Today I am so excited to welcome back Aleksandr Voinov to Joyfully Jay. Aleks has just completed the last volume in his incredible Dark Soul series (which I reviewed earlier) and is here today to talk to us a bit more about it. He is also offering a great giveaway to a commenter during his blog tour, so be sure to leave a comment at the end of this post to enter.
Please join me in welcoming Aleks!
Thanks, Jay, I’m glad to be back. And thank you for your kind words about Dark Soul – I remember the first interview here, when I was still very insecure about whether I would be able to pull it all off the way I imagined and planned. You can make all the plans you want and have big ambitions, but in the end, it’s the readers and the more outspoken type of reader, the reviewers, who decide whether it worked. In between that interview and this one, I’ve written and edited (and edited, and edited) the last two parts of the mini-saga, so now we can talk about it looking back.
I just love the character of Silvio and feel like in this book we get to understand him a little better. Yet I think he will always remain a bit unknowable to us as readers and to the other characters (which is something that I really love). I’m just curious whether as the author, you feel like you understand Silvio, or if parts of him are a mystery to you as well.
Silvio is one of the characters who have a life of their own. I could get all metaphysical about shamanism and creating thought-forms (I have some theories that tie together writing work and metaphysical or energy work), but he’s definitely the most powerful character I’ve ever made. Part of that is because of his age, over twenty years, and the time and energy I spent on him. He’s the biggest gun in my arsenal – I don’t have any more characters like him inside me.
But I needed to grow up a fair bit myself to really get what is at the core of him, and it was a thrill to approach the character again, but now armed with much better writing skills than at any time when I grappled with him. I’m a bit like Stefano at the end of Dark Soul: I think I have a good working knowledge of him. Would I be able to predict what he’s going to do next? No. He has his own logic, and many things in Dark Soul were “happy accidents,” when you just hand the reins to the character and tell him “oh well, then do whatever the hell you want, you’re not listening to me anyway.”
One of my favorite parts of this book was the emergence of Donata as such a strong and powerful force after being a more secondary character in the other stories. I loved how she could be accepting, but never a push over. Can you tell us a bit more about how you see her as a character?
Donata was another happy accident. I knew from the start that Stefano would be married, but soon, his relationship to his wife became more than sexual attraction. In some ways, I think, Stefano stands between the reader and Donata, definitely at the beginning, when we only hear how sexy she is (everything we know about Donata we know via Stefano).
However, if you think about it, a woman married to a “modern-day” Mafioso has to have ovaries of steel and be switched on about what goes on and how to keep herself, her man, and her kids (if any) safe. So in my mind she moved from “sexy model wife” to “ally and supporter,” who stands behind her man no matter what. The turning point for her was when she leaves the safety of her exile in Europe and returns to tell Stefano “I’m fighting with you.” She gained a lot of my respect there, and it was definitely a decision of that character. For the author, getting her out of the picture permanently would have been convenient, but that’s not how the characters played it in the end.
She’s modeled after some gorgeous, strong-headed Italian women I’ve met in my life, so I shouldn’t be surprised. She’s very mature, clever, and just as loyal as Silvio is. There’s one bit where Silvio wonders if Donata would ever turn into an avenger if anything happens to Stefano, and he can’t imagine her with a gun in her hand. That is because if she would fight back, it wouldn’t be with a gun, but I do think she’d be a fearsome foe if pushed far enough.
So as I mentioned in my review, I am a huge fan of the series and it was almost bittersweet for me to pick up the last book because I didn’t want it to end. Was it hard for you as the author to finish with Silvio and Stefano?
They are still in my head, so I’m not really leaving them, but I did get the sense that the main story is told, so I finished it. Personally, when nearing the end of anything larger than a short story, there’s a sense of mourning, pure, caffeine-fuelled exhaustion/hysteria, relief, and anxiety. You don’t want to mess the ending up, you speed up towards the end, because the ending is just something with a lot of gravity – the closer you get, the faster you move (and sleep and food and exercise be damned), and there’s also relief because you already have the Muse kicking down your mental doors with the next idea or book, and you can’t wait to get cracking on those. It’s an interesting emotional mix. But yes, I do mourn the characters – but letting go is the only way to share them. I don’t do well with unending series myself, and I believe in stopping while the going is good. Too many books or series were ruined by going on for way too long.
Do you think we will ever see more of them, or will this book be their final story?
I have some related ideas. One would be about Franco (I have his whole story mapped out, but I need to create a world for him – likely something dark and post-apocalyptic, because I can’t do Djibouti justice where the whole thing would be set otherwise). Franco, amazing as it sounds, is actually going to find a guy who can deal with him. I’ve written their story many years ago, so I can use that draft as “building material”. [Oh, exciting! Franco is fascinating]
Then I’d really like to write about how Silvio became the man he is today, which would involve a number of kinky short stories that are mostly about him and Gianbattista. There’s a lot of backstory just under the surface in Dark Soul – like Silvio’s various encounters and fight to the death with Diego Carbone (it’s actually pretty horrifying stuff, but it didn’t fit into Dark Soul). There’s also a lot of backstory about Paolo Spadaro, Silvio’s father, and Gianbattista Falchi. I have plenty of material to explore; all these people have history and there’s a lot of myth and legend involved. But I won’t write about Paolo himself. He has pretty much no redeeming quality at this stage, and I don’t want to spend as much time with him as I did with Silvio or Franco. So whatever exploration would happen would do it around the Silvio and Gianbattista story.
I love the episodic way that story is told and the feeling that we are jumping into their lives for little peeks into their world. I am curious now that the volumes are complete, do you think they will ever be published into one large book, or will they stay separate?
I think the format really works; there are some people who think I did it this way to rip readers off by charging more for the individual collections than they’d have paid for a long novel. The truth is, they were always short stories and always had one overarching plot that pulls them all together, and we agreed to release them in small batches because that’s how they were written. And I wanted to try a new format – basically a mini-series (inspired by formats such as Generation Kill or other short series on DVD). The structure fascinated me – on one hand, it was a bit like writing a novel but cutting out all the boring bits and arranging everything that’s left in a certain way (Dark Soul is lean and mean and has pretty much no connective tissue left – the pace is relentless, which wouldn’t work in a novel format).
The format allowed me to only write scenes I was burning to write, not what I would need to write if it were a traditionally-structured novel. Every story focuses on one revelation, one twist, one façade or angle of the characters, and the format allowed me to, for example, do the things with Franco and Sergei that I did. In a novel, we’d never seen inside their heads, because it wouldn’t work and would feel disjointed, like subplots that go nowhere. At the same time, each volume of the Dark Soul series also plays the role of one of the five acts of a traditional stage play, which is the reason why they are grouped and combined the way they are. It was an experiment in structure, and I enjoyed trying that out.
But as we speak, I’m currently proofing a print version of the book – which has a totally new cover and all typos fixed that we could find (two, so far). The book gathers all the shorts and the covers and should be out soonish, depending on a number of factors. I just wanted to have it on my bookshelf, even though print books are a bit of a vanity project, considering that we sell so many more ebooks than print books and print books are fairly expensive and unwieldy.
Now that Dark Soul is finished, can you tell us more about what else you are working on and what we can look forward to from you in the future?
In the meantime, I’ve written what I’d call a “sweet romance” with Amy Lane, called “Country Mouse” – something without darkness and the people aren’t more messed up than you or me. It’s an opposites attract story between a London-based trader who hooks up with a seemingly innocent young American tourist. It’s a story much like “Transit”; normal people, normal problems, and it was fun to write. Amy is a hoot to work with!
Then there’s a short solo work that I started to cleanse the palate after Dark Soul; a bounty hunter in deep space hunting a shape shifter (how do you locate your mark if he could be anybody?). There’s a twist to the tale, but it’s a surprise for one of my readers, so I’m not giving it away. It’ll be about novella-length.
Then there’s the first of my WWII novels, which is already one-third written, I just need to get over the second third, which is really the bit where I struggle the most, but it should come together over the next few months.
And that’s really it at the moment. However, both the cast from Counterpunch and the cast from Scorpion would like a sequel each. I’ll see if the Muse cooperates, but those will happen after I’ve tamed the WWII novel (or it has tamed me, which is more likely, given my Muse).
If folks want to learn more about you or you books, where can they find you?
The most casual way to follow me is Twitter – I tweet as @vashtan. My blog is at http://www.aleksandrvoinov.blogspot.com/, my website at http://www.aleksandrvoinov.com and if you want to join my forum, you can find it here: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/38618.
Thank you again so much for joining us today here at Joyfully Jay!
Thank you for the invitation and your time!
Aleks has brought a great giveaway with him today. One lucky commenter from the blog tour will win a Dark Soul swag pack, including a tote, notepad, and other goodies from the Dark Soul series. Leave a comment here to enter. The contest closes when the tour ends on March 28th. Please be sure to leave your contact information in your post!
>Great interview you two.
Don't enter me in the giveaway, I'm just coming by to say howdy. 🙂
>Loved the interview – I really enjoyed the Dark Soul series; I'm sad that it's come to an end, but if there will be more stories about the characters then I'm keen to read them 🙂
Silvio is my favourite character, I think partly because he is such a mystery and comes across as quite primal.
And I did like the format of a series of scenes – I'd not come across that before but it really did work.
And despite having them all as e-books I'd be tempted by a print book as well – although how are you going to decide on the cover art? I love the existing covers or would you go with a new one?
>I have loved this series and appreciated the short story format – it has worked for me to drop into the lives of Stefano and Silvio. It feels like the short stories are about the turning points/commitment points in the life of Silvio and by not being a novel per se they hold him at a adistance still because we don't see everything. Also 'please' I would love a sequel to Scorpion.
>LOVE this series! I have already pre-ordered the print version of DS. Some stories I just have to have in print. One of the reasons I enjoyed the short story format of DS so much is that it cuts all of the fluff from the main interest. We get to see the juicy bits 😉 Much love out to Mr. Voinov for an extremely job well done!
>Great interview Aleks and Jay! I can honestly say that this is one of the best series that I've ever read. It definitely has some of the most fascinating characters. I have really enjoyed every book. In fact, I am about to start Dark Soul 5 right now. 🙂
I am looking forward to your story with Amy Lane, too.
>Yes! for print. And YES!!! for Franco (but then, you already knew that).
>I have yet to read the Dark Souls series, but it does sound interesting…
I do have to say you really keep yourself busy… I see your name out there all the time, and I gotta ask, how do you do it all?
Editing, writing, blog interviews, book/author reviews, goodreads, twitter, all that stuff at Riptide Publishing… it makes my head swim just thinking about it…
Are you cloned? Have stock in Red Bull? (<—jokes) – but seriously, what's your secret? How do you do it and still keep a day job, your household up and have a life?
Continued success in your endeavors…
>Great interview! Please count me in ;D
>Howdy Amara! 🙂
>Thanks for commenting, pointycat. Yeah, the format happened because I couldn't find any other way to make it work. It just didn't feel like a traditional novel at all, and trying to hammer a square peg in a round hole makes your arm tired.
I admit, I love Silvio, in all his brokenness and difficulties to connect. There's much to admire about him, but I think I'd be a little scared (and a lot thrilled) if I met him on the street. 🙂
Regarding the cover – it's a totally new cover. I've seen the first versions of it, and it's really impressive, quite dark and grungy, but it works. However, we are including the e-covers in the book itself.
>Hi Merrian, thanks for commenting! Yep, that's exactly what I wanted to do: focus on the good stuff and not try to force it into a "traditional novel" (maybe a better writer could have found a different format, but basically that was the only format I could tell this story).
Regarding Scorpion, I foresee something shortish about Widowmaker first, and a straight-up sequel for Kendras. I just re-read the first 10k I wrote for the sequel, and I'd totally forgotten about the kick-ass twist when Kendras learns more about Smoke than he ever wanted to know.
>Hi Kassandra, thanks for stopping by! Yep, it's a super-charged story because there's not a scene that's superfluous or a sentence too long. Again, my editor, Rachel, really forced me to examine my weaknesses as an author and made it much better than it would have been. But I think I learned some things – now I only have to apply it for the next books. 🙂
>Hi Lisa – thanks for commenting and your kind words. I hope you'll enjoy the fifth part; it IS a bit of a rollercoaster for both Stefano and Silvio.
>Hooray for the Damaged Ones. 🙂 I'll get to it when I have the WWII novel in the bag. Thanks for commenting!
>Hi Dawn. I'm a workaholic and I type really fast, that's really the answer. Also, our PR manager, Chris Hawkins, steps on my toes so I do do interviews and blogposts (I guess herding authors is worse than herding cats). But all jesting aside, I think anything's easy that you really enjoy, and I do enjoy writing and interacting with people (hey, I get to talk about my characters and writing all day – that saves my real life friends some nerves).
>Done, Zach, you're on the list. And thanks for stopping by!
>Oh wow! Sounds so fascinating! This is the way GodFather should have been made! Hmmmm… (no offense Mr. Puzo – I just have a hyperactive imagination. Anyone else wanted to pair up Tom Hagen and Michael Corleone? lolol!)
Please do count me in! 😀
(Jay – you have my contact info. In case you don't email@example.com – Thanks, Jay!)
>Brahmin -Actually, I'm lucky that I re-watched Godfather I-III only after I've finished Dark Soul. Tom Hagen and Michael Corleone would definitely have made me write about a boss and his consigliere (it may still happen). Also, the 1930ies are an interesting time. So, yep, entirely possible that I'll be writing more "gay mafia" stories. First, though, more about Franco and young(er) Silvio.
>Ha! You are one of the few lucky ones, I believe Aleksandr! My dad made me watch all the parts when I was in third and fourth grade. I had NO IDEA what all that was about. LOL! But even though I saw the movie after I grew up I can't EVER think of Godfather when I read mafia stories. There were too many bigoted statements about women in that movie for me to like it 😀
>I read only the first book in the series so far and I was torn about reading this review, afraid of some spoilers. In the end I've just skimmed it, but the glimpses I saw made me move the other books up my TBR list. So 3 more to read on my Kindle and I'm impatiently waiting for the final one.
>It didn't help that all the women were either Hero Motivation Via Death (Appolonia and whatever Michael's daughter was called, Mary?) or the whiny bitch who… whined and bitched at him (Kay). I wish Puzo had broken those stereotypes – if you look at the actual real Mafia/Cosa Nostra, there are some fearsome ladies there.
>Joanna, I tried to be really good about avoiding spoilers. The review references general themes of things that happen, but no detail and no information at all about the ending. But be careful b/c I have seen quite a few reviews that have what I would consider a major spoiler.
>Your books sound absolutely fascinating. And all the reviews I have read so far are unanimous about how amazing this series is. I wonder how I have not read it yet.
Loved your interview Aleksandr, was a little scared of being spoiled, but actually it just gave me the desire to learn more about your characters.
Oh, and I want to be in!
>I want it all Aleks, I want it all ^_~
Loved the interview, and you should visit me sometime and we can talk about Twilight O_O Brook & Silvio.
>Joanna – Thanks for stopping by. I hope you'll enjoy it. 🙂
>Carnell – Thanks for stopping by, I hope you'll enjoy the story. 🙂 (And yep, I think it's the best I've done together with Counterpunch…but I'm biased and in the "just finished" adrenaline haze.)
>Darien – any time, let me know when you have a space for me (I can't talk about Twilight, I haven't read more than five pages while waiting for a plane), but Brooklyn and Silvio (or anybody else) is easy. 🙂 Do you have my email address?
>These books sound really good! I'm an unofficial author, so I know what it's like to have the characters run away and tell their own stories 😛 Great interview! Count me in for the giveaway 🙂
>Fabulous – sooo enjoying this series! In the middle of No 4 at the moment 🙂
>I read the first book like a year ago, but I haven't had the chance to get the others yet. You re such an amazing author! I LOVED all your plot twists and creativity
Enter me into the giveaway, please
>Oh, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
>LOL! Someone is just gonna have to love Twilight =_= and talk about it with me.
YAY! I don't have your email but you could always email me pantsoffreviews(at)live(dot)ca.
I have yet to read DS4 & DS5 but I am mentally prepping myself and clearing all my other reviews because I know that they are gonna take all my time thoughts.
Keep doing you Aleks, just always keep doing you.
>Oh, I also have Counterpunch on my TBR list 😉
>Absolutely loved the Interview.
I loved the books. They were just… epic for my small mind. lol, I fell so deeply in love with the Characters and the world they live in.. ah~ It was indeed sad to see them go, but I'm happy knowing that they at least had a HEA. (though I would have loved it anyways, if it had ended in a tragedy xD)
ah~ I'd be so thrilled if we got to see Franco's story. I really came to like him too. And honestly, I am so glad Donata wasn't one of those annoying female characters that frequent in M/M romance. I'm so glad that In this series I can love the female character as much as the main males. lol…
Eek~ And yes! So excited to see your future works! Dark Soul has fed the hunger for dark stories that I didn't know I needed.
Thank you for letting us join you on Silvio and Stefano's journey! <33
I've been a bit MIA lately, but I just wanted to say: "DS5…Sigh…" I loved, loved, loved the evolution of Donata – I loved how she just enhanced things between Silvio and Stefano, rather than diluting. Hmmm… I wouldn't mind seeing more of Sebastiano, either…
I also loved the format. It reminded me of Amy Lane's Gambling Men, and Jordan Castillo Price's Wild Bill and Michael stories – distilled moments of incredible intensity that would be (here's that word again) diluted with all the transitional stuff. Reading Dark Soul, to me, was sort of like reading all the good parts I would have had bookmarked anyway, without having to dig through all the boring exposition!
Love you, Aleks. Always with the thinky AND the kinky!
>I really loved this interview and I really want to read this series.
>Looking forward to reading this series. Count me in for that drawing of awesome. 🙂
>The interview was an interesting read; I enjoyed it.
I look forward in continuing this series.
booklover0226 at gmail dot com
>Carnell – ohh, let me know how you're finding it. (Hmmm, as a third one, I'd push Scorpion. Those three are all pretty dark and intense. 🙂 )
>Hi Darien – just shot you an email. And, err, yes, I don't think DS4 and DS5 are things you can read "in between" other things. They are pretty intense, but you know that from me. 🙂 And I guess it's safe to say I will keep doing my thing – I just sdo'nt know what else to do. 🙂
>Hi Kit, thanks for stopping buy, I added you to my list I'll feed the randomizer. (And character who do their own thing? Many stories in there – but I'd say it's a good sign for an author, any author, really, whether newbie or old hand. That type of energy can lead you astray, but it also means that characters will suprise you and readers and push back when you push them enough.) Good luck with the writing!
>Hi Anne – Thanks! I'm glad you enjoy it, especially as I adore your literary, moody and intense style myself. 🙂
>Hi Kiersten (yay, puppies)! Thanks for your kindness – I'll try to keep readers on their toes, so happy to hear it works. I've added you to the giveaway. 🙂
>Hi Judi – If you're trying to make me blush, that's a *really* good attempt. Thank you! It's just so amazing as an author to get that kind of feedback and validation. It's the kind of thing I'll print out and carry in my pocket and re-read when I think I ave no talent and no ideas (yep, authors do that even if they are kinda competent and have written a few books, crazy, I know).
The story itself was an intense journey for me, too, even though it started mostly to explore some kinks, the Muse very quickly took control of it all and then suddenly it's all bigh and complex and beautiful and I go "woah, hell, how did THAT happen?" (And, just between you and me, I try not to DO tragedy, unless it's absolutely inevitable as in Test of Faith. I do like getting people out alive that I care about, even if they might sacrifice a great deal (as Stefano definitely did in Dark Soul)).
Also, I'm glad youi liked Donata. She really grew on me, and I foresee writing more strong femaler characters in the future.
And – yep, there will be more. Much more. Thanks for stopping by!
>Love when authors give interviews. I get to know them a little bit better and how your/their mind works when writing. Looking forward to reading the series. Can't wait for your story with Amy Lane to come out. She's one of my favorite authors and I can see you'll be up there too once I'm through reading all your
stories. Have a great week with this great weather we're having.
>I remember that at first the format seemed a bit weird – the ever changing point of views, witnessing only the most intense scenes, but, reading Vol. 5, I remember thinking how /perfectly/ it works! I think that for us as readers it was the best way to get to know Silvio. 🙂 And then the added bonus of being able to see through so many different sets of eyes! Now every one of them have a place in my heart. If Aleks hadn't chosen this format, it would be so easy to see the better part of characters as the bad guys, but now I want to know their stories, too! (Did I make any sense?) 😀
Well, suffice to say I loved Dark Soul to pieces and I wouldn't mind at all to read a story in this format again. ^^
>Hey VJ, good to see you safe and sound! yes, I was hoping that Donata would be adding things rather than "ruin everything". I mean, she provided the second "he was with us", which did actually help in the grand scheme of things.
I have to check out the series you mention – I have to admit, I'm getting quite partial to that type of writing, with all the flab cut out and authors writing at their most intense.
Thinky and kinky? Yep, that's me. 🙂
>Hi Harper, thanks for commenting, and good luck on the draw. 🙂
>Hi Carolyn – thank you for stopping and commenting. You're on my list.