Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Non-random Gushing: Aleksandr Voinov visits Bitch Factor 10 today!

I have quite the active fantasy life. Channing Tatum doing a personal lap dance for me. Michael Fassbender sitting at my feet while I pet his fur. Aleksandr Voinov dropping by Bitch Factor 10 so I can ask him a bunch of nosy questions. Oh, pardon! That last one's not a fantasy-- it really happened! Aleks has so graciously stopped by to answer a Question or Two (or seven) and talk a bit about Incursion, his latest Riptide Publishing release. Keep on reading to reach Incursion's blurb and contact info for Aleks. And buttercream icing on the cupcake? There are details for the Incursion blog tour giveaway at the end of this post. Be sure to leave a comment to enter the giveaway and show Aleks your love!

Now available from Riptide Publishing

 Question or Two with Aleksandr Voinov

1) I heard a rumor awhile back that you and your Muse had separated. Any truth to that? Were you caught cheating, filling your Kaigelu from another's ink pot?

The Muse is a Fickle Thing, really. At times, he can’t drag me out of bed fast enough or wakes me up in the middle of the night, and at times he can be the most sullen of teenagers, kicking a can down the road and going “meh”, whenever I try to talk to him. What he doesn’t like is too much real-life or cyberspace drama, stress, back-ache and me having to do my taxes, incidences of which I’ve had in the last few months.

It’s also probably true that I’ve generally been writing less in the last 3-4 months. Since finishing Dark Soul, I’ve really only written Incursion and Skybound, and Skybound is a tiny story of a mere 13k (and hence shouldn’t have taken me as long to write/polish as it has). But the big thing that slows me down is a historical novel that is pretty rough to write. It’s intense. There are days when I work hard on it and walk away with only one page or maybe 500 words to show for my effort. That’s a lot slower than I’m used to, but research is a big thing here. I just don’t want to get it wrong, and the setting (the Second World War) is complex. At times I found myself researching Paris, Montmartre, Jewish artists, the order of battle of SS units, and I’m not nearly finished. I’m learning a lot, but it’s a slow process and I hope I get to something good with it. But yeah, right now, writing is hard work.

2) Speaking about your relationship with your Muse, who's the Dom, who's the sub? Is "thwapping" a kinky form of discipline between you? And while you're at it, explain what "thwapping" is. Or is thwapping an English/German literary term? 

I’d think we switch. Sometimes the Muse is all “command me, Master”, and other days I have no illusion of who’s in charge. I think he even tops from the bottom. And “thwap” is the sound when you hit somebody with a leather glove. It’s part punishment, part challenge.

3) Let's talk about your "Disabled German-Named Space Maori in a Haunted House IN SPAAAACE with Polymorphing Monster" story. In your acknowledgements for Incursion, you dedicate the book, in part, to "all real-life shape-shifters." Are you a shape-shifter? Are you really an amoeba, because I think being a single-celled organism would be a totally cool natural state? 

“Disabled German-Named Space Maori in a Haunted House IN SPAAAACE with Polymorphing Monster” is what my partner called the story. I was telling him about the concept (he loves sci-fi), and he said “so, if I understand it right, you’re writing a Haunted House story with a disabled Space Maori who has a German name and he’s trapped with a polymorphing monster”. At first I was slightly affronted (because I’m taking my ideas pretty seriously wile I write), but I had to admit that he wasn’t far off. All ideas sound silly when summarized like that, though. I mean, seriously?

I do have more complex organs than an amoeba, but if I could have one super power, I’d take shapeshifting. However—I really do think we are already shapeshifters. Damn slow ones, if you consider our natural progression from zygote to rotting bones, but a baby and an old person side-by-side are very different. I do think there’s an “essence” that stays the same, but even as humans, our bodies are capable of a huge amount of change. It can be something harmless as getting a new hair cut, or something as dramatic as losing or gaining a whole lot of weight (“You look like a totally new person!”). What has probably impressed me the most is the shapechange of trans* people who decide to transition physically to the other gender to match their being with how they are perceived. I’ve seen gorgeous people switch over and every time I see it, I’m heartened and strengthened.

Am I a shapeshifter? Well, my world view is strongly influenced by shamanism and energy-work. I change all the time. I’m recently turning more gray (my hair, that is). I’ve managed to get back to the gym and am now running (slowly, right now, but sustained), and I can already see changes. On another level, what is the essence of our being? This is a question that has got me thinking a lot. I mean, we’re talking about characters being “alive” on the page, although they are only really words. I think there’s something bigger at play, a kind of energy, life, possibly what our ancestors would have called “magic”. As a writer, when I write, I become that person I’m writing about. It’s part channeling something (or dragging it up from the sub-conscious), and part seeing through another person’s eyes, taking on their beliefs, their experiences, their pasts, really believing it. And then returning to my normal-day self. It’s definitely emotional shapeshifting. While I write, I am that person, and then I get up and get a tea and stretch my legs and am myself, though sometimes out of sorts and dazed and yearning to go back. But all humans are shapeshifters on that level. We’re parents and children, employees and madpeople, we’re irrational and business-like, we can be enemies and lovers and all those live in the same body.

4) At one point in Incursion, one character tells another, "I'll teach you how to become." How does one best teach another how to become-- anything? Able-bodied, a man…human?

That’s a very good question. In a way, it takes us such a long time to become who we are. To acknowledge our potential and embrace it. It can be something as simple as “I always wanted to write a book.” The moment you decide to listen to the voice that tells you what you really want, what your deepest desire is (of course, don’t listen to the voices if they tell you to kill people or molest children) and act on it, you become. The moment an “I’d really like to write a book” turns into “I’m a writer”, something huge has happened. Something real and powerful and amazing.

This may sound cheesy, but for me, love is when a person encourages that voice in a partner. My partner met me when I was somewhat screwed up and not in a good headspace. I was writing, but I wasted a lot of energy being glum and elitist and cramped up. I always expected the worst to happen, I was constantly worried. And while some of that was perfectly justified, it did make life harder for myself. My partner has always encouraged me to be more positive, to ease up, to follow the flow, to stop worrying, and encourages my gentle, giving, generous and warm side. Over time, I got back in touch with that side of me that was always there but knocked back by stuff that happened in my life. Slowly, I’m getting some of my mental and emotional habits under control and become a better person overall. I like the idea that our loves and lovers make us into better people—there’s a process of mutual civilizing going on.

5) One line I love in Incursion is "Take your darkness to the warrior, for they can slay it." What is your "darkness"? Do you have a darkness-slaying warrior of your own?

Good pick! It’s one of those lines that really resonate with me. When I wrote it, I paused and stared at it in wonder, thinking “wow, where has that come from?” I think it takes real courage to face your own darkness and possibly even more to face that darkness in others. Warriors in that society are part priests, part healers, part shamans; spiritual warriors. All my life I’ve been struggling with the idea of the Warrior (and he/she is a strong archetype). What makes us strong? What is courage? And if somebody has bigger obstacles to overcome than other people, is he/she more courageous than somebody who had it easier? (Personally, I think yes—I’m more in awe of a Paralympics athlete than their less-challenged peers).

My own darkness—lots of stuff. Fears and doubts and laziness and resentment and anger and old scars, and selfishness and worries and being unable to help people. Like anybody else, I got some hard knocks in life, and coming to terms with the fact that’s just part of life and part of being human isn’t always easy. Somebody said that anybody who’s reached adulthood has enough stuff to write about for the rest of their lives, and I agree.

So, it’s the material I work with. I reach into those often murky waters, and if I touch something that feels powerful and alive and wriggly (picture a big ugly conger eel), I do my best to pull it out when I write. But I’ve reached a new level of that, too. I used to dig that stuff up and throw it in the face of my readers, which really was a helpless, angry act (well, I was a teenager, and thankfully, very little of that stuff made it into paid circulation). These days, I dig it up and examine it and ask the reader to join me in the process of working through this. When I take my fear, I invite the reader to take their fear, put it there, add it to my fear, and together we go through those issues and defeat them together. Reading is not a passive act at all, it’s a collaboration. If the reader walks away stronger and hopeful and feels like a burden’s been lifted—perfect. I try to write about these internal (and often external) hard-won victories, and the main transformative power is love.

6) What's happy-making in your life right now…in your writing?

I’m excited like a kid about my patio—in end-July, some landscaper people are coming over to rip open the nasty concrete behind my house and put down a sandstone patio. In my mind, I’m already sitting in the late autumn sun editing a manuscript there. It took me two years to decide what I want done in the garden, but now that I have a plan I can’t wait for it to happen, although it’s a long process and will get completed in stages.

I’m also getting a big kick out of running, and I’ve taken up meditation, which leaves me nice and calm and aware. Running and meditation entered my life at roughly the same time and are complementing each other beautifully. Ideally, I want to be able to run 10k with my partner, and a big dream is a half-marathon, because essentially it’s a ludicrous goal for me and hence I’m attracted to it. I’d get bored by a full marathon (running for 5-6 hrs? Really? How do people spend that time in their heads?), but people have told me if you can run a half-marathon, you can run a full marathon, so that’s the goal. Happy-making is that I’m getting my first bespoke three-piece suit fitted this week.

In writing: When I get emails from readers telling me I touched them. I got one this morning on a full commuter train and was grinning to myself like a loon the whole way. Also, finding a good sentence that has power and that will stay with me and others, or finishing a scene, or getting a good number of words out, or finding a perfect piece of research. It’s the sense of wonder and gratitude that makes this job so rewarding, and there’s the up and down of pride of achievement and humility that I can do this and that I can reach and touch people. It’s pretty intense emotionally.

7) Your stories are often exempla of the pitfalls of religious dogmatism. All that aside… when can we expect the announcement that you are starting your own religion? I know you've already kicked things off with a "ten albino virgin pygmy hippos" sacrificial barbeque. You have throngs elbowing for a place at your boots (I do hope you cordon off a VIP section-- and that you'll reserve an all-access pass for me *squeak*). Oh Great Savior of My Kindle, how much longer must we wait to formally assemble for your worshipage?

I guess I’m widely known as the rabid atheist among m/m writers. But you put it very well—it’s fine if people are religious, all power to them, I know terrific people who are also religious, from Quakers to Catholics to Muslims. But I’m not—that paradigm doesn’t work for me, and I had a phase during my teenage years when I tried. What I do get really quite angry about is when a religious person uses their religion as an excuse to make other people miserable, or, worse, justifies atrocities and violence, from wars, ethnic/religious cleansing to suicide bombings to witch burning.

My last vestiges of Christian faith died when I studied history and worked out that the Greeks and Romans (the pagan, pre-Christian ones) had systems to be a “good person” without requiring any kind of god keeping tabs on them, so I went with that. But I respect that some people want to be religious or feel happy while believing in a god/dess (or many).

As to starting my own religion. I’m the last person on earth who should do that. I don’t want the responsibility, and I’d be the first to say “don’t believe anything I say, this is my truth and yours might be totally different.” Also, can you imagine the Faithful grabbing stuff from my office and carry it home as a relic (“Hey, I NEED that thesaurus!”)? Also, my front garden is small and my street is pretty quiet, so I could really only accommodate maybe one or two tents of devoted fans camping out in my front garden, or I’d get in trouble with the neighbours (who are lovely), so I simply don’t have the proper space for a mass religion, sorry to say.

Although, if I did start a religion, it would involve getting all writers and book people together in a nice location (my patio is too small, but maybe think a large park) and there’s food and some music and group readings, and snark and damn awesome coffee, and book swaps and creative writing groups, and everybody can adopt a virgin albino pygmy hippo to take home to help them write or just look cute. I think that would be pretty awesome. 

Incursion blurb:

Fighting with your back to the wall is all well and good—as long as you’ve chosen the right wall.

When the local authorities ask Kyle Juenger to hunt a shape-shifting Glyrinny spy, he can’t refuse. After all, he can use the reward to replace his paralyzed legs with cyberware, and maybe even to return to his home planet. Besides, he hates the morphs—those invasive, brain-eating monstrosities whose weapons cost him his legs.

Kyle’s best lead is the Scorpion, a mercenary ship armed to the teeth. Grimm, the Scorpion’s pilot and captain, fascinates Kyle. He’s everything Kyle lost with his legs, and he’s from the same home world. He’s also of the warrior caste—half priest, half savior. But Grimm’s been twisted by life as a merc, and Kyle’s stuck undercover as a criminal on the run.
That doesn’t stop Grimm from coming on to Kyle, or from insisting he’s more than the sum of his past and his useless legs. But Kyle has other concerns—like tracking a dangerous morph who could be wearing anyone’s face. And as if things weren’t complicated enough, Kyle can’t tell if Grimm is part of the solution . . . or part of the problem. 

Buy Incursion at Riptide Publishing

Aleksandr Voinov is an emigrant German author living near London, where he makes his living editing dodgy business English so it makes sense (and doesn’t melt anybody’s brain). He published five novels and many short stories in his native language, then switched to English and hasn’t looked back. His genres range from horror, science fiction, cyberpunk, and fantasy to contemporary, thriller, and historical erotic gay novels.

 Visit Aleksandr’s website at, his blog at, and follow him on Twitter, where he tweets as @aleksandrvoinov.

And now- Aleks' Giveaway!

Thanks for joining me on the Incursion virtual book tour! Feeling lucky? I’m giving away three prizes to commenters on any of the blog tour stops. Comment on this post (feel free to ask questions!) and you might win! The first winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate and a swag bag with assorted magnets, wrist-bands and other goodies. Two more lucky winners will receive swag bags as well. I ship internationally and will draw the winners from all commenters after the tour is over. Deadline for entry is 7/15/12. Please include your email address in your comment so that I can contact you.  Enjoy!


  1. Ookay, I think this interview is just an oversaturation of awesome! Its so good, I can only comment on the trivial parts (for example, I do think you could convert me to your religion XD ), the rest is just too... hefty for a small comment section, but would be wonderful to talk about. :)

    Thank you for sharing, Aleks!

  2. Aija, thanks so much for stopping by BF10. I am so grateful that Aleks agreed to do a Question or Two. I had been mulling over my questions for him for months, and I'm really happy with how things turned out.

    Thanks again for visiting!

  3. Emme, these were fantastic questions!! I think this is the best interview with Aleksandr I've ever read. So thank you! ^^

  4. Aija, well now, thanks to Aleks' responses, we have all the info we need for creating the Church of the Wily Raccoon.

  5. *laughing* And what a zoo it would be! Now, just to find a park...

  6. Great questions Emme, Awesome answers Aleks. All around awesome you two!

  7. Loved the interview :) And I'm pretty sure you could find a few the Church of the Wily Raccoon is a great name :)

  8. What I do get really quite angry about is when a religious person uses their religion as an excuse to make other people miserable, or, worse, justifies atrocities and violence, from wars, ethnic/religious cleansing to suicide bombings to witch burning.

    Well said luv! And I completely agree. I grew up in a fairly religious home but by the time I was a teenager and starting asking myself what I believed, most/all formed religions didn't answer the big questions for me. I think it is absolutely fantastic when one does for someone. More power to them. Just don't use it to hate.


  9. Seriously awesome questions and love Aleks responses and I'm not just saying that cus I want swag ^_~

  10. I'm so late here, but just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this interview. So much that I'm following your blog now. Great questions...and answers.

  11. That is a great interview. I love the idea of the muse and author as switches--why should the muse get to dominate all the time?


  12. Great interview. Loved the description by his partner of “Disabled German-Named Space Maori in a Haunted House IN SPAAAACE with Polymorphing Monster”.

    strive4bst at yahoo dot com

  13. Not to be repetitive, but these seriously were inspired questions. Great answers, too. I almost don't know what to comment on. I am pretty amazed that Skybound is only going to be 13K words and yet it works in so many elements! Very curious to read it. :D

    (No swag for me, thanks. Just commenting to comment.)

  14. Emme – Thank you so much for hosting me and apologies for the late comments, I was tied up at work (not in THAT sense!). The questions were excellent, too – I can tell you did a lot of research. :)

    Aija – Thanks for stopping by. Hey, my religion would be really good fun, but would focus somewhere with more space. :)

    Amara – Hanging out with you guys is just so much fun. :)

    Pointycat - “Church of the Wiley Raccoon”… hm, has a ring. Maybe “Cult”?

    Kassandra – I also think that none of the deities we’re talking about would want their followers to be assholes. That’s the paradox for me. Personally, I prefer to be an atheist with my various other beliefs – so at least if I decide to hate, I wouldn’t blame it on somebody else, especially somebody who may or may not exist.

    Darien – LOL; I believe you.  Emme went in deep. :)

    Lisa – Do stalk Emme, she’s awesome. A very funny and insightful reviewer and definitely a must-read for me.

  15. Anon – I agree! The main thing to work out in our D/s relationship is who is currently on top. That can take some negotiations.:) Thanks for stopping by!

    Anon #2 – Sometimes I want to film my guy. He’s very funny – I guess after 8 years or so, we’ve perfected our double comedy act, playing off each other. It can be annoying (like, when I’m in the creative flow and am taking myself Very Seriously Indeed), but most of the time it’s all in good fun.

    Val – Yep, Emme is brilliant. And let me know what you think. :)

  16. Great interview :) Loved the questions and kept smiling as I read the answers :)

    And the book... well, that's simply brilliant .de


  17. That was a great interview Emme and Aleks. One side benefit to this blog tour is I'm following along and finding some great book blogs. Bonus! :-)

    Incursion was an awesome book. There are so many parts I really enjoyed but don't want to say anything too spoilerish for those who haven't read it yet. I particularly enjoyed the underlying philosophical perspective that you don't have to be what you were, you can change, you can choose to see yourself differently and become something different. And of course, who you are is more about what's in your skull as opposed to what's in your pants!

  18. Found this by following Aleks on Twitter, it was terrific! Thanks.

    spaqueen5 at ymail dot com

  19. My heartfelt thanks to Aleks for visiting BF10 and candidly answering my (mostly) silly questions. You have all my adoration and admiration!

    Amara, Pointycat, Darien, Anonnies 1 & 2, Val, Blaine and Kyahgirl: Thanks so much for the compliments on the interview. I will have all of your kind comments to look over whenever I get a case of "poor mes" concerning my blog. I sometimes lose sight of the fact that I started this blog to have a place for me to whine and complain about various things-- and it is still that, and more! Thanks to you all for putting up with me.

    LisaT: thanks so much for following my blog. And please, invite others you think might be interested in the ravings of a mad, quirky person.

  20. Fantastic questions, and fascinating answers. :)

  21. Wow, awesome Q&A, guys! I'm not even going to try to address all that, except to say... Where can I get my virgin albino pygmy hippo?

    *starts humming "Everybody has a Water Buffalo*


  22. Great interview! I must admit, that was one of the most entertaining interviews I've ever read. I can't wait to read this book! And now I want a virgin albino pygmy hippo...


  23. *gasp* I'm not following you, Emme? Must remedy this! >:D

  24. Thanks for joining the party, Alyssa Linn, Ley, and Emily. I appreciate your feedback.

    And welcome aboard, Ensign Aija. I may have to bump you up to XO, hehehe.

  25. Blaine – Thank you for commenting (I’m glad you liked it!).

    Kyahgirl – Absolutely – our marketing lady has booked me in with some of the absolute best (and must-reads for me). And – yes. The whole thing about identity is very much up in the air, I’m feeling, and I think that’s a good thing. Pushing humans into boxes according to gender, ethnicity, religion, or orientation simply doesn’t work. And the internet definitely helps there.

    Anon – Thank you for following me and stopping by. Glad you found it entertaining. :)

    Emme – Thank you for having me and putting so much work into the questions. You had me in a couple tight spots there, but that’s good. :) You’re spectacular.

    Alyssa – Thanks! You guys should get along fabulously, too, and you’re both on Twitter. *Hint*

    ~Ley – I got my latest one from Amara, actually. I think she has a secret stash of them somewhere…

    Emily – I knew the hippos would be a hot commodity. We definitely need to breed more of the little buggers. :) Thanks for commenting!

    Aija – Yes, you must!


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