Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Nicolas Lietzau Interview - Dreams of the Dying

Photo Content from Nicolas Lietzau

Nicolas Lietzau is a German author best known for his writing for the indie videogame “Enderal – Forgotten Stories,” which grew from insider tip to sleeper hit.

Growing up in both the heart of Munich and a bucolic Bavarian farmhouse, his love for stories began by reading German fairytales in the attic (and getting traumatized by those of Struwwelpeter) and was nurtured by copious amounts of fantasy, horror, and historical fiction.

Many things have shaped his own writing: a turbulent childhood, living in five different countries, and numerous encounters he's been fortunate enough to have with fascinating people from all walks of life. He feels drawn to all things off the beaten path, and do his best to make his work reflect that.

When he's not writing or reading, he make music, travel, longboard, study languages, and try to see and experience as much of the world as he can. Nicolas currently working on the second Enderal novel.


What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Ironically, to focus my own passions rather than follow the (outdated) curriculum the government had laid out for me. Not that school was all bad—we had some great teachers and some great courses. But because writing and music are considered fluff subjects in most schools, I always had to pursue my passions in my spare time. In hindsight, that was a blessing in disguise. It taught me self-discipline.

Tell us your latest news.
The eBook for my debut Dreams of the Dying went live last week and made #1 in German Literature on the first day! That was awesome.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Apart from the art I’ve read, watched, or listened to in my 29 years, some turbulent events during my childhood and a loss of reality I experienced after a drug experience at the age of seventeen left a significant imprint on my life and, subsequently, the things I write about. Ironically, I wasn’t even aware of just how much they impacted my fiction until Enderal players made me aware of the recurring motifs in the story.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Considering this is my debut as a novelist, I’ll answer with an experience from my work as a game writer. The most moving one was an email I received from a fan. He suffered from a severe illness that more or less made it impossible for him to lead a normal life, and he told me that the characters and stories in Enderal felt so real to him that he actually felt as real lived experiences to him than just fiction. He ended by saying that this story allowed him to feel things he would have otherwise probably never felt. Needless to say, that moved me beyond words. I have a folder for emails like this and actually look at them whenever the self-doubts come back. Because, let’s be honest, they always do.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
First and foremost, I want them to feel what the characters are feeling and forget they are reading a story. After that, perhaps a few of them will leave the story with a few insights and ideas on the novel’s core themes, but that’s all optional.

In your debut novel; DREAMS OF THE DYING, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
Sure thing. Dreams of the Dying is a blend of mystery, fantasy, and psychological horror set in a tropical archipelago; it’s told through the eyes of two characters, the magnate Jaaros Oonai and the drifting veteran Jespar Dal’Varek, two men who lead very different lives but have a lot more in common than meets the eye.

Jaaros’ and Jespar’s lives intertwine when a strange invitation leads Jespar to the Kilayan Archipelago, where he finds himself in a job as bizarre as it is lucrative: Jaaros, the country’s merchant king, knows a secret that could stop a catastrophe, but he has fallen into an inexplicable coma that leaves doctors clueless. Together with a former priestess and a medium, Jespar has to enter Oonai’s nightmare to figure out what happened to him. Before he knows it, he’s caught in a downward spiral of disturbing dreams, political intrigue, and clashing ideals, where not only the fate of Kilay, but Jespar’s own sanity are soon at stake.

Structurally, Dreams is a paranormal murder mystery in a fantasy world, but it’s ultimately a story about overcoming trauma and repression and how our minds are often our worst enemies.

The story is also set in the (retconned) universe of Enderal, an award-winning indie game I wrote, but it’s separate from the game and not a tie-in or a spin-off to the game.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?

Probably a very painful break-up.

What part of Jaaros and Jespar did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved the bits that explored the core of their personalities. They are such different people: Jaaros wholeheartedly believes that we are the architects of our own fortune, whereas Jespar’s traumatic experiences have led him to believe that our mind makes most decisions for us before we even know it—we are just puppets reacting to a mix of coincidence and past experiences, so to speak. I loved putting myself into their shoes because I can deeply relate to both attitudes.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
That’s a cool question. Probably Jespar to Tyrian Lannister. There’d be lots of wine and jokes, and, even though both probably wouldn’t talk about it, their problematic relationships with their fathers would give them a lot of common ground.

Last Halloween Costume you wore and when?
Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. With a real woodchopper’s axe. 😊

Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around.
I wish I had something deep and meaningful to write here, but probably my gym contract. I keep forgetting the electronic key for my locker, and the gym always requires some proof of my membership to give out a substitute key.

Best date you’ve ever had?
The one where we ended up breaking into a castle ruin in a forest in Nordrhine-Westphalia. They had already closed the place for the day, but we found a side entrance, which was—and I’m not kidding—a cobweb-covered tunnel through the wall. We went in, climbed up to the Burgfried, and watched the sunset from there. Cheesy, yes, but I enjoyed every second of it.

What did you do for your last birthday?
My plan was to just spend a laid-back weekend with my best friend in Frankfurt, but when I got there, it turned out he had actually prepared a small surprise party for me. That was the first week after the lockdown, and I was starved for human contact, so it was amazing.

What’s the most memorable summer job you’ve ever had?
Working on a macadamia nut farm in Guatemala for sure.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
I would not have put off answering the message of a dear friend of mine who, a few weeks later, went on to do something very, very stupid. I know it probably wouldn’t have made a difference, but still.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?

Loved people disappearing from my life or abandoning me without a word of warning.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
Probably the six months I spent in South-East Asia with my best friend, writing our novels in a beach bungalow. It was such an inspiring time.

  • 1.) ... take long nightly walks, sometimes with music, sometimes without
  • 2.) ... visit small bookshops and just browse
  • 3.) ... try to read books outside of my preferred genres
  • 4.) ... try to live a life I’d like to read about and have as many memorable and (reasonably) extreme experiences as possible
  • 5.) ... try to be open to spontaneous encounters
  • 6.) ... listen to and make a lot of music
  • 7.) ... debate and discuss with friends about everything—philosophy, politics, psychology, or just personal stuff
  • 8.) ... try to listen to people instead of waiting for my turn to talk; real people often have the most interesting stories
  • 9.) ... meet up with author friends, sometimes to discuss our work, sometimes to just hang out
  • 10.) ... watch movies and play videogames
Dreams has an interesting publication story. The idea of a novel set in the Enderal universe—the indie game I wrote—came from my best friend Daniel, who is also a writer. It made sense: even just a few months after release, an amazing community had already formed around Enderal, and Jespar, one of the main characters, was not only very popular but also had a complex and intriguing past. Even so, something about the idea rubbed me the wrong way—not only did I feel somewhat burnt out after six years of pro-bono work on that game, it also felt a bit disingenuous to me; I didn’t want to write a story just because it was the economically smart move.

Partially to get some inspiration and a break and to get over painful breakups both of us were going through at the time, Dan and I went on to a trip to South-East Asia, where we spent six months writing and drafting novels; mine was an extremely ambitious psychological horror novel with six POVs. I went into this novel full of naive bravado, thinking I’d easily finish the whole thing in half a year, even though I’d only ever written games before. I finished the first draft, but it was a complete mess, and I realized I needed a lot more practice to tackle something this ambitious (side note, I still plan on writing this novel).

However, those six months had given me a lot of experience and the break from Enderal I needed. I was still worried a Jespar novel would come across as a bit of a cashgrab, but the idea of a story exploring his past was there, and it just wouldn’t let go. In June 2018, while going through a nasty parasitic infection that lasted for months (readers of Dreams will see the parallels), I finally sat down and started writing.

There’s a lot more to tell—Dreams was published as an episodic web novel via Patreon at first before I decided to rewrite it completely and publish it in print, and I took the drastic step to separate it from the game canon to fix the countless incoherencies in the Enderal universe—but I feel like this answer has already been going for too long, so I’ll leave it at that. :)

Jaaros Oonai, magnate, visionary, and master of coin, doesn’t muse about whether the glass is half empty or half full—only about ways to fill it.

Jespar Dal’Varek, drifter, mercenary, and master of avoidance, doesn’t muse at all. He’d rather just drink the damn wine.

Two lives that could not be more different intertwine when a strange contract leads Jespar to the tropical island empire of Kilay, the wealthiest nation of the Civilized World.

The mission turns out to be as bizarre as it is lucrative: Jaaros Oonai, the country’s merchant king, knows a secret that could stop a catastrophe, but he has fallen into an inexplicable coma. Together with an ex-priestess and a psychic, Jespar must enter Oonai’s dreams and find this secret.

What should have been a fresh start quickly turns into a nightmare, as Jespar slides into a spiral of disturbing dreams, political intrigue, and clashing ideals, where not only the fate of Kilay but his own sanity are at stake. It’s not long before he learns that sometimes only a spider’s thread divides the sleeping and the awoken.

And that there’s no greater enemy than one’s own mind.

Dreams of the Dying is set in the universe of the award-winning, indie RPG “Enderal,” but stands on its own. It doesn't require knowledge of the game in order to be read.

You can purchase Dreams of the Dying at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you NICOLAS LIETZAU for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Dreams of the Dying (Enderal #1) by Nicolas Lietzau.

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