I met Alex Bobl via Goodreads.com and got a free promotional copy of his novel ‘Point Apocalypse,’ as good a bit of ‘old-school’ science fiction action/adventure as I have read in some time. I also read and enjoyed Memoria. Here’s Alex in his own words:
Alex, please tell us a little bit about yourself:
Well, I grew up in the small town of Dubna near Moscow. It is in fact what they call a “science town” – a self-sufficient nuclear research center with its own infrastructure, large enough to have been granted town status. Its scientists discovered the 105th element of the periodic table which they named Dubnium after their home town.
Both my parents were electronics engineers – a very popular specialization in the 1960s. That was the heyday of science fiction, remember? The first space missions and our dreams to conquer Mars… My parents, especially my father, read a lot of science fiction so when I grew up, I lost myself in his well-stocked collection of the Strugatsky brothers, Robert Sheckley, Alexander Belayev, Hamilton, Harrison, Ivan Efremov and other grand masters, reading and rereading them until they fell apart in my hands.
Then I followed in my parents’ tracks and entered the same university department. But after three years, I was drafted and served two years with the paratroopers. The experience was massive and it changed me a lot. It was a major shift in my values and philosophy.
What made you decide to write and, more specifically, to write Science Fiction?
When I was still at school, my parents made sure I was kept busy. Every day after classes, I had lessons at music college plus ski and swimming practice, so I would ride my bike (in summer) or walk (in winter) everywhere really a lot. At a certain point, I started telling myself stories as I rode or walked. When I grew up, I forgot all about it which is normal as I acquired other interests. Still, I didn’t give up reading even in the army where you’re really pressed for time.
Only ten years later, in 2007, I realized that I wanted to speak up about what I had kept bottled up inside. I wanted to live out all those dreams, reach new worlds and start telling stories of amazing people, their lives and fortunes, hoping that some reader might recognise him or herself in one of them. I wanted to write books that would offer information and food for thought because a book, in my opinion, should first and foremost jump-start the reader’s mind and imagination.
Who do you consider to be the greatest influence and inspiration for your work?
When I was little, it had to be the characters from adventure novels and my desire to end up in the same book with them. Once I grew up, they were people who helped me to fight back in my hour of trouble, and also my friends and their worthy actions. But the mere desire to put them into my stories wasn’t enough. I had to learn the craft of writing books. Andrei Levitski, by then a professional novelist, helped me a lot. Together we co-authored quite a few books, notably the Technotma: the Dark Times bestselling series. For two years we kept working on its books which are now being translated into German and Spanish and hopefully – fingers crossed! – will soon be translated into English.
What books have you published so far?
I’ve got thirteen novels out back in Russia. As I’ve just said, the Technotma series http://www.goodreads.com/series/83829 is being translated into German and Spanish. Here’s a quick description:
From Moscow all the way down to Kiev lie the Wastelands of radioactive desolation and city ruins inhabited by farmers and mercenaries, mutants and vagabonds who fight tooth and claw for food and fuel. The slave trade and plunder are rife among the robber clans, and then there is sectarian Order of Purity which aims to exterminate all mutants. You’ll help the heroes to solve the post apocalyptic Earth’s main problem: what has humanity done wrong to allow the catastrophe to happen?
But my main pride and joy these days are the following novels translated and published in English:
Memoria. A Corporation of Lies (An Action-Packed Techno-Thriller)
In a futuristic bombed-out New York, the almighty Memoria Corporation helps people erase their traumatic memories. What else would you need in the world finally free from wars and crime? But the bubble bursts when a humble lawyer Frank Shelby becomes a murder suspect on the run. Betrayed by his friends and hunted down by mysterious killers, Frank has to penetrate Memoria and find evidence of their real plans before it’s too late for all of us.
Point Apocalypse (A Near-Future Action Adventure)
He enters a prison world. A place of no return harboring the death of the universe. No proper food or drinking water, no modern technologies. He doesn’t know who he is. He can’t tell friend from foe. He has no idea what brought him here. He has no time to think. He lives from one objective to the next.
I do plan to have my other old and newer titles translated into English.
What made you decide to self-publish your work?
It’s the publishing crisis in Russia. There’s no way to restrain Russian Internet pirates who blatantly steal every single book in the country, often hours after it hits the shops. They derail the entire industry while the government has its hands tied with other problems, too busy to help writers. The Russian electronic market is still in its early days, too. This is why I decided to invest into translating and selling my books on Amazon. With over two billion English-speaking readers, I’ve already acquired some followers whose opinions are very important to me.
What are the greatest challenges that you have encountered in your publishing experience?
It has to be the language barrier. I’m working on improving my English as I need to research the readership in order to work out their needs and expectations depending on the genre. I’m not sure you know it, but the difference between Russian and American readers’ attitudes and demands is quite large. Partially it is probably rooted in our national character, while the existence of numerous book sites like Goodreads gives you a considerable headstart. The abundance of offers result in a strong competition and while I’d love to bring my books to the English-speaking reader’s attention, the language barrier still doesn’t allow me to do it as easily and naturally as in Russian.
If you could give a single piece of advice to new or aspiring authors what would it be?
Patience. It’s every writer’s main virtue, if they want to persevere on the long and winding road to success.
What is your next project?
Good question! I’m currently working on three books at once. Sometimes ideas just keep coming as fast as I can jot them down. There are other periods though when my head feels as hollow as an empty fuel drum.
At the moment, I’m working on a science fiction military adventure project (I love everything to do with the military). The genre itself is quite new in Russia: it’s based on RPG novelization where a hero lands in a virtual world peopled by the actual game characters and has to live by the game’s rules complete with its artefacts, logs and interface windows.
I’m not saying anything about the story – no spoilers! – but it’s going to be a series of novels about a military squad that, while stuck in virtual reality, are trying to defend the real world and real people.
Do you have a website or Facebook page where readers can follow your work?
I don’t have a dedicated site, but you can visit my English-language blog at http://boblak.blogspot.ru/ where I share some interesting information and post an occasional chapter from my novels.
I also have a Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/alexbobl
You can follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlexBobl
I’m always happy to hear from my readers and absorb their words of advice.
Thanks a lot, I really enjoyed answering your questions.