Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Farworld: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage

Six years ago a new member joined my writer’s critique group. Back then his name was Jeff Savage, and he only had one published book, Cutting Edge from Covenant Books. I’ll admit, I gave him a hard time on that one. It was a great story, but there were things about the writing that just bugged me, and if anyone has been a regular reader of my columns and reviews, you’ll know when something bugs me, I’m sure to let people know.

Today I’m happy to say, that Jeff’s (okay, J. Scott’s for this one) writing has improved, and his storytelling has become spectacular (listen to the jealousy and pride in my voice). Many a night I have come home from a late meeting of critique and not been able to sleep because of some scary scene that Jeff read from his latest horror novel, or I’ve found myself jumping at some noise because his latest Shandra Covington book had me seeing the boogie man around every corner.

This time though, we didn’t really have to worry about bad things that go bump in the night—well, there is the Thrathkin S’Bae, Bonesplitter, and the Dark Circle, but Kyja and Marcus can handle them. After all, this is young adult fantasy, and like Harry Potter and his friends, these two likable protagonists should be able to handle anything, especially since we know there are more books to come in this five book series.

Farworld is the story of a girl, Kyja, who wishes she had the use of magic in a world filled with spells, charms, and potions; and Marcus, a crippled boy who escapes his cruel surroundings by dreaming about another world. Together they take on the Dark Circle, prepared to keep Master Therapass’s secret and protect Farworld, while seeking the Elementals, and convince them to open a draft between the both worlds that will save both the children’s lives.

Because I know Jeff so well–and because I didn’t want to embarrass him too badly—I’ve asked him a few questions to let all of you know more about both his book and its author.

1. You know all your readers love that little ishkabiddle. What is your take on the reason why and why was that single scene at the beginning so surprising to you?

Well first of all, the ishkabiddle was a last minute throw-in. It was originally just a rabbit. But I needed the reader to understand we were not on Earth. But I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the ishkabiddle became such a hit. One of the first rules of writing a thriller is to put an innocent in peril. And what is more innocent than a funny mother animal with cool little spinning thingies that come out of her feelers?

2. I've always wondered, did you write about the scenes where Marcus is being bullied so clearly because you were the bully or the recipient as a child?

I was bullied like you wouldn’t believe. But that’s probably what pushed me into reading, which in turn pushed me into writing. So, thanks—jerks! Plus I got some good advice on the initial dialog for an amazing writer who shall remained unnamed. Lu Ann.

3. You're committed to a five book series, and I would imagine Shadow Mountain intends that to extend over a period of five years. How do you, as an author, think you will be able to keep your momentum going for the series? Do you plan to write more than one "episode" each year or to wait and write them a book (and a publication year) at a time?

I will write more than one book a year, but not in this series. For me, at least, the story needs to stay fresh. When I’m writing a book, it’s the coolest story ever. But it’s hard to keep that enthusiasm once you are done writing. I’d hate to write all five books now and be bored out of my skull with the series by the time the last book comes out. The nice thing about this series is there is a clear progression in my mind. I know about the cool things that will build in each book. It’s not like, “Sammy goes to school,” “Sammy makes a friend,” “Sammy goes to prison.”

4. I hear you're planning a nationwide motor home book tour. That says to me you're planning to make enough money to pay for the gas (tee hee!) What fabulous cities do you plan to visit and will the school and bookstore visits also allow you enough time for sight-seeing?

Well. It can’t happen until book two at the earliest, and probably book three. But my wife and I would like to take our youngest boys on an RV tour of all 48 states. I would do school tours three days a week. We’d travel one day and week. And the rest of the time would be spent exploring this amazing country. I think it would be a one-in-a-lifetime chance for all of us.

5. I know you well enough to know you write fast and frequent, what do you plan to work on to keep your writing habit flowing freely between the segments of Farworld?

Yeah. I’m the ADHD author. I’ve got tons of other ideas. I’ll still keep my mystery series going, of course. But I’m also really excited about a series where a hit man/PI gets sent to hell and has to earn his way out. Kind of an urban fantasy with cool magic and weapons.

6. You've had a successful run as an author in a local niche market. What changes---both positive and negative---do you anticipate as you move into the national fantasy arena?

From a positive side, suddenly the whole world is your oyster. It’s great to be a bale to drop into a bookstore in Boston and say, “So do you have my book on order?” I even had a book ordered from Amazon.UK the other day. How cool is that? Plus I really like hearing from people who have never read a book by me before. I think it’s the truest test of whether your writing is any good when someone just picks your book off a shelf with no idea of who you are. On the other side of the coin, you’re swimming in deep water now. You can’t just be as good as the other regional authors. You’ve got to be as good as the big boys and girls or people will not try you again. It’s a challenge, but I think every author wants a chance to compete with the best.

7. What are five pieces of advice you've learned from other authors that you wish you had listened to more carefully?

I actually listen pretty carefully. I value the insights of other authors a lot. The problem is I didn’t really talk to any authors before writing my first book. But here are some good pieces of advice I’ve received:

★ Don’t quit your day job.
★ Find a good critique group.
★ Understand what each POV buys you and choose carefully.
★ Write for kids instead of to kids.
★ Don’t use back and that so much.

8. What are five pieces of advice you'd now share with other authors, now that you're among the ranks of those publishing?

Other than the whole SASE and prologue debates?

★ Don’t waste the first page. That’s where you win or lose your readers.
★ Avoid flashbacks unless they are absolutely vital.
★ Don’t break the rules of good writing unless you really understand them. (The first time you think you understand them, you don’t.)
★ Write because you love to, not to be published. That way, you’ll enjoy writing no matter what, and when you do get published it will be icing on the cake.
★ Don’t ask for feedback on your writing unless you are prepared to throw out anything and everything that doesn’t work. A good writer learns not to be defensive.

9. How does your wife really feel about you hanging out with the "Ladies of Wednesday night"?

Well at first, she was a little jealous about me spending one night a week with six beautiful women. But once she met them and saw that they are great people, she was totally cool with it. Plus I’m not real fond of pizza so she and the kids make that their pizza night.

10. Come on, we all know there's one question you've been dying to answer, but that none of us have been astute enough yet to ask you. What is it? And what would be your answer?

Hmm. How about, “Did you ever take a girl on such an incredibly creative date that even after she got married she said it was the best date she ever went on?” Answer yes. “Did she kiss you good night?” Nope. She totally blew me off.

11. Tell everyone one more time, just how important was I to the final process of your getting this book published and in having such great discussion questions at the end.

I hereby testify that without Lu Ann’s incredibleness Farworld would never have happened!!

And without Jeff (Scott) as a member of my writing group, I wouldn’t have gotten as far myself as a writer or an editor. I think you’ll all love Farworld, and I hope everyone who reads this book goes out and buys a copy. Of course, maybe I am biased. (Having my name in the Acknowledgment section of a nationally published book is a little heady—see page 419.) But it sure is nice to see such a nice guy make it good in the book market.

If you’d like to know more about Jeff, or just hear what his voice sounds like, listen to the podcast I did with him Saturday, April 28, 2007, by going to my blog for that day titled “It's a Techno-World, After All!” and clicking on the podcast icon.

If you'd like to win an advanced reader's copy (ARC) of Farworld, listen to the podcast and correctly answer this question in a reply to this post on either of my blogs. He gives the answer during the podcast, so only that answer will do. I'll draw a winner from all correct answers on Tuesday, September 9, 2008. Good luck.

The trivia question is: "What is one of Jeff's favorite things to do?"

To buy a copy of Farworld, visit here: