“Catherine burned. She burned all over and she burned inside. She was amazed there were no visible flames but she felt them, licking at her, bearing into her, pouring fire into her veins. She felt alive. Life was pain, she remembered now, and there was pleasure in that pain. Why else would anyone live?”
Irina Slav has a BA in English and American literature. She is an energy journalist by trade, and a writer of everything from horror to romance.
I recently cleared out a drawer full of lecture notes, old essays, and other stuff like that. I found my first attempt at fiction, a story about gods, inspired (and imitating) Terry Pratchett’s Discworld stories, which I wrote in college, so I must have been 17 or 18. That was in the late 90s, so that makes more than two decades of writing. But I only started taking my writing seriously about five years ago.
Irina has published several short stories in different anthologies. But, her first novel is due out by 2020. “The Lamiastriga” will publish with Pegasus Publishing.
Golems are supposed to be extinct. Lamiastriga, Catherine Urs, immortal witch and vampire caterer, is certain they are until a golem gang crashes a party she is attending. She is one of two survivors of the massacre. The other is the only creature that can kill her: a dragon.
Dragons and Lamiastrigas get along like fire and ice but now that Catherine and Simon are faced with a plot whose goal is to end all supernatural life on earth, they can only count on each other to survive. Maybe, with some luck, they can find out who’s behind the Golem offensive.
For more works from Irina Slav:
The Transcendent anthology released a couple of weeks ago with one of her stories.
It was the story that got me going because a close friend of mine read it and said “Hey, this is actually interesting!
Also, The Hamthology anthology will release soon. This is a ham-filled collection, including one of Irina’s ham-based stories about perfectionism.
What Inspired You to Start Writing?
Irina started writing to relieve the pressure of teenage angst.
I think it began as an attempt to put my thoughts in some semblance of an order in my teens. You know how many thoughts you suddenly start having when all those glands kick into action? They usually have to do with the meaning of life and if there’s any, why are we born if we didn’t ask for it and what do we do now, this sort of thing. I had to write some of these thoughts down to relieve the pressure.
Reading also played a part in her writing aspirations.
I’ve also always been an avid reader, so over time this urge to put things down on paper and my love for supernatural stories came together and I made the next step of writing a fiction story instead of my musings on the meaning of life.
What is Your Goal as An Author?
Irina has the same dream as most authors out there. She wants to get to the point where she’s earning her living from writing the stories that build up inside her.
The dream for me is quite unoriginal. I want to be able to afford to write fiction full-time, every day, which would mean there are a lot of people who like what I write. The dream is pretty selfish, in other words, even the part of it that goes “But if people like your books that’s good for them, too, not just for you.”
This dream doesn’t come without some serious doubts though.
I have some misgivings about this dream, though, such as the fear I won’t have any good ideas to write about if it ever happens and that I’ll miss the news writing work but since the chances of the dream coming true are pretty slim, that’s okay.
What Genre Do You Write?
While her speculative fiction goals include any genre that tickles her fancy, her main genres are urban fantasy and horror. These are the genres she enjoys to read, so it makes sense to write the stories she loves.
These are the genres I like to read the most. I enjoy crime stories and thrillers, and a select few authors of literary fiction, too, but fantasy of the urban variety and horror are the closest to my heart. I love the idea of a world almost exactly like ours but with supernatural creatures and magic in it and creating such worlds, I strongly suspect, helps me keep my sanity in the real world as it is.
I read and write horror for the same reason, to cope with the horrors of reality by inventing fictional, impossible but scarier horrors. Also, I subscribe to Stephen King’s theory that we enjoy horror stories because they prepare us for our own death. It always pays to be prepared for something this major.
This doesn’t mean she won’t write other types of stories though. In fact, Irina doesn’t really believe in genre boundaries.
The Lamiastriga for example is, for me, primarily a love story that just happens to take place in an urban fantasy setting. For a beta reader of mine, however, it turned out the novel was a sort of a quest with the romantic plot taking secondary place. It was amazing how differently we read the same book.
A few years ago I wrote an erotic novel because I made a bet with myself to see if I could pull it off. I did and was very proud of it. I’ve also played around with an idea for a crime story and maybe some day I’ll write it. Again, I like to write what I like to read.
Traditional vs Self-Publishing
Irina has dabbled with both self and traditional publishing. She’s landed on traditional as her best bet though.
I tried the self-publishing path a few years ago but I went about it in a completely wrong way, with a very short collection of short stories and no idea about marketing. The Lamiastriga is being traditionally published.
She understands that each author needs to do what works best for them though.
I don’t feel I’m in a position to recommend either. I think it depends on the author. For those who want to retain full control over their work, I guess self-publishing is better. I’m fine with not having complete control over the editing process and all the rest of it, and I’m completely clueless about book marketing, so it’s traditional publishing for me though I do plan to self-publish a second short story collection. I don’t think short story collections are very popular with publishers and I don’t want to spend too much time querying for it, so it’s self-publishing, marketing cluelessness and all.
What Advice Would You Give When it Comes to Publishing?
Be patient, don’t rush into anything, and try to have a plan. Also, be ready to put in the hours of writing blogs, connecting on social media and all the rest of what marketers like to call gaining exposure.
What Does it Take to be a Writer?
Irina would tell anyone who wants to write to make sure they have the tenacity to do it.
I don’t think there is a necessary trait but I do think certain traits help, chief among them stubbornness. You have to be stubborn to keep writing even when you don’t really feel like it or you don’t believe you’re any good because keeping ton writing is the only way to get better and better at it. A sense of humor and a tendency to not take anything too serious has helped me, too, particularly in dealing with the unavoidable mass of rejections.
What is the Most Rewarding Aspect of Writing for You?
Irina loves writing so much, she can’t choose just one aspect that makes her happier than others.
I find almost every aspect of writing rewarding, from the conception of a story idea and the exhilaration it causes (Wow, my brain produced a BRILLIANT idea!) through the planning stage (So, character X will do this and maybe that and then Y will intervene, tough luck, X, etc.) when you begin bonding with your characters, through the actual writing when you discover so much about them and their world, and finally to that deeply satisfying moment when you write THE END.
What’s the Most Challenging Aspect of Writing?
The most challenging aspect is a simple answer for most writers. Editing.
The only aspect of writing I don’t like at all is editing. Editing is a form of self-torture but a necessary one. I wish we could all be so brilliant everything worked out perfectly in the first draft. There are people that are this brilliant but I suspect they are this good because they take no fewer pains than the rest of us to make this first draft perfect. They just do it all in one go. I’m quite disorganized and I need several drafts to grasp my own ideas clearly enough and lay them out well enough. I think it’s for the same reason that, with books I like, I never stop at one reading.
What Advice Would You Give to an Aspiring Writer?
This answer is simple too. Just do the work if you want to get your work out there.
I’d tell them to stop talking/thinking about it and start doing it. It’s as simple as that.
Reading helps your writing too.
Also, please read a lot. I know there are writers out there who don’t bother with the reading part and then they complain publishers don’t want their stories. However free you want to be, however proud you are of your originality, please, please, read other people’s books, good and bad. That’s the only way to learn what’s good and what’s bad, and make sure your work falls in the former category.
Who’s Your Favorite Author?
Terry Pratchett is more than one of my favourite authors. He’s been an unwitting mentor, a formative influence and one of the few famous people keeping alive my hope that we’re not completely hopeless as a species.
Pratchett was one of the best storytellers who ever lived, he was one of the brightest minds I’ve had to pleasure of encountering as a reader, and a virtuoso in humour. Most of the Discworld stories are such a perfect satirical reflection of our own world it’s scary at times.
As for Pratchett’s use of the English language I could probably talk for hours with a lot of quotes and references to the Annotated Pratchett. Suffice to say every Discworld novel is an iceberg of meanings and cultural references. Very few writers can pull this off while making it both touching and funny. In fact, I can’t think of anyone else.
Do You Have Any Last Words You’d Like to Share?
I’ll just quote Pratchett, shall I?
“Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.”
He was, as always, right.
If you’d like to keep up with Irina’s journey, you can check out her blog.
If you’d like more interviews with authors or freelancers, you can find them on the writing page.