Before we begin, I’m going to take a moment to shill out my most recent release, The Watcher is now available at this page right here, in a multitude of formats including Kobo, Kindle and Sony. You can check it out now at this link and download a sample. If you like it, please spread the word.
Okay, enough shilling like a villain, time to get to the meat of the article.
During my interview with Saima K. Sophia, which you can read about right here, I happened to come across some of Saima’s past interviews. One of them entertained the heck out of me. Ksenia Anske is funny. Hilariously funny. I laugh reading her tweets and cannot wait to read her novels which I bought at her website at http://www.kseniaanske.com.
Beyond her wit though I read some of the most thoughtful, engaging, helpful and joyful blog posts I’ve ever read. Ksenia is talented and deserves more attention. Here’s my meager attempt to talk and meet her.
Joshua Pantalleresco: Okay, first off, is the k silent in Ksenia? I feel really ignorant asking this but this has been on my mind for the last couple of days. So if we were to meet, how do I say your name so I don’t feel like a goof?
JP: Awesome! I’m really fascinated by the fact that you entered the US without a word of english. What was the first impression of The US for you when you got here?
KA: It will be very embarrassing to admit, but when we landed in NY, my then four year old daughter tugged me on the sleeve, pointing at one of the security people, and I gaped like an idiot, because I have never seen a woman with such dark skin. She was like coal, and when she smiled, she had brilliantly white teeth. I had to restrain myself from staring. And then another thing. We walked out on the street, and I saw this lady who literally floated off the bench, she was that large. I’ve never seen people this size in my life before. I mean, I’ve seen overweight people, but never that bad. And third thing, when we stepped into a grocery store, I was astounded to see a watermelon for sale. It was November. Back in Russia produce was still mainly seasonal. The amount of food and the variety shocked me.
JP: Do you still think and dream in russian? Or does english creep in now and again?
KA: I no longer think or dream in Russian. I’ve been living in US for over 15 years now, and since I have divorced (my ex-husband was Russian as well), for the last 3 years I barely spoke any Russian. My boyfriend is American. I guess I’m assimilating completely? I’ve recently read, well, reread Lolita in both English and Russian and was embarrassed to admit that it was easier for me to read it in English.
JP: I’ve read a few of your blogs. I find them quite inspiration and informative. When did you discover writing?
KA: When did I discover writing. I guess I’ve always been writing stories in my head, but didn’t actually put them on paper until I turned 15. I started writing a diary, still have it. There were mostly things that happened to me and some ruminations on life, but here and there poems started creeping in. Poems were my first short stories, in a way. Later on I wrote short fantasy blurbs, still have some of them, no longer than maybe 2-3K words. It wasn’t until my son was born, ten years ago, that I seriously started thinking about writing as in, WRITING. I wrote a few scripts, but quickly discovered that they were not my medium. It took a while for me to find it, and the way to writing novels looked kind of like a messy zigzag, but finally I think I found my niche. Whatever story I tell, always seems to be so big, that it doesn’t fit into any other form. I love it.
JP: So in writing, do you have any influences?
KA: Yes. Big time. I grew up reading Chekhov, Daniil Harms, Nabokov and Pushkin. I also loved Alice in Wonderland inside and out, as well as Tales from a 1000 and 1 Nights. In my teens I discovered Stephen King and read everything I could find by him, translated into Russian. Then, of course, LOTR, and Narnia, and later on, when I moved to US and learned English, it was Harry Potter, and everything by Chuck Palahniuk and Neil Gaiman, and, most recently, Discworld.
JP: We’re in an elevator. Pitch me why I should be excited for Rosehead and why I should get the movie rights right now?
KA: ROSEHEAD is a story about a rose garden that eats people, with a twist on the classic Sherlock Holmes tale, except here two main characters are a twelve year old perfectionist girl, Lilith Bloom, and a talking whippet, her pet, Panther. I would say they have a hysterical dynamic between them, perhaps like Alice and Cheshire cat gone bonkers, if that was even possible. Add here moving mansions, flowers turning into people’s heads, the classically creepy butler and house keeper, even a dash of first love, and I think it would make a pretty nice little movie. Considering the fact that most of the action happens in a labyrinth of a garden. Just remember THE SHINING, only think, summer. A sure winner, wouldn’t you say?
JP: I’m hooked already. So explain to me the idea of the twitter t-shirt. Where’d it come from? I think it’s neat.
KA: My followers on Twitter asked me to make a t-shirt with my tweet. So I did. As simple as that. Some people bought it. Since then hardly anyone buys them as the price is high, because I order each one separately, but some people occasionally do. It’s the customization that probably turns people off. I gotta go and fix it and make it one t-shirt with one slogan without any customization.
JP: The other thing I really dig about you is your publishing philosophy. Where did that come from?
KA: My publishing philosophy came from my belief that art needs to be shared. Art makes us happy, making art makes us happy, experiencing art makes us happy. With the advent of the digital revolution we’re in, the cost of the ebook is miniscule. The ability of people to find it and download it for free is reminding me about the music industry and what happened to CD’s. They used to sell, then they became promotional material. Musicians started to make money from concerts, giving CD’s away. So I thought, why restrict people from downloading your art for free? Why not make it easy for them to do it and ask them to support you as an artist directly? They will do it anyway, why not help them?
That’s my philosophy. I’ve been going about it for a while, scared out of my mind that I’m doing something crazy, and then somebody pointed me to Amanda Palmer’s TED talk. That gave me courage. I realized I’m not alone in my thinking. As of today, I’m not making much money yet, but the money that I did make, splits 50% down the middle – half I made with book sales, and half with donations. Yes, despite the fact that all of my books are downloadable for free on my site, people buy signed paperbacks. They are souvenirs of sorts, you know? People are supporting me as an artist directly.
There are people who want me to write. My job is to take them away from the mundane and dip them into a world that will make them forget their troubles. As long as I do my job, they will support me. Fundamentally, underneath this all, lies my belief in giving love. We only live for a short period of time on this planet. Giving love is what makes us happy. My way of giving love to people is giving away my books. Their way of giving love to me is donating to me for my books. We’re both happy. The more we do it, the more happy people there will be around us, hopefully. That is my belief.