Monday, August 7, 2017

Interview with Pavel Kornev

Pavel Kornev is a popular Russian science fiction and fantasy author whose writing crosses the boundaries of the sci fi thriller, fantasy adventure and steampunk. Genre mashing has long become his signature style. “His books are a page-turning mix of non-stop action and hard-boiled detective stories set in the edgy atmosphere of steampunk noir. Far from being a knight on a white charger, Kornev’s typical protagonist is an everyday man with his fair share of flaws who puts his talents to good use. His heroes struggle to survive and win their places in the sun; but most importantly, they manage to preserve their humanity even in the direst of circumstances.” Pavel is a professional economist who spent years working for a large bank – until his first novel, The Ice, became an overnight bestseller, allowing him to quit his day job. Pavel divides his spare time between jogging, swimming and beer brewing.

The Fallen (Sublime Electricity, book 3) 
has just become available on Amazon!

Normally, Russian science fiction authors come from either a military or an intellectual background. You, however, are a financial economist. How come you decided to turn to writing?

PK: I have my reading habit to thank for that. As long as I remember myself, I've been reading, mostly mysteries and speculative fiction. And at a certain moment I just thought, why not? I could write something like this myself, couldn't I? So I did. And it turned out to be addictive.

Does your professional experience help you in any way with your writing?

PK: My job was mainly about communicating with other people, both clients and co-workers, so it helped me a lot when it came to building my characters' behavioral patterns.

Why steampunk? What do you find so attractive about it?

PK: Steampunk is not only about books. It's an entire subculture with its own art, costumes and even mechanisms. For me it all started when I read The Mockingbird by the Russian author Alexey Pekhov. Why did I like it? I suppose, because I'd always liked reading cross-genre fiction. On top of that, steampunk stories deal with the conflict of technologies. It's the clash of eras where the future challenges the past. Also, steampunk settings are just too cool, don't you think?

The origins of Sublime Electricity aren't really explained in the beginning of the series. How did the Fallen arrive in that world which admittedly resembles ours in many respects? What exactly happened at that pivotal moment which nudged that world's development in a direction so different from ours? The reader discovers the answers to these questions gradually as the story unfolds but some of them admittedly feel lost. Did you consciously plan it like this? Why?

PK: In my opinion, if you bury readers in a massive worldbuilding infodump early in the story, they won't make it past the first fifteen pages. I wanted to reveal the structure of my world gradually, allowing the reader to independently discover it and find references to the unfolding story, solving its riddles together with the MC. In my opinion, this adds depth to a book.

Talking about worldbuilding - I got the impression that you really did your research. If we take weapons, like the Roth Steyr pistol, the lupara or the flamethrowers, you seem to have really done your homework. Is that so?

PK: Absolutely. In steampunk, and especially in alternative history, details are king. I purposefully studied period weapons and tweaked certain details to fit my imaginary world's physics. Things like electric igniters in guns, titanium slides and aluminum-plated bullets.

From where did you get the information about period weapons?

PK: There're tons of specialized sites on the Internet. The two I found the most helpful were and

Your hobby is beer brewing, isn't it? But Leopold Orso doesn't drink alcohol. How come?

PK: That's his bad luck. However, I have plenty of other characters who share my passion for good beer.

You think you could tell us a bit about how Leo was born?

PK: Normally, the heroes in adventure books are uniformly courageous. Leo is different. Apart from the fact that he's able to enact other people's fears, he has plenty of phobias of his own. I based his character on fear in order to explore people's relationship with it. I was just curious how it might work out. That's how Leo was born.

Currently, you're writing LItRPG, as well. Can you tell us more about this new project?

PK: A lot of characters in these books use their ability to enter a virtual world in order to make some money. I wanted to depart from that cliché. My MC will have to find better things to fight for than the state of his bank account. This is going to be a LitRPG novel in a traditional fantasy setting: think swords, sorcery and power games.

Are you sure you can pull it off? LitRPG isn't really your thing, is it? You seem to be a more traditional author.

PK: When my very first novel, Ice, was published a lot of people said it was an RPG novelization. And once the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. computer game was released, they started comparing it to my work as well. I used to be really into CRPG. Besides, I do like all things cross-genre. Also, strange as it may sound, the genre of LitRPG allows for more believability. In it, the survival of the MC isn't guaranteed.

Are there any particular LitRPG titles that you really liked? If so, which ones?

PK: Absolutely. The books I really liked were Play to Live by D. Rus, Mirror World by Alexey Osadchuk, The Dark Herbalist by Michael Atamanov and The Loner by Alex Kosch.

What do you read, overall? What kinds of books do you prefer?

PK: I have very little time at the moment so I'm forced to limit my reading to several favorite authors. I prefer fantasy, science fiction and mysteries. These days I also buy audiobooks and then "re-listen" my favorite books. Right now I have Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber and A Night in the Lonesome October on my to-read list.

Now that you've been published in English as well as in Russian, did you notice any difference in the readership?

PK: Honestly, I'm not that familiar with my American readership and their preferences to jump to any kind of conclusion. Still, I do look forward to discovering my new American readers.

Book 1: The Illustrious

paperback -
Book 2: The Heartless
paperback -

Book 3: The Fallen (released August 7)
paperback -

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