The Russia Chronicles Book 2 Launches

The second book in The Russia Chronicles, a thrilling action-adventure series, which follows the fortunes of a gang of homeless teenagers, launches today. In Book Two Katya, Pyotr and their friends a must outwit a ruthless police agent in order to make it to a secret sanctuary… if they don’t succumb to the perils of the Russian countryside first!

The ebook of Book Two: The Siberian Spirit will be at the special sale price of $0.99 until May 10th, when the price goes up to $4.99 (The print book is also available).

As part of the launch, Book One in The Russia Chronicles, The Streets of Moscow, will be free for the same period of time.

The cover and synopsis of Book Two are below:

A desperate band of Russian street kids has been forced to flee their hideout in Moscow’s Second Subway. Totally unprepared to survive in the sub-freezing countryside, they have only one hope: to reach a hidden Slavic pagan sanctuary called The Lake.

Peter Greenfield no longer thinks of returning to his former life as the pampered son of American diplomats. Now known as Pyotr Bolshoiov, his more immediate problem is to survive the brutal Russian winter and keep his new family of “small homeless” together.

Katya, a glue addict from an impoverished Siberian family, may be the key to the group’s survival. The secrets hidden in her family tree could also make her a threat to the Russian government’s hold on power. She must outwit a ruthless agent of the Federal Security Bureau, who will stop at nothing to take his revenge on Katya, Pyotr and the rest of their bunch.

Stranded in the cold and shunned by heartless villagers, they have no choice but to trek eastward. A chance encounter with a group of international tourists on the Trans-Siberian Express could bring the help they so urgently need – or deliver all of them into the hands of the FSB. Katya’s stubborn Siberian spirit will be tested, not only by the elements, but by the sinister forces vowing to make Katya, Pyotr and their friends disappear.

Pagans’ Cult is out for Free

The prequel novella in The Russia Chronicles, an alternative history thriller series of novels is out. It follows the tribulations of a couple of the characters in the main series. They are forced to take matters into their own hands as they start to dish out vigilante justice to protect their families and siblings. A series of grisly killings done for all the right reasons — as told from the perps’ perspectives.

It’s available Here on Amazon, as well as all major ebook retailers, or for FREE Here along with two other ebooks in return for an email.

‘The Kosovo War’ in Academic Review

Many thanks to Romana Turina of Arts University, Bournemouth and the Journal of the Society for Slovene Studies for their wonderful, constructive review of Tito’s Lost Children: The Kosovo War!

Here’s an excerpt:

“One in a long list of novels produced at a record pace by Clement, this book keeps the reader turning the page. Effective in it’s ability to offer an experience of urgency to the reader, Clement can put characters on the page and draw attention to the immediacy of their feelings…Walking in the steps of the protagonist, we are introduced to the human geographies of the Kosovo Liberation Army , and the impossible relationships a young teenager is asked to form with the family of the man who accidently killed his parents. As the protagonist continues to protect his brother and comply with the will of the group that cares for them in exchange for his service in the army, the reader makes sense of the experience and the characters the author chose to make agents of change in the story. The relationship between brothers, as offered from the point of view of the older one, contributes to the discovery of meaning during the reading experience.” – Romana Turina, Journal of the Society for Slovene Studies

Get it FREE Here!

The Russia Chronicles Book One Launches

The first book in my action-adventure thriller series is out! It follows the trials and tribulations of the son of American diplomats. He ends up living with a gang of Moscow’s street kids, facing strife but also finding friendship and maybe even love. How, you ask? Well, read The Streets of Moscow.

The cover and synopsis are below:

Sixteen-year-old Peter Greenfield didn’t want to go to Moscow. When his Foreign Service officer parents are called on an emergency mission to Russia, he is left with little choice but to get dragged along.

The trip starts off with Red Square, the Kremlin and the sights of the city – what any tourist would expect. Then an anti-government protest breaks out. His parents run toward the unrest – along with him.

Lost in the body crush, separated from his parents and his American passport, Peter is rescued by a band of teenagers: children fleeing broken homes and struggling to survive on their own in Moscow’s subway system.

Unable to return to the US embassy, Peter must now throw in his lot with the band of homeless youth who have taken him in. Reluctant, and unable to speak Russian at first, he begins to discover Moscow’s secret underworld as he grows closer to his newfound friends, including a resolute but caring girl named Tanya. Together, they face the indifference, hunger, and corruption that are a part of life for Russia’s street children. Life or death could hinge on outsmarting a former member of their gang turned politically powerful enemy, and breaking into some of the Russian government’s most heavily fortified facilities.

As Peter and his friends fight to live another day, he begins to question whether Peter Greenfield still exists, or if he will ever be able to leave behind life on the streets of Moscow.

The Russia Chronicles. Book One: The Streets of Moscow is available Here.

Where to Start Reading Andrew Anzur Clement’s Books.

I hate to toot my own horn. But, it’s safe to say that I have a few books out there by now. I’ve had to field this question a lot recently: Where do I start?

I began by writing historical fantasy and then alternative history. Most recently, I am writing what could be dubbed contemporary thrillers. So what does one choose as an entry point? At the time of writing this post, I’ve written four completed (two of each related) series of novels and am currently working the fifth, which I call The Russia Chronicles.

Most-all of my novels have some kind of a historical bent, whether it is set in the nineteenth century or in the 2000s. I love creating my characters, and then setting them among real historical events and locations.

So, if you want to read some of this stuff, what’s the first thing to do?

Step One Is Free:

This is admittedly a shamelessly honest plug. I’d recommend starting by signing up to my mailing list, if you haven’t already. There, you can get a sampling of free ebook novellas from all the series in all of genres that I write. So, Step One. There you have it.

See Above…

However, that may not be the end-all-and-be-all. After all, where exactly you start depends on what you like to read. So let’s have a look at what I write that might interest you most and the best places to dive in:

Historical Fantasy:

I got my start here. My first trilogy, Keepers of the Stone is a clean YA fantasy set in South Asia, America and Europe during the late 1800s. Think of it as kind of a travelogue, but also with a demonic order and a magic gem. Book One: Outcast is free, in addition to the bonus content novella that you can get here.

My second trilogy, Voyages of Fortune, is a sequel to the first. It’s enjoyable in its own right and Book One: Hidden Truths is also free, though I’d honestly recommend starting from Keepers, the beginning of the entire seven book saga.

Alternative History:

I’ve always thought that this was a bit of a funny name for a genre. Isn’t all historical fiction – or fiction, in general – technically alternative?

At any rate, my alternative history books books do ask a ‘What If?’ question. They’re called Tito’s Lost Children and the sequel series, Europe’s Lost Children. There’s no fantasy world, but there is a fictional vendetta that led Josip Broz Tito, the Marshal of Yugoslavia, to name an untested teenager as his successor; she has to try to stop the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. No pressure, or anything. It’s my arrogant opinion, but they are my best writing so far.

Start with book one in either series: Tito’s Lost Children: War One: Slovenia. Or, Europe’s Lost Children: Battling Brexit, which follows the adventures of Tito’s granddaughter and her friends. It even leads into an alternate future!

Action-Adventure Historical Thrillers:

I’m not sure that you could call something set in 2000s Moscow historical. But, at the time of writing, my latest project, The Russia Chronicles, is about an American teenager who has to throw his lot in with a bunch of Russian kids fleeing broken homes and trying to live on the streets. Fair warning: sometimes the way they talk will make your ears bleed. I consider it the darkest thing I’ve written yet. There’s some fun, too — Spoiler alert: by the end of the series they end up taking over Russia.

Book One is called: The Streets of Moscow. The spinoff novella, Pagans’ Cult, will be offered via my mailing list (Even though it’s not out quite yet, you’ll get it free if you sign up, anyway, when it’s ready).

So, depending on what you like to read, I guess there are a number of adventures to pick from, and places to start. That would be my answer.

Brotherhood and Unity: Historical References

The final book in Europe’s Lost Children is finally out. It feels like the end of an era. My family has roots in the Slovenia/the Balkans, but as a writer with a formal training in EU political science I’ve really lived and breathed the history of the region over the past few years, while writing my most recent eight novels.

Let’s talk about some of the real world events that inspired Europe’s Lost Children Book Four: Brotherhood and Unity. The title itself is based off an old Yugoslav slogan. Suffice it to say at the beginning of this post: this last one really makes alternate history get ‘alternate’ but a lot is still based on real happenings:

One: Sparing: Aside from the run-up to the 2016 US elections, all events are fictional. Sorry if that’s a disappointing way to start out. Much of Ljubljana’s old town and a few other locations in the area really were designed by Jože Plečnik. Think of him as the Slovenian Gaudi.

The famous Ljubljana Market, designed by renowned architect Jože Plečnik.

President Dodik of Republika Srpska is historical, as well as Momčilo Krajišnik, but their actions of course are not.

Two: The Weight of Chains: The reference to the Trojka and the slow-burning Eurozone crisis is historical, as is the Slovenian-Croatian border arbitration dispute. The EU Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) really exists, in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, but is far less encompassing than it ends up being throughout the course of this novel. The deployment of NATO troops to the Baltic States really happened.

The Kosovo Serb refugee center in Adrani, Serbia is a real place. The events that happen there are fictional. The reference to the NATO bombings of the Balkans in the nineties and Montenegro’s NATO membership aspirations at the time of the novels setting in the 2010s are historical (In real life, they are now members).

Tivat, Montenegro: They may not have the strongest navy, though…

Three: Standing Out: PESCO’s activation (Europe’s Permanent Structured Cooperation in the area of defense and counterterrorism) is historical, however the program is not as encompassing as in the novel. The rest of the events are fictional.

Four: Swiped: All events are fiction.

Five: Security Measures: ‘Srpska Danas’ is a real TV program in Republika Srpska. ‘Crown Prince’ Alexandar Karadjordjević is a real person. His role in the novel is totally fictional, though him and his family really do live in the former Serbian royal family’s palace. The president of Montenegro is also real, though everything he does is made up by me.

Six: The Inflatrator: All events are fictional.

Seven: What Have We Got to Lose?: All events are fictional. The airports in Charleroi and Podgorica  and the landing process are faithfully depicted, however. The Hotel Fjord, near Kotor, is very real.

The abandoned Hotel Fjord in Kotor. Might one of my characters have gotten an idea while looking at a cruise ship from here?

Eight: The Bridge on the Drina: The novel for which the chapter is named is a real award-winning Serbian book. The restaurant near to Kotor where Agnieshka, Afrim and Ayoub eat, or at least try to, is based on a real place. The ‘Cats of Kotor’ are a thing. Anything about three people hijacking a cruise ship is, of course, totally made up.

Some of the cats in Kotor, lounging on the street, oblivious.

Nine: How We Hijacked a Cruise Ship: All events are fictional — see above. Kotor is a relatively popular cruise ship destination, though, and the references to the names of Serbian politicians is historical.

Ten: Scuttled Ambitions: All events are fiction. King Nikolaj’s Palace in Bar is a real place.

Eleven: The Tagalong: President Izetbegović (junior) and his family are historical. The rest is more than a bit of alternative history.

Twelve: The Second Proletarian Brigade: Thanks to my younger American cousin for helping me to figure out how a bunch of younger people might have self-organized on newer social media platforms.

The Hotel Holiday is probably better known by its former name: the Sarajevo Holiday Inn.

BiH Parliament, right across the street from the Hotel Holiday.

Thirteen: The Secret Hideout: The Ethnic landscape that Ayoub’s new friends have to confront reflects modern divisions in Kosovo, though they would likely be in the minority for people their age, insofar as it doesn’t matter to them. We can always dream.

The phrase ‘Kosovo-One Multiethnic Clubhouse’ is a shout out to the German-lead co-production movie ‘Kill Me Today, Tomorrow I’m Sick,’ about Serb/Albanian/NGO relations after the 1998/1999 war in Kosovo.

Fourteen: Besieged Again: Sarajevo Airport and its location has been faithfully depicted. Anything about it getting shot at, in the 2010s at least, is totally made up. Lukavica was a Serb forces stronghold during the (real) 1990s wars. The Tunnel of Salvation that went under the Airport was very real, as is the present-day museum to it.

The preserved section of the Tunnel of Salvation. Person pictured was lot more lucky than one of the author’s characters.

Fifteen: Buried Alive: Everything is fictional. It’s more of a letter to another character, really.

Sixteen: “You Didn’t Count on Us”: The title is a paraphrase of a famous Yugoslav youth song, ‘Računajte na Nas,’ that was written originally during the seventies. What Erika sings in English very closely parallels it and is an ‘updated’ version of the lyrics that actually goes to the melody.

In reality, we still don’t quite have an EU Army yet.

Seventeen: The Battle of Kosovo Field: The Field of Blackbirds (Kosovo Field) and the ‘Kosovo Myth,’ of how Tsar Lazar fought the ottomans, was betrayed and lost there, are very real. In alternate history, I wanted to bring things full-circle in the end.

Eighteen: Loose Ends: Madam Mao’s ‘Red Detachment of Women’ is a real ballet. Yugoslav Youth Day Slets were a real thing, though the new one in the book is like no Slet that ever took place. The demise of the leader of the Islamic State is based loosely on the real events, through with a very EU-led twist. Who knew that a Macedonian sheepdog ‘really’ was involved?

Afterward: Europe 2058: It’s set in the alternate history future, but poignant and uplifting in the end, if I do say so myself.

Or is it the end? What if the next leader of Russia became friends with the characters in Europe’s Lost Children? What if he read this and then he and his friends decided to write their own, about their rise?

What if it all started when an American teen came to Moscow and fell in with a bunch of Russian street kids? I call my newest series The Russian Revolution.

Europe’s Lost Children: Brotherhood and Unity is available here.

The Final Book in Europe’s Lost Children is out!

The fourth and final book in Europe’s Lost Children, my alternative history and historical fiction series is out. It’s set in the Balkans and the European Union. I call it Brotherhood and Unity, after the famous Yugoslav slogan.

Europe’s Lost Children: Brotherhood and Unity is available here

The synopsis is below:

Elena and her Covert Action Service team may be Europe’s only hope of stopping the Brutalists. Their leader, Marana, has recruited a rogue army and is closing in on Sarajevo, determined to promote the rise of Greater Serbia and bring down the European Union. The endgame has begun.

Ayoub is training in Brussels to join the CAS special ops team. The scrappy teenager is learning fast, but time is running out. As he fights his own demons, he unwittingly allows an enterprising American journalist to infiltrate CAS headquarters. She is about to reveal the existence of Europe’s secret intelligence service, run by a bunch of misfits from the Balkans.

But the big story may never reach the headlines. Sinister forces are manipulating the Internet to preserve a cover-up of the secret war in the Balkans, enabling the United States to save face at any cost. The fate of Europe may depend on a daring plan by Ayoub’s forbidden girlfriend to break the silence – and the willingness of some of CAS’s members to pay the ultimate price.

Personal vendettas are still simmering beneath the surface. Drago, a former child soldier returning to Kosovo, must confront a blood feud that demands death for him and his brother. Neglected as a child, Marana is still resentful of Elena’s privileged upbringing. She adopts an abused refugee girl as her own daughter as she plots her revenge.

Marana and Elena are headed for a final confrontation between the forces of Greater Serbia and Europe. The outcome will determine if Europe’s Lost Children will ever find a place where they truly belong.

In my next series we move the action to Russia, Moscow, to be specific. There will be a lose tie-in with the Tito’s/Europe’s Lost Children ‘universe’.

How did a bunch of former Soviet street kids and the lost son of American ‘diplomats’ become the next rulers of Russia? you’ll have to wait and find out! In the meantime I hope you enjoy Brotherhood and Unity.

Writing During/Against a Pandemic

A bit of flash fiction. That is all:

<p class="has-text-align-center has-large-font-size" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><em>The 'Little Cousin' </em>The ‘Little Cousin’

Dmitri Djordjević had lived in the Bežigrad district of Ljubljana for a few years, in a blok off of Topniška ulica. The apartment looked out at the castle. He was born in Belgrade. He and his family moved to the States following the wars of the nineties. He went to high school in America, Chicago.

He remembered how the wind from Lake Michigan would always whip his face when he walked along Lakeshore Drive, while he’d bullshit with his friends. Now he was living in Ljubljana. His mom was Slovenian. She met his Serb dad in the Yugoslav times and they decided to relocate to Slovenia. They’d bought the apartment in Bežigrad. Dad was going to get a visa. While they were working on that they spent a couple of years in the Slovenian capital, going back and forth between there and the States.

There was another family, one of many in the blok, a few floors down. The two families became close. Dmitri with them, especially. He was a city rat, living in Belgrade and then Chi-town. His Slovene was imperfect. The other family took him mushroom hunting. He’d never been to a forest, before. Their youngest daughter liked practicing English with him. It was her favorite subject in school.

Dmitri’s parents were going to come, full time. But there was a problem. A pandemic, which, after a time Dmitri started to append the term ‘So-Called’ to. The neighbors who lived downstairs ate at his table and he ate at theirs. They were Yugoslavs. They didn’t judge. They didn’t mask. None of them used sanitizer. None of them got sick.

Masks were mandatory out of doors; then they weren’t, and then they were again. The medical mandarins had all the ears in Parliament. The MPs were listening to the people who knew what to do, theoretically. But most of the ‘people who knew’ really had no idea what they were doing, by their own admission. Those in power didn’t seem aware of that part, as far as Dmitri could tell.

He’d see the youngest daughter of the family who lived downstairs again and again, showing up at his front door. The food-gift giving became a tradition, almost. She wasn’t in school anymore, not really, and she wanted to be. Her dog came with her a lot; it was her dog, a brownish terrier that came to just below his knees. The girl’s mom didn’t like dogs.

One day, while coming home to his blok, with the airline eye mask he’d got on a flight to Japan and hadn’t washed in three months around his chin, Dmitri saw his neighbor’s youngest daughter in the entrance way. The stores were closed again. She was out of school again. She’d grinned and borne it.

She was crying.

He took her up to the floor his apartment was on. They sat in the stairway – it was no longer legal to hug a non-family member, due to a threat that Dimitri had been repeatedly reminded for months had no selectivity, but required a curfew during certain hours of the day. He hugged her. He let her cry. He let her dog sit with them.

In that moment Dmitri Djordjević, wondered how anyone could make a girl cry like this. He wondered how he could be told hugging her was doing harm when she clearly was a human being who needed a hug. He wondered who the true tormenter was and if some of them possibly wore white coats. He wondered how someone could exist, who wanted to dampen the freedom of life, the life, the living life, of this girl. He wondered and wanted to rage at the lack of empathy.

He felt something harder than he ever had felt before. A mix of anger, fear, angst and ripshitness at those who had caused his neighbor to cry. He knew what he thought and nothing was going to change that. He knew that ‘they’ could take any talk they may have of curves and do something involving obscenity with them, the sharper the better. The only thing that mattered was the ‘little cousin’ Dimitri was trying to soothe in his arms.

Worst of all, he felt powerless. Powerless against what he was really trying to protect her against. So he kept the his crying neighbor’s daughter in his arms, holding her there. Shielding her against the mob, who had decreed hugging her was illegal.

Dmitri sat on the stairs with her. He hugged her anyway.

Europe’s Lost Children: Book Three Historical References

Europe’s Lost Children is an alternative history series set during the 2010s. It deals with European integration and the aftermath of the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. As such, it is a work of fiction. However, there are many real world and historical references peppered inside.

In Europe’s Lost Children Book Three: Orphans’ Plight a very fictional band of Serbian nationalists called the Brutalists is out to destroy the EU, see to the rise of Greater Serbia and take down Elena, the head of the Covert Action Service — the EU’s fictional MI6. Let’s have a chapter-by-chapter look at some of the real history and (almost) current events that inspired it:

One: The Fugitive in the Woods: Of course, the references to major figures such as Slobodan Milošević and Arkan are historical, through their secret children are very fictional. The Hotel Emos is a real abandoned place. It was the headquarters of the Serb forces for the Foča area in Bosnia during the 1990s wars. The Serb nationalist symbols are real.

Two: A Murder in Gothenburg: All events that take place in Sweden are fictional. The personages of Milorad Dodik and Momčilo Krajišnik are historical, however their involvement with Brualists is, of course, made up by me. The character of Mr. Kurvić is fictional.

Three: A Kid in Need—also, the Brexit Vote: It goes without saying that the referendum on the UK leaving the European Union, during which this chapter is set, really did happen. Fikret Abdić remains, to this day, the mayor of Velika Kladuša. The Miral migrant camp is very real and it is one of the main points where the Croatian border police send migrants back to Bosnia.

I must thank my friend and colleague Boštjan Videmšek for his in-depth reporting on the migrant corridor, including the Miral camp. Without his investigation and first-hand accounts these books would not have been possible. (If you’re looking for a deep dive into the subject of migration to Europe or war in the Middle East defiantly check out his work of new journalism: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Humanity: A Book of Reportage.)

Four: Remembrances: As the name of the chapter suggests, this is mostly a series of personal recollections. As such, aside from references to place names, historical figures and a varietal of Balkan wine, everything is fictional.

Five: Accusations of Neglect: The remains of the bobsled track from the 1984 Olympics on Mount Trebević in Sarajevo are quite real.

The author’s ‘best side’ walks down the ruins of the bobsled track from the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics.

Six: A Schooling: Zagreb’s Mamutica is really one of the largest apartment bloks in the former Yugoslavia and all of Europe.

Seven: A Schooling 2.0: The specific school in Velika Kladuša that Ayoub attends is fictional. However, there are schools in the Croat and Bosniak entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina that have bars, which go down the middle of them where the Croat and Bosnian Muslim students are segregated. The line that Erika quotes her teacher having said: “Apples with apples and pears with pears,” is from a statement of the education ministry of the Federation of BiH. Anything that has to do with Ayoub and Erika throwing a secret party for the two sides is totally fictional.

Eight: A Party Gets Crashed—Literally: As mentioned above, all events are made up by me.

Nine: Prodigal Parents: The Nice, France truck attack, which occurs in the background of this chapter, is historical, though it being masterminded by a bunch of Serbian twenty-somethings is totally fictional. The Eurostar high speed train and the Chunnel are certainly quite real.

Ten: Attack on the Vineyard: The Elenov winery exists but it is just a winery. All events are fictional.

Eleven: The Ring: The National Theater of Zenica is quite real. However, it’s director is quite fictional; you may recognize her from Tito’s Lost Children. Wagner’s Ring Cycle is a thing.

Twelve: After Siegfried…: Again, the Ring operas exist, but the rest of the events in the chapter are fictional.

Thirteen: The Passing of the Scarf: Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel are obviously real political figures. The events of the chapter are fiction.

Fourteen: Kresnice, Part I: The layout of Ljubljana circa 2016 has been faithfully represented. The character of Janez Zupančič is completely fictional. However, the village of Kresnice, along the Sava River gorge, is quite real (the author’s family comes from there; some of the people who help Erika out may, in fact, be based off of the writer’s relatives!). Further fun fact: The character of Mr. Zupančič’s nephew, Tone Tomšič, was actually named for a partisan fighter.

The Partisan monument to Tone Tomšič in the Poljane district of Ljubljana.

Fifteen: Gearing Up: There are Serb nationalist accusations that the doctors in Sarajevo’s University Clinical Center give preferential treatment to Bosniaks at the expense of Serbs. The rest of the events are fictional.

Sixteen: We’re All Loyal Serbs Here: Luda Kuća — The Madhouse — is a real bar in New Belgrade and is known as a hangout for Serb nationalists. The convicted war criminal Radovan Karadžić used to hang out there while in hiding, under the disguise and alias Dragan Dabić. Is it any wonder that Marana would use this as one of her HQs? The reference to the epic Serbian folk song glorifying Mr. Radovan Karadžić is historical, as is Marana’s quote of his poem ‘Sarajevo’.

Seventeen: Kresnice, Part II: The abandoned schoolhouse really does exist, though, of course, it didn’t get blown up! The lime and gravel factory is also in Kresnice, right next to the train station; the rock gondola is there, too. There really is a quarry on the other side of the river. The place Ayoub would have been hiding next to the schoolhouse is really quite beautiful.

Žale cemetery in Ljubljana really exists. The two characters that end up burred there have a tomb that is meant to resemble a Yugoslav partisan monument.

Eighteen: Pups Become Dogs—Sometimes Dogs Get Mean: All events are fictional. But Marana hasn’t given up. She is still determined to unite Greater Serbia; it will be up to the team of the Covert Action Service to stop her and bring the former Yugoslavia under the banner of Europe in the final installment of Europe’s Lost Children — Brotherhood and Unity.

The first book in the Europe’s Lost Children series is available here.

Tito’s/Europe’s Lost Children Acknowledgements

I’ve had trouble admitting this for a while, but here goes: Europe’s Lost Children, as well as my previous series: Tito’s Lost Children were inspired by an Anime. Back in 2016, on a visit to the States, I was arguing with my parents (and especially my father) about my decision to write full-time. A friend from high school insisted that I watch Avatar: The Last Airbender to take my mind off things. She’d been nagging me to watch it for years, but I normally hate animation, so I had not until then. She watched the whole first season with me. (Note: the same friend has pointed out to me that there is a rather spirited debate about whether or not Avatar is, in fact, an anime. Suffice it to say that I will continue to use the term as the definition of ‘anime’ is far beyond the scope of this post).

Upon my return to Brussels, I watched the next two seasons of Avatar, all the while feeling a sense of déjà vu, and at first complaining about all of the dark themes that the PG-rated show touched on (“Do you realize that this is a reference to child soldiery?” I asked my friend. “The whole show is a reference to child soldiery!” was the response.). Anyway, thanks Friend-From-High-School for making me watch this.

I then started with the sequel to Avatar Legend of Korra. I think that was the first time that I subconsciously knew I was going to write Tito’s/Europe’s Lost Children. Upon starting the first episode of Korra, I remember stopping it during the intro and thinking that the premise of the story was exactly like the founding of the European Union. Then I took a second look at the map of the ‘Avatar Fantasy World.’ It hit me: what I’d been reminded of the whole time. ‘Avatar World’ wasn’t just Europe: take out the water, flip the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom… “It’s Yugo –[explicative deleted]–slavia.” I muttered to myself.

The author enjoys a lovely beer in Brussels, the EU’s capital.

It was 2017 by that point. My family went on vacation in Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia, after going to Slovenia, where we have roots. I knew about the history of the Yugoslav wars of the nineties, even though I spent the whole time as a happy child in Los Angeles. A Slovenian friend who was moving had offered to put me in touch with the landlord of the apartment he was renting in Ljubljana. However, it was too big and expensive for one person. This was also the first time when I informed my father that was wasn’t planning to look for a traditional ‘day job’ after defending my PhD dissertation, on European identity formation and the right of free movement of persons in the Union, a couple of months from then. Instead I was planning, one way or the other, to devote myself to writing fiction full-time.

There was a crazy car ride to Mount Lovćen. The main road was closed and we had to take a side lane that was barely a strip of asphalt. The car’s engine started to overheat — the only time that’s ever happened to me. There were no signs. My dad got a bit of road rage. I’ve written before about how I got the concrete idea to write Tito’s Lost Children on Lovćen, but not about the Anime-inspired background.

The view from the sumit of Mount Lovćen

I’ve never said what went through my mind as I took in the view from the dais behind the poet, priest and philosopher King Njegoš II’s tomb. Maybe this was the first time that the character of Jovana ‘spoke’ to me; the first time I realized where the déjà vu was coming from. If you’ve watched Avatar, you might find some things to recognize.

“Long ago, the six nationalities lived together in brotherhood and unity. Then everything changed when the Serbs attacked. Only Tito, Maršal of all six nations could stop them, but when Yugoslavia needed him most he died. Some thought that they could take over for him. They couldn’t. Boom.

“Eleven years later, I discovered that I was the new Maršal; I’ve got a lot to learn before I’m ready to save anyone… But I believe that I can save Yugoslavia.”

That was it. It was then that I knew what the show had reminded me of: the breakup of Yugoslavia. It was one of those few moments of clarity when you see it all. I knew I would write what would turn into my latest eight books.

The setting for the final scene in Tito’s Lost Children: Book Three. Sarajevo, Bosnia

My dad and I hadn’t been talking much, even though we were traveling together. He knew about the offer to rent the apartment in Slovenia; my mother was also looking for a more permanent place there. She and I had no illusions: he wouldn’t agree.

The next morning, he walked out of the bedroom of our tourist apartment near to the town of Kotor in Montenegro and said “We’re renting that place in Slovenia.” Then he walked back in. You could have knocked my mom and I over with a feather. It was fate.

So thanks again to my friend from high school and the creators of Avatar and Korra. Tito’s and Europe’s Lost Children would not have been inspired without them (and large healthy doses of real Balkan and modern EU political history!). I guess it’s just what happens when you show an Asia-inspired Anime to a Slovenian/Balkan-American. And thanks Dad for agreeing to support my writing career. Thanks for fighting about it with me, too. I may never have watched Avatar or Korra, otherwise.

Thanks Mom, you’re always my first-line beta reader, the first to see anything that I write. I’m glad you were brutally honest with me about the earlier drafts of book two of Europe’s Lost Children; it led me to really consider what the point-of-view premise of the story was. My gratitude goes to my official editor as well, who was nice enough to help me figure that out, pro-bono.

My editor-mom on the exact sight where I got the idea.

Thanks as well to my younger American cousin, who helped this 30+ year old ‘geezer’ figure out how a bunch of teenagers would have self-organized in 2017 on social-media against an entire secret army. I also must give thanks to my Slovene friends and relatives who showed me where some of the events I was plotting could have occurred in my grandfather’s village of Kresnice.

The view of the Sava River from Kresnice. Might a diplomat’s daughter and a street urchin boy fall in love here?

Of course, Avatar and Korra weren’t the only thing that inspired these books. In addition to the real history of the Yugoslav Wars and European integration, I’d like to give a quick shout-out to the person who sold us the apartment we eventually bought in Slovenia — she has a character named after her — as well as our upstairs neighbors and their two lovely daughters, whose personalities inspired characters in Europe’s Lost Children (Erika and Lucija, I’m looking at you!). It was a privilege to watch you two grow up over the past couple years as I was writing the Europe’s Lost Children series.

In the end, I’d like to bring this back to my ‘Avatar confession.’ In the last few chapters of the final book, the main characters collectively adopt two (completely unrelated) teenage orphaned kids. It’s heavily implied that they are watching an episode of Korra from season two. In the epilogue those kids eventually have two children together and if you’ve watched Avatar or Korra, you may recognize their names: one if you can read a bit of ‘Balkan’; the other you may recognize outright. Hint: it is four letters long, begins in a Z, ends in an O and is a real Serbian name derived from the word for fire. It makes me start to wonder who was punning off of what, or if in the end, it really matters.

The final book in Europe’s Lost Children, Brotherhood and Unity, is with the editor as I write this. My next series will get a bit grittier (One thing I loved about writing something inspired by Avatar was that I didn’t have to keep a quite PG rating). My new series will be about Moscow street children and the city’s underworld (and how they overthrow Putin!). I’ve already started research and I’m looking forward to commencing work already.

Anyway, thanks again to everyone who helped to inspire and write my most recent eight books.

The first book in Europe’s Lost Children is available here. The main character has a very cool dog: a Macedonian Šarplaninec.