This is an interview from 2002 with Robert Stanek on his many books, including extended discussion on his fantasy world of Ruin Mist. Other interviews available are:
Interview from 2005 titled "From Sin City to Sovereign Rule"
Interview from 2008 titled "The Dawn of the Ages"
An Interview With Robert Stanek
By David Brubaker
Robert Stanek, author of the highly popular Ruin Mist books, has gone through several major personal and professional changes in his life, but says he's always been a writer in his heart. His earliest memories of writing are as an editor and writer for the Jane's School Gazette, an elementary school newspaper. A time he says seems so long ago. In this interview, David Brubaker talks with Robert Stanek about his early fiction writing and how he developed the world of Ruin Mist.
DB: I learned about your books from [a recent magazine article] talking about Ruin Mist, the fantasy world you created. What do you say to those who are calling you the Tolkien for the new millennium?
RS: I'm not a Tolkien Scholar. I don't know enough about Tolkien the man to answer that. The epic story and history written into his books changed my life. That's what I've said for the record. I don't know what others are saying [about my writing].
DB: Okay, for the record. I see from your resume that you worked in Intelligence in the military. You were a linguist. Tolkien was a linguist. You are a combat veteran, a very distinguished one. Tolkien's writing was shaped by his love of language and his experiences during World War II. How did those things influence your writing?
RS: First, clarification.
RS: Tolkien knew Middle English, Latin, Finnish and a half dozen other languages. I've studied, "studied", Spanish, German, Japanese, Korean and Russian.
DB: You lived in Germany and Japan.
RS: Passable speaker when I lived there, but that was years ago.
DB: [Smiles] Okay, I'm rooted back to earth now. It's refreshing that you are so down to earth about all this. Can we get back to how language and war influenced your writing?
RS: Well, I started writing about Ruin Mist in '86. I was stationed in Japan then. I learned a lot about eastern cultures and philosophies. I studied the language. Having just come from the Defense Language Institute's intensive Russian Language course, I had an easier time learning Japanese and then Korean. Eastern culture and philosophy is so fascinating. A lot of the language and culture spilled over into my writing, especially the history of Ruin Mist. Ruin Mist has three realms: Over-Earth, Under-Earth and Middle-Earth. A lot of Under-Earth's feudal history comes from ancient Japanese and Korean history.
DB: I'm Polish. I see a lot of Slavic influence as well.
RS: Definitely. Many philosophies from the Slavs. I am a Slav. My father is Polish-Hungarian. I've borrowed words and word bases, like Kapital and Zashchita. Many others. Ancient Elvish in Ruin Mist has a Slavic base. Hence "Eh tera mir dolzh formus tan!" are the words of power Xith speaks to activate one of the Gates of Uver. Loosely translated, it means "From the earth the gate must form." Contrast that to Tolkien, who might have thought this language too harsh for his romantic notion of elves.
DB: You mentioned Tolkien, I didn't.
RS: Fair, I did. [Smiles]
DB: Have you worked on Ruin Mist steadily since '86?
RS: No, on and off. I wrote the first part of the history and several of the books in the 80's while stationed in Japan. After that I went to Combat Air School, then to Germany. Things changed after that.
DB: The Gulf War?
RS: Yeah, that changed a lot of priorities for me. I saw things so differently afterward. The experiences changed my view of everything.
DB: You started college. '91 to '96. Earned a bachelor's and a master's degree, both with distinction, while still in the military.
RS: You did your homework.
RS: You could say I became a little bit obsessed with work. After the Gulf, working practically 24x7 for all those months, it was hard to shift gears. If I wasn't doing something, I'd go stir crazy. I still can't just sit down and relax without making myself do it.
DB: Where was Ruin Mist during this time?
RS: On my mind frequently, but I didn't have time to write that often. My wife and I had our first child in '92. That changed a lot of things as well. I did manage to complete the realm maps and more of the history.
DB: Do you plan on publishing the history as well as the books?
RS: I've written a companion volume called Ruin Mist Heroes, Legends and Beyond. That has some of the history, but I don't think I'll ever publish the whole history. Who'd want to see it anyway?
DB: About a billion Tolkien fans for starters.
RS: You said Tolkien? [Smiles]
DB: I did? [Looks at his watch] We've run over. You said you had to finish by 3.
RS: Yeah, I really do need to. Is that okay?
DB: Next time, then?
RS: Sure. I think it'd be fun.
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