Prism Book Alliance would like to thank Aleksandr Voinov for taking the time to talk with us today.
Title: A Taste for Poison
Author: Aleksandr Voinov
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Genre/Sub-Genre: Fantasy, Historical
Prism recently reviewed A Taste for Poison. You can find the review here.
Even a king gets stung when he reaches for a scorpion.
After barely surviving an assassination attempt, King Adrastes is a changed man—one who mistrusts even his allies and friends. He readies his empire for war against an enigmatic enemy, the Elder of Vededrin, but not everyone approves. While courtiers dare only to whisper dissent, an outrider called Death foments rebellion in the mountains, aided by a prophecy that promises he’ll stop the Black King.
Kendras—former lover to Adrastes and leader of the Scorpions—is sent with his elite mercenary force to bring Death to justice. But when Kendras learns who’s hiding behind the mask, he must choose between his lover Graukar, newly-appointed general to the king—and King Adrastes himself.
With no man to call master, the Scorpions could flee the danger and intrigue. But Kendras cannot abandon the man he once loved—or the man he’s growing to love—without first uncovering the real threat to the Empire.
Hi, thank you for hosting me here today. I’m Aleksandr Voinov, and I’ll talk a bit about my newest release, A Taste for Poison.
No book or writer truly exists in a vacuum. I do believe that what we read – authors, genres, amount – shapes us as readers and writers, too. A strong motivation for writers is reading something and suddenly realising, “I’d love to write something like this” if the book is good, or “Geez, I could write that”, if it’s … less good.
Some of my favourite fantasy novels were a huge motivation. I rarely get the “Damn, why do I even bother” response to great books that many writers seem to get. Invariably, those books are so deeply personal, they are very much not the kind of thing I would want to write or could write, but enjoy a great deal to read. Instead, I read something and it blows my mind. I suddenly see the possibilities – I might even re-evaluate an idea I’ve been carrying around. A book like that tears the blinkers off my eyes and I can see things in a much broader perspective.
Sometimes, I learn from books I enjoyed at first but didn’t finish. I still haven’t read The Wheel of Time, or another very popular mammoth-sized fantasy series – mostly because massive 1,000-pagers make me tired just looking at them. Failing to finish some doorstoppers in fantasy really drove home that I prefer shorter, tighter books. Which, incidentally, is why all the Scorpion books are under 300 pages. I believe you can tell a fantasy story easily within that wordcount. Many of my heroes did.
If I were structured differently as a writer, I could have told the story from the points-of-view of five to twenty minor and major characters, and pumped up each of those books to three times their size.
But the writers I admire in fantasy tend to tell tight, fairly plotty stories. Tanith Lee’s Flat Earth series varies in length, but the books are short by current standards. Same with Glen Cook’s Black Company – they are smallish paperbacks.
And let’s focus on those two. Somewhere during my late teens, I turned into a massive Tanith Lee fan, and the Flat Earth series is extremely diverse in terms of sexualities. Characters (often demons) shape-change. The prose is luscious, at times baroque, and some of the love stories are heart-breaking and wonderful. It was one of those mind-openers for me. I wish I could tell her how much those books meant for this budding writer; I’m filtering the whole genre through what she’s given me.
Glen Cook, finally, had probably the most direct influence on the Memory of Scorpions series, and I’m happy to acknowledge that. (I’m even calling Amrash’s legion the “Black Legion”, which is a nod towards Cook on so many levels.) His was the first military fantasy series I’ve ever read, and the way he chronicles a unit rather than a “ragtag band of mismatched heroes” really opened my eyes. I wanted to do one of those. The Scorpions as a unit are all important – Kendras’s whole focus is his men, and that does create a conflict. There’s a great word for it in German, namely “Schicksalsgemeinschaft” (destiny + group = a group assembled by destiny, having and moving towards the same destiny – what happens to one of them will happen to all.)
Glen Cook’s world is multi-racial – in the later books, the so-called Black Company essentially wanders off to a country inhabited by black peoples, and if you read the Memory of Scorpions series, there’s a big nod to Cook in there as well. Cook kept his world wide open, with different ethnicities, and that intrigued me when I read him back in the days.
I’d have wished for some more sexual/gender diversity, but overall, I really liked how he did it. He was a huge inspiration, and I hope my nod to his work is respectful. Without him or Tanith Lee, I’d have written a very different series.
About the Author:
Aleksandr has been published for twenty years, both in print and ebook. He has ten years’ experience as a writing coach, book doctor, and writing teacher, and until recently worked as an editor in financial services.
After co-authoring the M/M military cult classic Special Forces, Aleksandr embarked on a quest to write gritty, edgy, sometimes literary M/M and gay fiction (much of which is romance/erotica)—the only way he can use his American Literature degree these days.
He’s been published with Heyne/Random House, Carina Press, Samhain Publishing, and others, and is an EPIC Awards winner and a Lambda Awards finalist.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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