Sunday, November 15, 2015

Island of Echoes Review + Author Interview with Roman Gitlarz!

Hello everyone! I'm super excited to tell you about this book, and I had so much fun interviewing +Roman Gitlarz over his life and his inspiration for this amazing book.

Information about the book from Amazon:
Historian Phillip Laurence is finally returning home after months of research abroad, though he is not the only passenger on the Victorian steamer conveying him across the Mediterranean. Fate conspires to bring together an assortment of individuals, ranging from the minimal crew to ladies of high society. But what starts as a routine voyage soon becomes an encounter exceeding their wildest dreams. The lives of everyone aboard are turned upside down when their ship gets lost in a storm and stumbles upon a mysterious island. Working to pinpoint their location and discover a way home, the castaways begin to unravel the secrets of their surroundings while simultaneously exposing some of their own. This debut novel by a talented new author will have you reading from cover to cover as it breaks the traditions of the new-world genre. Using the lens of the late 19th century, it offers both inspiration and critique of modern life and humanity at large.

Format: Paperback or Kindle
Pages: 192
Publisher: One Leaf Press 

The review:
I fell absolutely in love with this book! I was curious when Roman contacted me with his request that I review his book, and curiosity was soon replaced with awe. Island of Echoes transported me into a world as beautiful and peaceful as I wish our own was. This book is a perfect escape from the same books you read day in and day out that deal with all of the same problems, because this book is so completely different from anything I've ever read. It's a really light read and you can finish it in a day, two days tops, yet you'll still want to read it over again because it transplants you into a world that's so beautiful you'll want to visit it again. 
The interview:
Hello, Roman! Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions to help us get to know you better!
Hi Sabrina. It's a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me on your blog.
First off, what triggered this story? It's so unlike any other I've read before.
Believe it or not, the story started out as childhood fantasy. I used to pretend that I was the king of some distant kingdom (complete with paper crowns and blanket robes!). As I aged, I began to develop my fictional world into something a bit more tangible. I gave it a name, a history, a map, a language, etc. By the age of 12, I had decided to write a story about it. The first version of the book was written at that time, and I spent the following 16 years re-writing it every few years (each time modifying the plot, characters, etc) until I had about 6 or 7 different versions of the book.
Wow! 6 or 7 different versions? I find it amazing you've had this idea since you were 12 years old. How long did it take you to write this?
Well, if you count the early drafts of the story as part of the book, then 16 years! But the final version, the version which was published, took about 7 months. It was easier to write than any of the preceding editions because I wanted to include an element from each of the early drafts. It was less of a writing project and more of a "combining and editing" project. I wanted to preserve the core themes of the stories while incorporating them into a cohesive narrative.
Why did you decide to publish the book after all these years?
I feel that our world is very tense right now. It pains me so much to see our news stories. I feel that people are becoming immune to the atrocities which occur every day, and I am not okay with that. Seeing so much violence and hatred around the world often leads people to believe that war, conflict, and violence are a part of our nature and unavoidable. But I disagree with this philosophy. Island of Echoes then became an escape for me. It was a place of safety and joy. I spent all those years writing it as a way to get away from the horrors of our time, and I finally felt that I was ready to share that escape with others.
I agree with you. Reading this book was definitely an escape for me in the light of recent events occurring around the world.
Was this self-published or did you seek out an agent? If it was self-published, what are the upsides and downsides? Same questions with seeking out an agent.

This book was self-published. I chose to self-publish for a number of reasons First and foremost, this book is very personal to me. My closest friends have commented on how much of me is in the book. It is rare to have a fiction book which can also double as a philosophy textbook. But that's essentially what Island of Echoes is. It's my own personal philosophy on life. Given the fact that it's been part of me for so long, I did not want anyone to meddle with it in any way. I guess you can say I am possessive of it. I wanted to do everything from the layout, to the cover art, to the audiobook (the latter of which is just entering pre-profuction). The downside of self-publishing is that you are in charge of all of the above! But luckily for me, I enjoyed every part of the process. I am detail-oriented and I like delving into the aesthetics (it took me many many hours just to choose a font!). However, I can see this being a downside for people who are not as tech-savvy, patient, or interested in design.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Given that this was my debut novel, I found the process extremely rewarding and not nearly as tedious as I imagined it to be. I believe this is because the book was written for me more than anyone else. Island of Echoes is the kind of book I always hoped to stumble upon in the library. I love history, I love science fiction, and I love the lost-world genre. Finding a book which combines all three is rare. So my advice is to write something which you would enjoy reading. Don't do what you think will be popular. Do what you believe in. In the end, it will be a product you can feel proud to put your name on.
Great advice! Definitely the kind of advice to take heed of. What learning experiences did you get out of writing this book?

No matter how personal the story is to you, you cannot keep it secret until it is finished. I always thought of writers as people who lock themselves in their rooms with a typewriter for months on end until their manuscript is perfect. I would never have been able to work in this way. I asked one of my closest friends to act as my "nothing but honesty" editor. I was so familiar with the story that I failed to see areas which may be confusing to someone who hasn't been living in it the way I have. This fresh perspective was essential to working out all the kinks in the story, and it also boosted my morale during the writing process.
Did you do any research during your writing?
A LOT. I am an amateur historian, but I specialize in Hellenistic Egypt. Although ancient history forms a large part of the book, it is essentially set in the Victorian Era (which I knew close to nothing about). I needed to read about everything! Steamships, politics, geography, dialect, social practices, attire, etc etc. I spent more time reading books about the late 1800s than I did writing the novel.
I was horrible at history but I absolutely loved the way you incorporated it into your book. 
What is a random fact about you that others might not know?
I really like to cook. I started making my meals from scratch a few years ago and I enjoy tweaking recipes until they become "just right." My favorite go-to meal is BBQ bacon meatballs with chocolate-walnut banana bread for dessert.
What websites can we find you on?
I like to paint in my spare time and I have an art gallery of some of my favorite works:
I also own a historical reference site devoted to Queen Cleopatra:
To those interested in Island of Echoes, there is a Facebook fan page set up:

 Are you currently working on any other projects?

Haha, yes, but it may not be what you would expect. I feel like my brain needs a creative break, so instead of writing or painting, I am reading books about setting up a living plant terrarium. I recently moved into a new apartment and I have yet to add any greenery to it, so that's my next big project :)
Biography of Roman:

Roman Gitlarz holds a history degree from Purdue University. His fascination with the ancient world began in second grade and the subject continues to inspire his literary and creative endeavors. He was a guest-lecturer on Hellenistic Egypt throughout his undergraduate years. When he's not writing, Roman enjoys painting, traveling, and drinking coffee like its going out of style. He is an animal lover, a naturalist, and a proponent of humanism. Island of Echoes was his debut novel. He currently lives in Chicago.

Until next time!


  1. This sounds like my kind of book! I will have to purchase a Kindle copy. Thanks for posting about it!

  2. Looks like an interesting book! I've been looking for more kindle reads :)

    1. It's such a good book! You won't be disappointed at all.

  3. This seems like an awesome book. I've been looking for new reads to stock up on as the winter months are coming and I'll need plenty of books for those days it's just too cold to go outside!
    ♡ Julia |

  4. It's so fascinating to hear from the man behind the book! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I agree! It was so much fun for my first author interview. :)

  5. Awesome interview! I love to hear from author's what inspired them to write certain stories.

    All the Best,
    Allison Jones |

  6. Thanks for sharing this post. I totally can relate to having an idea for a long time but how the process of actually getting it out can take. I also really respect the self publishing route. I'll have to look into him :)

  7. This sounds like a lovely book & I'm always looking for new books to add to my reading list! Thank you for the review :)

  8. This sounds like my next book adventure! Just added it to my good reads over the holidays list. Thanks for sharing.

  9. I am always looking for a good book! Thanks for the share!

  10. What an awesome interview!!! I would love an opportunity like this - congrats and great post!