Author Interview: Polina Traore and Dana Kaledin

We are in for quite a treat today. In the virtual studio we have not one author but two! That’s right. Two. Polina Traore and Dana Kaledin, authors of Never a Dream, have come to talk to us about their novel. Before we sit down with them, let’s take a quick look at their book:

Never a DreamWhen Rain – a dreamy designer – buys an antique cross, she begins to see visions of her previous life in her lucid dreams. A series of accidental events begin to bring the people from her dreams into her real life: Charlie – a quirky girl from the pub, Matt – an aspiring rock star, and Ed – a jaded club owner. If there is something they all share – it’s a burnt down mansion, a small ominous town, and a century-old legend about two crosses.

“Never a Dream” tells two touching love stories.
As friendships grow, relationships get destroyed, and dreams find their way into reality, will Rain, Matt, Charlie, and Ed ever find their way to each other?

Traore-Kaledin.png1. Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

POLINA: Hi, my name is Polina Traore, I live in Saint-Petersburg, which is a very beautiful, but gloomy city. I am a journalist, a comic-book fan, a music-addict, and, of course, a writer.

DANA: Hi, I’m Dana Kaledin, I live a few blocks to the West from Polina. Usually, I’m a graphic designer, a billionaire, philanthropist…

POLINA: Hey, I understood that reference!

DANA: Okay, I’m a writer too

POLINA: And the creator of our cover!

2. When did you two start writing?

DANA: Well, the first thing I wrote was a tale of a horse and his friend – a squirrel. I was five back then…

POLINA: I started out as an independent poet at the age of four, I even published the first book, it didn’t have much success, but my mom loved it.

3. Why did you start writing?

DANA: All those childish ideas were just too much to handle, so we had to share.

POLINA: It’s pretty much the same with our new book – we just had some things to say.

DANA: And stories to tell.

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?

POLINA: I actually do, It was late at night, I was trying to fall asleep, and started thinking of people, who are supposed to meet each other. And that was it, I wrote it down, and first thing in the morning, texted Dana. Later that day we met in the pub that actually gave the name to the “Charles Dickens”, to create the characters.

DANA:  And, of course, the book as it is now, is very different from that one-liner, that was in the text. But we don’t want to spoil anything!

5. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.

DANA: There were many titles before this one. We’ve had stupid ones, okay ones, genius ones…

POLINA: But all the genius ones were taken.

DANA: We had “Urban Signs”, “Four Parts of the Universe”

POLINA: Then “Urban Signs” again.

DANA: And then we had to settle, so we just started brainstorming, looking for phrases, words, anything that could point us in the right direction.

POLINA: Music was it. We checked out some of our favorite bands for the lines that fit. Some were scary, some were weird, and then there was “Never a Dream”, a part of a phrase “It’s always a nightmare, it’s never a dream” by The Birthday Massacre. So we did what many writers would do… we borrowed.

6. Does your story have a moral?

DANA: The main idea of the book is that your mistakes can hunt you down even if you don’t remember making them.

POLINA: Karma-man is coming for you.

DANA: Since we explore the possibility of reincarnation, we wanted to somehow connect the soul to all its lives.

POLINA: That sounds complicated… be honest, don’t do drugs, be true to yourself – those are the morals.

DANA: Some of them, at least.

7. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?

POLINA: Matt was the easiest one to write, if I were a man, I’d be Matt.

DANA: That’s terrible actually! Matt definitely was the easiest one, that’s true. But they all are equally important.

POLINA: We tried to give each one of them something unique, and personal.

DANA: We also tried really hard to listen to our main heroes, and never force them to do something that’s out of character for them.

8. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Never a Dream.

DANA: We only need four. Matt – badass.

POLINA: Rain – a dreamwalker.

DANA: Charlie – flirtatious.

POLINA: Ed – a rebel.

9. What does a typical writing session look like for you?

DANA: First we discuss everything, make notes. Usually this requires snacks, and maybe beers, but that’s the perfect scenario. Most of the time we do the discussing over the phone or facetime. It always ends in an argument.

POLINA: Then the chapters… the perfect time to write them is between 3-4 in the morning, with or without music, depending on the character. And the best place to write is at home, because that’s the only place where you can bee yourself. I actually do have a perfect place to write – it’s an antique fireplace chair. Very comfy!

10. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?

DANA: That’s what all the discussing is about.

POLINA: It’s impossible to write without them, since Dana does most of creative thinking, and my strongest suit is putting words together.

11. What is your favorite book genre?

POLINA: I’d read anything, as long as it’s engaging, and I’d write anything too, that’s what journalism does to you.

DANA: My favorite genres are sci-fi, mystery, sometimes romance. But writing depends on the original idea. It can lead me anywhere.

12. What are you currently reading? What is on your to-be-read shelf?

DANA: “Of mice and men” is on my to-read list, somehow, I’ve never gotten around to reading it.

POLINA: I’m in the middle of reading  “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding”, and there are some fun books in the waiting list too “Graveyard Shift”, “Rocker’s road”. I pick books by their names.

13. What is your favorite book?

POLINA: That would be a long list… There’s “The Crew” by Dougie Brimson, “How to Kill a Rockstar” by Tiffanie DeBartolo, “Boring Girls” by Sara Taylor, even though many reviews on this book are quite negative. All time favorite, that affected my whole view on literature and writing would be “The Sound and The Fury”.

DANA: “The Dark Tower” by the one and only, “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, “Rich man, Poor man” by Irwin Shaw. The latter one is not typical for me, but the character development was so deep, it influenced my own style.

14. Any project in the works?

POLINA: A few…

DANA: The second part of “Never A Dream” – we feel like there’s much more to say about this particular story, and these people.

POLINA: Also, we have a few other projects, that will allow us to explore different genres.

15. How long does it usually take you to write a book?

DANA: A year, that’s what it took us to create “Never a Dream”.

POLINA: But then we needed a few months to translate it, and a few more to make it readable with a help of our editor.

16. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?

POLINA: The author, it’s always up to one person to tell a story, to create a believable setting, fill it with alive characters. But at the end, he’s also the only one who can ruin it.

DANA: The story has to be able to happen. Even if it’s fantasy, it has to allow you to be in that world, to see it, and enjoy it.

17. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

DANA: We are aspiring writers!

POLINA: So, if we had to give advice to ourselves, we’d say: “always hire an editor”!


And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”

1. Summer or winter?

DANA: Winter, nothing compares to an evening by the fireplace.

POLINA: Summer, have you been to Helsinki during  Christmas?

2. Cake or ice-cream?

DANA: Ice cream. It’s like winter in your mouth!

POLINA: Both, and check, please.

3. Nights out or nights in?

DANA: Nights in.

POLINA: Nights out. I’m like a vampire – I have more energy when it’s dark.

4. Living in the city or living in the country?

DANA: Country, fresh air is always awesome, besides, you can do all kinds of sports, like running for your life while a bear is chasing you.

POLINA: City for me, I’m afraid of all the animals out there in the woods.

5. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?

DANA: Telekinesis, I don’t want to pick at people’s brains.

POLINA: Totally telepathy for me, because… well, I do.

6. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?

DANA: Future. First of all, I can’t wait for a chance to visit other planets. Like our friend said on a job interview with Google: “I want to see other countries”.

POLINA: Past, I can bring an iPhone into 50’s and pretend that I’m an alien. Or run around Winter Palace with a laser pointer scaring Catherine the Great.

7. Working in a group or working alone?

DANA: Working in a creative duo.

POLINA: Actually, I prefer working alone, I start fooling around in a group, so it’s impossible to work. You do your thing alone, then you combine your work with the others.

8. Being Spider-Man for a day or being Batman for a day?

DANA: Spider-Man.

POLINA: Definitely Spidey, he’s Marvel.

9. Reading or writing?

DANA: Reading – so many worlds you can be a part of.

POLINA: Writing – so many more you can invent!

10. To find the love of your life (only to find out that you’re not the love of their life) or to have someone declare you the love of their life (note, however, that this someone is not a person whom you are romantically interested in)?

DANA: The latter, being loved is sometimes more important than loving. And it’s impossible not to fall in love with the person who cares deeply about you.

POLINA: Finding your true love and getting your heart broken gives you drama and maturity to find yourself. So that’s my pick.

11. Bungee jumping or going on the slingshot ride?

DANA: No, I like my life as it is… you know, I’m in one piece.

POLINA: You know, one of the slingshot rides in Saint Petersburg crashed actually. The rope snapped. So neither, I’m afraid of heights.

12. To never speak again or to never eat solid food again?

DANA: I like to talk too much to give that up, besides, there are so many fine liquid dishes.

POLINA: I grew up with a sister, we gave each other silent treatment all the time, but I’m not giving up any food.

13. Staying awake for forty-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty-four hours (also continuous)?

DANA: I’d prefer walking.

POLINA: Staying awake seems easier to me.

14. Being two inches tall or being two stories tall?

DANA: Two inches for me, you can spy on people, and sneak into anywhere.

POLINA: But then I’ll be two stories tall and just step on you accidentally.

15. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?

DANA: The Walking Dead, you just stick around guns, and survivors, and you’re all set.

POLINA: I’m dead either way, I guess…

Thank you for joining us, Polina and Dana!
Readers: want to connect with Polina and Dana? You can find Polina on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and Instagram. You can find Dana on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and Instagram. Also, be sure to check out their author website.


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