I grew up in Russia when it was still the Soviet Union and moved to Australia with my mum when I was 16. I live in Sydney with my husband and write historical fiction. My first novel, Savaged Lands, has just been published by Endeavour Press and is available on Amazon.
Tell us about your latest book.
Savaged Lands is a story of war and betrayal, of love and forgiveness. It is September 1941 and Hitler’s Army Group South has occupied Kiev. A young Soviet girl named Natasha falls in love with Mark, a Hungarian soldier of Russian descent. Trapped on opposing sides of a brutal conflict, they are forced to keep secrets from everyone they love. With everything stacked against them and nothing to hope for, the two characters are compelled to fight for their love and their very survival.
What do you have coming out in the future?
I am working on a novel about a woman who has lost her memory due to an accident. She returns home from hospital to discover dark secrets about herself, her husband and her relationships with others. It’s very different from anything I’ve written before and I am really enjoying it so far.
Is your book a stand-alone or a series?
It’s a stand-alone novel at the moment, although I might consider writing a sequel in the future. Or maybe even a prequel, as one of the characters comes from very interesting background and I would love to explore it further.
Why romance and what makes your particular brand of romance special?
I write historical romance. For me, the setting is as important as interactions between the two characters. Because of the setting characters find themselves in the situation they are in. It affects their relationship and the way they relate to each other. It is historical background that makes their romance fascinating.
Is romance the only genre that you write in or do you write in other genres? Most of my short stories are historical fiction, some of them historical romance. But I’m trying something completely different with my current work in progress, which is a suspense novel.
Absolutely! Everyone I meet can end up in my book. I’ve been known to borrow particular features, names, even whole personalities. I’m still waiting for someone to recognize him or herself in my book though.
What authors inspire your writing?
My favorite author of all times is Alexandre Dumas. I love the adventure, the intrigue, the camaraderie of Dumas novels. The first time I read The Three Musketeers, I was seven and completely hooked. It was the start of my love affair with historical fiction. Since then I have read everything by Dumas I could get my hands on.
How have your real life experiences influenced your writing?
I lived in Kiev as a child, and so, when it came to choosing a setting for my first novel, it had to be Ukraine. Having lived in the city, researching Kiev during the occupation and the hardships the Kievan population faced every day was a very intense experience. And I wanted to write about the war because I grew up listening to war stories. My grandparents have lived through the period and I think World War II is close to any Russian’s heart.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing or talking about writing with my friends. I also try to read as much as possible, as I find it helps with my writing. I constantly read authors whose style I admire and re-read my favorite books. Most of my free time I spend on the beach, enjoying the nice Sydney weather.
What is your absolute favorite book or books and why is it special to you?
The Count of Monte-Cristo has been my favorite book for the last twenty years. I think the character development in that book is astonishing. Monte-Cristo is a happy, carefree sailor who loses everything only to reinvent himself as an evil genius in possession of immense power and fortune. He is hell bent on revenge and this desire takes over his whole existence until there’s nothing left. He thinks he can play with destinies of others just like his own destiny was once played with but he is wrong. Although the prevalent theme of the Count of Monte-Cristo is revenge, ultimately the book is about forgiveness.
Have you won any awards for your writing?
One of my short stories set in Napoleonic period was the winner of Historical Novel Society Autumn Short Fiction Competition 2012. And I was the runner-up of 2013 defenestrationism.net Short Story Contest.
What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?
The hardest part is to treat writing as any other job. To sit down and write no matter what, whether you feel like it or not, whether you are inspired or not.
Which of your characters is your favorite and why? My favorite character in my novel is a Hungarian soldier in Nazi-occupied Kiev. He’s not just any soldier but a soldier of Russian descent. I like him the most because of the way he handles many challenges he faces. Having grown up in a Russian family and now fighting on Hitler’s side and seeing Hitler’s atrocities on Soviet soil firsthand must be incredibly difficult for him. When he meets and falls in love with a Soviet girl called Natasha, he wants to do everything possible to protect her but it turns out that he himself needs protection.
What is your preferred writing environment?
I love writing at home where there are no interruptions. When I write, I turn off my phone and only check my messages when I finish a chapter. I also enjoy writing outside, in a quiet place, preferably overlooking the ocean. I carry a notepad with me everywhere I go because you never know when an idea might strike.
Do you have a careful plan when plotting your stories or do you just go with the flow?
Before I started writing my book, I planned out every chapter and prepared a detailed outline. But when I was actually working on it, the characters seemed to take on a life of their own. The end result was very different from what I had planned originally.
When did you know you truly wanted to give writing a shot?
I first started writing at University. Just an occasional poem or short story here and there. I never showed my work to anyone but enjoyed it very much. After I graduated, I stopped writing until about six years ago when I went back to Uni to do my history degree. One of my lecturers mentioned that I had a nice writing style and I thought, why not give it a go and this time actually try to get something published? I’ve been writing ever since.
What is your favorite quote?
‘In every soldier’s knapsack is a marshal’s baton’ Napoleon Bonaparte
Do you have any advice for other writers and what is it?
Start small, write a few short stories and get them published. Seeing your work out there is a great confidence boost for any writer. Duotrope is a great resource that lists thousands of markets for short stories. Write from your heart and don’t worry about editing until later. Find as many beta readers as you can to get as much feedback on your manuscript as possible.
Wild Card Question.
As an author, what is the one question that you wish people would ask you, but no one ever has and what would your answer be to that question?
Can I buy a thousand copies of your book?
And my answer would be a thousand times YES!