Voila. You know how, sometimes, you feel like you’re the only person in the world who is young and writes and doesn’t quite live in the same world as everyone else. Well, so do all the other young writers just like you..
During last two months, I’ve been working on interviewing other young writers out there – as you know, the interviews are a common thing here on WoW – and starting from today, you will meet one new writer every few days, for two weeks (or more, we shall see)!
Well, because I believe that it’s important to hear each other’s voices, to read the words others say and to feel connected. Trust me, that is a great feeling. I also believe that, seeing that many interviews in short period will nicely show how differently – or how similarly – different young writers think.
So to start. :3
I’m a host to Polina Stepanova, a 17- year old talented young woman from Russia, who at the moment studies in an international school. Here’s what she says about herself.
“I wrote stories since I was six, then had a massive break of seven years (no idea why), and at the age of 12-13 started writing again. I have one sister, and two german shepherds – all of which are a complete nightmare -_- I study IB, and somehow manage writing novels when not collapsing under an immense amount of work. I love listening to music, watching movies and series, sculpting, writing. I’m pretty nerdy for LOTR, Avatar (the series), and many other things which if I was to say, it wouldn’t be a short bio! I’ve applied for university to study History and Politics – two great passions of mine. ”
She’s mainly been writing in Russian until around 2-3 years ago. She’s written 2 books in Russian, one of which she’s published but not sold. The first is called ‘The Other Side of the Sun’, and the second is the sequel to the story.
She says that “It has pretty much ‘died’ in terms of plot because I wrote both 3 years ago, and I’ve really grown since then. ”
~ Hi! I wish you a warm welcome to the Web of Worlds, with hope you enjoy it here.
Hello Aria, I sure will – I’m thrilled to be here;)
~ Very good, then! Let us start…
As I know, you’re from Russia. Yet your English is not only very good, but you also write books in it. As a person in a similar situation, I know how sometimes I have to think to figure how to phrase a sentence thought of in another language. Do you have such experiences? What’s it like to use two languages in your writing career?
Oh yes I do, and it’s one of the most frustrating things for me when I know a phrase that would sound really powerful in Russian, but in English it simply doesn’t work. The two languages are very different: Russian can be ‘bended’, as to say, in the way that I like, whilst English tends to be more bounded by grammar and syntax rules. For example, in Russian I can alter the word order of the whole sentence, choosing which part is most important and giving it focus, but if I were to do the same in English, it would sound ridiculous! Of course, not to offend the language – it can be really beautiful, and there are times when I can’t say something in Russian as well as in English. Nevertheless, it’s a language of precision, when Russian can be slightly more abstract at times.
~ I also know you’re working on more than one book at once! That is rather impressive, could you tell which one is your favorite and why?
That’s quite the difficult question:) The fact that I am writing multiple stories at once is because they all were ‘favourites’ at one point or another – it all switches rather quickly. The pleasure in writing more than one story is that if I don’t feel like continuing one storyline, I don’t have to abandon the whole project, but to wait until inspiration returns to complete it, all the while writing another story!
Still, my favourite at the moment is a murder mystery with an element of sci-fi named ‘The Rholtaii Heritage’, there’s an extract from it which will appear at the end.
~ How about this – can you pick one of your novels, and tell us a bit about it? Without spoiling the end, of course :3
Sure. I’d like to tell the story of ‘Callyptica’, since it’ll be a little easier to explain that the other, rather intricate storylines. It was my first novel which is currently at 9 chapters (just for now, hopefully).
The story begins with two young women and one man who had sneaked into a ship named ‘Callyptica’, but were caught by the general in charge of the vessel. It had been built to resemble an island on which people could isolate themselves and begin life anew, since the world outside Callyptica was crumbling from war and a series of massive earthquakes. The general grows interested in the story of the three survivors, and thus the main part of the narrative begins. The thing I really like was that I was able to have two storylines – of the past and the present – the story that the survivors tell, and meanwhile what’s going on Callyptica itself. And so all of the characters develop for better or worse, there’s intrigue, romance, action, mystery, people get hurt from time to time – it’s quite the journey.
~ Would you care for sharing your writing secret of the inspiration for creating your worlds, characters and scenes?
Well, only if just for you guys;)
However, I must say that the ‘secret’ is different for us all. All I can do is tell you mine, and provide some tips. From my experience, every writer is unique and imaginative in their own way, which is the best thing! Still, for me it’s very important to picture my worlds, scenes and characters clearly. Sometimes I simply get snippets of a conversation or an action in my mind which really inspire me, so then I think how could I develop them from being just a thought. The stories and settings usually first form in my mind, and then I wait for the characters to develop from ‘cardboard cutouts’ to fulfilled human beings (or inhuman – depends on the story;), with emotions, dreams and desires. The worlds I sometimes draw maps of (as I did with Callyptica, actually), and I also visualise them in my mind, try to make them as real as if they were an old memory of mine. As soon as it all feels real, then they make their way onto paper or my computer screen!
Here’s where I very much regret not being able to draw. I wish I’d had sketches for anything and everything I write, because then describing scenes in detail would be much easier. So, for all writers who can draw out there – you’re blessed!
As for me, I find alternatives: photoshop and sculpting. When I need inspitation, I sometimes simply browse DeviantArt or Google Images just to see if there’s anything there that resembles what I’ve imagined. It’s difficult and rarely yields amazing results, (moreover it’s not really my mind’s work but someone else’s) but there are always little details which fit the description, and that’s where Photoshop comes in handy;) I often make covers for the novels I make (they might appear somewhere along this interview, too). They help set the scene and the mood for the piece I’m writing. So, pictures definitely help.
Another major thing that inspires me is music. I usually listen to soundtracks from movies and many different composers to accompany me, help set the mood. Thankfully, over the years I’ve collected a soundtrack/instrumentals galore in my iTunes library, so there’s a tune for almost anything I want or would want to write;) The power of music is incredible, and it can make me very inspired when I start to think I’m completely out of creativity.
Finally, the world around us all is an inspiration. Surely, the world around me isn’t nearly as exciting as one that is in my novels (I wish), but nevertheless – some of my characters resemble people I know, and my very first Russian novel, I based the two lead characters on myself and my best friend. I once wrote a short story based on my dream, and one about an island called Spinalonga, in Greece.
So, my secret, I guess, is keeping an eye open for the little details, intricacies and wonders of the world, be that a beautiful garden, ruins of an ancient town, an amazing song or a fantasy wallpaper. Anything can be inspiring, we just have to learn how to see it!
~ Is there a character or characters you are particularly proud of creating and would like to see him or her becoming real? How do you think he or she would treat you, and how would you treat them?
This is an interesting question, and had you asked me this about a year ago, I wouldn’t be able to answer. You see, I take pride in my characters and try to make them as humane and interesting as possible. For some reason, that’s difficult. However, practice makes perfect, and so now I would like to meet one of my recent characters and I think it’ll be interesting for us both. Thankfully, revealing his name would not be a spoiler, either! His name is Felix, he comes from one of my novels, ‘Battle of The Hopeless’, and to sum it up quickly, he’s a young man who fell into a coma for nearly two years, and when he awakens, he is… *cue eerie music* no longer human. Without spoiling too much, he still vaguely resembles a human being, he can sense other humans’ emotions and feel them as if they were his own.
I think it’d be very interesting to talk to him, maybe just see him marvel at how the world had changed whilst he was asleep. He is very wise and unbiased, moreover very honest – but in a nice rather than obnoxious way. He’s just the kind of person who would be able to tell the truth about yourself better than you could. I can really imagine me drinking some hot tea with him and simply talking, about anything – because anything he says I’d be interested in hearing. He’s not human anymore, after all – it’d be awesome to know what that feels like. I’m sure he’d treat me well, maybe a little too politely since I’m a girl – he’s been brought up as very gentleman-like. I’m not sure how he’d react when he senses what I’m feeling – I am naturally a very emotional person, I might just give him a headache:)
~ Have you ever tried writing poetry? If yes, how did it go? If not, how comes? 🙂
Poetry is something I had wanted to be good at, but somehow I got the hang of prose much faster and better. I have to admit, poetry’s great when an idea I’ve come up with is not long enough even for a short story, and it doesn’t require a scene, or any backstory, which sometimes is a relief. But, I often feel obliged to rhyme it in one way or another, otherwise it just doesn’t sound good to me – but when I try to pick words that rhyme, I begin losing grip of the emotions or message I wanted to convey. That’s probably the biggest problem I have with poetry. I value my prose much more – there’s only about one or two poems I would actually share with someone – the rest are more of an experiment with language more than well-rounded and coherent pieces.
~ If you could chose one book to disappear in, yours or any writer’s, what book would it be, and, of course, why?
Hmm… Basically, if I were to trade my world for another? I’d most probably disappear completely in Philip Pullman’s trilogy – you know the ones, ‘Golden Compass’, ‘The Subtle Knife’ and ‘Amber Spyglass’. I read it a while ago, and I’m re-reading it now, realising how amazing it really is. The architecture is ancient and beautiful, there is the magical dust, and – the best thing of all – there are the animals, called ‘daemons’ which represent your personality and character. I think that’s one of the most genius things I’ve come across. Of course, I know it’s been adapted from classical mythology, but I find it amazing nonetheless. I really really want to know what animal my daemon would be! Also, they take their ‘final form’ when their owner has grown up (mentally). I’d want to see how mentally grown up I am:)
Also, if I had to choose another – Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Need I say more? 🙂
~ Do you remember the very beginning of your writing? What was your first story about, and what was it that even got you into the art of writing?
I guess it has just always been part of who I am. When I was really young, five or six – I would write stories (some fictional, some true) about my grandmother’s enormous Caucasian Shepherds. I imagined that they were my personal protectors and we would go on all these adventures together. Going back, I think I thought of them more as lions than dogs – they were so hairy and big enough to carry me around the house on their backs. Then, there was a massive break between those stories and the time I wrote again – no idea why.
But then, in 2009, a wave of inspiration that was seemingly hiding within me all this time had finally hit me. (Hard enough to keep me going stronger with every page!) Then, I wrote my two Russian novels – ‘The Other Side of the Sun’ and ‘The Other Side of the Sun 2: Heiress’. I’ve kind of abandoned them now, especially after seeing that even after an attempt of translation, it just wasn’t working. It was basically about a mirror-image world on – you guessed it – the other side of the Sun, but it had magic, angels, robots, aliens, the whole lot. Some of it (I now see) was subliminally ripped off ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’, and I stopped feeling any sort of care for the characters. I wrapped up the storyline, and a year later in 2010 began writing all sorts of things in English. However, at the time I published the first book and now keep it as a token of my first ever attempt at something I will grow to love.
~ Besides writing, is there anything else that makes you happy or you like doing?
There’s an element of natural curiousity within me, so I try to always find something to do. Generally, I really like Photoshop even though I’ve really just started, sculpting is really fun. I also really like watching movies and documentaries, browsing Cracked and 9GAG … guilty as charged. History and Politics are also two of my passions – I love following current affairs, learning about areas of history I’ll never get to study (there’s an endless amount out there). I’ve also grown to love debating – I very much enjoy a good argument, on really any subject at all.
~ If you could meet anyone, any person from any time at all, who would you choose and why? Doesn’t have to be a writer, but should be a real person ^_^
I choose JRR Tolkien. I think of him as a literary genius, but I also marvel at how a world so vast and rich in history, filled with all kinds of characters and adventures can fit into one person’s mind. After all, he had created a whole language and a world, is a master of both prose and poetry… If one is to get writing tips from someone, it would be from Tolkien. That statement can be argued for hours, but in my opinion, he is rightfully called by some the ‘father of fantasy’. He wasn’t just a legendary writer, but also a good scholar, so any conversation would be interesting with him. I’d ask him about his friendship with C.S Lewis, ask him for some writing tips and advice, ask him all sorts of things about the trilogy, the Hobbit, Silmarillion… I’d simply flood him with questions, actually!
~ Personally, I think I never met a person as weird as myself. But then I met a bunch of other writers, and learned we all have that little thing in ourselves that makes us strange, unique and probably good at what we do.
So, is there anything you write, do or think, that may be considered weird in some way?
I don’t like the word ‘weird’. It implies a negative connotation, which is absolutely not the case. But I totally see what you mean! And yes, it is definitely good that we do – what use is a human race that’s absolutely identical and like-minded? We are all different, some more different than others.
I personally find it very strange in myself that it’s so much easier for me to write about subjects that are very grim, dramatic, in some cases terrifying than comedic pieces. But then again, my fellow writers say the same.
I also have the tendency to like all things original, unorthodox, inventive… some of my interests are in alchemy, steampunk, history’s mysteries and cold cases – those things fascinate me, but might seem weird to others! My imagination tends to creep me out on occasion, that’s true 😀 For example, when I am watching a movie and suddenly realise that I have plenty of advice to give the villain and/or devise a much better invasion plan…
~ Do you have a wish you’d give everything (or your soul, if you wish) to have it fulfilled? It can be as small or as big as you like.. And don’t worry, I’m just asking, I won’t go and take your soul (probably) ^_^
Please don’t take my soul, I figure I’d want to keep it for a while! :S
My wish would be that anything I write becomes real. I could solve any problem, mine or someone else’s, even world issues – and no one has to know. I’d pretty much be all-powerful, a superhero in the shadows – and it wouldn’t be a burden like reading minds or magnetism. Although if I wanted those powers for a day, I’d simply write it down somewhere. The plan is simply flawless;)
~ That would be all. Thank you very much, Polina. I wish you all the luck with your novels, and the fulfillment of your wishes. Is there anything else you’d like to say? Maybe a book or a technique recommendation? Or a question?
Thank you so much, Aria, and I wish you all the best with your blog and your writing! As a closing note, I want to give a shoutout to all who are reading this right now, and thank them for the time it took to get this far down the page;) May your wishes also come true, and you become amazing at whatever you want to do. I’d also say if anyone needs to ask me anything, follow up on what I’ve said here, or just have a chat – here’s my email: email@example.com
My book recommendation would be the Philip Pullman trilogy I’ve mentioned, or Stephen Fry’s ‘The Pocket Book of General Ignorance’. The latter is a really light-hearted and enlightening piece.
A question?… Well, why is a raven like a writing desk? 🙂
Here is an extract from her most recent novel, ‘Rholtaii Heritage’:
Risedo marched in, and seated himself, without uttering a single word yet. Renjin did his best to look guilty, even though he didn’t really think himself as such.
”What in the world happened to you?”, Risedo said with slight pity, observing the bruises on his face.
Renjin struggled to answer the question because he didn’t know where to start. The whole week up until now, despite an effort many would call incredible, the ‘team’ made very little progress. They sometimes found themselves simply staring blankly at their notes, at their watches, watching time drag past, time that ended up wasted. The murders had stopped, and criminals that had felt Odilia’s omniscience protecting them now also disappeared into the shadows and their fake identities. A statement had been released that Odilia was suffering from a difficult disease, to stop gossip from spreading, even though it hadn’t yet. For everyone outside the Anthill, everything was back to normal – most of the population knew nothing about the murders at all. The main problem had been outlined by Renjin back at the Anthill: there was no way to find witnesses or evidence for a case so secretive. Nevertheless, not one of them accepted their helplessness, and found faults in ‘the system’ or others to shield their frustration at themselves. No one had mentioned it, but the idea of them being ‘next’ wasn’t impossible. Surely enough, the technique of witholding anger wasn’t going to work.
As for Renjin, he would wake up screaming in the night on occasion, suffering from nightmarish visions of him being in jail on false accusation, or his lifeless body in a fountain, in his fist clenching a small ruby… He tried as much as possible to resume a life just like he had before, and many that knew him didn’t notice a change in him. Neither did Renjin, at first. He walked the streets to the Old Temple, to calm himself, to feel the cool breeze, taking just one glance at the faces of the bypassers, and somewhere deep inside, it angered him how everyone could be so calm, moreover happy. He would work deep into the night, going over the notes that he made again and again, trying to come up with solutions until each one sounded ridiculous.
”Well, I’ve been really out of touch lately”, Renjin finally spoke.
”That’s an underestimation, I’m guessing.”
The best way to contact her is via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org – she’s a very sweet, pleasant to talk person ^_^