I’m thrilled to introduce Ivan Amberlake, a talented author and even more fascinating individual. While writing is his true passion, he has a Master’s Degree in Linguistics and works as a teacher.
Ivan is an urban/paranormal fantasy writer, as well as a member of Breakwater Harbor Books. He has written three novels: The Beholder, Path of the Heretic (sequel to The Beholder) and Diary of the Gone, all of which are available on Amazon.com.
*pauses for applause*
Oh, right. It’s just us here. Well there would be applause if we had an audience—you’ve created quite the following, Ivan.
Ivan: Thanks! I try.
So what drew you into writing novels in the first place?
Ivan: The first thing was the idea of creating a unique world that would be unlike any other world. Besides, writing (as well as reading) helps me get away from reality. I can express myself in writing and hope what I write about will stir my readers’ feelings and emotions. One of the great things about writing is when your readers contact you and say they enjoyed your book a lot and want more. That’s the best inspiration for me!
That makes a lot of sense. If stirring you readers inspires you, what stirs you? What’s your muse? Where do you get your ideas from?
Ivan: At this point, it’s hard to say. I used to listen to a lot of music, which inspired me. I read books that, in one way or another, influence my writing. I never know where I’ll find inspiration the next time. It may be a quote, a song, or talking to nice people.
Is there a particular author or book that’s most influential to you in your writing?
Ivan: I’m usually influenced by the books I read. I try to learn from them, what I like, what I dislike about them. Recently, I’ve read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy and James Dashner’s The Maze Runner trilogy, and now I’m reading Insurgent by Veronica Roth. I assume these three series will influence me for a while in my future writing, which is good because one of the books I’m going to write will be a dystopian YA novel.
I have to be honest. You’re kind of an enigma to me, and a little intimidating in some ways. So I have to ask: just how many languages do you speak and what’s your first language?
Ivan: Intimidating, hehe. I didn’t know that. Well, my first language is Russian. We actually have two official languages in Belarus – Russian and Belarusian, but very few people speak Belarusian, especially where I now reside: the region bordering on Russia. I also studied French at school, German and a bit of Polish at university, but none of these languages can compare to English. I had great English teachers at school and university who inspired me to study the language. It sounds very beautiful to my ear.
Why did you choose to write your novels in English when it isn’t your first language, and what’s the biggest challenge in accomplishing such a feat?
Ivan: Writing in English is challenging at times, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s really hard work, but it’s an amazing feeling when I have a finished manuscript on my hands that I’m happy with. There is nothing challenging for me about writing in my mother tongue. The biggest challenge for me is to sound authentic to the native speakers while also making a coherent believable plot.
And yet you make it look easy. Could you tell us more about these novels of yours?
Ivan: Sure! So far I have published two novels of The Beholder series—and The Beholder and Path of the Heretic—as well as a standalone paranormal suspense novella, Diary of the Gone. Where The Beholder series is aimed at readers of 16+, Diary of the Gone will appeal to 13-to-15-year-old readers.
Any common themes readers should look out for in your work?
Ivan: The key theme of my books is the struggle of light and darkness, not only between several characters, but often within just one character. That’s a theme that, in my humble opinion, will be crucial as long as man exists. It’s a crucial one for me, so I focus on it in my novels.
How many do you intend for The Beholder series?
Ivan: If you had asked me a month ago, I’d have said it would be a trilogy. Now I’m not even sure. As soon as I started writing the third book, I kept coming with lots of new ideas I never had before, and right now I can only say there may be 4 books in this series.
Any works-in-progress you’d like to tell us about?
Ivan: I’m writing Book 3 in The Beholder series, called Creatures of Lumen, as well as a short story for a new Breakwater Harbor Books anthology, which is to be released sometime in August. Also, I have a great idea for a YA futuristic dystopian novel currently titled The 7th Labyrinth, though I haven’t had a chance to get to it for a while.
If you could go back in time to when you started writing your first novel, what practical tips would you give your younger self?
Ivan: Stop using fancy words and bring the story and the characters to the foreground. I’d certainly develop my characters better. I enjoy action-driven books, but when I care about the characters and know them well and am aware of their world, their fears and weaknesses, the action is so much more enjoyable to read about.
What was the best compliment you’ve received as a writer? Toughest criticism?
Ivan: I’ve gotten lots of positive reviews for my books, and I have to say all of them are the best compliments for me. I can’t just pick one. I usually add a few compliments for my books on page 1 of my paperback editions because I obviously can’t add all of them. As for the criticism, I get that too. All I can say is that there’s positive criticism that can teach me a lot about what the readers would like me to develop in my books, and negative ones which aren’t helpful for the writer or reviewer, but I don’t often get negative criticism.
Any tips to other writers about getting over the dreaded writer’s block?
Haha! I’m probably the last person to give advice about how to get over writer’s block. Seriously. Well, I know some people write regularly, a page a day or something like that. Others need a break to get some emotional rest. I belong to the latter group and it’s hard for me to get back into the writing process. What can I say? Just switch off the Internet, get some time away from family (I know it sounds ridiculous) and start writing.
Any tips you’d like to offer others who are attempting to write novels of their own?
Ivan: Write what you know about and always write books that you love in the first place. Don’t follow fashion and trends – they never last long. If you are going to enjoy what you write about, then you’ll find people who will enjoy reading what you have.
Anything you’d like to say to readers/fans?
Ivan: Thank you for your incredible support! I will never be able to thank you enough for reading and reviewing my books. You are amazing. I’ve realized lately that it’s the fans that help me write new chapters, and I’m so grateful to them for that.
Mucho appreciate the time and insight, Ivan.