About the Book:
Amid loss, hope, and despair, They Lived They Were . . . is a story about the power to move on.
It begins with a show at Brighton Beach, New York, where Ilya Gagarin performs a set of original dance music to a crowd of loyal fans. They know him as a rising internet star, only 22 years old, and the resident DJ at one of Brooklyn’s sauciest nightclubs. And yet, at the apex of this performance, a text comes in from his girlfriend who just happened to find his stash of coke and crushed prescription pills. Feeling betrayed for the last time, she leaves him. Deletes him. And goes on to have her own successful career as a blues guitarist.
The rest of the summer becomes a struggle to get her back.
The best way and only way Ilya knows how is to launch the debut EP he has been putting off. Unfortunately for the DJ, the club where he works at teeters on fiscal collapse, plus the security manager is a jerk, blocking his every chance for a release party. Only a has-been, mentor-type DJ, encourages Ilya to finish the project, and share it with the world.
As he works towards his dream, the pressure to succeed, paired with the growing pains of a professional artist, reveals a dark truth: the loss of his mother. Soon, recurring nightmares haunt the DJ, alongside distant childhood memories. Only the power of music, together with an urge to regain his abandoned Russian heritage, both of which are described passionately in his journal, keep him afloat week after week.
Soon, Ilya meets a real life guardian angel. Someone twice his age, and Russian, too: the ethereal yet grounded Julia Levina, a celebrated news anchor with her own troubled past. She inspires him to finish the album and land a date for the launch. By midsummer, her pity turns to empathy, which itself turns into something more. An affair ensues. A smart one, they convince themselves, since it doesn’t implicate her 6 year old child, nor pull Ilya astray from the path he believes will win back his ex-girlfriend’s heart.
Close to the date of the show, however, the DJ suffers a relapse, this time with dire consequences. He isn’t able to finish the album in time for the launch party, which comes and goes, and culminates in even more tragedy. Though things look gloomy, it does serve as the reality check that concludes the misguided affair and ends his substance abuse. But not before one final twist.
1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?
It’s easy to look back and make sense of things in retrospect. Yet this remains a particularly poignant question for all writers. That’s probably why it is number one, no? My answer: it was during a quiet night in the fall of 2013, in Austin, Texas, bored and with nothing going for me in life, that I put together a one-page story about a father and a son. And everything feel into place. I felt so good after writing that page that I saw myself doing it the rest of my life.
Surely, for one ridiculous spark of creativity to have determined the course of my life, should tell you a little about who I am J
2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?
Currently it’s the hour between breakfast and starting my full-time job. It’s untouchable, and non-negotiable. I would say, in general, those are always my favorite times to write: quiet hours that no one can take away from me. Writing is sacred to me. As for “place” I have always preferred my bedroom. Cafes and libraries don’t really do it for me. I suspect this is for the same reason as “time,” because my writing place must be wholly mine.
3: Where do your ideas come from?
Well, to paraphrase the fantasy author Ms Riley (www.readingnook84.wordpress.com/2020/02/24/author-interview-secrets-of-the-sanctuary-by-octavia-j-riley), who you interviewed earlier this year, I would say the majority of my ideas just come to me. It’s like a little voice in my head or heart, that I trust more than I trust myself sometimes. “Try this,” it says. I reply, Uh ok, and go for it. It might be a small image or a loud first line that comes. Other times it is a whole character. Rarely is the idea a whole book. Except when it is, like with my current writing project, then I must begin from the big picture and work my way down, painfully seeking sentences, chapters, ideas, which may or may not come.
4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?
My guiding rule is to try something different every time I embark on a new story. So I’ve done it both ways. Why not? I certainly don’t feel like I’ve nailed the perfect recipe down, so I am still apprenticing in a lot of ways. But, think of it this way, even if we did stumble upon the ultra-formula, why would we stick to it? I would get bored cooking the same food in the same way every night. So it is with preparing a story, and enjoying it too.
5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?
Ahem! Literary Realism, something like that. Now, look, I know the Reading Nook finds its origins in Romance, Paranormal, and Fantasy . . . and I quietly whisper that those are not my forte so to speak. Nevertheless, I have always been drawn to the fantastical, to the para-freaky, and to love. The type of fiction that draws me, then, is the one which borrow elements from Genre and employs them in a General Fiction way. For example, instead of a school of wizards with a wand-wielding professor, I prefer a normal university setting with a professor whose lessons are so honest they pierce you like a lightning bolt. Instead of a werewolf who tears his victim to shreds in the middle of the night, I am haunted by the image of a hairy chested stud who breaks a young girl’s heart with his words on the night of a full moon. Etc.
6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?
I always told myself that I would want to ask the production house to hire fresh, never before seen actors, like first-time stars. The thought that my book launches someone’s career is just too attractive :). But heck, since we’re at it, in my latest book there are a ton of celebrity artists, so book them all for the script! And because I recently found out about her living in Romania, for the female true love interest at the end of the book, let’s hire Antonia Iacobescu. She would really make the audience hate the protagonist for ignoring her the whole story!
7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
Do I read much huh? Even if I didn’t I wouldn’t be caught dead in the Nook saying something as deplorable as “I don’t read”!!! In fact, I can’t read enough!! Between writing, a full-time job, and spending quality time with my wife, it is an absolute necessity to carve out those quit 30 mins here and there to read. So yes, I do. On top of trying! In the most ideal of situations, however, I am able to go cover-to-cover on a normal book in 4-5 days if non-fiction, or 6-7 days if fiction. While a Gone With The Wind type novel may take 4-5 weeks.
Favor authors, in order of when they captivated me are Bukowski, Cortázar, and Tolstoy.
8: What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m currently reading Natsume Soseki’s I Am a Cat, the story of a nameless cat living with a middle-class family during early 1900s Japan, which if you may recall was a wild time for the country. The early chapters are kind of slow, but by the middle the book really, really picks up (isn’t that rare?). So good. I highly recommend it for anyone who find cats interesting, and would thus find their thoughts on humans hilarious.
9: What is your favourite book and why?
I’m kind of like the kid from Perks of Being a Wall Flower who says his favorite book is the one he’s currently reading. But if I were pressed to pick just one, that had a huge impact on me and which I reread over and over, then I would say The Little Prince. So realistic, right?
10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?
I had to read your question like three times to come up with an answer. And it is this: “Stop thinking. Start writing.”
11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?
Down below are all the links I use, but my favorite right now is my own blog. It used to be Instagram, because I loved making picture collages and wordplaying descriptions . . . but for now my blog is the best place to keep up with me and find out more.
About the Author:
Iván Brave lives in Bucharest, Romania, where he writes poetry, reviews and novels, as well as promotes language learning in multinational corporations. He graduated from The New School in NYC with an MFA in Creative Writing, after earning a Bachelor in Philosophy from The University of Texas at Austin. Language, multiculturalism, and love, or anything that connects, are the themes dearest to his heart. In addition to winning prizes, such as the Writing Award from The Vera List Center for Arts and Politics, his writings have appeared in literary publications like The American Scholar and The Acentos Review. Iván’s second novel, They Lived They Were at Brighton Beach, is out June 16th 2020.