The following is part of an interview conducted by Sabrina Fox for The Elements of Living Life in November 2015. Please note that it contains spoilers.
The Island of Echoes by Roman Blair
Hello, Roman! Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions to help us get to know you better.
Hi Sabrina. It’s a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
First off, what triggered this story? It’s so unlike any other I’ve read before.
I have always enjoyed art, history, and geography. I’ve been drawing since I can remember. When I was in elementary school, I joined all three interests by creating maps of “long-lost” fictional places. One of my maps eventually became more important to me. Over time, I gave it a history, laws, a language, and most importantly characters. The setting was complete by the time I was 12, and it was then that I decided to write a story about it. The first version of the book was very short, but it stuck with me. Every few years, I would return to it and re-write it (modifying the plot, characters, etc) until I had about 6 or 7 different versions by my mid-twenties.
How long did it take you to write this?
Well, if you count the early drafts as part of the book, then 16 years! But the final version took about 7 months. It was easier to write than any of the preceding editions because I wanted to include an element from each of the early drafts. The material had already been written many times, I just needed to combine it together into a cohesive narrative.
Why did you decide to publish the book after all these years?
I feel that our world can be very tense. It truly pains me to see some of our news stories and I believe that people are becoming immune to the atrocities which occur every day. Seeing so much violence and hatred around the world can seem like conflict and violence are a part of our nature and unavoidable. But I disagree with that philosophy. The Island of Echoes has always been an escape for me. It was a place of safety and joy and I finally felt that I was ready to share that escape with others.
The book is very philosophical and has many themes. Which of its messages is most important to you?
That we shouldn’t assume anything in our history was inevitable, or anything in our future set in stone. Countries, religions, the economy, our languages and cultures… these are all human creations. None are constants, they are variables. And changing them starts at the personal level.
Did you do any research during your writing?
A lot. I’ve always loved history, but I specialize in Hellenistic Egypt. Although ancient history forms a large part of the book, it is essentially set in the Victorian Era (which I knew close to nothing about). I had to research everything (steamships, politics, geography, dialect, social practices, attire, etc!) before I felt confident that my book was historically accurate.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write for yourself more than anyone else. The Island of Echoes is the kind of book I always hoped to stumble upon in the library. Don’t worry about what is popular or how your peers will react. If you write a book that you would enjoy reading, then it’ll be a book you will feel proud of.