I was born in Russia and moved to Israel when I was 13. I also worked in the U.S. for about a year. Professionally, I am a linguist and work at a university as a lecturer. And now I have also another profession, which is writing. And I am also a mother, which, I suppose, is yet another profession. :)
Tell us about your latest book.
This is a little bit tricky. I write in Russian, and the latest book I have completed is a fantasy adventure novel. But I believe that here, I should write about the latest (and meanwhile, the only) book that has been translated to English. This is a historical fantasy romance novel “Half a Step Away from Love”. I have to admit it’s more of romance than fantasy. The events take place in an imaginary country, but while working on the book, I took many of the details from 18th century Europe. The novel is largely about the confrontation between lord Cameron Estley, a nobleman and an advisor of the duke, and Inessa Antego, a lady-in-waiting to the duke’s sister. In the world of palace intrigue, these two are on the opposite sides, and we get a “from hatred to love” romance story. The book includes adventures, intrigue and a love story that develops step by step. Or even “half a step by half a step”. :)
What do you have coming out in the future?
I am finishing writing the third book whose action takes place in the world of “Half a Step Away from Love”.
Is your book a stand-alone or a series?
It can be read alone, the story is completed. However, I have written another book about the same world but different heroes, and in fact, one character from the first book appears there as well. And, as I have mentioned, I am now finishing the third book of the series. The principal characters are different ones yet again, but many characters from the first two books appear in certain episodes.
Why romance and what makes your particular brand of romance special?
That’s a very difficult question to answer! It’s easy for me to say why it’s fantasy. I always loved reading fantasy novels, starting with Tolkien’s books, and I’ve been interested in myths, legends, different retellings of fairy tales and so on. But as for romance… I have no idea. I can only say that at the time I started writing books in this genre, I hadn’t read anything of the sort. I had read mainly epic fantasy and adventures in fantasy worlds. And some contemporary romance. But never an interaction of romance and fantasy. And still, somehow this came… I can only say that when I think of a new plot, the first thing coming to mind is generally the romantic line, and everything else is built around this line afterwards.
Is romance the only genre that you write in or do you write in other genres? If so what other genres do you write in?
I’d say all the novels I write include romance, but there is always an intertwinement of several genres. Romance, adventure, fantasy, a detective story, humor – all of these are typically present, but the proportions vary.
The only problem is, Inessa has to play her scheming game against Lord Cameron Estley. Who is smart, clever and painfully handsome. Can she successfully juggle her lady's interests and those of her own heart? Especially considering that hate is only half a step away from love?
Only certain elements. Some trait, attitude or attribute. But not the whole personality. I’ve recently read some author stating that characters are born in the course of the writing process. I absolutely agree.
How have your real life experiences influenced your writing?
A lot. Of course, the books are not autobiographic. You know, I have never seen a dragon, I don’t speak to ghosts and don’t participate in sword fights. But real life experiences affect our worldview, our value system, our belief in what is possible and what is unnatural. And that, in turn, is definitely reflected in the way we write. There are also more specific experiences that played a role: for instance, the fact that I have experienced immigration helped me understand those of my characters who had to move from one country to another.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Oh, there are many things I like to do, but I hardly ever have time for them! Normally, when I have “free time”, that means I sit down with my laptop and write novels. I work at a university, which involves teaching, research and administrative work, I have a family, and I also write books. That leaves practically no time for anything else. But, of course, I love reading, I enjoy watching movies, and I love theater.
What was your road to publishing like? Tell us about it.
I’ve been uploading the novels I was writing, chapter by chapter, on a certain Russian website. It was the biggest website where authors could upload their work “online”, during the very writing process. This way, you can get feedback before the work is completed, that’s actually very useful, and it’s also just fun. When I started, I had no readers, except for a couple of LiveJournal friends who were following the updates. Then new readers slowly began to appear. When I was writing one of my very first novels, Westfold, which contained among other plot lines, a Robin Hood kind of theme, three readers commented on the website. That felt like a lot! I was so amazed by this fact that people discuss my characters and their deeds, as if they were talking about real-life people! And then the number of readers and commenters started to increase. After I had written several novels, my page had more than a thousand visits per day and was among the Top 100 on the website. And at a certain point I received e-mails from representatives of two big publishing houses, proposing to publish my books.
How did you come up with the title of your book?
There is a Russian singer (and a songwriter) whose songs I enjoy very much. And in one of my favorites, there are the following lines:
"You hate me so passionately,
Standing half a step away from love"
These lines gave the book its title.
Do you read romance or do you prefer other genres?
I like fantasy novels that involve both romance and adventures. So yes, I do enjoy reading books in the same genre in which I write. I suppose that’s quite natural. I also enjoy detective stories.
What is your absolute favorite book or books and why is it special to you?
“The Lord of the Rings”. This book has opened for me the world of fantasy, and since then, I am in love with this world.
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
Lack of time. When the ideas are already there in my head, but for reasons of time I have to write much more slowly than I would prefer.
What is the easiest part of the writing process for you?
Dialogues. I LOVE writing dialogues.
What is your preferred writing environment?
Home. Sitting on a sofa with my laptop. That’s just perfect.
Do you have a careful plan when plotting your stories or do you just go with the flow?
I MUST have a plan. By the time I start writing, I must have a very good idea about how the plot is going to develop. Some scenes may be added later on, of course.
When did you know you truly wanted to give writing a shot?
I started in the childhood. Afterwards, there were periods when I wrote something and periods when I didn’t, and it’s only about five years ago that I started writing regularly. First, poems, then short stories, and then I moved on to novels.
What is your favorite quote?
I don’t have a single favorite one. But there are numerous quotes I enjoy, for instance, ones from such authors as Oscar Wilde and Jane Austen. I actually used some of these quotes as epigraphs in “Half a Step Away from Love”.
Do you have any advice for other writers and what is it?
Inspiration should be priority number 1. Marketing, however important, must be ranked lower. Write what you really want to write about, be true to yourselves.
If you published under a pen name, why did you use a pen name and is there anything special about the pen name you chose?
My pen name, Olga Kuno, is also my maiden name. One editor suggested that I use it as a pen name, and I liked the idea.
Why did you want to be a writer?
Because I truly enjoy the process. It’s self-realization, which is very important for me. It’s a way to get immersed in a story, which actually makes it similar to reading. But writing allows me to create exactly the kind of story that I want. Or at least to try to do so. :)