October 22, 2011

An Interview With Alexandr Voinov

Alexandr, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. Please, tell us about your latest book.

Hey, thanks for having me. I'm here to tell you all about "Counterpunch", which is the story of Brooklyn Marshall, a slave boxer in an alternative England. Here's the blurb, which says it better than I can.
Fight like a man, or die like a slave.Brooklyn Marshall used to be a policeman in London, with a wife and a promising future ahead of him. Then he accidentally killed a rioter whose father was a Member of Parliament, and the man had him convicted of murder. To ease the burden on the overcrowded prison system, Brooklyn was sold into slavery rather than incarcerated. Now, he's the "Mean Machine", a boxer on the slave prizefighting circuit, pummelling other slaves for the entertainment of freemen and being rented out for the sexual service of his wealthier fans.
When Nathaniel Bishop purchases Brooklyn's services for a night, it seems like any other assignation. But the pair form an unexpected bond that grows into something more. Brooklyn hesitates to call it "love"—such things do not exist between freemen and slaves—but when Nathaniel reveals that he wants to help get Brooklyn's conviction overturned, he dares to hope. Then, an accident in the ring sends Brooklyn on the run, jeopardizing everything he has worked so hard to achieve and sending him into the most important fight of all—the fight for freedom.
Q: What is the genre, and does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they?
Gay romance with a dash of dystopian alternative history. Slavery was never abolished, you can be sold into slavery after crimes or be born a slave. All this in 2011. So it's a modern take on slavery.
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing your first book?
My first one was a German fantasy novel, and the fun in that was to put characters on the page and share them with the world that had only been living in my head before. Also, being able to pay the rent for a few months was very nice.
When we're talking about "Counterpunch", I really enjoyed the research and being able to mess with London and the UK and imagine how things would be different. I like to put in little jokes and allusions, like Easter eggs that readers can find and enjoy.
Q: Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, outline, or...?
I tend to start in one of my favourite London book shops (like Foyles, the best independent store we have) and buy a stack of books on whatever topic my book is about. In this case, I bought some books on boxing. The other books I needed for this I already owned. (A book or two on slavery and gladiators, to get a feeling and idea.)
I read those books while I do some basic work, but unless it's a historical story (that needs a lot more work) I usually jump straight in and do the research while I write, fixing mistakes as I write.
Q: What genres and authors would we find you reading when taking a break from your own writing?
Most of my reading is non-fiction, but I enjoy classic writers (like Graham Greene) as well as some current writers (A M Tuomala's "Erekos" was the best fantasy novel I've read in years, and I'm waiting for anything Jordan Taylor does). In my genre, I do enjoy writers like Manna Francis, Kirby Crow, Rachel Haimowitz, Peter Hansen, Rhianon Etzweiler, and many more. There's a huge amount of talent out there.
Q: If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?
"Counterpunch" is a really good start. You'd get a good idea of my style and how I do things – what kind of people you'll encounter in my stories and how my plots go. Also, it's probably the best novel I've done so far (I do tend to get better from book to book, so the most recent work it is). After that, I'd suggest "Scorpion". 
Q: A biography has been written about you. What do you think the title would be in six words or less?
Wow, that's a hard question, considering that I always laugh at celebrities that are in their twenties or thirties and put out biographies of rather uneventful lives.
"Aleksandr Voinov – Method in the Madness" might do it, even though it sounds trite.
Q: If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?
Hah. I live near one of the most expensive cities in the world. I could probably deal with a nice penthouse at One Hyde Park in London – the five-star hotel right next to it provides food and laundry service, and the view, I've been told, is really nice. Main thing is, I wouldn't want to live in the same place as Russian industrialists and oil sheikhs.
Q: What song would best describe your life?
"Out of the Dark" by Falco and "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. The race is too close, so I'm taking those two.
Q: If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
I'm borrowing that one from an ex: "Actually Quite Nice if He Could Stop Bragging." (ouch)
Q: What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
How do you fit so many books into your house? Answer: one at a time.
Solo work:
"Deliverance", in "Forbidden Love" (Noble Romance) – http://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=61
"Burn", in "Echoes of the Future" (Noble Romance) – http://www.nobleromance.com/ItemDisplay.aspx?i=109
"Scorpion" (Dreamspinner) – http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2301

With co-authors:
"Dark Edge of Honor", with Rhianon Etzweiler (Carina Press) – http://ebooks.carinapress.com/9BD427F7-123A-4238-B777-1AF14EC82062/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=984CBCC2-F241-4129-87A7-E58097CA3B71
"Test of Faith", with Raev Gray (eXcessica) – http://www.excessica.com/books/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=326
"Spoils of War", with Raev Gray (FREE at Smashwords) – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/9566
"Clean Slate", with Barbara Sheridan (Dreamspinner) – http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=1786
"Risky Maneuvers", with Barbara Sheridan (Loose Id) – http://www.loose-id.com/Risky-Maneuvers.aspx
"Lion of Kent", with Kate Cotoner (Carina Press) – http://ebooks.carinapress.com/7F81F876-19B5-4835-8570-20E6ADE3A69D/10/134/en/ContentDetails.htm?ID=C15428EC-8F28-4996-94C2-89F4DAFBC144
"First Blood", with Barbara Sheridan (Dreamspinner) – http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=55_242&products_id=1977
"Transit", with Raev Gray (Dreamspinner) – http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2041

Coming Soon
"Counterpunch" (Storm Moon Press) – http://www.stormmoonpress.com/books/Counterpunch.aspx

 We are happy to offer up an ARC (advance release copy) e-book of "Counterpunch" to one lucky commenter. Please comment on this interview to be entered! We'll select one winner at random after twenty-four hours. As part of the Storm Moon Press blog tour, you can also enter our Swag Bag Giveaway by commenting on the giveaway post at Storm Moon Press' blog here: http://www.stormmoonpress.com/blog/

Goodreads profile:
Twitter: @vashtan
Excerpt from Counterpunch (Releases November 4, 2011)
The enemy was swaying on his feet, too tired to lift his hands, but Brooklyn kept pushing him into a corner. Eight rounds in, he was tired and yet buzzing high on adrenaline and sheer, uncontrollable rage, delivering low punches into the enemy's sides, his solid resistance like a wall he wanted to tear down with his bare hands.
The enemy squirmed under the onslaught, rounded his back and stumbled away, but there were only the ropes, and beyond it, the baying mob.
Brooklyn kept punching, hitting, then noticed that the enemy had lowered his guards to protect himself. He responded to the weakness the only way that made sense to his adrenaline-dazed brain. He took a half step back and delivered a straight punch with the right and a cross with the left. Like in slow motion, the power from that cross tore the man's head to the side, Brooklyn saw a flash of the yellow mouth guard, and then the man went down as if struck by lightning.
No, not yet.
Before anybody could interfere, Brooklyn caught him him by the throat, pushed him up against the ropes and kept punching him. The rage knew no bounds, burning in his veins, turning the exhaustion to ashes, drowning out the shouts from the mob.
The enemy opened his arms, to try and grasp the ropes, but for a moment he was spread open in a T. Unguarded, unprotected, throat bared, head rolling back. Unconscious, dead, or simply KO, that strange stage when every ounce of strength and endurance had been beaten from his body, leaving only leaden indifference—or a readiness to die.
And it was a mercy to be killed on his feet, in the ring.
Somebody grabbed his left, and Brooklyn snarled around the plastic in his mouth, freed himself with a shrug. The first few lines in the audience were on their feet. Jeering, applauding, or just shouting, he didn't notice the difference through the haze, strained to finish his enemy off, there on the ropes, ready to go.
Ready for redemption.
Suddenly there were three more men in the ring. Invaded the space he'd been owning just a moment ago. One pushed between him and his enemy, who now crumpled in the corner, ignored, while the three were circling him, tonfa sticks ready.
Brooklyn knew he could take one, but not three. Fuck. Now it was him who was still on his feet, and the impulse to lift his hands and fight was very nearly overwhelming. Fuck them for challenging him in the ring. He wanted nothing more than to fight and took a grim satisfaction at how the eyes of one of the guards widened. They knew.
His ring. His space. His fucking time.
The end of a tonfa tapped him lightly in the knee, hard enough to hurt, but not enough to send him sprawling. We could have, that said. Give up.
Brooklyn cast another glance at the enemy. Done. Over. He looked at the guards, knew two of them would be on him if he attacked their comrade. He turned again, gaze sharpening. Applause. Light sparked off diamonds and teeth, expensive women were jeering at him, their companions grinning, faces reddened. A minuscule dog was jipping at the end of its pink leash. Applause.
How would that look if the guards beat him to a pulp?
Not good. Instead of lowering his fists, he raised them high over his head and turned, taking the applause, while the guards stepped smartly back. Not their applause, and the bitches knew it. He almost laughed.
He hadn't come so close to laughter in months. It didn't matter what scum was cheering him, but it mattered that all of them—apart from a few companions, he assumed—were born free and still free.
Applauding a slave might be an indulgence, might be, in truth, nothing but scorn, but right now, it didn't matter that he wasn't one of them. He'd bet that the women in the audience down there wanted him rather than the suited and tie-wearing sugar daddies they'd come with, and the men down there wanted to be him, even if they were pimps and CEOs and celebrities and two-bit VIPs from Big Brother. Right now, they were off their fat arses and applauding him.
A slave.
Fuck them all.

From Counterpunch (Storm Moon Press) – http://www.stormmoonpress.com/books/Counterpunch.aspx


  1. *waves* Hiya Aleks. I'm just cruising by with a howdy, ya know, claymores and all that.

    Nice interview. You fit all those books in your house one at a time huh? Smarty pants. ;-p

  2. Welcome, Amara. :) Claymores, huh? Cyrptic. Very very cryptic...

  3. Lol hi Kayelle. It's my special form of rah rah rah. I have claymores and hand grenades instead of pom poms. ;)

  4. I love the angry tone in the blurb. I'm looking forward to this book. I think this is going to be a great series, and I'm especially optimistic about the historical soldier one I saw referenced on the 'verse website. Hope you have it in the works!

    Ryan (mslovelesswrites [at] g mail [dot] com)

  5. This is my 'book of the year'. Beyond awesome it is.

    Great interview, Aleks. *hugs*

  6. Amara - Hey! Of course you show up first. :)

    Ryan - Brooklyn is the definition of "simmering rage". He's definitely not a broken slave at all, which I admire about him. With all the stuff he goes through, she still keeps fighting and resisting. And - I do want to do a historical one in the world, but right now I'm working on "proper" historical novels... three of them... gods help me. Thanks for commenting!

    Monika - It got even better with the edits. I think. My, uhm, "humble" opinion. :)

  7. Oh sounds good, please count me in for the giveaway!

  8. Dystopian London is always good! I’m re-reading Mind Fuck at the moment and Manna Francis created the most amazing world and characters (and I find it endlessly entertaining that she decided the Brits would be using the euro as their currency).

    The Belonging universe is equally fascinating/chilling… And Counterpunch looks very promising – not least because of the yummy boxer on the cover! I wonder if he’ll be more a Klitschko-machine or a Hayes-type… only one way to find out! Congratulations on your release.

  9. Ah, now that makes sens, Amara! :)

    Ryan, that does sound good doesn't it? Unique blurb voice.

    Monika, if I hadn't already put this on my must read list, I'd add it after reading that. Love your avatar, btw!

  10. Jayhjay, thanks for stopping in. I see Alexandr brought his fan club today. Woot! (I should know. I'm a member. lol)

  11. Ella,
    That is a yummy cover, isn't it? So much promise in the character's soulful expression...

  12. Ella - I love the Administration series; Manna Francis wrote something really special here.

    And my guys are still using "quid". :) But yeah, the build-up to the Klitschko-Hayes fight kicked my muse into overdrive. I watched a lot of boxing in those months. :)

  13. Ooohhh, can't wait to read this one! *grabby hands*

  14. Great interview Aleks! Counterpunch now tops my wish-list. Can't wait to read it! Ohh...and a biography?:))

  15. “Method in the Maddness” I might have to borrow that one!

    The premise of the book sounds amazing (not to mention the cover, those abs are almost in 3D). Please count me in the giveaway!

  16. Another great interview! I've been looking forward to this one for a while *rubs hands together* But already have it on preorder, so..I guess I don't really need an advance copy :)

  17. Hee hee, one at a time, I like it :) Great interview! Can't wait to read it!

  18. Great interview; I really enjoyed it.

    I have recently discovered Alexandr. His works sound great and I look forward in reading them.

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  19. @Cat - If you like sweaty boxers (the men, not the clothes) - it's that and more. And sex. And fights! And grimy dark London. YAY.

    @Bleu Skye - No! No biography from me. Gods, no. I'm boring. Five hundred pages about working in an investment bank? You can't inflict that on anybody!

    @Brie - It all make sense (my life and writing and all that) - at least from this angle here. :) In terms of boxers, there are some heavyweights that are amazingly build. Look at recent promo shots of David "Haymaker" Haye (I gave Nathie, the cover artist, Haye as a a reference).

    @Alex - If you win one, you can always give the other away. :)

    @Melinda - Also, one at a time means I can smuggle them past my partner (who sometimes threatens I can't buy any more books "before you've eaten the ones you have." Ergh).

    @Tracey - Thanks! I look forward to hearing/reading what you think about them. :)

  20. Great interview

    Itching for this books release date now, thanks for that! Hate having an itch I can't scratch >.<

    But really, looking forward to reading it :)

  21. Aikomin - I *know* - I'm exactly the same. Every day I wake up and stare at the calendar, I'm hoping it's November yet (and I usually hate that month). Thanks for commenting!

  22. Hello everyone, and thank you so much for entering the giveaway! The giveaway is now officially closed, and the winner has been sent their e-mail with a PDF ARC of "Counterpunch"!

    For those who didn't win, remember that "Counterpunch" is still available at 20% off for pre-sales. It's a great time to buy the book, and if you do so through the Storm Moon Press Website, you get entered into the pre-sales giveaway as well (grand prize is a Kindle or $115 Amazon gift card)!

    Thank you to everyone who entered, and thanks for following us on our blog tour!

    ~K. Piet
    (Marketing Director - Storm Moon Press)


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