Saturday, 24 August 2013

Saturday special: Author Interview with Marina Latcko

Howdy ho there lovies, so without further ado, here's the Interview!

It's a long one, so brace yourselves!

Let's start off with the basics, WHAT was it that got you interested in writing your own stories? In what stage of your life were you & what or who were your inspirations? 

I have always been fascinated by writers; they were my unattainable idols, heavenly creatures. I could only admire their work, not even hoping to go in their direction. Since great books were almost impossible to get in Soviet Russia, I borrowed them from the library nearby (from where my mother fetched me on her way from work), and – prepare yourselves now – copied them in thick notebooks for further re-readings!
My inspirations were and still are science-fiction writers- Bradbury, Asimov, Zelazni, Philip K. Dick, and our Russian authors: the Strugatsky brothers (sadly, both passed on now) and Sergei Lukianenko, who wrote amazing dystopian novels before S. Collins. Too bad they are almost all in Russian only. 

Q. Tarantino called Lukianenko genius, having read his The Night Duty. My background is much wider than that, though, with all Russian and French classics, toppled with profound interest in philosophy, and other human sciences.
So, I came to my starting my own writing quite unexpectedly. I’m an English teacher, and the dream of my life has been to develop a linguistic computer simulation game, helping anybody acquire a foreign language. I spent 10 years researching the theory to accomplish it. There’s this theme in Aurora, as well: Nika’s mother came to the US with this exact purpose in mind, to seek a grant for developing this project.

I wrote a 1000+page scenario for the game and started looking for an investor. My friends who read my script kept telling me I should write a book, but I only shrugged them off. I wanted to do good, helping people learn languages, that was my life's mission. But after sending it over to several companies and receiving no response, I got afraid somebody would steal my ideas, and abandoned the idea for the time being. I sat without any project, my head vacant, and the emptiness started eating at me so much, I felt dizzy, depressed, frustrated, and a long list of those. And then it knocked somewhere in the abyss of my head: girl, they say you can write, so why not try it? So, I resolved to writing a novel, earn enough money from it and invest in my own project. That was 1.5 years ago. How pathetically na├»ve I was! 

Can you remember the first memory you have of writing a story? How did it make you feel? 

My first stories were done in my head earlier than I can remember myself. When being put to bed after having a bath,  I imagined how ancient people gradually added more garments to their pelts. Most of my inspirations came from the White Nights, when I was routinely sent to bed at 9 pm, but didn’t object too much because this was the time for me to be creative! 
I closed my eyes tightly and ‘saw’ my favourite stories come to life right behind my eyes. I pictured myself amongst The Three Musketeers fighting battles and other adventures. I hung out with pirates and rode the fastest horses. Those dreams  were always so vivid.
But if we speak of written stories, my first proper memories are of entries in a diary at the age of 10, and later on at the disturbing age of 16. 10-year-old me just recited daily events, but of course everything got more confused and whiny once I hit 16 and it felt so good to let all those angsty teenage feelings out!

The first real written story was an assignment at University, when we were asked to compose some fantasy stories. I still didn’t trust myself with writing anything and called my bestie to help me with it. Together we found  joy in inventing the characters and events for 4 chapters, then the deadline came and we left it at that. I was proud all the same and showed the story to everybody who agreed to read it or listen to. What a fantastic feeling!

What technology do you use? Do you prefer to write on paper or straight into your favourite word processor?

 Sadly, I have my doubts that anybody writes on paper any more. When you find someone who does though, please let me know! It can be the occasional napkin or a notepad when an idea hits suddenly, but except for these rare times, I normally write in Microsoft Word. It’s funny how my mother is still in awe to see how much convenience modern technologies give us; she used to work on a typewriter, wasting tons of paper because of one incorrect letter! 

 So, how do you go about it/what stages do you go through?

There are several stages. The first one is... procrastinating heavily, having dark thoughts and busying all my free time with exceptionally urgent tasks. Like now. I can’t go on with the sequel to Aurora ‘cause I said I'd do the interview first.
 I promised! 

Then there’s Twitter and GoodReads with wonderful people on both. A bow to you there Cait. 
Then when the guilty conscience becomes totally unavoidable, I break my busy schedule and peek on the file. 
First, for a short amount of time, not to overwhelm my lazy unaccustomed-to-writing mind and after a little while those 
moments gradually become longer and eventually all I can do is type, type, type! 

But on a more serious note,  I tend to exploit two methods: either I visualise the scene until it gets clear, and then write it down, or keep staring at the screen until it suddenly hits me. The story should give roots in my head for me to start unveiling it. Sometimes even one word turns the narration in an unexpected direction. For example, I write: “She looked…”, then stop and think – how did she look? An adjective pops into my mind  “disheveled”. Okay, I go on thinking – why was she disheveled? Somebody was in her room? Who was this somebody? And then my imagination just takes off from there! 

All of us creative minds know how important it is to write in a place where you feel most comfortable, or most inspired! Do you have a favourite place? 

If I have “creative juices” flowing, it really doesn’t matter where I am. I can get on with it even while listening to interesting programmes on TV, but sure thing, I have my special place. I love to lie on my sofa with my cat at my feet when the only sounds I hear come from outside.. Especially when it's not just the sound of a lawn-mover.. Birds are a much better background noise.
Writing  time can be any time, but being the worst kind of procrastinator, I usually start later in the evenings. Ideally, my favourite time is the whole day devoted to writing. When you wake up and start writing straight ahead. That's the most creative pattern.

If you had to describe your style in less than 10 words, what would you say? 

The Transition from Russian flexibility into English consciousness! 
If that  makes sense to anybody!

Having your work published is never an easy process and can be very tough and stressful. What were your experiences when it came to publishing AURORA? 

Well, I wouldn’t say self-publishing is too hard nowadays, with Amazon and other platforms; especially the way I plunged in it – unedited and no-beta-read. It’s good when you have friends and relatives to read your transcripts  and at least know if it’s okay with these guys, but I had nobody! Only my friend’s daughter read Aurora before publishing and was crazy about it, but she’s only 14 and couldn’t proof-read or edit it for me...

You just have to dive in, brushing yourself against every corner to fully understand the process first-hand. Promoting however is the hardest process!  You have to reach your prospective audience, maybe even humiliate yourself to ask people to read it, which feels like begging in the street. You have constant doubts until you get a decent number of positive reviews that you’re not a total crackpot and your level of self-perception has some objectivity to it. Fortunately, I reached this level, and I'm not bothered too much by other peoples opinions anymore! Sure, it sucks when other people don't like it, but you can't always please everybody!
I am still promoting Aurora now, but at least I know there are people who truly enjoyed my story and I am writing the sequel not only for myself now, but for others!
And it’s a great improvement from the situation I was in only one year ago.

What are your plans for the future? We'd love to hear all about new exciting projects, plans and ideas! 

I don’t really know myself about all! Well, now I’m in stage 1 (heavy procrastination) of writing the sequel. It’s called 'Aurora: Global Deception' And it'll be a mixture been spy fiction/current conspiracies and science fiction. I hope to finish it this winter. No idea if that'll be possible! (Aurora 1 was written in 11 months), but I hope to speed up after doing this interview, and I’m an experienced writer now. 

I also hope to get more publicity to my books of course! It would be nice to raise awareness of the Russian language through  my Russian Talks. Come and see me there and start learning the Russian language in an easy way. I'll link it below! Comments are appreciated:

When I'm writing, I usually get way too attached to my characters. And I mean way, way attached! Does this happen to you often? Especially in Aurora, which character was your favourite?

You know, it’s even easier with my characters; they are not my babies, they are me. All four main characters share my traits to some extent. Mostly, I’m Nika’s mother. Nika herself represents some of my disturbed self and my dreams coming true. For those thinking of her as not very likeable in the first book, I would like to say: “Come on, the story lasts only six days, how do you expect a girl to change so dramatically over this short period? Wait for the other two books, give her a chance to grow!” Then I’m her Auntie, wise and old! I’m the doctor, enigmatic and charming.

But of course,  my favourite character is Nika!
Her Mother, Auntie, the Doctor and her granny all represent my past and future.  Nika is my unattainable youth, having all the fun and adventures! She is undergoing such changes and ordeals. Doing things I would have never dared to  to do at that age and I love her for that, regardless of what others think of her!

In your opinion, what is the best way to build a strong, believable character? 

Well, that is the one question that still puzzles me now. I suppose the best way is to let the character grow in your head, devote your thoughts and attention to her, become a little crazy doing that, give her a personal space, and then allow her to do what she wants within the pages of your book. The most convincing characters are as unruly and as flawed as teenagers. 
And the character should suffer a lot to get a readers’ sympathy

Being involved in the YA world definitely has its ups and downs, our readers would like you to share one of your happiest and of your saddest experiences

As a teacher I’m so used to this fragile age, having taught them for 20 years now, that I suffer when I see them making the same mistakes, getting into the same traps, and being confused over things which are quite simple in their nature. What I mean by that is the peer pressure and wanting to be popular at all costs! That would be one of the saddest experiences I think. That all of them are running in the same direction, you know? Like a heard of sheep. 
My happiest moments are when I see the exceptions from this consumers’ world. Teenagers, who overgrow temptations and develop agile minds, curious of secrets of the universe. Teenagers who want to change the word and the earth a home for all. Every new generation should be smarter, better, kinder than the previous one (me and my generation), that’s progress. I believe in progress and smarter humanity, and so I believe in you!
The YA world is the world of infinite opportunities and hope, and that’s why so many of us writers target it! So please take our best and move forward.

Seeing as AURORA involved a lot of paranormal activities, we'll just have to ask; Who or what introduced you to the world of magic and super powers?

 Well, I read The Hobbit when I was around 6, so I guess it was Tolkien for me! I’m not into super hero comics and stuff; luckily we were safe from having them. For me, all super heroes are too one-dimensional, flat, too good to feel real. I liked the Spiderman movies with Toby Maguire, though. And I’ve become Harry Potter’s fan since they showed an advert over  here in 2000. Got all my students hooked as well! He-he, Guilty as charged! 
My super power would be to have the ability to stop time. Can I? Please?

And if you could chose to be human or immortal, what would it be? 

I'd chose to stay Human, but with an obscenely long life and the possibility to decide when I've had enough of earth! 

And that's it Thanks so much Marina, can't wait to see how 'Aurora: Global deception'  turns out!  

Thank you very much, Cait for doing this interview!

And thanks to anybody reading it. Stay young and curious!

That's about it, thanks for stopping by!

You can find Marina at the following place: