Saturday, December 26, 2015

Indie Author Spotlight: Nik Krasno

It all starts with a bullet in the head.

An assassination attempt on Ukrainian oligarch Mikhail Vorotavich leaves the billionaire in a coma and his subordinates scrambling to deal with the crisis. Rise of an Oligarch: The Way It Is follows two storylines. One is told by Misha himself as he recounts his journey from rags to riches to assassination target. The other follows a number of characters as they deal with a business only Misha is capable of running. Without him, a hostile takeover by enemies from the past and ones hidden in the shadows seems inevitable. Everything hinges on one thing: MiKhail waking up.

This book reads like an Eastern European version of The Godfather. And I do mean that in a very complimentary way. It has all the gritty bleakness you’d expect from a story set in the Ukraine along with some brutal characters that would as soon cut your throat than shoot vodka with you. Some of Misha’s story was pretty business heavy, very detailed. But it’s to be expected since he’s detailing his climb to power, and, while things like that would normally bore me to tears, this had me gripped. It was so fun to read about how Mikhail scammed just about everyone he came across on his way to becoming a billionaire and then eventually decided he was going to be a legit operator and climb to the top of the Forbes richest people in the world list.

This one really took me by surprise. I’m not usually one for books about crime or business, but Rise of an Oligarch definitely pulled me in and left me wanting so much more at the end. Can’t wait to read the next installment in the series.

You can buy Rise of an Oligarch here!

Now let’s meet the author!

Nik Krasno was born in Kiev, USSR in the seventies. At the age of 17, seeing the enormous Soviet Empire crumbling around him, Nik immigrated to Israel, where he became a lawyer at the age of 23.

By the time Nik had finished his studies, Ukraine came out independent from the Big Bang of the USSR. Unable to ignore endless business opportunities Ukraine offered in the late nineties, Nik established with partners an international law firm and managed it during its first years. As a lawyer Nik counseled a wide range of multinational sovereign, corporate and individual clients, engaged in diverse areas and industries.
Simultaneously with promoting his law office, Nik worked for an international business group and took part in different projects primarily in real estate as well as in privatization, defense, medicine and telecommunication in Ukraine and some other countries. He has been sharing his time between family in Israel and work and business mostly in former USSR countries.

Having some downtime and an outline of a plot in his head and at first with a co-author, Nik started writing 'Oligarch series' in 2013. The fictional plot combines real and imaginary events with some lawyers' common knowledge and known and made up corruption and criminal schemes customary for Ukraine and other former USSR republics. The author also portrays some cornerstone events in the history of Ukraine and shares insight into the glorious and simultaneously tragic events of 2013 uprising resulting in ousting of the president, ensuing Russian aggression in Crimea and tensions and war in the Eastern regions of Ukraine. The imaginary characters are designed to reflect real behavior and mentality and to provide decent entertainment for the readers.

After selling his share in the law office, Nik currently resides and works as an independent legal practitioner and an author in Israel.
First up, give us a Twitter synopsis of the book (140 characters or less):

When Ukrainian oligarch Mikhail Vorotavich is close to topping the Forbes rich list, an assassination attempt leaves him in a coma and his vast business empire descends into turmoil.

You’ve spent time in the Eastern European business world. How much of this book was written from personal experience and how much was written for the sake of the story?

Almost nothing is from our own experience, except for known historical events, of course, like Chernobyl disaster, the Big Bang of the USSR and so on. Yet, some parts are based on known real scams, bribery, corruption episodes, which happened and unfortunately continue to happen hundreds of times a day, even as I write my answers. Aiming to be realistic, we used some 'lawyers' folklore', known schemes and techniques as well as our own imagination to describe the enrichment process of a fictional oligarch. Many of foreign and local businessmen of different calibers, while doing business in these areas had to cope with corruption, extortion, bribery, cartelization and even organized crime.

Thanks to the media and entertainment, countries like Ukraine and Russia are seen as bleak, almost lawless places where anything goes. How accurate is that depiction in movies and even in your own book?

I would say, sometimes the depiction is a bit simplistic and clich├ęd, but accurate on account of frequent lawlessness.

The distinctive feature of these countries is that for pretence everything looks pristine, but on the inside, if formally it could be presented as something legit, anything goes -:). I would define it as dominance of procedures over the essence.

Extent wise the corruption in the East and the West is hardly comparable. Having said that, one shouldn't ignore some similarities between the two worlds, except in the West everything's much more subtle, refined. Is there that big a difference between lobbying and bribery? Sometimes the line between the two blurs. Do you believe western corporation and individuals take that extra effort to pay due taxes? All foreigners that I met in Ukraine at first complain about corruption and Wild West anarchy, but some after a few months/years stop complaining. It makes you wonder -:)  

What really drove you to write this book?

I thought those in the West, interested in international politics and USSR specifically, would want to know what happened behind the iron curtain before and after its removal (and maybe before its reinstatement anew). I thought the phenomena of transition from a socialist, sub-communist society, where a 'private property' was almost a curse, to a wild capitalistic country, where some apt individuals managed to amass billions of USD in relatively short spells, that  I witnessed, were interesting enough to share with the world in a fictional, entertaining manner.

Five -six years ago, there was a series on Israeli TV about Russian or Ukrainian oligarch coming to Israel, buying football club, marrying Israeli woman and so on. It was pretty naive in my opinion, but still - so popular. So my second assumption was that people were always curious how someone made countless fortunes. Many watched with interest movies about Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, for example. Their stories may just look trivial in comparison with those of their Eastern peers....

Who was your favorite side character to write?

Hard to tell. Everyone brings his/her own charm into the story and adds some angle and perspective. But if I have to single someone out - then maybe Johnny, an American Ivy League graduate, encountering the reality so different from the one he knew in a somewhat humorous way -:)

Are there any other genres you’d like to try your hand at writing?

Sure, but I need to have a 'story' for that. Apart from thriller and action Tarantino, Rodriguez or Ritchie - esque that inspire me in literary work, I'm also a big fan of fantasy, transgressive but humorous, contemporary fiction..

Who are your biggest writing inspirations?

Achievement wise - Alex Shaw, Orest Stelmach, because they both have Ukraine as an anchor and succeed with it. More generally speaking I admire lots of authors: from Irvine Welsch, giving us funniest Scottish 'shite' -:), to Alexander Pushkin, a playboy of Tsar's court, who excelled in writing beautiful verses.

What’s next for Nik Krasno?

To finish the Oligarch series (trilogy). Two books are out: 'Rise of an Oligarch' and 'Mortal Showdown' and the third one is in the works, hopefully to be released soon with a little surprise in it. That's for an immediate goal. At a longer run, I have one more project that I'm contemplating... Ah, almost forgot - to start selling some books maybe? -:) 

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