Interview – Alexandra Amalova, author of A Lifetime in Thirty Minutes
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Alexandra Amalova, author of amongst other things, A Lifetime In Thirty Minutes. Welcome to The Showcase lounge, Alexandra.
Alexandra Amalova: Thanks for inviting me. It is certainly my pleasure.
SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t come across your work previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
AA: I’m of Russian heritage, though – rather shamefully – speak barely a word, having lived in the UK almost all my life. I like gardening, classical music, cookery, Earl Grey, cheese, all the usual stuff that attracts a suitable mate. As for writing, I’ve kept a diary since I was eight years old, simply recording my comings and goings with few emotional insights; however, about seven years ago, I suffered a rather traumatic relationship and my nightly scribblings became much more personal and cathartic. Writing down everything, emptying my head of the clutter and turmoil, actually helped me sleep and eventually helped me heal. It was at that point, with all the reality straightened out, that I began to write erotic fiction, weaving much of what I had gone through into the resulting tales. Many of those early stories are still painful for me to read, yet I can still sense the relief their writing afforded me, and now truly appreciate their indispensable therapeutic nature. Now I write because I simply love to, though as a result, my poor diary has fallen into total disuse.
SPS: Can you put your finger on the moment where you decided that you wanted to start to publish your writing?
AA: During the traumatic period I outlined above, I discovered a website that allowed one to post stories for free. I couldn’t believe such a place existed! Rather than hiding them away on my hard-drive, I could actually show the world and receive its (usually complimentary) critiques for what I had written. That really inspired me. It took me almost another five years of frenzied writing and posting, both on that original site and on several others, before I actually considered compiling a collection of my stories for publication, but once I started, I simply couldn’t stop!
SPS: Why do you think that you write in the genre that you do, and do you see yourself ever tackling other genres?
AA: That’s a difficult question with a surprisingly easy answer: I write erotica because I enjoy it. I suppose too, as I outlined before, my earliest writings concerned a cheating lover and my own rather powerful resultant urges, and from that experience my writing die was cast. I learned how energised yet vulnerable we are when aroused, how easily we can make rash decisions and errors of judgment whilst in that state, and I found I loved to explore those heated scenarios, relive them, with all the emotional and physical side-effects they engender. People respond to sexual arousal in many ways; at the moment, and perhaps rather prosaically, I am driven to pick up my beloved iPad and tip tap away my frustrations – perhaps I am somewhat afraid that if my love life were more free flowing, my writing would simply dry up, though maybe that’s a place we didn’t ought to visit… And yes, I have written in other genres – paranormal, sci-fi, crime – but I’m keeping those to myself for the moment, till I’ve got this erotic monkey off my back, if that’s not too disturbing a metaphor!
SPS: When we first met you back in August, 2013 you had one self-published work. Now a little under 8 months later it’s 7! Prolific writing, or previously written material?
AA: I have been very productive over the intervening period, but most of the stories I’ve published since last August were written previously. Editing and compiling them has been very hard work, entailing much soul-searching and self-flagellation, but the results are, on the whole, worth every tortured comma.
SPS: If it’s OK we’d like to take a look at your latest release first. Can you tell us a little about Once concealed: Now revealed: A nifty nip of naughty poetry?
AA: I never intended to publish a book of poetry – I never really intended to write poetry at all – but sometimes, between the short stories, I’d strike on an idea, a scenario, a theme, that I had to express quickly and concisely, and poetry seemed the perfect solution – though in reality, some have taken me an inordinate amount of time to complete. One day in January this year, when I was sifting through my files with regard to compiling another short story anthology, I realised there was enough material for a poetry book, and at that moment I knew I had to do it!
SPS: Is there a particular underlying theme to the collection?
AA: Again, without wishing to paint myself as some sad twisted sexual maniac, it’s sex. Several of the poems, much like my stories, have technology at their core, and, more specifically, the shocking ability we slowly-evolving creatures have suddenly received that enables us to communicate with the whole world with a hand-held device while simultaneously retaining anonymity. Social constraints dissolve, personal boundaries are breached, and all kinds of off-limits behaviour is suddenly possible – and probable. If, unlike me, you’ve never been there, you may well still suspect what I mean.
SPS: There were a couple of firsts in this work: Your first poetry collection, and inserting your own illustrations for the first time. Why now?
AA: I perhaps answered the first part of that question earlier, but as for the second part concerning illustrations, it was just a matter of time. I love to draw, have considered adding illustrations to a couple of my stories, though never found the impetus to act. However, all of my books have self-designed covers, something of which I am quite proud, and I suppose the drawings that accompany the poems were simply the next stage on from that. I initially published ‘Once concealed: now revealed’ without the pictures and instantly had the feeling there was something missing. Initially, I thought I’d illustrate three or four of the poems, but once I got the bug, I created an image to accompany each one. It was very labour intensive, gave me many sleepless nights and several meal-less days, but I got there in the end and am very pleased with the results.
SPS: Any particular verse that you love above others that you’d like to share with us?
AA: Unfortunately, many are too graphic to be reproduced here, but let me have a quick delve…
‘Frankenstein’s lover’, I love, and ‘Let’s do it with the lights off’ is rather revealing, but one that was probably the hardest to write and which contains the least obvious sexual imagery is ‘Love’s enigma 1’.
~ < + = 0 = + > ~
I broke my code
My cool enigma
I rode the U boat’s
~ < + = 1 = + > ~
Tied by hands
Exposed and naked
Roped ankles chafing
Tasting blood and
Sweat I’m breaking
~ < + = 1 = + > ~
Beaten stripped by
~ < + = 2 = + > ~
Hot and cold
~ < + = 3 = + > ~
Spill my guts
Gush groan and cry
He cracks and breaks
Believes the lie
I always knew
God I love you
~ < + = 5 = + > ~
SPS: What differences, if any, did you find in putting together a poetry collection over your usual short stories?
AA: Each poem is a story in itself, so the difference was not too great. I had to consider the voice, form and metre of each one, so as to create a contrast between pieces, but again, I consider those factors in a short story compilation to some extent, so there was no huge difference. It didn’t take me as long to finalise, that’s for sure! 5,000 words compared to 40,000 is a much easier edit.
SPS: We’d also like to take a closer look at A lifetime in Thirty Minutes. Can you tell us about the collection and how the title came about?
AA: The titular story was born of a real event. I met someone in a genteel social setting, a man I’d been very attracted to years before. He was by now married, and I too was spoken for, yet he had the startling audacity to chat me up, telling me how much he’d always fancied me and then quietly explaining in rather graphic detail all the things he would like to do to me now. It wasn’t a one-sided conversation by any means and it left us both breathless and not a little pink-cheeked and sweaty. When I got home, I wrote down our exchanges, embellishing them with a stronger back story. After tinkering with the point of view, I decided to write it from his perspective then took the events to their inevitable physical and emotional climax. I do enjoy writing from the male point of view, and generally imbue my men with a strong feminine side which I believe makes them much more three dimensional. As a post script, may I add that I never actually saw that man again, yet the regret I feel at the two missed opportunities regularly haunts me. The other stories in the collection have at their core a similar seminal moment, often impromptu and fleeting, yet nonetheless emotionally charged and life-changing.
SPS: Other than the obvious, any feelings you would like to invoke in the reader?
AA: Yes, certainly; I don’t simply write erotica to arouse. Indeed, if that is all one seeks then there are millions of books out there to slake that particular thirst. For me, without wanting to sound too pretentious, erotica is simply a vehicle in which I can take characters to places they would not otherwise go. As I stated earlier, we are vulnerable when aroused, when normal societal constraints are over-ridden, and I love to test my characters in those extreme situations, to see if they redeem or shame themselves. I want the reader to cringe, to smile, to nod and shake their head, to laugh, to cry… I want them to root for these fragile creatures I’ve created and hopefully see a part of themselves in every one. Each story has an independent theme that carries it beyond the simple sexual nature of much of the erotica I encounter; I try to write strong stories with a sexual element, rather than simply writing about sex, and I want the reader to be haunted by what they have read, to be moved by it.
SPS: Any favourite stories in the collection?
AA: The title story is amongst my favourites, simply because of the memories it evokes. ‘Fire’ is a sensitive story with often difficult themes and one in which I’ve taken the semantic field of the title to its limits! And I’d love to be the girl in ‘Survey’, would love to have her confidence and drive – and her body; unfortunately, writing about such spontaneous sordid scenarios is probably as close as I’ll ever get to them. But you can never know for sure…
SPS: Is the collection purely the product of your imagination, or are your own experiences woven into the tales?
AA: As I’ve said, many of my stories have their basis in reality, though the outcomes are usually far beyond where I would go. I do believe that, given the right stimuli, we are all capable of virtually anything, so perhaps I simply haven’t yet found anyone, anywhere and at anytime to stimulate me in quite the right way.
SPS: Are you a believer in adding twists to your short stories?
AA: Yes. To me, a story without a twist is like a joke without a punchline. Pure description, if it contains enough truth, may constitute a meaningful enough reader experience to warrant the title of story, but it’s rarely enough for me.
SPS: What can we expect next from the pen of Alexandra Amalova?
AA: I thought you’d never ask! I’m writing a sexy sci-fi novel, tentatively entitled ‘Inversion 1’. It’s set in the future on an unimaginably distant planet, where the last surviving humans cling avidly to each other and to their fragile existence. Depending on what else life throws at me, it should be ready for publication early next year. I’m currently adding extracts to my blog to stir up interest before that fateful future day and hope your readers might pop over and take a look. In between times and as the fancy takes me, I’ll keep posting stories and poems on my profile at Lush Stories, my favourite erotic story site. I have several still published there under the name of Alexandra_A, though I have plundered most of them for my anthologies.
SPS: Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always the preferred route for your work?
AA: My first book, ‘Sensual Ghosts’, a collection of paranormal erotica, was published by Keyhole Erotica, but unfortunately, after about a year, they vanished taking my hard-earned royalties with them. That was a painful but valuable lesson! I’d obviously rather have an honest publisher and an experienced editor to help me on my way, but in the meantime I am very happy to be ploughing this lone furrow, knowing the resulting harvest will be mine, all mine!
SPS: Has the experience so far been all that you thought it would be?
AA: Yes. I was quite aware before I started just how difficult it can be to get noticed – there are thousands of authors out there all clamouring for attention. And, to be honest, I did expect some unscrupulous people to be lurking in the shadows. Hopefully, with a little experience and with the help of good people like yourselves, I will continue to attract a wide and appreciative audience.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
AA: Work hard and enjoy yourself and take whatever else comes.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
AA: Not authors, but, if I’m allowed, story site proprietors and their fellow story moderators. They give their time selflessly, supporting whole armies of aspiring writers with their often beautifully constructed sites. I’m especially thinking of the wonderful Krispy over at shortfiction.co.uk, and the amazing Nicola at the aforementioned lushstories.com, who have supported me generously and tirelessly. I would also like to thank your good self and all at selfpublishersshowcase.com for your help and support.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today, Alexandra, and all the best for the future.
AA: Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to talk about my erotic stories, poems and illustrations. It is very much appreciated.
SPS: For more information on Alexandra and her work, please do visit her author page here.