Andrew Shvarts is an absolute delight. I met him at a recent author event, and when I found out that his book, ROYAL BASTARDS, was "The Breakfast Club meets Game of Thrones," I knew I had to snatch a copy immediately.
At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.
Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.
Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.
The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . .
According to your website bio, you were born in the Soviet Union, but immigrated to the US when you were four years old. In what ways, if any, has this shaped your experience, and can you tell us about your journey toward becoming a published author?
Interesting question! I think there certain elements of the immigrant experience that leave an indelible impression on your perspective, and that comes out in all my writing. I think there are certain themes I come back to a lot, like the illusory nature of home, the limits of ideologies, and ambiguity of the notion of nations and Kingdoms, that comes directly from that experience.
As for my journey, I always knew I wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a kid. When I graduated college, I was sure I'd be the next Stephen King, so I wrote a bunch of horror and scifi... none of which sold. My lucky break was when I got a job writing for a mobile videogame, Surviving High School. It was middle-grade comedy, so the opposite of what I used to, but I discovered I really liked it. That's how I got into writing YA, and a few years on the job, I gave fiction writing a try. After the usual struggles of publishing (one novel that went nowhere, another that died in submission), I got my big break with Royal Bastards!
I like how you said, "The usual struggles of publishing." It really helps those of us still on the journey. ROYAL BASTARDS has been described as Game of Thrones meets The Breakfast Club. How did the story come to you, and what do you hope readers will take away from it?
ROYAL BASTARDS began as the combination of two different ideas that I was trying to get going. The first was a contemporary story about a group of very different teens who get framed for a murder and have to go on the run. The second was an attempt to do a truly YA version of Game of Thrones, with that series world-building and feuding Houses and backstabbing intrigue. The breakthrough came when I realized these were actually the same idea!
In terms of read takeaway, that's an interesting question. I hope readers have a great time and love the action and the humor (and maybe cry a little). More broadly, in terms of themes, I think ROYAL BASTARDS is about the moment in adolescence where you realize that your parents are not the perfect models you thought they were, that the values and beliefs you were brought up in might be flawed or even harmful. It's about challenging your upbringing and finding yourself as an individual.
Well said--and that's a journey that many of us, myself included, definitely identify with. And, I love the stories you tell. What is one of your favorite anecdotes?
Ha, thank you! I recently remembered a pretty good story about my favorite celebrity encounter. It was back in college, during a play. A buddy of mine went to the bathroom during intermission, and after using the toilet, he flushed it... and it started backing up, overflowing, the whole mess. My buddy decides, not his problem, and starts to leave the stall... only to run into none other than Tom Hanks walking in. Turns out he was on campus to give a talk and decided to catch a play. So my friend is just standing there, stunned, and Tom Hanks looks in and sees the overflowing toilet and says, "Were you really going to just leave that for the next person who came in?" And my friend sheepishly nods. So Tom Hanks goes in, gets the plunger, and plunges the toilet, all to my friend's deep shame. And as my friend is walking out, Tom yells, "You tell everyone! You tell them that Tom Hanks cleaned up your mess!"
Ha! That's awesome! And a good moral for us all. :) CITY OF BASTARDS, the sequel to ROYAL BASTARDS, will debut in 2018. Is there anything you can tell us about it yet?
Ooooo, let's see. It's set in the city of Lightspire, the capital of the Kingdom, and is structurally almost more of a murder mystery. You'll get to see the heart of the Kingdom, and encounter shadowy cults, charming revolutionaries, and the creme de la creme of the nobility. Also, there's a masquerade and maybe the secret nature of magic. Maybe.
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