much money from that release as from selling it to a publisher. I was certainly surprised how well it worked, and there will be other books that we’ll self-publish if we don’t find a good fit with any of the publishers.
TDD: The book was offered at “Set Your Own Price,” how well did it sell? Did a lot of people actually pay for it or did more take it for free?
AV: That was a very interesting experiment. Most people took it for free – around 50-60% of them. However, those that DID pay paid enough that the average download for that story came out at around $2.50 – which, you’ll agree, is a lot of money for a short story of less than 7k words. So some people just paid a tenner, or a fiver. Some people emailed me and said they felt guilty for paying too little – because after they’d read it, they felt it was worth a lot more. If you calculate that a short story of similar length cost around 99 cents or maybe $1.29, I call that a resounding success. (And it surprised the hell out of me).
TDD: Out of the books you’ve written and co-written, do you have a favorite?
AV: Oh hell, that’s not easy. I love them all, in different ways. The thriller “Clean Slate” with Barbara Sheridan is high up the list, because it’s the kind of campy action fun with a dark psychological edge that I’d love to read more of. The historical novella “Test of Faith” with Raev Gray is some of the best and intense stuff I’ve ever done – even if publishers didn’t like it. Or, rather, they liked it fine, but asked for a different ending, which would have sold more copies but would have broken the story.
The historical “Lion of Kent” with Kate Cotoner was just so intense to write – the story is brimming with flavour and life and was just pure joy to write. One of my favourites ever is “Collateral”, which is a fanfiction novel I wrote with Gileonnen. That novel helped me avoid burn-out – I was in a bad place, creatively, in 2008, and “Collateral” (and Gil) reminded me that writing can be fun. Shocker, I know.
Generally speaking, the current favourite is the one I’m writing right now (trite, I know, but I have to love them or I wouldn’t find the discipline and faith to do it). I don’t write stuff I don’t believe in and I don’t like spending time with characters I don’t love/or love to hate.
TDD: What made you want to write M/M romance?
AV: I’ve always done it. With two exceptions, even my fantasy/sci-fi releases had a strong gay relationship at the core. But since I was writing for what the publisher thought were teenagers (fantasy/sci-fi has a lot of bad press in Germany), I couldn’t really explore the “icky” relationship, let alone write the sex. Doesn’t mean my characters weren’t doing it, but I had to exclude those scenes. With the stuff I’m writing and selling as “m/m romance”, I can finally keep the camera on when the guys do it.
TDD: How often do you write?
AV: I’m a compulsive-obsessive workaholic, so I get huge guilt-trips when I don’t write every day. Right now my life’s out of whack because I just moved into my own house and that was a huge project that consumed the muse and any creativity I have left goes into buying and placing furniture. I hope to be back to normal, but I keep sending my co-writers emails where I apologize that I’m “no good” at the moment.
TDD: Is writing your full time job or do you have another job?
I like to say that I live off writing, but truth is, I actually get a pay cheque for being a financial journalist reporting on stuff in markets that most people have never heard about, and even more people don’t care about. Which is fine. I also earn some money teaching advanced creative writing (so that publisher telling me I write like a beginner didn’t go down too well).
TDD: Is there a certain place you like to write? The beach, the library, a comfy chair?
AV: My desk, which has a huge flatscreen and faces a window looking out over the garden – before that, I was staring at a crème-coloured wall. But I can write in just about any location (apart from the office – I never want to get caught writing sex while at work, that would be just too weird. Also, the office is probably the least sexy place in the universe. At least ours was).
TDD: What part of the writing process is your least favorite?
AV: Writing blurbs. Condensing those thousands and thousands of words into 100-200 suspenseful words is a high art. I’m a trade journalist by profession, not a marketer, so that’s two totally different ways of writing.
TDD: Can you tell us about one of your works-in-progress?
AV: That one’s actually a solo project and called “Iron Cross” – it’s the story of a US Spitfire pilot getting shot down over France in 1941, where he meets a German officer. That one is very close to the bone, since I’m dealing with some family history there and my national history, or maybe “trauma” is the better word. Especially the latter part of the book, when Germany is in ruins and the German officer is only kept upright by his sense of integrity and his love for another man will be a pain to write. But it’s a story that hasn’t been done and needs to be told. Some stories choose you, rather than the other way round, and that one kicked down my door and demanded to be written, even though I thought it’s madness to try and write such a novel. However, it might be the one book, the best I’ll ever do, so I better get to it. Sometimes you just have to face it and grow with your challenges. This challenge is huge.
TDD: Do you have anything else you’d like to tell our readers? (Upcoming releases, giveaways, contact info, exclusive website content, etc.)
AV: Ah, yeah, more about me is on www.aleksandrvoinov.com, which has all the links and background info, and there’s a few free stories there (such as “Collateral”). My blog’s on www.aleksandrvoinov.blogspot.com. I hang out a lot on Goodreads and Facebook. Next release is “Risky Maneuvers” with Barbara Sheridan from Loose Id in July, and “The Lion of Kent” with Kate Cotoner in August. In September, Dreamspinner is going to release “First Blood”, the sequel to “Clean Slate”. I did mention I’m a compulsive workaholic, right?
Thanks for having me!
Thank you for joining us, Aleks! I wish you the best of luck with everything.