Archive for the ‘raven Son’ Tag

Thanks for Reading   1 comment

My interviews of authors drive traffic. I could bore you with numbers, but I hate math, so I will simplify it. My Writing Wednesdays have spiked stats. Enough said regarding math.

This week, I interviewed Nicholas Kotar, author of Raven Son, and that interview has received more than 100 views. Wow!

Of course I didn’t do that. I just wrote the interview. YOU the readers did that!

Hope you buy some books. It’s a great story, worth the read!

Interview with Nicholas Kotar   Leave a comment

Displaying headshot.jpgToday, I am meeting with Nicholas Kotar, writer of Raven Son, a delightful fantasy that I am pleased to be re-reading. Raven Son was one of my favorite Authonomy books because it was a dark tale that mines a culture that hasn’t been overdone by previous writers and it includes themes of faith and redemption without sugar coating human nature. Lela


Tell us about yourself, Nick.

There’s a story I once heard about a certain Russian writer (I have my suspicions it was Chekhov), who was asked what he did for a living. He answered, somewhat surprised, “What do I do? I love my wife Olga!” There’s a lot of wisdom in his answer, in addition to its humor. It’s an answer I happily appropriate. My lovely wife, our new baby son Adrian, and I live near a Russian monastery in upstate New York farm country, where I recently completed seminary studies and now I work as an editor and translator for the monastery’s press. I come from a family of Russian émigrés who were forced to leave Russia after the Revolution of 1917. This has led to the rather strange designation that we apply to ourselves: Russian-American. Despite the passage of time, I still strongly identify with my Russian roots, and my writing comes from that strange place of conflicted identity and tortured soul and searching for beauty.


How did you come to write a fantasy based on Russian fairy tales?

Displaying COVER_print.jpgLargely by accident, if you believe in accidents, that is. I’ve been steeped in fairy tales since I was a kid, and Tolkien’s fantasy is the reason I write in the first place. Raven Son (which is inspired by both) began writing itself in a marine-themed café in Amsterdam airport during a 13-hour layover on the way to Cairo. I had convinced myself that I shouldn’t sleep at all to avoid jetlag (which, incidentally, didn’t work), and after the third cup of coffee of the morning, I pulled out my moleskine and just started to write. It was a scene where a Syrin, a paradise bird from Russian mythology, reveals herself to the main character, hinting at catastrophic events to come. As I wrote, more and more fairy tale motifs and characters suggested themselves to the story, perhaps because Russian fairy tales are often morally complex. They grapple with the darkness that attacks the human heart in astounding ways.


Can you give any examples of what makes these tales so compelling?

The characters that inhabit these stories are very modern in some ways. There’s rarely a traditional damsel in distress, the female heroines are often quite plucky (sometimes alarmingly so), some of the “bad guys” have the odd habit of switching allegiances, so you never know whom you can trust, and ending is rarely simply “happily ever after.” The darkness present in these tales is palpable and real, not just as a convention, but in ways that suggests inner conflicts that are all too real in life. At the same time, the stories never succumb to the moral nihilism present in so much modern literature, especially fantasy. So for my purposes, these tales are wonderful because they grapple with the reality of suffering and evil, but they provide much more than a simple solution for all problems. Inner transformation is expected of these characters, and if it doesn’t happen, they die, or worse, they become deathless. It’s very compelling stuff.


Tell us a bit about Conquering Time Publications which published Raven Son.

After I graduated from UC Berkeley, I taught for a while in a small Orthodox Christian private school in San Francisco. During my time there, we had a brilliant group of teachers, some of whom were inspired poets and writers. We would regularly meet to read and discuss literature – Dostoyevsky, T.S. Eliot, Tolkien, Charles Williams, and others. Eventually, some of us began to write our own stories and poems, and we would discuss them as well, just like the Inklings used to do in the Oxford of Tolkien’s day. Then we began to organize public readings of our new works, and eventually we began to write stage productions of storytelling and choral music. This collaboration of different artists named itself Conquering Time (an allusion to a life from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets), and we’ve now performed on both coasts of the US, in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Paris. When I finished Raven Son, our group decided it was time to venture into publishing as well, and we have several projects in the pipeline in addition to Raven Son.


If you could do anything you wanted to do or be anyone you wanted to be in this lifetime, who would that be?

If I had unlimited money, I’d go on a long walk through North England with my wife and son, stopping over at B&Bs with four-post beds on the way. Then we’d find a nice cottage somewhere in Derbyshire where I’d spend a year writing. That would be amazing.



One of your readers suggested that Raven Son could be allegorical to the condition of the United States in the 21st century (or the Russian Revolution in the last). True?

It’s is a tricky question. It sounds like a question Tolkien was asked regarding the allegory in the Lord of the Rings. He bristled at the word “allegory,” and suggested “applicability” would be more proper. I agree with his approach. Allegory is not a very convincing form, because it tends to preach and hit people over the head with its message. But at the same time, like many Russians, I can’t disregard the moral issues and dilemmas of my time, and my own wrestling with moral problems can’t help but come out in my fiction. So of course some aspects of America in the 21st century will inevitably appear, though perhaps indirectly. As for the Russian Revolution… I grew up with stories of how glorious Tsarist Russia was. My grandparents fled their homeland because they were persecuted, and any émigré fiction will have a heavy dose of nostalgia. The Revolution is an event that stands tall in my own cultural formation. It’s a Rubicon of Russian experience, so to speak. It represented the breakdown of everything that my family has considered good and beautiful, and to see similar processes slowly occurring even in the US of today frightens me. So it’s not just nostalgia; it’s an engagement with a historical event that continues to resonate in our own time. I think good fantasy will always engage with moral quandaries in a brave way, without providing easy answers or pat solutions. However, I would be hesitant to call Raven Son an allegory. It’s an adventure story, first and foremost.


How do we find your book?


Nick’s Website:


Find Nick on Facebook.




Raven Son, a fantasy novel by Nicholas Kotar   Leave a comment

Raven Son, a fantasy novel by Nicholas Kotar.

In searching around on the internet for some old friends, I ran across Nick’s book.

Posted July 23, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Writing

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