This is my Q&A time with J. Scott Savage, author of the new young adult fantasy series “Far World”. You can see my review here.
1. Welcome to Devourer of Books, Scott! I’m glad to have you here. When you started this blog tour, you suggested that perhaps the interviews be in fun, exotic places; I’m fairly certain that, since then, everyone has been imposing ‘interview locations’ on you right and left. I’m sure most everywhere has been interesting, but I want to leave the decision of our interview location up to you. What is the one place you have not yet ‘visited’ on this blog tour and wish you had?
If there was one real or imaginary place I could go, I honestly think it would be Hogwarts. That just became such a real place in my imagination. One of my biggest gripes with HP book seven was that we really didn’t get to spend much time there.
2. I agree. I definitely missed Hogwarts in HP7. Speaking of Harry Potter, as most of my readers already know, you yourself wrote an absolutely fantastic young adult fantasy book, which is what we’re here to talk about. So let’s begin at the beginning: I was incredibly frustrated at the beginning of the book trying to figure out what was going on. This was a good kind of frustration, a frustration that FORCED me to read on to figure out what on earth was happening. How did you find the line between “Oh my gosh, I have no idea what is happening, I’d better read more and find out!” and “I have no idea what is going on in this stupid book, I hate it!”?
That is a very hard line to walk. If you give away too much too soon, the reader gets bored. If you take too long, the reader either skips pages or puts the book down completely. I think the key is to have some small “aha” moments along the way. If you can figure out a few things, you’ll keep pushing toward the ultimate “aha.” I hope that’s the case with the series too. There are still a lot of unknowns.
3. Well, whatever you did, it sure worked for me. What is the last book that made YOU say, “I have no idea what is happening! I have to read faster!”?
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Love, love, loved it. But for the first half of the book, I was totally confused.
4. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read anything by Gaiman. Now that I have your recommendation, I may have to go and pick that up. There was one thing at the beginning of “FarWorld” that didn’t exactly confuse me, but sort of amazed me – Marcus’ disability. My first thoughts when Chet started talking about the “freak” in the wheelchair was, “I wonder if Scott is actually going to make this kid who is wheelchair-bound his protagonist?” I really, really hoped so because persons with pretty much all sorts of physical and mental (although not emotional, I suppose) disabilities tend to be really underrepresented in literature. What made you decide that Marcus’ childhood injuries should be severe enough to leave him in a wheelchair? Did Marcus’ disability would create any challenges for you in telling his story?
Stephen King compares writing to uncovering a fossil. You want to get as close as you can while not breaking anything. That’s how I felt about writing Water Keep. I knew Marcus had to be disabled for dozens of reasons. It just would not have been the same story without it. In fact I would have trashed the series if I had to do it differently. But at the same time, it made writing the story so much harder. I immediately understood why not many writers try it. It was suggested that maybe I make his disability not quite as major. I was even told it might hurt the chances of selling the movie rights. But it didn’t matter. You can’t change the fossil, you can only dig up what is already there.
5. What do your kids think of this story? Have they already heard the plans for the whole series, or are they being kept on the same starvation diet as the rest of us, waiting for the next book to be published?
No. They don’t know what’s going to happen. Only my wife and my publisher do. My ten-year-old son is about to kill me because I’m not yet ready to have him read any of book two. But my kids are my front line feedback so He’ll get to read it when I have more ready.
6. It seemed to me that at the beginning of “Water Keep” I saw a little “Harry Potter” (the evil man, the snakes, the tone) and a little “Star Wars” (when Kyja is leaving the farm). Am I simply bringing my own cultural knowledge to the story? What works do you think provided inspiration for you while you were plotting the course of “Farworld”?
I like writing a fantasy to hiking up a mountain. There are only so many trailheads you can start from. take this beginning for example. A boy is orphaned, he goes to live with his relatives, they treat him poorly. He meets a man who tells him about magic, and he goes on an adventure. Harry Potter? Or James and Giant Peach? Or change the gender and it’s Cinderella.
A typical fantasy journey may start with a child/children who discover a new world and set off on a journey to save it. But it’s where they go from there the makes the story either derivative or unique. So I have no problem with a reader thinking, “Hmm, this reminds me a little of [fill in the blank],” for the first 100 pages or so. But as the story progresses, it must take on a life of its own.
7. Definitely by the time your story got going it was YOUR story. Thank you so much for the chance to read your book, it was really fantastic. And, of course, the question everyone has been waiting for, what was your favorite story starter? Which of our aspiring novelists will be winning the autographed copy of YOUR novel?
Hmm. This is a really tough choice, I mean we have pirates, wedding buffets, warthogs, unexpected trips. And really all very good writing. The thing that I look for most in a story beginning though is immediacy. Pull me in by having something happening right her and now. I can get description and inner dialog later. And the story that held the most immediacy for me was . . . Blink. Although it gave me a serious twitch. So that’s my choice. Congratulations. Now write the rest of it.
Congratulations to the author of Blink, who is winning a copy of FarWorld and the author of “Insert Clever Title Here,” who is winning a $10 Amazon gift certificate!