Thursday, August 1, 2013

Aspiring Writers Series Interview #1: Ksenia Anske

Happy August everybody!  If you weren't already aware, I want to turn this month into the month of Aspiring Writers.  Basically, I want to interview a whole group of people who are still writing, have stuff on Fictionpress/, who have self-published, or have published something.  If you're a writer, I want to email you.  Please email me at with the subject line Interview, and I'd be happy to conduct one with you.

Today, our first interviewee is Ksenia Anske.  You'll find out all about her, her writing style, how she accumulated over 63,000 followers on twitter, and advice she has about the self-publishing industry.  Interested?  I thought so!  Let's jump right in!

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I'm both, I think, though leaning towards pantser now. I have plotted SIREN SUICIDES, my first novel, extensively, but then had to abandon most of the structure while writing it, because the story changed. With ROSEHEAD, my second novel, I didn't plan anything at all, having only one clear image in my head and writing on the whim. I think I will do this style of writing from now on, it gives me more creative freedom.

What inspires you to write?
I have lived through so many both horrible and amazing things in my life, that I can spend the rest of my life in my room, writing. I've had a turbulent and often violent childhood in Soviet Union. My father physically and sexually abused me, so I ran away from home at sixteen, got pregnant at seventeen, became a mother at eighteen, married, divorced, married again, divorced again. I witnessed a murder, had lost a family member to brutal murder, have been chased, escaped, and ultimately left country to come to US fifteen years ago, and learned English here. My first attempt to write down my stories manifested itself in the form of a diary, I was fifteen years old. Since then, I've been trying to find a medium that felt like it fit me like an old worn leather glove. I did poems, short stories, screenplays, flash fiction, even tried a memoir, and finally ended up loving the novel format. It just felt like home. My novels are based on my life experiences, they inspire me to write.

How do you get in the mindset to write?
I adhere to a very rigid schedule, you can read more about it here: Basically, I have a routine that I follow, and as long as I follow it, I'm in the mood for writing when I sit down in my room, close the door, shut down all browser windows except my Pandora radio, turn off my phone, and start writing. I don't let myself out until I have either written for four hours, or have written at least 2,000 words. This way, it takes me about six to eight weeks to complete a novel draft.

What do you like to write?
Fantasy. I loved fantasy every since I learned how to read. Fantasy was in such short supply in my childhood, that I escaped into my head, creating fantastical worlds, and fed them by reading books that mad magical elements, like fairy tales, for example. Fantasy is an amazing genre, you can write about any truth, but you shroud it in fiction and in made-up bizarre plots that let you get away with things that normally would be too hard for people to read.

What made you choose the self-publishing route? 
I have had several agents approach me, and has two small publishers interested in my first novel, after I contacted them, but it took the agents to get back to me several months, and I have learned that the publishing process will take up to two years. I have already about 300 beta readers, and many of them are eager to get their hands on the finished published paper copy, so I have decided to bypass traditional route and publish myself. It's faster, I have complete control over the book cover, interior design, formatting, and other little things that make a book beautiful. Plus, I decided to spend my time writing more books instead of spending it on writing query letters and researching agents, publishing houses and the like.

What advice do you have for readers who want to take that route? Any do's and don'ts?
Do's - do it, do it all yourself, every step of the way. In today's market even if you are traditionally published, you still have to do a lot of heavy lifting yourself, marketing in particular. Because you will be doing it yourself, take your time how to learn it properly, from editing to formatting to picking the right font to designing covers to... you get the idea. Seek professional help, if you can afford it, if not, take your time to learn it. Don'ts - don't assume that once you've written a couple drafts, they are ready to be published. It takes a lot of time and effort to produce a book that is readable. Don't publish your book until it's ready. Especially take great care with your first book. People will be judging you by it, and if you burn a reader once, a reader will hardly ever pick up another book written by you.

You've sold an amazing amount of books for being self-published. When you first started off, how did you advertise your work? Any tips on advertising/promoting your book?
I haven't sold much yet, actually, only my little book of tweets, BLUE SPARROW, as SIREN SUICIDES, my first novel, will be published in the next couple of weeks. I have started building a community or writers and readers mostly on Twitter, tweeting about my writing process, my successes, and my failures as a first time novelist. I have now a little over 63,000 followers, and it's a result of daily work for a year. Tips? Be yourself. Don't shove your book under people's noses, rather, share what is happening in your writerly life, it will get other people to relate and want to find out more.

Was success overnight or did it come gradually?
There is no such thing as an overnight success. It might seem so to the public, but usually there are years and years of hard work behind that hardly anyone saw, except family and friends of the writer. I have been carrying my first novel story idea for five years in my head, starting on it, abandoning it, starting again, until on third try I wrote it all the way. Without these years it wouldn't have had enough time to gestate and to form, although on the outside I wasn't working on it, it was mostly cooking in the background in my mind. In this way, when it's published, it will be the result of five years of work as opposed to only one year that I have been actually writing it.

Tell us about your latest project and how you came up with the idea for it?
ROSEHEAD is my second novel. I have finished first draft several weeks ago and am starting second draft next week. The story has been inspired by one of my phone calls back to Russia, to talk to my mom. You see, because I came out of the family where horrible violence was an every day occurrence, on the background of poverty and neglect, I tried to shield myself from it my entire life. I only call my mother occasionally, when I know I'm able to digest her stories and still function (usually I break down for a whole day). This time it was a story of her father pouring boiling water on her when she came to visit. He is not right in his head anymore, but still, the story shocked me. I woke up one morning from a dream of a man luring women into his house, scalding them with hot water on purpose, and then killing them and burying them in his garden. ROSEHEAD grew out of this. It's a story about a twelve year old girl, Lilith Bloom, who with the help of her talking pet whippet Panther discovers what exactly her grandfather is feeding to his rose garden.

When will it be available for purchase?
ROSEHEAD? You can pre-order it here now:, but I think I will publish it closer to October of this year.

Where can we find other works of yours available for purchase?
All of my books are available on my website:, but you can also buy them on Amazon as they become available:

BIO: Ksenia was born in Moscow, Russia, and came to US in 1998 not knowing English, having studied architecture and not dreaming that one day she'd be writing. SIREN SUICIDES, an urban fantasy set in Seattle, is her 1st novel. She lives in Seattle with her boyfriend and their combined 3 kids in a house on top of the hill that they like to call The Loony Bin.


  1. I'm so aspiring, I perspire every day! Thanks for having me :)

  2. Great article! Ksenia, I've RT your tweet about this blog article. Congratulations. Following your work with enthusiasm.

    I'm author W. Bryan Miller, author of "Kyrathaba Rising".

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