Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Summer Time and My Writing and Non-Writing Escapades


I’m a molecular biologist and literature is not my profession but a passion that I take procrastinatively professionally. I don’t write fiction everyday, even if I have spare time. I have writing periods for my projects. In between, I do research, outline, plot, make music, travel, i.e. gather creative energy for my next fictional effort.

This year I’ve moved to Oxford and am now exploring its flora and architecture. Check out the photos in my Flickr albums.

No, I haven’t been idle all this time. I’m taking driving lessons now. Hide your lamp posts.

Humour aside, I’ve been working on my first non-fiction project too, a catalogue of modern Russian literature, everything that’s been written afte rthe collapse of the Soviet Union. This turned out to be quite a colossal task, but I’m making progress. It feels like I’m student again, this time in humanities.

I’m also plotting the follow-up of the Made in Bionia novel, a satirical thriller I’ve published this April. I think my major problem is at I’m not mean enough to my characters. No wonder I didn’t like the Game of Thrones books (a decade ago, I had laboured through three of them before quitting) – too much violence to my liking.

They say that one has to write everyday. But they don’t say ’work on your novel’ every day. So, I include any writing into this. Even songwriting.

My latest tune is about an alien suffering from unrequited love. And he’s about to avenge. I have electronically amended my voice on the track to make it sound creepier. The song is called Invasion.

Oh, and yes, I’ve joined a local writing group and also new translations of my books are coming up later this year.  I’ll crack on with ‘writing’ writing now.  Toodle pip!



Your brilliant thoughts


  • Tame

    you are multitalented 🙂 How did you get the instruments on your Sound Cloud—synthesizer/keyboard? I like the song for sure! And writing is writing, novel or otherwise 🙂 Followed you on Flickr too.


    • Grigory Ryzhakov

      thank you for your appreciation, Tame! I play a keyboard and record music using a software called Propellerhead’s Reason. Other people use Sibelius, Logic, and many other softwares, that are esssentially a kind of virtual studios. The more advanced the software, the more expensive it is. But there are some free basic ones, even for iPad and other tablets. You can play a track on a keyboard and then assign one of the many synthetic or natural instruments to it. Then you can put together many tracks and many instruments into a song and record the vocals. Then mixing and mastering follow, I’m still learning many of these things, since I’m not a sound engineer. In principle, you could even mimick an orchestra, the sound libraries are very advanced nowadays.

  • Jeno Marz

    Don’t like GoT either, and not only because of violence. *whispers* I started reading them as a teen and I’m in the middle age now, and the dude is _still writing_ the series! So I never picked up the series again after book 1.

    I won’t say that you weren’t mean enough to your characters–any more bloody and violent action wouldn’t suit the tone of your book, IMHO. But they were not allowed a certain degree of freedom to be truly themselves and surprise you (and us readers). What you need is to stop stalking your darlings and hover over their every step. 😀

    • Grigory Ryzhakov

      thanks for your feedback, Jeno. I have read your review of Bionia. Freedom? They misbehave a lot, I can’t do anything about them. Both Welka and William are especially very annoying, I like Audothia and Finch the most. They are more like me. But Welka and William are just waking up to their destiny, so they are more like children playing serious adults. They’ll have to man up soon ))

      • Jeno Marz

        I wouldn’t call that a “review”, just a small piece of opinion. 🙂

        The only thing I can say is as the author you can misbehave (fictionally) with your characters and see where they could take you–this is the story’s very soul you absolutely cannot outline. Otherwise the people you write will not have the authenticity that comes only from your own self; the creation is not truly alive. If I can put it this way.

        • Grigory Ryzhakov

          well, I appreciate your opinion very much. Actually, Bionia is the only book of mine I pantsed. No outline for it at all. And that’s why the first draft took five years and tons of re-writing and deleted scenes. Now the sequel will be outlined. There are many ways to write books, not right or wrong, imho. Personally, I’m old-fashioned, I’m not writing stories for the sake of plots. I’m not a genre writer. I always have a major idea I would like to explore and I know how the plot should be resolved on a thematic level. So I write literary fiction, it’s not about plot at all, it’s just a bonus for me and hopefully for readers. In terms of authenticity of characters, everything is just a product of imagination in fiction, it can be real for some but not the others. My writing is more cerebral then emotional, because I’m such a person, so I suspect that my readers are more likely to interact with my books in a more cerebral manner especially when it comes to humour.

          • Jeno Marz

            Readers like to care. If they can’t connect, they won’t care, regardless how cerebral the book is.

            Personally, I prefer character-driven stories; I like to watch characters explore the theme(s), not watching author’s hairy arm pushing them around (which is always noticeable). This is what I meant by authenticity. 😉

            And even if fiction is a product of imagination, the best one feels very real and quite engrossing on all levels–emotional (no need for drama nobility–empathy anyone?) AND cerebral. Cutting out one of the two weakens the story impact, genre fiction or anything else.

            Now, i’m not trying to lecture you how to write your stories, i’m just stating my observations. 😉

          • Grigory Ryzhakov

            I totally agree with about caring, connection and empathy. But every reader is different. What you connect with , I would not necessarily. For example, I connected with Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games while you didn’t. People have different personalities. I connect with fiction that is rich is cultural references and quite cerebral, others don’t. It would be a boring world if everyone connected to the same thing. There is no such a thing as ‘this book is for everyone’. What I consider the best film ever, I Heart Huckabees, most people don’t like or connect with. The same with books. Cerebral by the way can also be emotional, that’s why I gave you the example – humour, satire. What I meant under cerebral is that my characters are not reflecting much on their feelings, but rather on the information they receive. This is cerebral.

          • Jeno Marz

            I still have that feeling we aren’t quite talking about the same thing.
            (Regarding Katniss: I don’t connect with teenagers (or women) very well in RL, so I avoid YA. Especially if it is a generic dystopia that features a love triangle. I want to kill all three before I even meet them.)

            ” I connect with fiction that is rich is cultural references and quite cerebral, others don’t.”

            Everyone loves good world building, whatever you call it. Cultural references are what make your characters and settings alive. It’s your metaspace.

            “What I meant under cerebral is that my characters are not reflecting much on their feelings, but rather on the information they receive. This is cerebral.”

            Isn’t this simply character development? It means characters are rational people that would deal with situations using their heads. It gives readers certain expectations about them. I like rational people. I like watching them do things.

            What I meant is I want to _care_ about choices these people would make. Sometimes it is an empathic reaction, sometimes it is simple understanding of motivations and actions taken. Both mean the characters are interesting enough to hold my attention. The same with humor. I prefer only certain types of humor and only in certain types of context–I get bored and tired easily.

          • Grigory Ryzhakov

            Another thing, is the types of narrative in fiction. In Bionia, the POV is omnicient, like in War and Peace (allow me this unmodest parallel), it’s by definition driven by the author’s voice. The goal is to have a discussion through fiction. Bionia is a conceptual piece, the very heavy use of neologisms and political parallels indicate it’s not a genre piece, not just storytelling, but it still literature like any other pieces that are quite experimental. We are discussing sligtly different things here. If one wrote a genre piece from the first persons POV with a strong author interference that would have been indeed jarring. I’m having a discussion with the reader, try to make her or him question things in the world, I’m not purely in the entertainment business, though I find cerebral art entertaining. Again every reader is different, and authors write the kind of stories they love reding themselves

          • Jeno Marz

            Then you shouldn’t label it simply as science fiction. You are saying you are not writing genre piece yet you ventured into genre fiction naming territory. That confused me for I expected a slightly different thing. It will confuse others as well.

          • Grigory Ryzhakov

            That’s true, I’m confused myself. We had genre conversation in the past, it’s a difficult topic. If you call it too vague like literary or speculative fiction then is it not equally confusing? That’s why I prefer metadata tags to genre labels

          • Xena Semikina

            I’m sure I can make peace here, pity you two have already run away.

            Character-driven stories certainly work well, because they allow for a more intimate access to the character. For a writer it’s a tool, which makes the task of chiseling
            involvement and empathy in a reader less laborious. But it doesn’t mean this
            cannot be achieved by other means.

            When an author writes to convey ideas, he has to have a strong voice. He has no choice.
            He has to be in charge of his characters, but it doesn’t mean he can’t make a
            reader care about them. This is where the cerebral engagement comes in.

            You convey ideas and you make your characters live them and make their choices in accordance with them. If a reader appreciates these ideas, the whole experience becomes like a eureka moment. Something like: ‘Yes! I’ve thought of that! Finally someone says it.’ If that happens, a reader is engaged, and yes it works at the
            emotional level too. Because our emotions are nothing more than the ability to
            forge connections. We feel emotional when we achieve contact. Why? Because this
            is how the exchange begins, the exchange between the reader and the writer in
            this case. And it’s this exchange all writers aim for, whether they write
            character-driven or ideas-driven stories, whether they write gender fiction or
            literary, or refuse to categories themselves altogether.

            Made in Bionia is not outside science fiction territory. This is science fiction in its
            pure form, science fiction as it’s meant to be. It conjures up a world that makes sense within itself, yet seems quirky and exciting to an outsider. The difference between Made in Bionia and your average sci-fi title is that its
            ‘out-of-this-worldliness’ is achieved not only through the use of advanced science
            and social arrangements, but also through the advanced mentality of its characters.
            And once again it’s all in the connections. The characters in the book connect not through sexual appeal, but through affinity they develop towards each other,
            a theme which is introduced by the discussion in the library. William develops
            affinity towards Welka when he sees her speaking passionately on this very topic, and
            in this way passion ignites passion. Andrei relates to Finch when he realizes
            that Finch is just as tormented about his chosen University path as he is. These
            are the points of contact characters use to connect. Of course, it’s not your
            regular lurches. In effect they synchronize their cerebral activity, and this
            is a cerebral engagement, even though it enters the romantic scene now. This type of affinity transgresses the issues of gender and sexuality, it rises above them, and in that it’s 1) scientific; 2) a fiction for most of us.

            The bottom line is you care about characters because you care about what they are
            driven by, and it’s the author who is the driving force behind it. This mechanism is perfectly workable, and it’s certainly worked in this case.

          • Grigory Ryzhakov

            Thank you for your feedback, Xena. Who knew this little post would provoke the whole literary essay. I’m humbled with so much attention to Bionia. I hope one day I could justify all the credit you’ve given me. I’m still a baby author 🙂

          • Xena Semikina

            The credit of an author is in the spark. The rest is in the eye of the beholder. That’s what being human is all about. You certainly know one thing or two about sparks.

          • Xena Semikina

            It’s just to the same point. I hope the link works:

          • Xena Semikina

            In case you’re wondering the reference to bad books there is nothing to do with you. It’s just exploring the concept.

          • Xena Semikina

            Please, click on the link. Don’t go by the snapshot. What we were talking about here is that the talent of an author is in giving directions. He should never attempt to tread the path for his readers. And you have succeeded well and truly, even if some input from your readers may surprise you.