TBR [to be read] is a semi-regular, invitation-only interview series with authors of newly released/forthcoming, interesting books who will tell us about their new work as well as offer tips on writing, stories about the publishing biz, and from time to time, a recipe.
Give us your elevator pitch: what’s your book about in 2-3 sentences?
The book details a year in the life of a six-year-old Slovak boy being brought up by his grandparents in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia. In this novella-in-flash, filled with heartbreak and joy, betrayal and love, Adam grows through adventures with his grandfather in a quest for acceptance.
Which character did you most enjoy creating? Why?
As Grandfather guided me through his adventures with Adam, I grew to admire his strength. In Adam’s eyes he is heroic, almost mythical, but the reader comes to appreciate a life marked by poverty, wars, poor health, and, during the events of this story, a daughter who disappears, leaving a child behind. He is complex and the challenge was to present him as not just Adam’s superhero, but a living, loving, flawed human being.
Tell us a bit about the highs and lows of your book’s road to publication.
The book has been in the works for ten years; it has been envisioned as a full-length novel, as a collection of short stories, as a collection of novellas. Many parts have been reworked, many discarded. Once the publisher and I were happy with the format, we decided to race ahead toward an AWP 2023 Seattle launch, which became a marathon. Some authors who agreed to blurb could not meet that deadline. I am thrilled that Sara Lippmann and Nancy Stohlman juggled their schedules to provide generous praise.
A high has been holding the physical book in my hands, being able to sign and gift it to friends.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?
1) James Baldwin: “Discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance. Write. Find a way to keep alive and write. There is nothing else to say.”
2) Samuel Becket: “Fail better.”
My favorite writing advice is “write until something surprises you.” What surprised you in the writing of this book?
The process is mysterious. You must allow the characters to lead you, to let them tell the story. But a time eventually comes when that world can overwhelm, when the author feels the weight of too many stories and has to assume control. Aggressive characters can scream bloody murder.
What’s something about your book that you want readers to know?
A childhood is sorrow-filled. Soon after the events of this book, armies of the Soviet Union and three other nations crossed the borders with tanks, to occupy Czechoslovakia and chase Adam’s family and 300,000 other citizens out of the country. The Slovak large, even mythic, stories remain largely untold, although a few authors continue to till that soil.
Inquiring foodies and hungry book clubs want to know: Any food/s associated with your book? (Any recipes I might share?)
BREAD DUMPLINGS, STEAMED
1 loaf of day-old white bread
1 cup of milk
6 tablespoons of butter
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons of parsley (optional)
Cut the bread into one-inch cubes.
Separate the whites and yolks of the eggs into two bowls.
Beat the whites into a stiff meringue with an electric beater.
Add the milk into the bowl with the yolks and beat.
In a large bowl, using your hands, mix the bread, the milk with egg yolks, the melted butter and the parsley, salt, pepper. Gently fold in the egg whites.
Place a steamer on top of a pot, add water, just high enough so it does not touch the steamer. Bring water to boil. In your hands shape the bread mixture into balls, about two inches in diameter. Place in steamer, cover, reduce boil to gentle, steam for about seven minutes. The finished dumplings should be solid and spongy. In my steamer I do batches of seven balls, and have three batches. If the dumpling is still runny in the middle, steam for another minute.
Serve to accompany any stew or goulash, like the one below.
SEGE GOULASH (PORK AND SAUERKRAUT)
1.5 lbs pork tenderloin
2 medium onions (I prefer red)
Liter jar of sauerkraut
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon caraway
1 tablespoon paprika
½ tablespoon hot paprika (optional)
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup sour cream
Cut meat into one-inch cubes.
Heat oil, add caraway and onion, cook for three minutes on medium heat.
Add cubed meat and garlic, increase heat, stir for three minutes.
Add paprika, flour and salt, stir for a minute.
Add stock, bring to boil, reduce heat to medium, add sauerkraut, cover, simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Check meat for tenderness.
Gently stir in the sour cream, cook through for two minutes.
Serve and ENJOY.
Read more about this publisher: http://www.cervenabarvapress.com/
Buy this book for your own TBR stack: https://www.amazon.com/s?crid=13G7VJ0L8RTQ7&k=andrew%20stancek&ref=glow_cls&refresh=1&sprefix=%2Caps%2C136
Read an excerpt from this book, “Rooster Crowed”: https://www.thephare.com/triptych