It’s interview day! WhooWhoo Interview!
Heehee, I am soooo excited. Aleksandr Voinov and Rhianon Etzweiler are coming to visit with me, talk Dark Edge of Honor and hang out for the next couple of day. *whispers* I am almost giddy about that. *hears the door bell*…*gasp* they’re here. *looks around one last time and opens the door*
*smiles real big* Hi guys, come in, make yourselves comfortable. Can I get you anything to drink? Coffee? Tea? Straight shot? *winks*
Aleks: Coffee, thanks.
Rhi: Oh, straight shot, definitely. Of espresso. Please.
You got it, coming right up! *pours coffee* Nice and strong for you. *sits down*
Thanks so much for coming to chit chat with me again Aleks, and Rhi, yaaaaay I’m so glad you’re here! Welcome to my Place. *grins*
Aleks: Thanks for having us!
Rhi: I’m glad to be here. I’m a little nervous about promoting this release, myself. This is all new to me.
Amara: *leans in and whispers* You’re doing great. *leans back*
There is soooo much I want to talk to you guys about. I, um… I’ll try to focus and see if I can stay on track. *winks* I promise nothing.
Let’s start with your new book. Tell us about it…
Rhi: Well, Dark Edge of Honor is a military science fiction gay romance thriller. I know, that’s a lot of labels, right? It’s about Mike, a covert ops agent tasked with seducing Sergei, who’s a captain with the invading forces. He’s supposed to be gaining sensitive intel for the resistance fighters, the natives of Cirroko. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans. And this was far from being that.
Amara: *chuckles* Yeah, far from being that for sure. I gotta say… loved it! LLLOVE! Seriously, you guys wrecked me with it. How did it come about? Who’s idea was it or did you two come up with it together?
Aleks: Rhi started it all, and I invited myself into her project, pretty much. First time we worked together, hopefully not the last time, because we had so much fun writing this. (Yeah, wrecking characters' lives is fun to some authors…) Basically, Rhi had a set-up (the first idea, what's going on) and then we did some brainstorming and constant development work while we were writing, and we ended up with something very different from the original idea.
Rhi: Oh yes, wrecking characters’ lives is definitely fun. I enjoy backing them into a corner—and pushing until they decide to start fighting back fang and claw.
Amara: *laughs* I so love that about you guys. I really do. I’m curious about your characters, they were amazing. Sergei and Mike…totally own me. Both of them. So …who wrote which? And what inspired them if anything?
Aleks: I'd say we pretty much shared the writing of the characters, but Mike is more Rhi's character, and Sergei is more my character. Sergei of course is loosely based on a very old character of mine, a guy who came into my head (ok, that sounds naughty) about fifteen years ago. That particular character has fascinated me for a long time, and I've used him in various shapes and forms throughout all those years. The most famous of that type was Vadim Krasnorada of "Special Forces", but Sergei Stolkov is very different from Vadim. He's not a mass-murdering maniac, for one, or a rapist, or a racist. Sergei is an idealist who tries to do the right thing and fit in with society (as weird as that society is to us Westerners), and who gets almost destroyed for that.
Amara: *nods* And Mike…
Rhi: Mike’s character was influenced by a number of different soldiers and veterans I’ve known over the years, but one picture triggered the spark that started the story. It was of a soldier, a career Army noncommissioned officer. He had to be in his late thirties or early forties, since he was a Command Sergeant Major. In the photo, he’s standing over a captured terrorist in Iraq. He’s in full battle rattle, with bright red blood smeared up the leg of his camo’s. That picture made the pieces coalesce in my mind, and birth Mike. He isn’t a perfect person, or even a perfect soldier. In fact, through the course of the story, his aim to be both causes him to fail quite spectacularly—at both.
Amara: Interesting. What about the other characters? Did you share them? Or are you each responsible for them individually?
Aleks: I can't really say who created or started with which character. I'm pretty sure I wrote the first scene with the general and the encounter with Nikishin, and Rhi created Pat, but we shared all of the minor characters so it's very hard to draw any lines.
Rhi: Yeah, beyond that I couldn’t say. We both played with all of them at some point in the writing process.
Amara: What made you decide to go Sci-Fi with it?
Aleks: I wanted to make the story universal rather than specific. Cirokko can be anywhere, not just Afghanistan or the Balkans or wherever. I thought it would have a bigger appeal, and we got interesting technology and monsters to play with, too. Also, I've written a lot about Afghanistan and didn't want to do ANOTHER one. Also, since there are no native characters of any importance in the book, I didn't want to set a book in a real place without giving the real people living there a voice. It seemed more polite to not do that.
Rhi: *nods* The concepts in the telling of the story were more important than the setting. It’s not so much about where it happens, as what happens. I’m certain that many readers will draw the Afghanistan parallel, but a similar plot could be drawn in Avatar, which has been compared to the European invasion and settlement of the Americas.
Amara: Awesome. Very well done. Seriously.
So, what was the most difficult thing for you to do in regards to the book?
Aleks: What I found harrowing was the torture scene. I talked to a girl who'd been tortured as a child/young teenager, and she offered to look through the scenes to make sure I got stuff right. Having her talk – very calmly and rationally – about being tortured with electroshocks is one of those things I'll never forget. It's easy to think that these things only happen in your mind as an author, but there are very real people out there who live through shit like that, and I basically feel like I owe them to get it right. It's just the respectful way to do. But if you look at all that horror and darkness, it can be difficult. There are moments when I stand up from my desk and go "right, I've had enough, I want to do something fluffy, cute and brainless." I end up going to the gym or playing computer games, just to digest those emotions.
Amara: Wow. Yeah, that would be…*shakes head*… wow. And Rhi? What about you?
Rhi: Getting into Mike’s head, as a character in the very beginning of the story, was the most difficult part for me. The mind of a soldier, a trained killer on a leash—beyond that, Mike is covert ops, a highly intelligent man. And he wasn’t very chatty with me. It took a number of rum-spiked glasses of fruit juice before I was able to slide into his character and see the story from his perspective. I wanted readers to be able to sympathize with his position, the choices he’s forced to make, and the strain of honor versus duty, professionalism versus personal interest. The man is not the soldier.
Amara: *nods* You did good with that. You definitely had me sympathizing with his position and all that. Well done. So, tell me, will we see more of Sergei and Mike, a Dark Edge of Honor sequel? *leans in and whispers* Please say yes.
Aleks: I think there are two possible stories that need telling or that could be told. One would be about how Sergei copes in his new life. He's basically a traitor; he left his whole, huge family behind and is a stranger in a culture he doesn't understand. How do you cope with that?
The other story would be what happens on Cirokko after Sergei leaves? Does the Doctrine conquer the planet? Do they get broken? That would be told from Nikishin's and Ulyanov's point of view, and actually, that's the story Rhi and me are currently outlining.
Amara: Ooooo, those both sound fantabulous. Awesome. Ok. That’s enough about the book. Now, while I have you in my clutches, I want to know about you….
But first... a coffee break...