Good morning, friends! It’s Friday, which means it is time to welcome a new cook and his/her finest recipes into the dining room for review by our Starving Reviewer. First off, let us have a talk with Alexander Parvu, creator of Otto Black, about his book and his writing method.
Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!
There is not much to say about me. I’m a 27 year old man, as you know my name is Alexandru Parvu, and most if not all people call me Alex. Other than that I’m just a regular guy with a regular day job.
Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen? Any non-work interests?
Well I don’t actually make a living from writing and I honestly could not do that if wanted to, since most of what I write comes out of my interaction with people. Considering that work is the place where I interact most with people and manage to observe and learn the most about people’s behavior, writing without a day job would make for very poor writing on my part. It would certainly lead to series of bland and uninteresting charters even though the plots would be the same.
What is your latest dish to be served up? Are there any past pieces of literary cuisine you think we should take a bite out of?
My last and only book to be published so far is Otto Black, and if there is a Dark Fantasy fan out there, I would recommend that you go and pick up the book. Hopefully this will not be my last one. Currently I am working on the sequel to Otto Black. It will be called Field of Crows, and so far I have to say it is turning out well.
What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?
Believe it or not my favorite types of books are not Fantasy Books. I enjoy reading Fantasy books and not a year goes by without me reading at least two of them. But my favorites are historical books. My interest in writing fantasy came from reading history, from imagining what would have happened if historical events would have taken a different path. A certain book that pushed me towards the writing path was “The Twelve Caesars” by Suetonius. The thing about this book is that it presented the human side, the way people in ancient Rome saw the emperors rather than as a series of actions that took place in history. Ever since reading that book I’ve wanted to read more books on history that are written in that way. Unfortunately those are few and far between. So I guess I decided to make up my own history and present the “historical charters” in the way I would like history books to present them.
Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble? Why?
Currently I am concentrating on the Fantasy Genre at least until I finish the Through Old Lies and New Intrigues series which will take at least 4 more years. But if I think I can tell a good story, and I would not write if would not think that, then I would tell that story regardless of what genre it falls into.
Style! Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one! What do you think sets yours apart and why?
To be honest I never tried to be unique in the way you described. If I do have a unique style then it is by chance. Personally I just tried to tell the story in the way I would like to be told a story, in much the same way I would tell a story if I went out with my friends. I simply state the events as they are, add in all the details that I consider necessary, such as setting, background and so on, and let the person I am telling the story to, make his or her own mind in regards to those events. I generally like for people to form their own opinions rather than to impose my opinion on them.
Even the best of us find inspiration is the dishes of others. Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?
As stated above most of my influences come from history rather than Fantasy and a reader with a good knowledge of history would probably spot the parallels. For example a girl at work, just from a short synapsis of my book, managed to figure out that one event in the book is inspired by a certain war in England’s history. I’d rather not say the name of that war since it might be considered a spoiler. However since I also read a lot of Fantasy Books there are some series out there and authors that I admire. My top two favorites are: Mark Lawrence known for the Broken Empire series and a closer to home author is Andrzej Sapkowski the author of The Witcher series. Both of these authors present a very gray world in which you would be hard pressed to point out the “Good Guy”. I like those sort of Fantasy books precisely because it is much the same with history.
Let’s get into the meat and potatoes: the art and craft of writing itself! Do you have a preference of points-of-view when you write?
What I like to do, when I write, is to present the point of view of the main character or of a character, it does not have to be the protagonist. I like to present to the reader how these individuals see the world then I like to contrast that with how the world actually is, usually via the point of view of a character of great authority and power. Thus I tend to reveal the ignorance and sometimes naiveté of those on which the story focuses.
Mind you this is not meant as an insult to any of the characters as in the end we all are ignorant of certain aspects of the world and this is what leads to us making mistakes and this is what leads to us having interesting lives. What I try to do is to let the reader know why a certain character made that mistake.
Sparse or wordy, how do you like your descriptions served up? Are you a Hemmingway man or do you like some saucy adjectives with your nouns?
I don’t have a fixed view on flamboyant descriptions, it is not that they are always bad or always good. It all matters on how they are used. So I try to keep my description on point. For that reason if I’ve put a description in my book you can bet cash money that that description was trying to make the reader aware of an important detail. So to summarize, I think balance is the key, use descriptions when needed and as flamboyant as they are needed. There is such a thing as “Too much of a good thing”.
Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?
This is much like question nine. I can’t say I have a favorite, I like what works for the particular sense of circumstances that are presented. But if I had to choose, I’d say that “Man vs Society” is my favorite. Mainly because I think that a in a “Man vs Society” conflict, the “Man” isn’t in reality challenging society but rather another man or woman who is a representative or in most cases a ruler of that society. This, in my opinion, often leads to some very interesting plots.
What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization? Why?
I’m not a big fan of universal statements in literature. This choice would probably differ from book to book. But for what I write charters are very important because their ambition is what drives the plot. But then again there is probably a reader out there, screaming that it is the plot that has generated the charters, and I would have to agree. This leads eventually to the “Chicken and Egg” dilemma.
We all know that the first taste means the most! What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?
I’m just blunt and honest. This is what my book is about this is how it’s written and if you like this, this and that you would probably like my book. There is no point in promising something to a reader just to get him or her to read your book only to find out that what you promised is not in the book. This would just lead to frustration and anger on the side of the reader.
The most important of questions: Cake or pie?
None! I don’t like sweets. I like my dishes with salt and spices.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be?
I’m not exactly a famous author but for what it’s worth my advice would be to write what you like and what you know. Don’t write something just because you think that is what other people like. If you don’t like what you are writing chances are it’s not very good.