Irina Lopatina is the author of the forthcoming book, White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors, set for release July 2012 by Light Messages Publishing. She also recently published Tales From The Frog Forest, a collection of children's stories about three unlikely playmates who learn to get along through hopping, flying, and running.
Irina lives in Siberia, Russia, near the ancient Altai mountains, a setting she says provides perfect inspiration for fantasy stories. We recently interviewed her about her writing and the source of her deeply creative stories. Join us as she discusses why she writes, how she finds her characters, and offers some advice for young authors.
Please note: Irina speaks and writes only in Russian. Her answers here were translated by Dmitry Lopatin, the translator of White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors and Tales From The Frog Forest.
Irina, tell us a little about what prompted you to become a writer?
Actually, it is a long story. As far as I can remember, I always wanted to write a book, and I even made attempts to do this - when I was seven years old, I filled my notebooks with stories and gave those to my mother as gifts. But then I suddenly realized that grown-up writers composed their stories far better than I did, and I definitely did not want to be uninteresting. Therefore, I postponed the idea about a book until better times and focused on studying. And, in my opinion, I was studying the most fascinating thing--the history of mankind--which for some time fully engrossed my attention. But after the lapse of years, the ideas and images, which were gradually ripening in my head, began to form their own story, so I realized that I would write my own book at last. And it won't be only one book.
Have you always been drawn to fantasy?
I cannot stop letting my imagination run away with me. Even when talking to someone about an ordinary event of my life, I manage to do this as if I describe a real adventure. All my family and friends have long become accustomed to that, and even sometimes joke: "Irina, tell us about your journey out of town last weekend."
How was the idea for the White Raven series born?
As for "White Raven," as I said, one fine day I found some people sitting in my mind. Whenever I thought about them, they began walking, doing something, going to a long journey, which always thrilled me because I love traveling. So, I just had to follow closely the future characters and invent the world where they could live.
The heroes of White Raven, as I see them, are a complex fusion of characters of the people who once lived on the earth somewhere and the creative potential for the genre of fantasy.
Are the characters from White Raven normal characters for fantasy? Or did you create some of them yourself?
From the beginning, I did not intend to create a typical classic fantasy. I wanted an organic, harmonious world where my story could evolve. If this world needed gnomes, I put them in there. As for drevalyankas, pikshas, bolugs and other totally original creatures, they appeared there somehow by themselves in the course of events, and then just began "to get under the feet of the main heroes" (joking).
What was your favorite part of the process in writing White Raven: The Sword of Northern Ancestors?
My favorite part of working on any of my books is always the same--creation of a story. The story ripens and accumulates details, becoming saturated with colors, until I find the time to write it down on paper. It may seem surprising, but it usually takes only a couple of days to write a short plot of a novel on paper. The moment I did this for White Raven, I was already familiar with Vraigo, Kenush, druids and my other favorite characters. Unfortunately, no one, except for me, could see all of them among the compact lines of the draft.
What was the most challenging part of the process?
So that the reader would be able to feel the living and vibrant story of their adventures, I have to go to the second, protracted and complex stage of the process. I sit at my computer, and write a novel word by word. And each time it seems to me that I won't be able to reach the end of the story, and will get stuck into some trap in the middle of the dense forest along with my heroes.
What authors have influence you in your writing?
I did not try to follow the style of other authors. I write as I think, so the readers can learn much more about me from my books, than from an interview (joking).
What advice can you offer to new authors who are hoping to publish?
Writing a book is a serious work. So, before you decide to go this way and spend your time on writing, you should make sure that you have something to say, and that you just can't help saying it!
When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I love traveling. Russia is a vast country and it has unlimited opportunities for personal journeys. Even ordinary trips to woods or mountains saturate me with a mass of new information which then melts into the works. I also like swimming in a forest lake, feeling like mermaid. I like to meet with my friends and go shopping. In general, I love a lot of things, as long as those give me fresh impressions, without which life sometimes seems boring.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family. What is life like in Siberia?
Life in Siberia... First of all, season are extremely different from each other here, and the way of life is highly dependent on the alternation of the seasons.
We are currently in spring. Snow is melting rapidly, so the entire streets happen to be flooded with streams of melt water. The rivers are "waking up" as well, and soon the ice will be broken up on them, and a real flood will inundate the villages located along their banks. That happens every year, though. When the ground dries out a bit, we, city dwellers, will irrepressibly want to be out of the cities. Tourists' tents will be put up in the woods, and small summer houses will be habitable again.
Summer here is always hot, green, with lots of berries, mushrooms and flowers. In general, sheer beauty and splendor that we cannot allow ourselves to miss. In autumn all forests, gardens and parks will flare with crimson, orange and red colors. So, autumn is wonderful, too, with its picturesqueness and a slight smell of smoke from fires... but only until October rains. And then winter comes.
You have probably heard that it is possible to be stuck and sink into the deep snow in Siberia? It is true. Snow-removal machines barely manage to clear streets and highways between towns. But winter also implies skis, sleighs, and ice skates. Everyone can go to a camping site, taking a mountain sleigh and toboggan for complete delight. Then you can light a small campfire and roast sausages with bread right on the wooden twigs. Have you ever seen a fire in the winter woods between the giant fir trees with coats of snow?
There are a lot of these amazing "secret" things hidden in Siberia!
You can learn more about Irina's White Raven project and sign up for the chance to win a free copy at whiteraven.lightmessages.com. Irina and White Raven are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/whiteravenbook.
Tell us, how do you find your characters and stories? Do you seek them out, or do they come to you?