Xena Semikina is on my blog today discussing her book Avalanche and the difference between passion and sex.
Thank you very much for hosting me, Bryn. Today I would like to talk about my only published novel to date, Avalanche. I will start with a short blurb to introduce my book.
Blurb for Avalanche
This is a novel about friendship, maybe in its unusual, extreme form. The two main characters, Mike and Nick, meet in the Alps on a scientific expedition. They become very close, but struggle to place their relationship in the context of their lives. They fear that the bond between them will not survive outside their research hut, and that the outside world will present challenges impossible to overcome. But then a tragic accident changes their lives forever… This story is an investigation into the nature of ties between people, the limits of loyalty and the power of conventions.
Passion vs. Sex
I have always believed that the true human passion is not species of sex. They can be married and go side by side. They can divorce and go their separate ways. It is from these musings that the idea of Avalanche first came to me. In this book I sought to divorce passion from sex, and look into the nature of pure passion, not affected by the carnal side of things.
The story takes off in the French Alps. We follow five characters – all members of a research expedition – who are making their way through blizzard to their research hut, which is perched high up in the mountains over the Chamonix valley. In these conditions, in a relative isolation, the relationship between the two main characters – Nick and Mike – starts to develop.
The main protagonist is Mike and at first he doesn’t make much of this relationship, apart from acknowledging the fact that he certainly enjoys Nick’s company. He believes their relationship will come to an end when they go back to civilisation. However, when they have an argument, he realises that he’s taking it far too close to heart, which he’s unable to explain at this stage. When they reconcile they become absolutely inseparable and Mike is prepared to accept that they may have a future together, even though he struggles to define it.
An unforeseen set of circumstances spells disaster for them, which brings them even closer together and finally seals the bond between them… or so they believe. It is exactly at the time they come out of the box (not the closet!) and give their relationship a chance that it starts to develop cracks and fall apart. Letting go seems to be the best option. It looks like Mike was right all along and their return to the real world will kill what felt to be larger than life…
This is an extract from Chapter 9, which can be safely described as the scene by the fire. It happens just before the tragic events mentioned above. This is the moment when my characters forge a connection that can never be ignored thereafter, no matter what. Here they are at the stage when they are torn by doubts about the nature of ties between them, about the limits of each other’s loyalty. However, what they experience by the fire gives them a glimpse of the true state of affairs and a degree of confidence to take them through the worst. I’m afraid here I switch POV mid-scene, from Mike’s to Nick’s. So, creative writing purists look away now.
It didn’t snow any longer. And it was so quiet that all that breath-taking vastness around you felt no more than an extension of your domestic space – it suggested comfort and regained security. It seemed no forces of nature could create such calm.
Mike was finishing his cigarette outside the hut when he spotted some dry twigs in the shrubs nearby. He suddenly felt an unstoppable urge to make fire. When he was a kid, he adored fires and wouldn’t miss an opportunity to kindle one. Now he felt as though a long blocked passage somewhere in the depths of his consciousness suddenly opened, and he was prone to behave just the way he once would.
He collected the twigs. Then he found some thicker branches to make sure the fire would last. He piled it all up. He tore off a couple of pages from his notebook and thrust them into the middle of the pile. He then ignited his lighter and brought the trembling flame to the paper.
He watched with excitement how the fire quickly swallowed dry twigs and soon embraced the harder wood. It was strong now. It couldn’t be easily extinguished. He took the smoke into his lungs with a deep sigh. His mind drifted along for a moment. Ooh, he loved the smell…
‘What are you doing?’ he heard from behind.
He turned round smiling wide. Nick had just come out of the chalet and was walking towards him.
‘Is there any particular reason for this?’ Nick grinned.
‘No reason… Just for fun…’ Mike shrugged.
‘You’re gonna need bigger logs,’ suggested Nick and dived into the bush.
He was soon back with no bigger logs, but quite a lot of them. The fire keenly swallowed the latest offering, kindling ever brighter and swelling out of its borders. For a while they didn’t talk. They stared into the fire, allowing heat to brush over their faces.
‘I like it here,’ Mike said suddenly.
Nick looked at him intently, but said nothing.
‘We must come here again,’ continued Mike.
Nick got pins and needles at the back of his head. What Mike had just said was almost too much to take in. Did he mean every word he said? Did he mean what Nick thought he did?
Mike looked at Nick across the fire and smiled again. Nick didn’t smile. He was gazing at Mike interrogatingly.
‘I understand why people come here once and feel like they can never leave this place for good,’ Mike said. ‘Things most remarkable happen here.’
‘Things like what?’ Nick withheld his breath.
‘Avalanches,’ Mike laughed. ‘You get caught in one of those, and you’ve had it. There’s no way out, is there?’ Mike stared into Nick’s eyes.
He spoke no more. They were just standing there looking at the fire and listening to it crackling.
Nick thought that he had never known the meaning of the word ‘happiness’. He had always had doubts that it had a meaning. But with or without a meaning, it ought to feel just the way he did this very moment.
He could see millions of light years stretched just before his feet, like a never-ending road. He felt such a strong connection with Mike, as though they had submerged into those layers of the subconscious where they were one and the same, where the boundaries between them didn’t exist. That moment he had no traces of confusion and despair left anywhere in his heart. He was free. They were free…
Avalanche is available on Amazon US at $2.90 – http://www.amazon.com/Avalanche-Xena-Semikina-ebook/dp/B00J2XS6FC; and on Amazon UK at £1.81 http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00J2XS6FC. ePub is available at the Apple store and Kobo at £1.99 and the equivalent in $ (sorry, don’t know the exact price as I have never caught a glimpse of the US respective stores).
About Xena Semikina
Xena is a novelist and a lawyer in criminal practice, with a distant background in computer science. Writing has always been her passion, which she has been pursuing actively for well over a decade. She has written four novels and has published one, entitled Avalanche. She lives in London with occasional trips to the South of France and the North of Russia.
Xena can be found on Twitter at Xena5000 and Facebook as Xena Semikina. Her blog can be found here: http://xenasemikina.wordpress.com/