Talent, imagination and passion are qualities that Paul Stuempel—creator and co-author of the newly-released, Augee: Guardian of Hohala—has in abundance. A native of northern Kentucky, Paul has worked tirelessly, invested heavily, and persevered against the odds to bring his long-awaited magnum opus to print. Yet, without the four decades of dogged commitment that saw the Cincinnati man take Augee’s story from a daydream to published novel, the literary world would not have been gifted this unique and painstakingly-developed tale. Published in late 2017, Augee: Guardian of Hohala is the first instalment in the Augee trilogy.
In a nutshell, Augee: Guardian of Hohala tells the story of the Hohalians—a nonviolent people who live in abundance in a remote, idyllic country protected by their kindly gods. Across the ocean from Hohala, another nation, the Volcarons, lives in destitution; led by a psychotic genius named Morgoratt, the Volcarons embark on a voyage to conquer Hohala and kill off the natives. When the peace-loving king of Hohala orders his citizens to go into exile to avoid bloodshed, a young rebel, Nicholas Stone, abandons his people—and his love interest, the Hohalian princess—to travel into the wilderness in search of a miracle, guided by what he believes is the mysterious hand of the gods. After an arduous journey into the unknown, Nicholas discovers a peculiar and exceptionally intelligent infant creature, who he names Augee. As he grows, it is discovered that Augee, once angered, exhibits power of terrible fury, and Nicholas and he decide to rise up against the merciless Volcarons in the face of the rest of Hohalian people’s inaction.
Augee: Guardian of Hohala can be described as a classic story of good versus evil, but its subtly-woven concepts and themes contribute to a work of literature that goes beyond mere story-telling, and, clearly, there is a pointed intention to cast a critiquing light on some of the social injustices and political grotesques of our current moment. Throughout its 367 pages, Augee: Guardian of Hohala has much to say, and given the mammoth and lengthy efforts that have gone into the story, it is no surprise that it moves well beyond the straightforward bracket of fantasy, which the book’s cover and synopsis might suggest.
Given the elaborate history of the project, it is worthwhile chronicling Augee’s creation. The series began as a mere spark of imagination over fifty years ago when Paul, then in his 20s, flirted briefly with the idea of a short animated movie. He spent time developing a simple storyline but, ultimately, was compelled toward much loftier flights of imagination.
Eventually, the movie project came to nothing, but the flame of something unique and ambitious had already been ignited in Paul’s head. With little else than a pencil, notepad and the seeds of a story, he set about devising a tentative plot, creating character profiles, and drawing up a framework for the world that would eventually become Hohala, the setting of Augee.
According to Paul, the book, at the time, was an endeavour of love, but with a young family and growing business to take care of, free time to work on a book project was scare. Eventually, after a number of years of writing in fits and starts, a handwritten manuscript, that contained the “bones” of the Augee series today, came to fruition.
However, the creative process came to a halt for Paul as his professional life became increasingly demanding, and the Augee manuscript was unwillingly side-lined to his study drawer for several years.
It wasn’t until 2009 that Paul resurrected the manuscript and made a firm decision to continue to write Augeeuntil the story was complete. After eight months of late nights and hard slog, the manuscript was finished and shared among the author’s family and friends.
The feedback was unanimous: Paul had a fantastic story on his hands, but it needed to be reworked, developed, and crafted into distinct chapters and stages. Even at that point, the required effort and time envisaged to take Augee to the publication stage seemed daunting. Yet, according to Paul, he knew, deep-down that his story merited a readership, so he decided to persist with the project.
Over the following years—from 2010-2015—Paul commissioned a number of contributors to assist him in his endeavour to bring Augee from manuscript to a published book, and eventually in January 2016, he connected with an Atlanta-based writer from Ireland, Dr. Cormac Lambe. Together, Paul and Cormac took the original story and began again from scratch, rewriting scenes and reconfiguring Augee and the world of Hohala. After two years of full-time endeavour, Augee: Guardian of Hohala was finally published in November 2017.
Paul has spoken about the emotions that enveloped him when he first received a printed copy of Augee: Guardian of Hohala:
“The day that the finished, printed copies of Augee arrived in the mail was one of the most surreal I've had. It was an incredible feeling to see 50 years of imagining, creating and writing bound up so beautifully in 362 pages. What a wonderful moment that was, when I could hold the book in own hands, smell the newly-dried ink, and distractedly skim through all of those now-printed words that I agonized about so often and for so long. In short, I felt elated and so very proud.“
Finally, now, after five decades of dedication and belief, the epic tale of Augee and the Hohalians is ready for the audience it so richly deserves and is a wonderful testament to an artist who persevered with a daydream that is ready to become a legend
Paul and Cormac are already putting the finishing touches to the second in the Augee series, Augee II: The Reawakening, which is set for publication later in 2018.