Indie Minded Interview: Ksenia Anske
Ksenia Anske is an indie author who, to date, has published five books (over the last year). She’s about to put pen to paper again to create her latest book, CORNERS, and has just been selected by Amtrak for a residency on one of their long-distance routes. Wait, what? That’s right… Ksenia will be on an Amtrak train… at some point…. going from one city to another…. and she will be writing the whole time. She’s got something up her sleeve already, but we’ll have to wait for the final draft after her residency ends.
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 first novel. She lives in Seattle with her boyfriend and their combined three kids in a house that they like to call The Loony Bin.
Indie Minded: First of all, thanks for taking time out of your schedule to answer a few questions for Indie Minded, we do appreciate it!
Ksenia Anske: It was very difficult to disengage from staring at the clouds, but I have managed. And thank you for inviting me.
IM: I’m a relatively new fan of yours, I’ve been following you now for a while (prior to the big “Twitter Purge of 2014,” which we’ll talk about later), I’ve not YET read your books, but they are all purchased and ready to go in my Kindle. This means I can learn all about you and your books at the same time the readers of Indie Minded can.
KA: I’m scared now. I’ll go hide in the closet.
IM: You published your first book just last year, when you were 37 years old. What made you decide to quit your job, your own company (Lilipip), to “become” a writer?
KA: Many things. It would take me a loooong time to list them all here. So I’ll tell you about the last one. On a chilly December night about 3 years ago I was pedaling along the dark dark street with boarish optimism, looking forward to getting home. Then, BAM! Something hit me. The next thing I know, I wake up in the hospital, all bloody but in one piece. Turns out, a truck hit me. Turns out, I broke only my pinky and was saved by my helmet. Turns out, it was a great thing that it happened because it has finally nudged me to quit my career and start writing full time. Which I did. Although it took me another half a year or so to really do it.
IM: Writing seems to have saved you, do you want to talk about that?
KA: Ah, here we go. The long story. Well, yes, it did. I was suicidal and didn’t want to live and thought that it would be great to just quit life altogether. I was going to therapy, and my lovely therapist suggested I start a journal. In fact, I had panic attacks, and the only way I could get myself out of them was to write through them. I still have the journal. The chicken scratches in there dancing across the pages…brrrr. Reminds me of dark times. Then slowly, little by little, my pain has spilled on paper, and, voila! I started writing novels.
IM: Five books in one year, did you ever think you’d be hearing that this early on in your writing career?
KA: I didn’t think about numbers. I didn’t think about anything at all. I wanted to get the stories out of my system. They threatened to tear me apart.
IM: What are you working on right now?
KA: I’m wrapping up a ghostwriting project and will be starting on my next novel, CORNERS, about 4 kids skipping school and discovering that the corners of the world could be turned like corners of book pages. And then, of course, they fall into a book and have to figure out how to make it back.
IM: Not only are you a published author, but you are a SELF-published author. How was that experience, and if you had to start this journey over again, would you take the same path?
KA: Yes, I would. It’s hard work and hardly any sleep, but at the same time it gives me complete freedom to do anything I want. Write anything I want. Make any book cover I want. Publish it immediately after it’s been edited. Tweak and re-publish if needed. Connect with my readers directly. Give my ebooks away for free. All these things.
IM: Do you have any advice for other writers thinking about self-publishing versus going the more traditional route of going with a publisher?
KA: Self-publishing is a business. If you’re looking for someone to do the business side of publishing for you, then perhaps a traditional publisher would be the right choice for you. However, looking at the changing landscape of publishing, I would suggest to self-publish and not to be afraid of the work involved. The community of self-published authors is very supportive and you can always ask other writers questions about anything you need to get started. You retain the rights to your work. You can publish as soon as your books are done without having to wait for months. You can change your books as many times as you want yourself without jumping through the fire rings of getting in touch with multiple people responsible for it. You control the price, the look, the distribution, the royalty percentage. You have options, in other words. You don’t need the middle man anymore.
IM: You GIVE your books away, yet…. You’re still able to make money as an indie author. Do you think that offering your work for free is actually a form of reverse psychology, where it makes the reader decide to PURCHASE your books instead? How do you work this balance successfully? It worked on me; I purchased all of your books instead of reading them for free.
KA: Thank you! I hope my books will prove to be worth your money. I didn’t think about reverse psychology or anything like that when I decided to offer my books for free. Writing pulled me out of depression. Writing stopped my suicidal thoughts. For that I have vowed to give my books for free forever. If not for writing, I wouldn’t have been alive. That was my motivation. I wish I could give away print books too, but unfortunately paper costs money, and I can’t list my ebook for free on sites like Amazon (although I managed to sneak into some kind of a promotional deal for my first trilogy, so they are free on Amazon). All my ebooks are downloadable for free on my site in most common ereader file formats. People also donate money, and last year I made more in donations than in sales.
IM: How do you define success?
KA: When a reader sends me a letter, saying that my book stopped her from wanting to quit life, that is success to me. That means, I did my job. I made someone happy.
IM: Who are some of YOUR favorite authors (and/or books)?
KA: Oy. There are so many. This is a really mean question! I will try. The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, of course. Lewis Carroll has forever stolen my heart with this one. Russian authors whom I was reading growing up. Dannil Kharms. Chekhov. Nabokov. Dostoyevsky. Poets Akhmatova and Tsvetaeva. Stephen King, whom I have discovered in my teens. J.K. Rowling and all of Harry Potter books! The Road. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Discworld series. Neil Gaiman. Irvine Welsh. The Book Thief. Fight Club. The Color Purple. So many!!!
IM: Let’s talk about Twitter, you’ve decided to change your strategy lately, and you’re receiving some backlash because of it. What’s this all about?
KA: Like many writers in the beginning, when I got on Twitter about 4 years ago, I have been seeking out other people to follow, and I followed everyone back. That seemed like the thing to do. But soon the number of my followers ballooned and it became impossible to read everyone tweets, so I have started creating lists. I kept trying to follow people back as a courtesy until I got to following 55K accounts, and my evenings were being eaten by this instead of writing, so one night my boyfriend was very happy because I told him I will stop doing it. I did. I stopped. Then I have noticed that to interact with people who are truly talking to me, I have to either put them on more lists, or simply start a big cleanup and drop those accounts whose tweets I don’t read, basically accounts where we both mutually followed each other for a follow back. There is no value in it for either of us, because we really didn’t read each other’s tweets, so I have started a huge cleanup, urging people to do the same. Telling them, hey, if you follow me simply for a follow back, let’s drop each other. Yes, some people reacted negatively to it, but that’s expected. I should’ve known better in the first place, but I was learning like many other writers. I was open about it, which gave the ground to people to shame me. Now that it’s over, I’m surprised so many people have stayed with me. I expect more accounts will drop overtime as people discover that I’m gone. Some of them don’t even check their accounts. They tweet automatically through a variety of tools.
IM: Do you think that social media is an important part of what you do as a writer and someone in the public eye?
KA: Of course. It’s the best online marketing tool available to indie published writers. Blogging, tweeting, all that jazz. How else would they let people know about their books? You can’t get the same exposure by doing book readings at book stores. Some, but not the extent you can do online.
IM: Who are some of your favorite people to follow on Twitter?
KA: Ohh, many. Let’s see here. Amanda Palmer. Love her. Chuck Wendig. Love him. Stephen King, of course. Joss Whedon. Joyce Carol Oates. Hugh Howey. Irvine Welsh. Anne Lamott. Sherman Alexie. @TheTweetofGod, the hysterical parody account. Matt Haig. Isaac Marion. And I love @A_single_bear. Elan Gale. Alain de Botton. Laurie Penny. Simon Pegg. Rick Riordan. Caitlin Moran. Gail Simone. Victoria Schwab. Alexander Chee. There are so many!
IM: When will you take a much needed rest? Are you plugging away into 2015 with a 7th book?
KA: I don’t have the luxury to take a rest. At this point I’m still scrambling financially, making just enough month to month. Plus, I need to write more to write better. English is not my first language and I still have trouble with certain things. My vocabulary is still growing. My understanding of grammar is slowly developing. The more books I produce, the better I will get.
IM: What do you want your legacy to be?
KA: Silly. I want people to laugh remembering me 🙂
Big thanks to Ksenia for taking time out of her VERY busy schedule to answer a few questions for us here at Indie Minded.