[ Home Page | K&E | RMC | Interview | BLOG | Wiki ]


This is an interview from 2005 with Robert Stanek on his book Sovereign Rule that also discusses Ruin Mist. Other interview available are:


Interview from 2002 titled "The Creation of an Epic World"

Interview from 2008 titled "The Dawn of the Ages"


From Sin City to Sovereign Rule

An Interview with Robert Stanek
by Jonathan W. Hickman



Robert Stanek's books can be purchased at Amazon.com or directly from Reagent Press at http://www.tvpress.com/


With the hotly anticipated upcoming release of SIN CITY in theaters this week, I thought it appropriate to recommend a good read that is something like Frank Miller's graphic novels with a hint of Tom Clancy. The novel is SOVEREIGN RULE written by Robert Stanek whose RUIN MIST fantasy novels have been extremely popular.

After reading SOVEREIGN RULE, I passed a couple of emails with Mr. Stanek to discuss writing, comic books, and movies.

"I definitely can see a comparison between SIN CITY and SOVEREIGN RULE." Stanek said. "In SIN CITY, Frank Miller has enthused life into a place and time where crime is everywhere, you have corrupt officials, mobsters, more. The story is fueled by love (mostly) and there are very few truly good people. You have characters like poor down-on-his luck Marv, Dwight who tries to avoid trouble and stay anonymous caught in the middle of it all.

"In SOVEREIGN RULE, I've created a setting where there is much corruption. Scott Evers, the main character, is driven by desire and love as well." Stanek continued. "He wants his wife and unborn child to survive the coming storm. He wants more than anything to get out of the situation he's in but can't escape it. There are corrupt officials and a fair share of psychotic characters. It's no-holds-barred because you never know whose going to get hurt or killed next or what's going to happen."

Reading SOVEREIGN RULE is like stepping into a dark mean place where no matter how brightly the sun shines (even on the beaches of Hawaii), you are made to feel tight and overcast on the inside. This weekend's movie adaptation of Frank Miller's SIN CITY achieves this through the use of fantastic computer animation techniques. But Frank Miller fans that sat and pondered over the thick shadowy pages of segments of his sinister SIN CITY graphic novel series know that the connection to the mood is more than just visual. Without the ingenious character creations that also flooded from Miller's pen, the environment alone would be insufficient.

But Miller didn't cut the players in his stories from whole cloth anymore than Robert Stanek's hero Scott Evers is wholly original. SOVEREIGN RULE is a technological thriller dealing in part with the breakdown of international financial markets but ultimately boils down to a detective mystery novel that is intimate and personal.

"The story is very personal for agent Scott Evers." Stanek told me. "His life and that of everyone he cares about is on the line. As the story unfolds, you see just how personal the story is and why it is this way. The central mysteries and what's happening in the story are very much tied to his area of skill: technology.

"I also wanted to make sure you were right there with Scott on this journey. If it's very personal to Scott, my hope is you will have a strong connection to Scott and the story as well. Scott's a likeable tough guy who's going through a very hard time, made even more difficult by the betrayal and treachery that surrounds him."

Robert Stanek has some personal first hand experience with technological mystery having worked in Intelligence in the military. I asked him whether he based any of his characters in SOVEREIGN RULE on people he knew in real life.

"Like the DAVINCI CODE, SOVEREIGN RULE uses real settings as the backdrop for the story." Stanek said. "Every location from the scenes in Ft. Meade Maryland and Washington D.C. to the scenes in Florida's Alligator Alley to the scenes in Honolulu, Hawaii is very carefully researched. I tried to make Scott's character and everything happening in the story as realistic as possible. Everything that happens technologically is stuff that can really be done in the real world. Some of it is a bit embellished.

"The opening sequence where Scott is stealing identities, that's entirely real and possible right now. Blue Tooth wireless devices used by cell phones, PDAs, etc. aren't necessarily secure. The first reported cell phone virus is being transmitted using Blue Tooth wireless right now today. In the story, you may note that Scott doesn't carry a cell phone. There are several reasons, one is given later in the story, but he also has a very real dislike of them which is better explained and revealed in the second book I'm working on."

SOVEREIGN RULE is a great departure from previous efforts in terms of both style and genre for writer Stanek. Prior to RULE, Stanek had achieved great popular success with his finely crafted Tolkien-esque fantasy RUIN MIST novels. But his background is in computers and technology.

"Certainly wasn't a straight path, let me tell you." Stanek said of the shift from fantasy to techno-thriller. "I've long been a fan of science fiction and fantasy. My earliest writings were fantasy short stories and when I started writing full-length works of fiction I was naturally inclined to write in this genre. But it is terribly hard to break in with science fiction and fantasy especially with something as different from the norm as my Ruin Mist books.

"The old adage goes that you should write about what you know and that's how I got my first big break in writing. I wrote a technical how-to book that was a smashing success. I kept writing fiction on the side. When I put my love of all things technical together with my love of writing fiction, the result was SOVEREIGN RULE."

After reading one of his RUIN MIST books, I was shocked by how different the very writing style was in RULE. It was as though in MIST Stanek tries on Tolkien and in RULE he channels Dashiel Hammett.

"Writing thrillers and writing fantasy are very different jobs." Stanek admitted. "THE MALTESE FALCON is a classic-I love the character of Sam Spade. I respect Dashiel Hammett's work because he gave us the modern American crime novel where the perpetrator always has his or her reasons for doing whatever they've done and it's not just a body in a courtyard somewhere and you've to discover who dun nit.

"Writing a modern American thriller is very different from writing epic fantasy. In SOVEREIGN RULE, my goal was to write a tightly constructed story with a realistic edge that shows clearly the disillusionment Scott Evers feels and also the arbitrariness of the personal destiny of the characters. The story has to move fast, almost as if it is happening in real time, because for Scott it is. The grittiness and edginess of the story are important."

Stanek continued. "In writing fantasy, there's a lot more description because I'm taking readers into a world they've never been in before-and equally as important it is a very different fantasy world from any other they've experienced. Ruin Mist is a multiverse with three intertwined realms, thousands of years of history, a complex web of politics and alliances between many different peoples. Putting all this together in a way that's easy to understand isn't easy. It takes a great deal of work to make it all come together seamlessly. I ease readers into the realms, the politics, the alliances, the peoples of the realms book by book and then begin to immerse them in the entirety of the world. The gloves come off completely in the next set of books beginning with In the Service of Dragons for young adult and Fields of Honor for adult. There's a reason fans call the books Star Wars With Elves, and in these later books the intricacies and all the pieces come together in a way that I hope will please readers immeasurably."

Robert Stanek is a very prolific writer. He told me that he had just finished three more RUIN MIST books (IN THE SERVICE OF DRAGONS III and IN THE SERVICE OF DRAGONS IV, and MARK OF THE DRAGON) that will be out this year. In addition, he is completing INTO THE STONE LAND, the second book in his popular MAGIC LANDS series. But what about SOVEREIGN RULE and his character Scott Evers?

"I have outlined the second Scott Evers thriller, but that won't be completed for some time." Stanek said. "The book I'm really excited about is STORMJAMMERS, which is based on the modern day WINDTALKERS in the first Persian Gulf War. It is part memoir (as it is based on my personal experiences while performing combat operations in the Gulf) and part M.A.S.H. (as much of the story takes place on post as it does in the field and there are hilarious characters in parts that will have you thinking of Klinger but these characters are based on real people I was stationed with)."

Gosh, it now sounds like Stanek is going to try on Joseph Heller (CATCH 22). I for one can't wait to read it. For now, check out his RUIN MIST series and SOVEREIGN RULE.


Robert Stanek's books can be purchased at Amazon.com or directly from Reagent Press at http://www.tvpress.com/


Finally, visit Robert Stanek's website: http://www.robertstanek.com/



2002-2011 All Rights Reserved