Interview: Misha Handman, Author of SHADOW STITCHER #Interview

Born on Vancouver Island, Canada, Misha Handman spent his early life immersed in the arts, with one parent a teacher and the other a manager of theatre and opera. Moving across the country to Ottawa, and then Toronto, he began writing at a young age – first writing comics and designing card games for his closest friends and then, buoyed by their approval, gradually expanding out to submissions to magazines and short story collections, and graduating from the University of Toronto with a classic English degree.

Misha has always believed in the importance of entertainment to our health and well-being. He is also interested in our shared fictional history, working in game design to develop collaborative games and story-driven experiences and exploring the new worlds that we are sharing. His fascination with these things led to the development of his first novel, Shadow Stitcher, as an exploration of the English classic “Peter Pan.”

When not writing, Misha spends his time in Victoria, Canada, working as a professional fundraiser for charities – a job he describes as “helping people to help people.” He continues to work on game design on the side, and is always excited to see the myriad ways that people approach story construction and creation, both as a voracious reader of genre fiction and a dedicated player of games.



"There is a game I like to play whenever a client walks into my office. I sit him down — or her, occasionally, but usually a ‘him’ — and ask the simple question, “How can I help you today?” Then I start to count. I’ve found that you can tell quite a bit about someone from how long it takes for them to respond."

--From Shadow Stitcher

Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  When did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The original idea that would grow into Shadow Stitcher literally began as a dream, as ironic as that seems. I had been re-reading Peter Pan as part of a separate project, and I had a dream in which I was a pest exterminator wrestling with the morality of killing fairies. I dashed off a flash fiction piece based on the idea, and then set it aside.

As luck would have it, though, a month later I became involved in my first National Novel-Writing Month challenge, and the idea of a world that created a counterpoint between childish Neverland magic and very real concerns drew me in. I created the framework for Shadow Stitcher then, and spent the next couple years developing and refining it into the work that it eventually became.

Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

Shadow Stitcher is published by EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy, an imprint of Hades Publications. As a Canadian author, finding a Canadian publisher that also distributed in the United States and worldwide was important to me, and I was fortunate enough to be looking at a time when they were on the lookout for new authors.

As part of my work with EDGE, I’ve been lucky enough to be in close contact with Brian Hades, the publisher and founder. Brian has been a strong supporter of the book, and I’ve learned a lot from working with him.

Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

A small part of me was surprised that it happened at all! But generally, the process played out roughly as I’d expected – a lot of rejections, some of them with useful information and some of them simple forms, until I found the publisher with the same vision as me.

Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

We’ve all heard the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but there’s a reason that people have to be reminded of that! A good cover makes all the difference between a casual reader picking up your book to investigate, and passing over it without looking. Newer writers especially need every advantage that they can get, and an eye-catching cover is a wonderful advantage to have.

I was extremely lucky; EDGE directed me to Risa Hulett, who created an absolutely gorgeous cover based on my specifications. I’d heard horror stories about cover art that was only barely connected to the works at hand, and the fact that the first draft given to me was spot-on was incredibly encouraging.

How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Writing a book is never easy, but the trickiest thing about historical fantasy is deciding which elements of history you’re keeping the same, and what you’re changing. These decisions have a massive influence on how a society is presented, and in many ways it’s harder than just creating an entirely new world from scratch.

I think the best piece of advice is to do your research – find books written in the times and places that you’re writing about, by the people whose stories are being told. Little details make a big difference when it comes to immersion and consistency.

What other books are you working on and when will they be published?

I’m currently in the process of writing the sequel to Shadow Stitcher, which will follow another character introduced in the first book as he grapples with blackmail, conspiracies, tigers, and mermaids. I’m afraid that the title and publication date remain TBA!

Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?

The most important message of Shadow Stitcher is a simple one: “Listen.” Basil Stark is a detective who is at his best when he pays attention to the people that the police ignore, and when he listens to what the people around him feel. When he gets in trouble, it’s usually because he jumps the gun, goes with his gut in the wrong moment, or lets his assumptions get the better of him.

Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

We are living in a time when it’s more important than ever to be aware of each other, to listen not just to our words, but to why they are said. When you see someone hurting, don’t brush them off just because they spoke too harshly. When you see someone in need, lend a hand if you can. And when you see injustice, raise your voice.


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