This article originally appeared in the summer 2017 issue of Harker Magazine.
Creativity and storytelling run through the veins of Andrew Shvarts ’03. Much of his childhood was spent dreaming up, jotting down and narrating elaborate stories.
At Harker, Shvarts performed in countless plays and musicals – highlights include sinking his fangs into a fake rat during the production of “Dracula” as well as sliding off of the stage and into the orchestra pit during opening night of the upper school’s first musical revue – and produced an outlandish martial arts film as part of a video and motion graphics class.
“I think on some fundamental level, I view the world through the lens of fiction and narrative,” said Shvarts, who is quick to credit three former Harker English teachers – Stephen Wells, Sylvia Harp and Sharron Mittelstet – with furthering his love of language, literature and composition. “It’s just hard-coded into how I think and who I am.”
An English and Russian double major at Vassar College, he frequently videotaped student films – from comedies to crimes – and workshopped his own creative writing. Following college, where he had enjoyed lazy weekends playing video games with his friends, a job ad for a video game writer practically called his name. The position would entail creating weekly episodic content for Electronic Arts’ “Surviving High School,” thus beginning Shvarts’ foray into the world of young adult (YA) fiction. He would go on to serve as a producer for the video game company before assuming his current post at another, Pixelberry Studios, where he has been working as a designer for the past five years.
While he sees merit in both, the writing of fiction, Shvarts acknowledged, remains quite different from the writing of video games. In his case, most of the games he has written, produced and designed fall under the category of interactive narrative. He essentially develops ways for players to create their own storylines.
“If being a fiction writer is being an artist, being a game writer is being an architect,” he said. “You’re creating a space for someone to move into and make their own.”
Shvarts is celebrating the springtime release of his debut YA novel, “Royal Bastards,” which he describes as “‘Game of Thrones’ meets ‘The Breakfast Club,’” comprising key elements that are characteristically associated with both the Primetime Emmy Award-winning fantasy television series and the quintessential 1980s coming-of-age film.
“I think the book is about that precise moment in adolescence when you discover that your parents aren’t the idols you believed them to be, when you’re caught between a loyalty to the values you were raised with and the new perspectives that come with being exposed to the larger world,” Shvarts said.
The first draft took him roughly seven months to write and two months to edit, with plenty of pacing and pots of coffee along the way.
Contributor Jared Scott Tesler is based in Rochester, N.Y.