Monday, September 4, 2017

Interview with YA fantasy author Andrew Anzur Clement

I’m helping fantasy author Andrew Anzur Clement kick off his virtual book tour for his historical young adult trilogy, The Keepers of the Stone Trilogy.

During his tour, Andrew will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too!

Andrew Anzur Clement departed his native Los Angeles at the age of nineteen, with a curiosity for far-off lands. He quickly discovered an insatiable wonderlust that has led him to live, work and study in many fascinating places around the globe. Now in his late-twenties the unabashed opera fan is based in Europe. He continues to travel and read widely, finding new inspiration in the places he discovers. In his ‘other’ life Andrew is an academic researcher, focusing on nationalism and identity formation. He enjoys including insights from his research in his books and the characters he inhabits.
Welcome, Andrew. Please share a little bit about your current release.
My current trilogy follows the adventures of a group of misfits. They're tasked with protecting a mystical stone from the designs of an ancient cult -- the Urumi -- who are essentially the devil's servants. But, there's a bit more to it than that. We open in the middle of the action. The main character, Malka, has already sacrificed the entire tribe she's been raised with -- but, as an adoptee, never accepted by -- to protect it. She's already befriended Stas. A youth born of a Polish father into exile in Egypt and British India. Both are sent on extensive journeys that are travelogues of the late 1880's. Like many refugees who find their upbringings caught between multiple countries today, they are forced to define the truth of their own identities and pre-conceptions, as they become involved in a quest to see the stone to its final resting place. It's a battle that will test their own core beliefs about their personhoods. And, determine the course that the future's history will take.

What inspired you to write this book?
Hmmm... The short version is 'the Lady Godiva statue in Coventry, England' (I'll come back to this in a sec).

Yet, there's one that's much longer. As I mentioned above, I start my story in mid-action. The back story was partially inspired by a book I first read as a miserable, overstressed and bullied seventeen-year-old in Los Angeles. The English language title is 'In Desert and Wilderness,' by iconic Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz. It's about a British girl and a Polish boy who is proud of his heritage. The two get captured, from where they were raised in Egypt, amidst the 1885 Mahdist rebellion in Sudan. They overcome these circumstances amid impossible odds.

Flash forward to November 2015: The migrant crisis in full swing. I'm living in Europe. And all of the infamous headlines about migrants in the Polish press are just coming out. I get news from my family. We're going to Egypt for our next vacation. The first thing I think of is 'In Desert and in Wilderness'; I start looking up coincidences between the book and our planned itinerary. To my shock, I find that Stas -- the same youth who's been sold as the paragon of Polishness in that tome -- would probably be more like the Syrian migrants attempting to come to Europe's shores, in terms of his cultural identity, than like your run-of-the-mill Pole.

The following morning, I took a walk in Coventry. As an academic researcher investigating European migration, I was unable to keep the insights I'd gained from my head.

Here's where the Lady Godiva statue comes in. I found myself standing in front of it. In Coventry's main square. The image spoke to me. And that, in the end, is what inspired the first chapter: a girl on a horse. Setting off on a desperate quest. One that she's yet to realize the entirety of. Stas gets caught up in this too. But, if you've never heard of the original book? No worries. I fill in the back story as we go along. You'll be fine.

Excerpt from Keepers of the Stone: Book Three: Homecoming:
            “Who are you?” the man asked, looking behind himself in surprise. Inside the kitchen, some of the other staff were moving to see what was going on in the lobby. That could not be allowed. The kitchen employee turned back to find himself looking down the barrel of a six-shot revolver.
             “I’m the one who’s pointing a gun in your face. Let me in. Now,” Stas demanded.
            The man seemed to hesitate for only a second before stepping aside, placing his frame against the open door. Holding the weapon with both hands, Stas edged forward. In front of him, he could see the kitchen. It was a rather dark space. Various dishes sat on the stone counters in different stages of preparation. Most of the staff looked at him with stares of fear and shock. When Stas used to dream of coming to his family’s home city, this was just one more way in which it had not at all been the experience he’d had in mind.
            There was a sudden yowl, followed by the sound of a foot impacting with flesh and a body crumpling to the floor. Stas glanced back just long enough to see that Liza – now in her human form – had taken down a younger man, about Stas’s age, with a side kick. He had been waiting beside the doorframe, apparently intending to attack the Slav from behind with a butcher’s knife. Kneeling quickly, Liza retrieved the cutting tool, which was smeared with blood from some kind of beef or pork meat. Standing in the doorway, she raised it up to a point beside her head. The felinoid turned the blade towards herself as she inspected it briefly, before allowing the ends of her lips to curl slightly upwards, while jutting out her lower jaw. Concurrently she nodded twice, as if deciding that this would do nicely.
             “Let’s move!” the felinoid barked at Stas.

What exciting story are you working on next?
In short? A trilogy that's partially a sequel to Keepers --Voyages of Fortune. One of its main plotlines follows the actions of our protagonists from Keepers of the Stone about two years onwards. Others are completely new. Including one that chronicles the adventures of a real-life female solo adventurer, mystic and writer who journeyed around the world during the 1920's. It all ends up on a clipper ship that can fold space at supernatural speeds in the twenty-first century. The whole thing is tied together by a time travel paradox that spans over 120 years. Kind of makes my head hurt sometimes, actually.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess for a while now. At least, in some sense. I've been writing and publishing as an academic for a few years. But until these books were brought out I'd never really considered myself an author of fiction. It's true, what a writer friend of mine one said; to paraphrase: Once you take the cork off, you can't put it back on.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I wish. In my daily life I'm an early career academic, researching the confluence between migration and (lack of) European identity formation. There's a rhythm in this life; it largely means that I'm able to use the time when I'm waiting for decisions on academic manuscripts to write my novels. And vice versa. Additionally, it means that I'm able to bring the insights from my academic research to bear on the narratives my characters inhabit.

It also allows me to let my hair down a bit. Let's just say that after you read these books, you'll never look at a cat the same way again. Although the story is set in 1886/7, my characters talk in a snarky way that will be recognizable to the modern reader. My main character is a mixed-race teenage girl, who takes down her enemies with a nothing but a dupata, a doorknob and a dagger.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like writing on public transport. Most of what I'm writing necessarily takes place in the evening. Kind of like in place of watching a TV series. But, I'm most creative/productive while writing during travel between cities. For exposition, most of the end of Keepers book two and the beginning of book three was banged out while on six hour long train rides between Plovdiv and Varna, Bulgaria. Book three was finished in Slovenia, where I gained the inspiration for my next trilogy. (I'm a fan of Central Eastern Europe, if you can't tell).

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I oscillated between trumpet player, news anchor and businessman (whatever that meant). And no, novel writer never figured into it. When I first sat down and began the journey that became these novels, no one, believe me, was more surprised than I. Yet, I'm more than glad I did so.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
My tomes are part fantasy, part history, and part reflection on what national belonging means in an increasingly globalized world. Having had the experience of penning these books, partly while writing a doctoral dissertation, I can't help but be impressed by how much Keepers of the Stone encompasses my own narrative thesis biased off of my travels and research in Europe, North America and South Asia. Across which most of Keepers' action is based. It's a travelogue of the world. As encountered by those who must find their place in it. Even as they fight threats that they once never could have imagined existed.


Purchase Links to book one (Books two and three already out):
Amazon | Amazon UK | IBooks | Kobo | BN

Thank you for being a guest on my blog! Happy touring!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Andrew Anzur Clement said...

Many thanks to Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews for hosting!

Don't forget to visit my site for a FREE ebook copy of Keepers of the Stone: Book One!

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Unknown said...

congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

Cali W. said...

Thanks for the giveaway; I like the excerpt. :)

Andrew Anzur Clement said...

Thanks Cali! And hope you enjoy!

Kim Pickett said...

Thank you for the chance to win!

Victoria Alexander said...

Really great post, sounds like an awesome series!

Dale Wilken said...

Sounds like a good read thank you.

Rita Wray said...

Thank you for the excerpt.

Ally Swanson said...

Congrats on the new book and good luck on the book tour!

Ally Swanson said...

Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading it!