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Friday, May 2, 2014

Interview: Andrew Stanek

Interview with 
Andrew Stanek, 
author of 

Today we're welcoming Andrew Stanek to The Happy Book Reviewer. Andrew is the author of the new fantasy novel Empire.

Empire is about a small boy, Kean, who becomes entangled with a plot to kill the Emperor after a chance encounter with an Imperial Prince.
Tell me how you came up with the idea for Empire.

Stanek: I almost don't know myself. For a long time, since long before I've ever started writing, I've had an idea for a story about a boy who accidentally kills a prince. I've written many different iterations of this novel over the years but I've never been satisfied with any of them. A few months ago, I started writing a historical fiction piece about a Holy Roman prince who falls in love with a Hungarian princess, and I realized I could combine the two ideas.

Where does Empire take place? Was it difficult to build a fictional place or was it more freeing than just setting it in, say, medieval England?

Stanek: Empire takes place in a fictionalized Empire in a sort of analog of medieval Germany. I'd say my fictional Empire was a much easier, and yes, a much more freeing setting than something like medieval England. One of the great problems I have with historical settings is that there are always a million details that I'll never be able to get quite right, and doubts are always niggling at the back of my mind that I've missed something or messed something up. I'd say a more fictional setting frees me from all that.

Is Kean a younger version of yourself, or very different from you?

Stanek: That's a very good question. I wonder about it myself. I don't think Kean is a younger version of me. His life experiences and personality are quite different from mine, but he shares the uncertainty I had as a child.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this book?

Stanek: Telling people about it! I must have spent much more time worrying about whether anyone would read my book than I did writing it.

Oh, I know all about that! There was this great article in Publisher's Weekly last summer by Ellen Potter talking about this new publishing paradigm where "introverted authors are regularly called upon to... shout from every social media rooftop. Books are such quiet things--created in silence, read in silence--yet publishing a book has become a very noisy business."
(Potter, E. (2013, July 12). When Books Get Noisy: Writing is no longer a vocation for the shy. Publisher's Weekly.

Stanek: In terms of actual writing, I had trouble with the female characters in Empire. I worried furiously about them - I was terrified I might slip into stereotypes.
And lastly, I tried to meet a self-imposed deadline of one month to write the first draft. I very nearly didn't make it because Empire turned out to be much longer than I expected.

One month! Geez, you're ambitious! So, what was the most fun part?

Stanek: Writing the ending! Seeing everything come together was great fun. 

Is Empire a stand-alone book, or will it become a series?

Stanek: It's designed to become a series. On the last page, I've got a note saying to look out for the sequel, which I've preemptively titled Empire: Lonely Road - though maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.

What are you currently working on?

Stanek: Mainly, I'm trying to get the word out about Empire and I'm outlining the aforementioned sequel.

You recently completed college. If a college or high school literature class were reading Empire some day, what themes would the teacher hope his/her students picked up on from your book?

Stanek: That's a tough one. Academic literature classes tend to spend a lot of time searching for deep meaning, but Empire is just for fun. I think it does have themes of social acceptance and egalitarianism, but nothing central. I will say that I think, as a writer, I don't need a positive message, but I am under obligation not to have a negative one. Empire's themes reflect that view.

Writers also love to read. I know you enjoy historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery. Is there a book have you read that that you wish you had written?

Stanek: I don't think so because I wouldn't take any book away from its author! I've read and loved lots of books, but as good as they might be, they're just not mine.

And since your book is fantasy, I can ask you this one... If you could be magically sucked into any novel, which would it be? Would you be yourself, or would you take the place of one of the existing characters?

Stanek: Not Empire, I can say that much! I'd be very much out of place. But if I had to choose a novel (and I couldn't give the usual answer of Harry Potter and going to Hogwarts), I think I'd choose the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I'd go as myself. I think life would be a riot.

Well, a riot only if you got off of Earth before it is demolished for a hyperspace bypass! Otherwise, it would be a very short story.

Thank you so much for taking the time for an interview! 

Stanek: No problem!

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