Interview With Author Alina Leonova

# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

Hi! I’m Alina Leonova, a nomad, a book geek, a teacher and a sci-fi author. I write sci-fi because that’s my favorite genre to read. It excites my imagination the most and allows me to explore the subjects that fascinate me. In my writing, I try to take the readers on a thrilling journey with plot twists and hopefully a few bewildering ideas, while staying focused on the personal struggles of the characters. I’ve got a dystopian sci-fi thriller Entanglement out, and I’m working on my next book right now.

# What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I think everything does. All the experiences and conversations I’ve ever had, all the books I’ve read and films I’ve watched, everything I’ve seen, felt and thought about. I’ve always been creative, and, like many other authors, I’ve been writing since before I knew how to do it right. I also probably have ADHD (I’m waiting for the results of a recent assessment to be interpreted and an official diagnosis), which has been linked to creativity. My brain likes making unlikely connections and is always busy imagining.

# How do you deal with creative block?

I don’t think I’ve ever really had it. I mean, of course I have moments (days, weeks, even months) when I don’t feel creative at all, but I know they’re temporary. I’ve learned to be kind to myself like I would be to a friend. If I don’t have the energy to create, it means that my brain needs rest, so I allow myself time to recharge. Those periods always end sooner or later, and I end up full of new ideas and fresh perspectives, craving to write. What I struggle with more is getting down to work even when I want to and getting distracted. I’ve been testing the pomodoro technique (https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/pomodoro-technique) for the last few days, and it has worked wonders for me! Maybe just because it’s new for my brain, but try it out if you’re struggling with similar issues and see what it does for you.

# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

I guess there is an endless number of mistakes you can make, so I’ll tell you about the ones I’ve been thinking and learning about lately.

– Not enough conflict and tension. Those are the things that hold the readers’ attention, and if they aren’t there, the readers are likely to get bored and abandon your book. Conflict doesn’t have to be epic battles or confrontation. It can be internal. It can be in the character’s head. It can be about mundane things. But there should be obstacles on your character’ way all the time! It’s best if they’re both internal and external.

– Infodumping, especially in the beginning of the book when the readers don’t care yet. You don’t have to explain how everything works in the very beginning, the readers usually don’t mind not knowing a lot of stuff if they’re hooked. Exciting events and action first, filling the necessary details later, in the right moments. Also, a character’s backstory should be introduced only after the readers already care about them, not in the beginning of the book, otherwise it will bore the readers.

– Shallow or stereotypical characters; perfect characters. Make them complex, just like real people. Show their weaknesses that your readers can relate to. Perfect characters who always know what to do and say, aren’t afraid of anything, never doubt themselves, are loved by everyone and are instantly good at everything they try are boring and annoying. Cartoonish villains who are evil for the sake of evil don’t work either. Make them human (even if they aren’t, in fact, human).

# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

A book cover is meant to attract a potential reader’s attention in a split second. Its task is to make the reader click on it, bringing them to the blurb that should sell the book. A perfect cover instantly communicates the genre of the book. It doesn’t have to be and probably shouldn’t be original contrary to what most authors (including me) might want. If you want your book to sell, a cover that’s typical for the genre is your best ally. I’ve learned this from Derek Murphy, and I believe he’s right.

I’m not good with titles, but I think a similar thing is true. They should, if possible, communicate the genre and mood of your book. You can add a tagline if your title itself doesn’t mean anything to the readers. That’s why my book is called ‘Entanglement: a dystopian sci-fi thriller’. I’ll try to do better with my next book.

# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

I’m a new author, so bad reviews and negative feedback are still painful to me. I hope I’ll get used to them in the future. I’m always grateful for constructive or neutral criticism though, even if the reader doesn’t enjoy the book or gives it a low rating. If they say what they liked and didn’t like about the book, what worked and didn’t work for them and why, that’s very useful information for me. I can learn from it. If they just bash the book in an aggressive manner, that’s just being mean, so I ignore that. It still hurts though.

# How has your creation process improved over time?

A long time ago I didn’t take my writing seriously and only did it in short bursts when inspiration hit me. Later, I realized I could be a writer if I worked on my skills consistently, so I wrote a book. It was so messy and still needs so much work and editing that I’m not sure I’m ever going to finish it. Then I wrote another book, making sure I would be able to make sense of it, and that has become my first published novel. I did it with no plotting or outlining, and it was fun because the plot twists genuinely surprised me. Right now, I’m trying another approach: I’ve outlined the book I’m working on, and my first draft is going well. I’m learning a lot about writing from Derek Murphy’s ‘Book Craft’ (https://www.amazon.com/Book-Craft-write-readers-polish-ebook/dp/B089NJK1SC).

# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

Both. I love writing, that’s the reason I do it. But I also want my readers to have a great time. I think the balance lies in the intersection of telling a story I’m passionate about and would like to read myself while learning the tricks of the craft that help me tell it in a compelling and exciting way that my readers will appreciate.

# What role do emotions play in creativity?

A huge one. Art is often a way to process emotions for the artist. It is also supposed to elicit emotions in the recipient. People want to feel things when they engage with art, and writing is a form of art that has the potential to engage both on an intellectual and emotional levels.

# What are your plans for future books?

Just to write them, as many as I can while constantly getting better 🙂

# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I have a website about sci-fi by women and non-binary authors (https://alinaleonova.net/). I am from Belarus and have fought the regime there (it’s a dictatorship). I was in the Extinction Rebellion movement in Poland before I became a nomad, which taught me a lot about building a grassroots, non-hierarchical movement. I’ve lived in villages for the past year, but I’m going to start living in cities again now that I’m vaccinated. I love mountains and open spaces. I hate clutter, but I leave things everywhere. I love music festivals, and I’ve cooked at a few small ones organized by friends, which was a lot of fun.