Summertime and the weather is balmy, lay on a sunbed and while away the hours with a good book …. so say me! 😊 And I have another great book to recommend and add on to your reading list – ”Fire Of The Dark Triad” by Asya Semenovich – a psychological sci-fi page turner. It is a futuristic tale of power, lust, betrayal and obsession. I loved it! Thanks to Ben Cameron for forwarding me a copy for reviewing.
The ”Dark Triads” are a group of humans born with a DNA that makes them dangerous and for centuries they have wreaked havoc on Earth. Dark Triads are a rare breed, however, and display elements of narcissism. The Earth’s rulers tried to purify the human race by removing this particular gene from future generations…. but civilisation on Earth has become…. ”boring”?! Anyway, people on Earth now lacked creative spirit, so Earth’s leaders recruited an elite group of Head Hunters to recruit Dark Triads from other planets to come back to Earth. Meet Nick, the best of the Head Hunters, whose routine mission didn’t go exactly to plan….
I am so pleased to welcome onto the blog author Asya Semenovich ….hello Asya!
Thank you, Linda! Hello, I am Asya. I was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, lived there until the time when the iron curtain started lifting, and in 1992 I left for graduate studies in the US. I got my PhD in Mathematics in 1997 from the Penn State University. After graduation I joined a tech start up, and later I worked in financial technology on Wall Street . I started writing my novel Fire of the Dark Triad while working full time as an Executive Director in Morgan Stanley. I really liked my job, but the book was progressing too slowly, and eventually I decided to leave my full-time position to focus on writing.
I live in New York, the city I love, with my husband and a daughter.
“Fire Of The Dark Triad” is a futurist tale of power, lust, betrayal and obsession. Where did you draw the inspiration to write this futuristic novel?
I always wanted to write about things I was passionate about – freedom, especially, freedom of creative expression, the soul crushing reality of totalitarian regimes, the dangers of genetic engineering, the nature of creativity in various areas of human activities, the power of love and the great lengths people are willing to go for it.
When I learned about the psychological concept of the Dark Triad, I found that it could serve would serve as a rich and exciting basis for a sci-fi futuristic novel, and at the same time help me weave together the themes that I wanted to explore with my readers.
The Dark Triad recognizes the interplay between three character traits: Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy. Individuals described by this syndrome have little regard for others in their desire to get what they want. Many autocratic leaders such as Vladimir Putin are perfect examples of this kind of person. In fact, in the sequel to The Fire of the Dark Triad, I’ve based the major antagonist on him.
Can you tell us a bit about the interesting or exciting projects you are working on or wish to create?
Currently, I’m working on an audio version of the novel and the sequel which will follow many of the original characters on a new adventure.
I have to thank my many readers for inspiring me to pursue the sequel. I thought that I said everything I wanted to say in my first novel. But many of my readers said that they wanted to know what happened to Nick and the other characters in their world. I also realized that there were many more ideas, I could share in a new book.
The main theme of the sequel is the nature of manipulation: by governments, by the media, by other people. As I thought about it, I found that the scariest part of this issue is just how easily people tend to embrace being manipulated. Perhaps it is because they feel more comfortable abandoning their free will and following someone else’s agenda. I wanted to make people think about it and search for the reason why it happens. Since the principal goal of Dark Triads is to manipulate others to do their bidding, it seemed the perfect way to continue the story.
I also continue to deepen our understanding of the relationship between creativity and the Dark Triad syndrome. I read an article in Harvard Business Review regarding this very issue. It states in part that “… the very thinking patterns that define the creative process and help lead to original thinking can have a maladaptive side. For example, creativity requires the inability to suppress irrelevant thoughts and inappropriate ideas.” In the sequel, I portray this connection from many different angles and pose the complex ethical problems they can cause.
I loved the variety of characters – Who were the hardest characters to portray? Who were the easiest?
While I tried to make all the characters multilayered and complex, the most challenging to portray was Nick, the protagonist and headhunter of Dark Triads. I wanted to write a believable male character by telling the story from his POV. It wasn’t easy, especially portraying the romantic and sexual interactions between Nick and other characters, and I am very grateful to my early readers for the feedback.
The easiest character was the artist, Reish because I could identify with her on a deep personal level.
I loved the main character Nick – and also the fiery flirty Lita. Do you have favourite characters?
My favorite character is Nick, which isn’t surprising – we spent so much time together, and he was always a good company to have around thanks to his sense of humor, intensity and charm.
Lita is my other favorite character. Not only is she fiercely independent, but she is no afraid to fight for she believes in against all odds. The real life event that inspired me create her character occurred in 1968,four days after hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops poured into Czechoslovakia to crush the reforms of the Prague Spring. Eight Soviet citizens went into Moscow’s Red Square and held up banners denouncing the invasion and apologizing to the people of Czechoslovakia. These eight people knew in advance that the KGB would arrest them, but they decided they would risk their own safety to underscore their shame at their country’s behavior. Some were sentenced to lengthy terms in forced-labor camps in Siberia, some sent to psychiatric prisons, notorious for their cruelty, and some were forced into prolonged exile in remote, barren regions of the country. I wrote Lita to celebrate these heroes of freedom.
Were there any aspects of writing “Fire of The Dark Triad” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?
I was surprised that the complexities of the main story and the various subplots came as easily as they did. When I came upon plot point that was a challenge, I focused on my characters and let them lead me to a resolution. For instance, if Nick were caught between a rock and hard place, I would ask myself “What would be his next step? How would he get out of the situation?” And, he led me to find a solution.
If “Fire Of The Dark Triad” was to become a TV film, who would you pick to represent the main characters eg Nick, Lita, Hilgor, Reish, Elizabeth?
I would love Nick to be played by Alexander Skarsgard. I had his picture (as Eric from the series True Blood) on my wall during the time when I was writing Fire of the Dark Triad. He was the inspiration for Nick – funny, sarcastic, intense and fantastically good looking just like genetically improved people I describe in the future Earth in the book.
I can imagine Jennifer Lawrence as a perfect Lita; Daniel Craig as Hilgor; Denée Benton as Reish, and Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth.
Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you actually have other career aspirations?
Ernest Hemingway, who was a major influence on my writing, once said: “In order to write about life, first you must live it.” I think I happened to do exactly as he advised, albeit unintentionally.
Writing has always been my passion, but I didn’t have a chance to dedicate myself to it for a while. There were so many interesting things to explore in my life. I love theoretical mathematics, so I trained as a mathematician. Once I got my degree, my curiosity pushed me out of the ivory tower in the financial world. I worked on emerging technologies on Wall Street. It was an intense but fascinating experience where I met a host of interesting personalities. I used many of these life experiences in my novel.
Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?
Yes, I love to read, always have. Naturally, speculative fiction is one of my favorite genres. Michael Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita was a huge inspiration on me. I even used a short quote from it as an epigraphic to Fire of the Dark Triad. Bulgakov’s antagonist Voland asks: “What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it?” It encapsulates one of the major themes of my novel: the conflict presents by Dark Triad in society. Julio Cortázar’snovel The Pursuer has been my artist manifesto since I read it as a college student. Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris is another example of a book that influenced my writing. William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Jeff Vandermeer’s Veniss Underground are two current sci fi works which I admire as well.
I vastly prefer reading printed books over ebooks. However, it presents only one inconvenience: a reliable way to locate a title in my library. No amount of arranging and rearranging my books by themes, periods, genres has ever helped me find a book when I want it. Sometimes I spend hours looking for a particular book on my bookshelves, and them I give up and buy a replacement just to find the original copy a week later. As you can imagine, I have many duplicates. Otherwise paper over a screen, always.
Is “Fire Of The Dark Triad” available to purchase worldwide?
Yes, it is on every major bookselling platform online.
If you could travel to any place on Earth to get inspiration for your next novel, where would you go and why?
I would love to visit North Korea. It is a country that is deeply affected by the manipulation of media. I would be very curious to know what everyday people in North Korean actually think, what they believe, how many know that the world outside of their country is completely different. Since the sequel is based on the premise of the power of political and psychological manipulation and the willingness of people to accept it without question, what has happened to North Korea over its many autocratic regimes is a living example of the theme.
You was born and brought up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and emigrated to the USA in 1992. What have you found are the main differences between the two countries? What things have you missed from Uzbekistan? What things do you enjoy about the USA?
I enjoy the freedoms to say and write what I want in the US. It is much more restricted in my home country. I do miss the rich cultural history of Uzbekistan and its food (although you can get more of it in New York City than any other place in the US).
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
My style can be described as Cyberpunk. I fell in love with this style as a teenager before I knew what Cyberpunk was, and over the years my devotion to this style has only been growing. To understand the style and distinguish it from goth, steampunk, rave, and industrial looks, one needs to remember the formal definition of Cyberpunk: “a subgenre of science fiction in a dystopian futuristic setting that tends to focus on a “combination of lowlife and high tech.” The cyberpunk fashion “speaks” to an urban dystopian landscape affected by highly advanced developments in science and technology. New York is a perfect example of this environment and my personal style fits right in. I love wearing black, a cyberpunk staple, zippers over buttons, snaps, loads of pockets and of course boots.
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
My absolutely number one place to check for new arrivals every season is Y-3 by Adidas – a Japanese Style Cyberpunk Clothing Store in the style of Yohji Yamamoto. I have more items from this brand than from any other by a wide margin: my favorite boots, shoes, jackets, sweaters, hats are from Y-3. I originally ran into this store walking my dog in Soho, several blocks from where I live. I looked into the store window, stepped in and that was it. In fact, I love this brand so much that I named one of the main planets in Fire of the Dark Triad Y-3.I imagined its inhabitants all wearing Y-3 brand outfits! I recently mentioned it in the store, and salespeople were greatly amused.
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
While I am waiting for the new arrivals to Y-3 store, I fantasize about wearing the outfit Del from Fire of the Dark Triad wears on Y-3. The upper part of her dress is a tight bodysuit made of soft gray materialthat covers the arms, chest and waist. At the hips it explodes into a haystack skirt of fluorescent red and white ribbons. The accessories are high-wedged white leather boots and black wristband studded with large pink stones.
This dress is number one on my theoretical wish list.
Boots or Shoes?
The answer is obvious because of the cyberpunk theme – boots, boots and boots of course! Plus, they are perfect for New York City streets.
Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
My website darktriadbooks.com is dedicated to Fire of the Dark Triad, the soon to be published audio version, and its sequel. It has a page where I share reviews, updates on the progress of my projects, an option to subscribe to a newsletter to get news via email automatically.
Thank you very much for chatting with us today Asya 😊. My thanks to you and Ben Cameron for the copy of the book for reviewing.
Photographs of Asya only are by Michel Nafziger https://www.michelnafziger.com
Photographs featuring the book are by Linda Hobden.