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Michael graciously answered all my prying questions.
Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?
It seems like I always had bouncing around an idea about writing an Epic Fantasy tale for my boys when they were old enough to appreciate it. In my mind, I'd always liked the "Fish out of water" type of story, similar to Alice in Wonderland - but I wanted a modern setting that illustrated what it would be like to have an entire family suddenly find themselves in a new world, and try to make it as "realistic" as possible regarding their reactions, how they adapted, and eventually triumphed in a world that was "out to get them".
However when I think about my earliest reading, one book probably influenced me more than any others.
The one classic that stands head and shoulders above them all was J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series.
The Hobbit – my first Fantasy book, and by far the one that set me on the road I’ve walked in this genre. It established a variety of archetypes that I believe many authors since have followed whether purposefully or accidentally. The concepts and behaviors introduced with the character races as stereotypes are certainly things that have influenced my view on writing. For instance a reader might find my elves somewhat stoic and serious and the dwarves a touch boisterous and hard-working. As it was the first book in the genre I read, it was the measuring stick by which all future books were compared against.
I think the thing that draws me to Fantasy is that the genre doesn’t really limit what you can do as long as you make it believable. Your setting could be on the Jelly world of Blignartz where everyone is made of Peanut Butter. (Okay, maybe that one is a bit odd – but illustrates my point.) *G* Or your setting could draw from the now classic archetypes set by Tolkien and have some elves, dwarves, etc all thrown into an otherwise pastoral world called Trimoria.
It then is up to the author to add his or her own storyline and break any perceived rules if it seems right.
What research, or world-building, is required?
As I noted in the worlds I noted from the previous answer, I referred to that instantly made up Jelly world of Blignartz and Trimoria. I think there is one element that is paramount when doing any kind of world building, and that is consistency.
If the world of Blignartz is composed largely of strawberry jelly, and peanut butter grass grows on the jelly, you shouldn’t change that paradigm elsewhere unless you have a good explanation for it. This is akin to the blue-peaked mountains of Kalamanjoor later being described as green-peaked, and later as blue again without an acceptable explanation of why the change in color.
For Trimoria, I did model several elements against our own world, or at least took some liberties with it. For instance, some of the camping tricks that people use to determine direction when lost in the woods are used and work nicely in the world of Trimoria (e.g. Moss tends to grow thicker on one side of a tree than others).
I also did leverage in this novel and others that are yet to be released a variety of different technologies such as smithing, smelting of ore, etc. All of these things need to be consistent and if there is an analogy in our world – you as an author best get it right or you’ll hear about it. ;-)
Name one thing you learned from your protagonist.
I think Azazel what one of the characters that was a great learning experience for me. His role as the "bad guy" in Trimoria, or at least the biggest of the bad buys gave me a lot of opportunities to express some depth into his character. As a villain, most villains are not motivated to be bad "just because". Rarely do characters do things without thinking they are doing the right thing in their own eyes. Ultimately when Azazel was completed, and the threads of the story unwind, you would learn that Azazel's motivations were not quite what you thought they were in the beginning. In the end, Azazel ends up being a flawed characters that allowed me as an author to let the story unfold around him and will ultimately illustrate how those mixed motivations lead to a continuing story.
Things are never what they initially seem - and as I wrote the villain, I learned just how much he served as the skeleton framework for the first book and how strongly the motivations the villain followed were absolutely necessary for a believable story to progress from beginning to end and reach into the next book in the series.
Any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits or superstitions?
I happen to really like to eat chocolate covered raspberry jells and Good & Plenty when I am in a “writing zone” In other words, when I find myself settling in for what I know will be hours of continuous writing – I want some of those sweet things nearby. Oddly enough, otherwise – I am not a big fan of sweets.
Plotter or pantser?
Oh very very very much a plotter. Before I write the first word of a novel, I have an outline that I am happy with created and revised umpteen times.
Look to your right – what’s sitting there?
A cat. If he had his preference, he’d be sitting on the keyboard.
Anything new coming up from you? What?
Released this summer with be the second book in the series, TOOLS OF PROPHECY. I put the final words down on a prequel to the same Prophecies series just now. I am now in the editing phase and hopefully you’ll see this novel near the end of the year.
Do you have a question for our readers?
When it comes to what you choose to read, do you prefer reading Epic tales that span across multiple books, or stories that start and end in a single book.
The Riverton brothers quickly realize that in this world, they have gained unusual powers. Powers that their parents fear will attract the attention of Azazel himself – the merciless wizard who brutally controls this world.
The two brothers soon learn that an ancient prophecy has finally been initiated by their arrival in Trimoria. As the heirs of this prophecy, they are destined to lead the armies of men, dwarves, elves, and even a misfit ogre against the prophesied demon horde.
Only one thing stands in their way.
The evil wizard who has learned of their presence, and has sent assassins to wipe them from existence.
An excerpt: when the family first encounters some wildlife that is clearly not from their world…
Looking to the top of the hill to the west, Aaron spotted a single four-legged figure outlined against the darkening sky. He raised his arm to point it out to his family, but before he could say anything, the animal vanished. Confused, Aaron lowered his arm.“Huh?” he said.
Just as the sound escaped his lips, the creature returned, closer this time. Aaron was alerted to its presence by a loud popping sound. Startled, he turned toward the animal, finding it standing a mere twenty feet away. From this distance, he could tell that it was a wolf-like creature. Its fur was matted and its face crusted with dirt. The wolf looked the family over in turn, an unnerving intelligence behind those yellow eyes.
Dad calmly motioned everyone behind him. “Don’t make any sudden moves…”
The creature sniffed once at the air, growled, and then blinked out of sight with another sharp popping sound. The sound echoed in Aaron’s head as he pondered in awe what he had just seen.“It just…It just…,” he stammered. “It just disappeared.”
“Where did it go?” Mom asked, her voice quavering.
Dad shrugged. “Your guess is as good as mine.”
“What the heck was that, Jared?” Mom growled, sounding fearfully angry. “Tell me you’re going to explain where in the world you’ve seen what we’ve just seen.”
Dad strode forward and crouched where the wolf had been. He seemed to study the ground for a time before breaking into a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry, but I can’t explain any of this. What we just saw shouldn’t be possible.”
“Maybe he didn’t disappear,” Ryan offered. “Maybe he just camouflaged himself. You know…like a lizard.”
Dad shook his head. “No, I see his paw prints here and nowhere else. It’s like he teleported away.”
“Teleporting wolves, giant cats, and I’m sparking everywhere on demand.”
“Yeah,” Aaron chimed in, “and hollow rocks.”
“Dad, are we even in our world anymore?”
Aaron couldn’t help but note how at a loss his father seemed.
I am an Army brat and the first person in my family to be born in the United States. This heavily influenced my youth by instilling a love of reading and a burning curiosity about the world and all of the things within it. As an adult, my love of travel allowed me to explore many unimaginable locations. I participated in many adventures and documented them in what will be a series of books, the first of which you have just read.
Some might put these books in the Fantasy genre, and I never had issues with this label. After all, the adventures were, without any doubt in my mind, fantastic. I simply quibble with the label of “Fiction” that some might put on these tales. These tales should be viewed as historical records, more along the lines of a documentary. I’ve learned one thing over the years. Magic is real. Keep exploring, and you too will find your magic.
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