Ksenia Anske is a fearless and renegade writer who is changing the rules of what it means to be successful in the field. The Russian-born writer moved to the US in 1998 not speaking a word of English and has recently completed her first YA novel, Siren Suicides, a dark and gritty novel exploring suicide and relationships in a fantasy backdrop full of sirens.
However, unlike many writers, Ksenia is giving her book away for free and yes, you can grab your own copy too. “Reader, you are my publisher. Share them to friends, download them for free and if you can, please donate to keep me writing,” Ksenia urges on her website.
She is a woman who has known pain and who has overcome it, whilst motivating and inspiring thousands of her Twitter followers. Her tweets are powerful truths and encapsulate the perks and downfalls of being a writer. With the encouragement of her followers and fans, Ksenia is compiling her best tweets into her e-book, Blue Sparrow, whilst beginning to work on her second novel, Rosehead.
There is no pretence with Ksenia; she is honest and genuine as she shares her ups and downs, helps fellow writers who are confused or uninspired and does not force her literature down your throat. I was privileged to be able to chat with her.
Ksenia, you quit your job to write full-time in 2012, was it an easy decision to make?
I was hit by a truck when riding my bicycle after work, on my way home. I woke up in the hospital with the right side of my body bruised and blackened from impact, but not a single bone broken – well, except my left pinky. After this I knew, it’s now or never. I realized I might not live to this point in my life when everything will perfectly align for me to become a writer. I have to simply do it. It took another 7 months for me to finally part with my job, and another 9 months of freelancing to fully quit my social media marketing career in May 2012. So no, it wasn’t easy and it was very scary, because on top of it at the time I was divorcing and moving out of my ex’s house to become a single mom once more (I’ve been married and divorced twice) without any family or a job (my family is back in Russia). But I thought, I simply have to do it while I’m still alive and breathing.
When did you first identify yourself as a writer? I think as writers we know our path for storytelling from an early age.
I started writing a diary at 15, mixing in entries of prose with poems, but I didn’t think of myself as a writer, I was simply enjoying relaying daily events to someone who would listen, and that was my diary. Always there, always quiet, always eager to hear what happened and why and how. Later, I wrote flash fiction for school as mandatory homework, but still I didn’t think of it as writing. I even wrote a screenplay and directed and produced a 20 minute short film without realizing I was actually writing. It’s only now that I think back, I know that I started writing my first stories in my head, when I was five or six, daydreaming entire fantastical movies. I still remember them, every single one. Can you call this writing? Probably not. But it was definitely a lot of very inventive imagining.
Siren Suicides is your first novel and it is split up in three books. Can you tell HelloGiggles something about your novel and the inspiration behind it?
The true inspiration for it was my personal pain. I was suicidal at 33, and at 16. Siren Suicides was a way for me to pull myself out of my misery and examine why is it that I wanted to kill myself as a teenager. I had to go back into the past, deep into my pain, in order to open it up and spill it on paper. It was not an easy thing to do, considering that fact that it was very gruesome and was sitting in my back of my mind repressed most of my adult life, just so I could get by. I was sexually abused by my father and step-grandfather, and I wanted to end my life because the fact that it happened, the fact that things like these still happen in our society, made me not want to live anymore. Thinking about my children made me stop, and I decided to live instead, to talk about it.
Siren Suicides is a novel about a teenage girl who escaped life via drowning, but turns into a siren instead, only to discover that her father is a siren hunter. She is being chased by him throughout the books, and in a way it’s what I have experienced in my life, so it’s directly based on my emotions and my trying to make sense of my pain. I hope that with this book I will be able to help others and shed the light on what it feels like for a teenager to be live with an abusive controlling parent.
Writing is undoubtedly a powerful and therapeutic tool, what have you learned about yourself since dedicating your time to writing?
Everything there is to learn. I found out who I am. I learned that my entire life I was always trying to be someone else, and finally I got the courage to see what I’m made of. I mean, it really is incredible; it’s like therapy every day, for 4 to 5 hours straight. After it, you feel light as a feather, wanting to fly. I got the courage to be myself – that is the most important thing that happened to me from daily writing.
You are giving away free copies of Siren Suicides – was it an easy decision or are you still planning on traditionally publishing your novel?
Siren Suicides helped me live. It will forever remain free on my website for that very reason, whether or not I will get published. I would love to be traditionally published, if it comes to it. At the present moment, my readers are waiting for the edited copy of Siren Suicides, which should be done in July. If I go traditional, it will take another year to two years, and it’s simply too long for them to wait. Of course I can’t give away paper copies for free, simply because paper costs money, and people have expressed interest in buying digital copies, so they will be available on Amazon. But, like I said, I will have every single format of the novel downloadable from my website for free.
What is the best piece of advice you have received on writing and what would you tell all aspiring writers?
I went to one of Chuck Palahniuk readings in Seattle (Chuck is one of my favorite authors), and he said, “Write for therapy. You don’t know if you will get published or not, so make your writing time count. It doesn’t matter if you will get published or not, you will feel better simply because you write.” And that’s exactly what I did.
Every writer wants to leave a lasting legacy, how would you want to be remembered as a writer?
I think I would want to be remembered like this, like a kid jumping up and down from the sheer joy of writing:
Image courtesy of Ksenia Anske