Teen Press Corps Member Maddy Interviews Author Andrew Shvarts
by Madison Clark, BookPeople Teen Press Corps
Madison Clark: What colors make you happy?
Andrew Shvarts: I am actually Colorblind, so that is an interesting question. Most people assume it would be grey but I recently got the glasses that allow me to see color and realized just how much more vivid the world was. Especially reds. I stared at a tomato for an hour in awe of the redness. The experience of putting on those glasses was like, I’ve seen red, I know what it is but it was so much more vivid than I could have ever imagined. I was driving and I saw a coke truck go by and I almost got into an accident because I had never seen anything as beautiful. Although what’s funny, is I can’t see purple at all; I see it as blue. And the sequel to Royal Bastards, City of Bastards, is purple. I didn’t know it was purple, and when we did the color review I was gushing about how lovely of a blue it was.
MC: If you were an ice cream flavor what would you be?
AS: Coffee. That’s my favorite flavor to eat and I drink like 90 cups of coffee a day. I’m also super animated, so I’ll go with coffee.
MC:How would you define true love?
AS: This is going to be a very married answer, but I feel like true love is when you can be absolutely be every part of yourself around a person. So much of life is putting some mask on or acting a certain way and to me true love is when you hit that point where you are just 100 percent yourself, warts and all, with no judgment.
MC: Do you have any children?
AS: I have one. He is three; his name is Alec. Royal Bastards is actually dedicated to him, because I actually started writing it, like, the week he was born, so him and the book are very close in my head.
MC: If you could freeze time for a week, what would you do with that time?
AS: I feel like since I have a full-time job, write, and have a kid, the lack of time seems like the thing I hate most about life. I want to read more, go more places, although I’d want to specifically unfreeze moments. I’d essentially want a time turner.
MC: What would your main character get a tattoo of?
AS: I think Tilla would get a tattoo, later in life, that reminded of her of her past, like a western flower as a memento of the life she left behind.
MC: What superpower would you want to have?
AS: Honestly just not having to sleep. That’s a super lame superpower but if I could have those eight extra hours a day, that would be pretty good. Or maybe a save game system. To be able to save my life, do something, see how it played out and be able to reset it if I want with no consequence.
MC: What superpower do you think you WOULD have based on your personality?
AS: So I have a theory that everyone actually does have a very low-grade superpower but they are so low-grade you don’t even notice it. Like I have a friend whose credit cards are always demagnetized. So I think he must be emitting a low-grade electrical charge that’s so subtle it only does that. I think mine is that I incept nicknames really well. I’ll call a coworker something and it will stick for like 15 years. I must have like a light mind control because they aren’t even always good nicknames.
MC: How has your job affected your writing?
AS: A lot. I work for Pixel Berry now. And we do mobile games with stories, like choices, and I wouldn’t be in YA if it weren’t for this job. When I graduated college and wanted to write horror, I thought I was going to be the next Stephen King…and it would be easy, but it wasn’t at all. Nothing was working and then I just managed to get this job writing for this video game company, where I had to write games for high-schoolers. I had before that only written adult horror, and had no idea how to do it, so I had to unlearn everything I knew about storytelling and relearn something totally different: and I loved it. I love being funny and writing about teens. Also, because at my job everything gets revised constantly, as a result I’m very easy with editors. I will change anything, I don’t care. It’s made me very adaptable to feedback.
MC: How did your experiences in high school shape your life?
AS: I went to essentially Nerd High. It was a private high school and it was where all the tech people sent their kids. I think having that environment with smart and supportive teachers and a very nurturing environment cultivated my creativity, and left me open to that sort of thing.
MC: In your book you deal a lot with perceptional bias. So how have your beliefs changed as you have went through life?
AS: I was always raised to be very skeptical, and very individualistic. I think that informs Royal Bastards, with the idea of questioning your family and questioning your beliefs. One of the weird things I think that has happened in the world is that things have gotten less nuanced, by circumstance of what’s happening in the world. When I wrote Royal Bastards in 2014, politics were so different that I was like, this will be a book without a clear good guy or bad guy because politics are hard and ambiguous. Now I’m like oh yeah, there’s bad guys…they march with torches. Things have become less ambiguous but more passionate as well.
MC: What is your favorite word?
AS:I think most of my favorite words are actually in Russian. Russian words just sound great. The russian word for hippo, for example, is begemot. It such a better word than hippo, which is so “who cares”.
MC: What advice would you have given to your younger self?
AS: The advice I’d give to myself is the same advice I’d give to all writers. Read and write a wide variety of things. Read from perspectives that totally aren’t yours, and write and read genres that aren’t the ones you usually would. It’s very easy for authors to get stuck in one specific genre and become so deeply immersed in those tropes that you rely on them as a crutch. The best thing that ever happened to me was being forced to do middle-grade comedy instead of horror.