I answer your questions about WHAT THE WOODS KEEP, writing, life, & everything (well, almost everything) - Part 2

My third What The Woods Keep giveaway is now done, and I proclaim it a roaring success.

If you've been following my debut experience so far, you'd known I've now done giveaways on Twitter and Instagram, and this third one was hosted by Goodreads. I use Goodreads both to keep track of what I'm reading and as a way of engaging with my readers, but my favorite feature on Goodreads' Author Platform is by far Ask the Author. 

So, for my third giveaway (and this was a pre-order giveaway as I'm almost - ALMOST - out of ARCs) I thought: I really enjoy being asked questions on Goodreads, so why not do that? 

Here is my original 'call to action' tweet: 

And here are the questions I've received!

(The winning question is announced in the end of this post & simultaneously on Twitter!)

What’s the most challenging part in writing your debut novel? 

Finishing the first draft! 

(I love the beginnings of new projects and I LOVE the process of revising, but in order to revise anything, one needs a completed first draft!)

You grew up in Russia and went to school in Australia and most likely have lived in other places. Your book deals with identity and I just wondered what place you think of as “home?”

Sometimes, when someone asks me this question (and like all expats, I get it a lot😄), I launch into a philosophical monologue about our constant search for belonging, etc. But on some days (like today), I'm just grateful to have found myself in Melbourne after years of wandering the globe. 

Having said that though, home is definitely a state of mind for me and also... home is where all my stuff is😄

Whenever I read a book, something I often wonder is why the author chose to write that specific book. Why, out of so many different ideas and possibilities, did they feel drawn toward that specific story? So, my question is: When did you realize that, no matter how challenging it would be, you needed to write this book, and what were your reasons for doing so? 

I'm sure like any writer's, my head's full of stories eager to be told - I actually have an ideas queue! But deciding on a specific project is tough. It really depends on my vibe at the time, how/what I'm feeling, if there are some particular topics I want to explore. And then it varies from book to book. So I've written 5 books now in total so far (I'm counting here a few that I wrote before What The Woods Keep and which I've never shown to anyone ever), and each one had a very different process. In case of What The Woods Keep, the essence/core of the story was with me from the very beginning (I'm absolutely obsessed with unsolved mysteries, like the Dyatlov Pass incident that I mention in the book, so the mystery of a girl having to uncover what happened to her mom ten years ago was the catalyst for me). The twists and turns of the plot changed a lot with each rewrite though. But then for Oasis, my second book, it was all very straight-forward - the story was pretty much created in my mind by the time I sat down to write it! In general though, I draw a lot on my personal interests, like mythology, science, and archaeology when choosing my projects. And as I start working on a new book, the first thing I do is decide on a 'theme' or a central topic the book revolves around.   

Where is your favorite place to write? 

I live in a tiny apartment, so no dedicated office/writing space for me. My "ideal" writing space would be my own private writing studio in some cabin in the woods somewhere, but the reality is that I have to write wherever I can. This means my living room/bedroom or a noisy cafe. Sometimes, I even write on my phone during my commute to and from work! 

Readers and writers aren’t generally born overnight; did you always want to write? Did a parent inspire your love of books and stories? *Bonus: favorite childhood book? 

I've always been a reader, that's for sure. And lucky for me, my parents had/have a huge look collection in the house, so I was spoiled for choice: we had everything I could wish for! As for writing...  I guess I’ve always been writing SOMETHING (short stories, poems, etc.) but I haven’t really thought about writing as a career until relatively recently. I think this is because when I I was growing up there was this expectation that I’d do something “practical” with my life, and writing books for a living just wasn’t considered practical enough😃 So really it was after I left my hometown, and traveled a bit before settling in Australia that I started writing seriously.

Both my parents are avid readers, and so were both of my grandfathers, so I think growing up surrounded by books and readers definitely made me a reader and inspired my love for all things bookish.

As for the favorite childhood book - tough to choose one! I was super into Narnia AND also Moomins, so have to say those two series definitely dominated a lot of my childhood obsessions.

What's the best tips to choose a title for book? Do you have a special time to write? Or it can be anytime-anywhere you want?

A great title should (a) catch a reader's attention and hold it; (b) reflect the essence of the book; and (c) shouldn't give away anything spoilery. Also, the longer your title is, the more unique it is, but sometimes a shorter title can be more of a statement (e.g. Sanctuary, Annihilation, or my second book, Oasis). Honestly though, it varies from book to book, but I personally lean toward more complex, longer titles. Some of my personal favorites among recent/forthcoming books are: Not Even Bones, The Law of  Inertia, Four Dead Queens, and - of course! - What The Woods Keep.
As for a special time to write - I prefer mornings when I get my first energy boost from coffee, but because I actually work full-time, I just have to make do with whatever time I can get and write then.

What the Woods Keep sounds so awesome and I'm very excited to read! I was wondering, with so many genres suggested in this novel (sci-fi, thriller, dark & urban fantasy), how did you write WTWK without tumbling over yourself with the intricate world building & the merging of the standards for all the genres into one? I love multi-genre work and am always in awe of how authors who write these merge it all together! 

I guess it's really up to readers to judge how well I've done that😄 And I really hope what I've done with this book will work for most readers! Though, I guess the most important part of the process of writing a multi-genre book was to work extra-hard on those bits of the narrative when myth and science met to ensure these connections were seamless. It's hard to explain without giving out spoilers though!

First, after reading your bio, I’m intrigued to know what is the long version of your real name? My second question is—what’s your favorite line from WTWK? Lastly, do you pull your toilet paper from the bottom or from the top? 

My name is actually Greek in origin (as many popular Russian names are) and its full version is Ekaterina. Katya is a short version and I go by it in all aspects of life, unless I'm filling out some legal documents or something:) 

My favorite line from What The Woods Keep is: "For lack of a better word, I’d call it magic" which, I think, perfectly exemplifies what this book is really about 

As for the TP pulling pattern - LOL. From the bottom, of course - because defying gravity is for rockets and witches!

If you could describe each of your characters as an icecream flavor, what would you choose? :) 

You really got me thinking with this one! I'm not a big ice-creamer eater (OMG, what the heck is wrong with me?!), but thinking of the two main characters of What The Woods Keep: Hayden (the protag) likes coffee and tiramisu, so probably anything coffee-flavored for her; while Del, her bestie/roommate, is all chic and fashiony, and refined, so she'll be some kind of fancy sorbet, likely of the citrus variety, because that's the most chic thing I can think of at the moment!

I might be wrong as haven't read it yet, but I have the impression 'The Woods' have an almost sentient agency of their own in this book, the setting a character almost. So my question is, what are they keeping? ( Just kidding lol ) My question is- 'What gave you the idea to have a setting, 'The Woods' play such an integral role in your story? 

When I was a kid, we'd often holiday at my grandparents' summer house in the Northwest of Russia (close to Saint Petersburg), and this house was pretty much surrounded by the most amazing breath-taking, creepy, shimmery woods that could ever be. I remember simultaneously fearing this forest and being drawn to it. We'd go in for a wander with my parents and cousins at twilight, and it was pure magic. So... forest as a setting has a lot of meaning to me AND I'm obsessed with what it represents on a metaphysical level too (a mystery, a hidden world...). I guess, it was simply meant to be that a forest became a setting for my first book. As for what the woods are keeping.... Lol, trust me - it's nothing good:)  

What made you realize that [What The Woods Keep] was cross genre? And what genre did you sort of assume it was before writing a query letter? 

Initially, I envisaged What The Woods Keep as a contemporary/urban fantasy because that's pretty much my most favorite thing in the world as a reader. I realized What The Woods Keep was a genre-bender when my protagonist started trying to use her knowledge of physics to explain a strange phenomenon she was dealing with - that's when I knew that this book was at the very least going to be science fiction + urban fantasy! Horror and mystery came on board later, when I was developing the plot. I queried this as an urban fantasy with science fiction elements, if memory serves right.

Of all the supernatural races, given the chance which would you join? 

Cool question! I was always into werewolves - An American Werewolf in London is one of my favorite movies of all time (omg David Naughton!), though not the kind that becomes a danger to society every full moon... So maybe a werewolf that keeps her head cool and only uses her powers (mostly) for good (?) 

(My original response was going to be: the supernatural race of beings featured in What The Woods Keep. But to be honest I'm pretty terrified of them, so better not!)

Is there anything that you edited out of WHAT THE WOODS KEEP that you still have a soft spot for? 

Oh gosh, this book went through a few revision rounds and I did edit out lots! I agreed with 99% of editorial suggestions though, because as long as the story's essence remained the way I imagined it, I didn't mind streamlining the book to make it as good as I could make it for readers. Having said that, it used to have more science stuff in it but my editors and I wanted to make sure the story doesn't get slowed down by it, so I did reduce the number of science intros that most chapters have and there was one involving my favorite physicist Lisa Randall and her research into multiverse that got eventually edited out and ok, I MISS IT a little. 

I read the synopsis above and it seems like a really unique story (at least not similar to any books I have read/want to read) and I am wondering a few things: 1. Where did you get the inspiration? I imagine this is something you came up with at 3am in the morning after thinking in the dark for hours. 2. There aren't a lot of fantasy stories set in the 'real' world. How come you chose to do so? 

Thank you! Hopefully you'll find WTWK to your liking:) So... (1): I probably started writing this book in my head when I was a kid and got my first 'taste' of myths and legends (yay to having access to books early!), but like all things non-tangible, inspiration is something that's hard to put into words, so yeah the whole 3am dead-of-night thing sounds about right!, and (2) fantasies set in the real world are my absolute fav things to read ever (I'm a total sucker for the 'hidden' world/things-are-not-what-they-seem books!) so it's no surprise to me that my debut is exactly THAT.

Is there any hidden society or culture you wish to write / discover about in the near future? [This is the winner of the giveaway!] 

I absolutely love love LOVE this question - in fact... it got me thinking about a next book I'd like to write! So yes, there is, in fact, a culture I'd like to write about, though it isn't really hidden:) It goes back to my origins. I come from a tiny town in Russia that used to be a stronghold of the Golden Horde, and... I've always been interested in my heritage and where I come from (I have mixed Eastern European and some Mongolian and Chinese heritage!), so and I'd love to go on a bit of a soul-searching and explore more about this side of things of both my own personal history and that of my hometown and maybe MAYBE write a book set in a fantasy world inspired by it. Thank you for this wonderful question.

Thanks a lot for your questions! 

Feel free to ask me more! In comments here, on Goodreads, on Twitter...


  1. All good answers to questions. That forest you used to visit sounds amazing. There is surreal quality to forests in the twilight too, I know what you mean. I only know about Australian forests but it would be fun to explore other forests one day, learn their sounds, their smells, discover their unique beauty with how the light falls through the canopy. I liked the Hunger Games as I felt at home in a forest setting, even though that wasn't very descriptive I love escaping into a book where nature is involved.

    1. Thank you! Yes, I miss that forest. A lot... Though I forgot to mention in my original answer that because that particular forest of my childhood was in the Northwest region of Russia, it was growing on some seriously swampy ground, and so there were also these mosquitoes there, each the size of a child's fist (not kidding!). So yeah, whenever I'd venture into the woods there, it had to be long sleeves and lots of bug spray. But other than that it was MAGICAL!


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