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Interview: Andrew Hess, Author of ‘The Phoenix Blade: Project Justice’

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Andrew HessAndrew Hess is the author of: Chamber of Souls, Hall of the Forgotten, and The Phoenix Blade: Project Justice.

He was born and raised on Long Island, New York, and his interest in writing began when he was in 5th grade. Several years after completing high-school, Andrew came up with the idea for his first novel: The Phoenix Blade: Project Justice.

While working on this novel, he also realized that he had a love of poetry. Thanks to this discovery, Chamber of Souls and Hall of the Forgotten, both poetry compilations, came to fruition.

Andrew is also a blogger for the Writer’s Revolution, a writer of screenplays, and has been a frequent guest on the Anthony Charles Podcast.

Connect with Andrew: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Welcome Andrew and thank you for your interest in being featured in an interview. I’m always desirous to feature my fellow authors, and truth be told, I always enjoy learning about writers individually: who they are, where they come from and what started them on the path to becoming authors, et cetera…

With that said, why don’t you give us a little information about yourself? I did read in your Facebook bio that you were born and raised on Long Island, New York. My mother and her siblings grew up in Patchogue which makes me familiar with parts of the island, but definitely not as much as you. What specific part of the Island are you from? What was childhood like for you? Growing up, being as near to the water as you were, did you spend weekends and/or summers at the beach? What were some of your favorite childhood activities? In your way younger years, did you ever aspire to become a fisherman or … perhaps even a pirate?

I grew up in Lindenhurst and have spent all of my life there (with the exception of five years in the New Paltz and Poughkeepsie areas). Growing up on the Island was fun for the most part. I loved going to the mall for the arcade and the movies until they were both removed. At that point I started going to Mr. Cue; a pool hall in Lindenhurst. I think I spent more time there on weekends than anywhere else when I was a teenager. I love the water and I think I was more of a beach person when I was a kid because it was different and exciting and I didn’t get to go too often. But over the years, I just like to go at night when no one’s really around which really helps clear my mind. I don’t think I ever wanted to be a pirate or a fisherman.

As far as school, were you an avid learner or were lessons and homework more like boring, chores-of-obligation? What were your favorite subjects? Are there any memorable field-trips and/or humorous school tales you’d like to briefly entertain us with?

I was definitely bored in school. I can learn almost anything quickly, but hated doing homework, (with the exception of math) because that was the only way I could learn and understand the material. Math and English were my favorite subjects and I loved taking my Advanced Swimming and Peer Leadership classes as well.

My most memorable trip had to be when I went on Soul Quest, a spiritual retreat I took with my Peer Leadership class that involved meditation, self-reflection, team building exercises, and ropes courses.

My most memorable moment had to be from my senior year. I was in Accounting, and my teacher had a unique way of writing on the board and erasing it. He would start writing on the middle board then go to the left board then the right board. When he erased, he always made some sort of noise which sounded like a train chugging along. So one day I stood up in the middle of class and shouted, “Whoooo! Whooooo!” like a train whistle and sat down before the teacher turned around. When he did, he knew who it was, and he just stared at me with a did-he-really-just-do-that kind of look while the rest of the class was hysterical.

Andrew, you mentioned that your writing began during 5th grade. Since you can so easily narrow down the when of its beginning; I’m going to presume that there was some sort of pivotal moment and/or occurrence? What was it for you then that prompted what would later become a desired career path of yours?

I started writing back in 5th grade because I joined the writer’s club; a club with about ten to fifteen 5th grade students who were able to write about just about anything. I don’t think I really decided writing was what I wanted to do with my life until much later, but I always remember my teacher Mrs. Stoneberner saying that I wrote a lot better than I spoke. Now, I’d say they’re about equal.

You also mentioned that after continuous writing throughout middle school, you took a hiatus for several years. Why? Had you gotten tired of writing? Gotten too busy with your scholastic study requirements? Something else?

In some ways you can call it a hiatus. However, my writing had manifested itself in other ways…

In 7th grade I wanted to be in a rock band, and I tried to write songs.

In 8th grade, I went back to my original dream of wanting to become a pro wrestler and started coming up with different storyline ideas and how I would’ve liked to see the wrestlers progress.

When I began high school, I was too obsessed with becoming a pro wrestler, so I started my own backyard wrestling promotion (one of the first on Long Island) and took creative control with that.

Writing stories just faded from the picture for a while because I was too focused on other creative aspects of my life.

So, Andrew, let’s take a moment to chat about books you enjoy reading. Taking your own books out of the equation, your reading tastes seem fairly varied. You have listed: The Complete Collection of Edgar Allen Poe, The Harry Potter series, and The Instant Millionaire as favorite books of yours. Each of these books definitely falls into a very different genre category; what initially drew you to them?

The Harry Potter series and the Alex Cross series were the books that helped me get back into reading. James Patterson had great attention to detail and was able to make me visualize the story as it took place. J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series made me feel a part of the story; almost as if I was there. The detail, the plot, the characters and the twists had me obsessed with the books. Edgar Allen Poe stories I love because of how dark and twisted with his plots and poetry that it helped me figure out how to put a unique twist into the most simple plots.

Moving on to the books you’ve written, you have three, (Chamber of Souls, Hall of the Forgotten, and The Phoenix Blade: Project Justice), currently published with a fourth, (The Phoenix Blade: Awakening), due to launch on September 2nd of this year, correct?

Yes; Awakening is set to launch September 2nd. I chose that date because it would give me time to work out all the last minute details as well as it being my birthday.

With regard to Hall of the Forgotten, what prompted you to write this collection of poems? Having read the back cover, aka about blurb, for each of your works while doing my research, I must commend you for making Hall of the Forgotten sound like a very interesting read.

For the record, I do read poetry, but not often. However, your eloquently written line: “What better way to cast them out than to encase them in their own private cells underneath a secluded mansion.” certainly piqued my interest.

How did you come up with the idea for this compilation?

The Hall of the Forgotten was probably my darkest and most enlightening time frame. At that time, I had recently dated a girl who, after two dates, told me I had too much emotional baggage. I sat there saying to myself: you’ve known me for three weeks; how can you say that about me…

I wasn’t the kind of guy that would flip out at someone over something so petty, but I wanted to get out the emotions. I decided to write a poem about it (called “Cowardice”). At the end of the poem, I thought about how there are so many people out there that hold grudges against each other. Then I thought about Edgar Allen Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado.” The man in the story sealed up a friend who betrayed him, within the confines of a brick wall.

I thought that was an interesting concept. I figured I could write a metaphorical book of poetry about a man who took everyone that wronged him and sealed them in a prison under his mansion. Each poem was a way for me to finally look at each wronged situation one last time before I let go of whatever the situation was. But, an Andrew Hess book wouldn’t be complete without some sort of twist…

What about your book Chamber of Souls? Can you share with us the inspiration behind this compilation, or maybe provide us with a poem from Chamber of Souls that has a special meaning to you?

The Chamber of Souls was my debut book, but was later republished by a different self-publishing company. It’s a collection of poetry that tells the story of a man who thought he had everything in life. He was happy and content with his life until he found out his girlfriend cheated on him. Once he made the decision to walk away, he felt like he lost everything and was now thrown into a pit of despair with no way out. Somewhere along the line he decides he will find a way out, no matter what it takes.

Guidance

I lay here beaten;

A tired and bruised man;

Robbed of many dreams;

Losing everything I hold dear.

A droplet of water hits my face.

Realizing I’m still alive;

My eyes open;

While my body wrenches in pain.

The memories finally resurface.

Another failed attempt at happiness;

The what if’s turning into regrets;

And a sick dark feeling circles my body.

All the people I’ve lost come into view.

Their heads hung in disappointment.

Looking down at my crumpled body;

Unable to help this time.

The image of someone special appears.

The woman who can never be forgotten;

The fierce connection is felt again.

Yet she walks away this time.

I look around;

Beyond the shadows;

Finding repugnant stares;

From the passerby’s.

Their icy cold eyes gaze at my collapsed body.

Holding back a cackle of laughter;

Soaking in my anguish;

Amused by one’s fall from grace.

The street grows darker.

Voiding the images around me;

I am stranded in darkness.

Feeling the end drawing near.

A voice whispers from behind.

Urging me to stand up;

A cool breeze passes by;

Filling me with hope.

The whispers continue.

But no one’s around;

I stagger to my feet,

Pushing away the fear.

I emerge from the shadows.

Somehow knowing everything will be fine;

I look towards the sky and smile;

Remembering you are always by my side.

In the poem “Guidance,” the man represented here has scratched, clawed, and done everything possible to escape the Chamber of Souls. He is alone and forced to walk around with the memories of his own transgressions; remembering he has nothing left to go home to. But something in him tells him to keep going; that he needs to get up and continue on a journey that has no apparent end in sight. He trusts that he’s not alone and that someone is watching over him. Many can interpret it being a lost loved one or a friend, but for me it was my spirituality; knowing God was watching over us all the time.

The Phoenix BladeMoving forward again, near the end of April 2013, you published: The Phoenix Blade: Project Justice. This book is currently in my to-be-read pile, but from what I gleaned via the back cover/about blurb, it appears to have the makings of a good book. The plot is definitely believable; and the main character, (Andrew Lancaster), seems to be a person of high intellect and integrity who has finally had enough of the political corruption and corporate greed…

Via the internet, Andrew reaches out to the masses; seeking to raise the public’s awareness. And of course, no corrupt government would really be complete without monitoring any and all of the communication interactions of its unsuspecting citizens… This is the point, (in the book’s summary), where Andrew Lancaster now finds himself. Contacted by a government official, he is being forced to choose between: working for a covert government department, or being tried for treason. The bright side — if he can accept working for the government, he will at long-last know the identity of his mother’s murderer.

Andrew, (Hess), how did the idea for this fictional series come to you? How different was this specific genre type to write than that of the poems you had previously written? Did you enjoy the writing of this book? What writing lessons, (if any), did you learn while writing The Phoenix Blade: Project Justice that you didn’t, (or couldn’t), discover while writing Hall of the Forgotten or Chamber of Souls? Had you originally intended The Phoenix Blade to be a series, or did it just work out that way?

The Phoenix Blade was initially about a group seeking out vigilante justice against corrupt politicians, greedy corporate leaders and people who destroy the moral fabric of society. I’d say I was halfway done with the first draft when I thought of turning the characters from a group of anti-heroes to a bunch of twenty-something-year-olds forced into becoming hired hit men for the government.

The Phoenix Blade was very different than writing my books of poetry. I had never put together such an elaborate piece of writing, and I had to create more than just the one character like I did in the poems. I loved writing The Phoenix Blade series. The characters became a huge part of me and I was just as curious to see where they ended up as my readers are.

I think The Phoenix Blade series dealt with more character and plot development than Chamber of Souls or Hall of the Forgotten could. The Phoenix Blade was purely based on fiction whereas the books of poetry were based off of real elements, people, and stories and were embellished to fit a book format.

The Phoenix Blade was originally intended to be just one book. I didn’t want my first novel to be a series because I had the what-if-it-failed fear stuck inside my head; that was until I thought of another ending for the book. I tried to go to bed early one night and kept tossing and turning for about an hour. For some random reason, the plot and ending to The Phoenix Blade kept replaying over and over in my head, until I thought if I just tweaked the ending I could stretch this out into another book. It just so happened that the one idea spawned off multiple sequels that I think the fans of The Phoenix Blade series will love.

The Phoenix Blade: Awakening will be available beginning on September 2nd, 2014. Without providing any plot spoilers for either book, could you provide a summary of this latest installation as well as what the reader can expect?

The story picks up three years after Project Justice ends… We start to see more fallout from Project Justice and start to see who else was behind it other than the Benefactor. There is a lot of action just like the first Phoenix Blade book. Readers will learn more about why the group was chosen for the mission and of course someone will die.

Finally, I always like to provide an area where the author I’m currently interviewing can provide helpful tips, information, or experiences to the newer and/or aspiring author. With that said, is there anything in particular you feel motivated to share?

Social networking has become one of the biggest keys to making a book successful. It helps you keep in touch with friends and family which is the base of your sales; helps you connect with other authors whom you can learn a lot from, and it helps to market your books to others who may be interested in reading your books.

Go back and edit your book. I edited and re-wrote The Phoenix Blade about eight times before I finally decided it was good enough to be published. And then I read it again, and realized there were still typos and added words that weren’t meant to be there. I had to take the book off the market, put it through another editing process and re-upload it to the site to fix the changes.

Andrew, thank you very much for making an interview appearance… I’ve most definitely enjoyed learning more about you, and I’m certain that your readers will be happy to discover more too. I’m sincerely looking forward to reading your books and I wish you the best of success; writing or otherwise!

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