Watch the August 2016 Winning Novel Reading.
THE ACE OF KINGS by Dan Levinson
Novel reading performed by Becky Shrimpton
Get to know the winning writer:
1. What is your novel about?
My novel is about a teenage blacksmith named Andie, who discovers she’s the lost heir to an empire in turmoil. Sailing across the sky on the great skyship Liberty, mentored by the renowned mercenary Sieg Cyrill, called the “Ace of Kings,” Andie must decide whether she’s willing to take on the mantle of rulership she was born to, and how much she is willing to sacrifice to get there.
2. Why should this novel be read by people?
The Ace of Kings is a swashbuckling fantasy geared for young adults and up. And despite all the high-flying action and unique magic, there’s a lot more to it: It explores themes of family, politics, and the challenges of growing up. It is an adventure novel, a coming-of-age novel, and rather than sugar-coating some “long lost princess” storyline, Andie must deal with the very real issue, that in her homeland innocent people are being mercilessly slaughtered; and yet if she tries to rally her people and take back the crown, it will mean civil war, death on a massive scale.
3. How would you describe this novel in two words?
4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?
Hook. Kind of apropos, don’t you think? 😉
5. How long have you been working on this novel?
On and off for about five years. Hopefully sometime in the next year I’ll do another rewrite.
6. Do you have an all-time favorite novel?
I actually don’t! But if I had to pick, it would probably be Brian Jacques’ Redwall. I plan to read that one to my kids, some day.
7. What motivated you to write this novel?
I’ve always been a fantasy lover. In this case I was inspired by Polish fantasy author Andrezj Sapkowski’s Wiedzmin series, known as The Witcher here. There was a PC game made years ago — the first in what’s now a very successful game trilogy — which was inspired Sapkowski’s series, which in turn caused me to pick up the first book, The Last Wish. I became inspired by the Geralt of Rivia character, a hero who was grizzled, confident, experienced, and fairly well known throughout the land. This led me to create Sieg Cyrill back in 2008, who’s a bit more of a dandy than Geralt, but has a similar level of prowess and fame. Originally, Sieg was the main character of this series, and I wrote some short stories featuring him. But I eventually realized that the story I wanted to tell didn’t lend itself to Sieg being the protagonist. I believe it was in 2011 that I created Andie, and actually started writing the book.
8. What artist would you love to have dinner with?
Tough one. Probably Stephen King or Meryl Streep, if we’re going with the living.
If we include the dead, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time was a huge influence on me, so I’d love to sit down with him. Also, Thomas Wolfe and H.P. Lovecraft.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
I was actually a drama major in college. I’m passionate about all types of storytelling — theater, film and TV, video games, and more. I’m also very politically conscious, but it’s probably best not to wander into those waters right here.
10. What influenced you to enter the Novel Festival?
In general I find festivals and contests that offer feedback to be extremely helpful. WILDsound in particular I think curates a team of top-notch readers, because the commentary I’ve received has consistently been among the best and most constructive. So I entered the competition for the objective critique, as well as the chance for some exposure.
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Never become complacent with your skill level as a writer. Be unyielding in your willingness to put ego aside, and focus instead on learning from every mistake that you make. You don’t have to take every criticism to heart, but the comments that make you the most upset or defensive are often the comments that ring most true. When someone denigrates your work, don’t take the easy way out by telling yourself they “just didn’t get it.” We write for ourselves, but we also write to communicate, to convey what’s in our hearts. If those ideas aren’t reaching people the way we want them to, it’s our responsibility to turn around and make it better. That’s what I think, anyway.
Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson