Thursday, August 22, 2013

Author Moment: An Interview with J.R. Vikse (Part The First)

Hey Humble Readers...

Today I bring you something different from my usual ramblings about life with an ent and two wee-lings.  I think it's actually pretty special. 

A friend of mine, a blogger, actor, fellow bibliophile, and author is getting set to release a new book next month, the first in a fantasy trilogy for young adults called The Keeper Chronicles: Playing With Fire and he has agreed to let me pick his brain, not once but twice, about his work as a writer.  The second half of this interview will be posted during September's ICLW. 

J.R. Vikse

Before we begin, I want you to imagine someone who is a combination of Harry Potter, Niles Crane (from Frasier) and Eric Forman (from That 70s Show) in both looks and personality, and that's my friend J.R. Vikse.  He's funny, smart, creative (who else could come up with the most excellent game called "Most Likely To...") and is the reigning champ of our "Six Degrees of Separation" tournaments that helped to pass many slow winter afternoons in the bookstore where we both worked.  I can genuinely say I knew him way back when... :) 

So J.R., why don’t you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?
I was born, as so many are, as a baby.  From that point on, a variety of events happened which had a variety of consequences and eventually led me to this interview.  In the meantime, I grew up in the medium-sized city of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, where I earned my degree in history and met and married my incredible wife, Krista.  We then moved to Victoria, BC, where I wrote my first novel, The Lazy Postman, and spent a great deal of my free time onstage, as a theatrical actor and director.  In my non-free time, I worked in a plethora of bookstores, which afforded me the opportunity to read an absolutely ridiculous amount of books, as well as meet and work with my friend Mrs. Gamgee, the gracious host of this blog.  My wife and I currently live in Melbourne, Australia, where I have been doing more writing, acting, and directing, all while surrounded by people with funny accents. 
When and why did you start to write?
As is so often the case, my love of writing began exactly where it ought to: in the library.  I was an early reader and as a child was encouraged by my parents to read lots and read often, developing my imagination through the power of the written word.  It even got to the point of being used as my punishment (no quiet times for me; if I was a bad boy, I was grounded from reading!).  In high school I had an English teacher who encouraged us to write a little every day in class.  So we had fifteen minutes to write whatever we wanted to write: poetry, stories, journaling, etc.  And there began my love of writing (thanks, Mr. Issler!) as a purely entertaining activity.  I didn't start writing short stories with the aim of actually finishing them until six years later, but once I started, I couldn't be stopped!  Now my brain no longer turns off, but continues to send stories to my fingers, forcing them to dance on the keyboard like authorial marionettes.  I am a huge proponent of the idea that concepts can best be taught through fiction, and that storytelling is THE method of passing on culture, ideas, morality, social conscience, etc.  After all, they're called heroes for a reason, right?

Available at
Paperback and Kindle editions
You’ve published a book prior to this new one (The Keeper Chronicles: Playing with Fire).  Can you tell us a bit about The Lazy Postman?
The Lazy Postman was an accidental novel.  It was meant to be a short story, and then grew out of control until suddenly I had a full book on my hands!  The story details two weeks in the life of Jordan Melville, a recent high-school graduate who is, for the first time, living on his own in a new city.  Everything is going swimmingly until he realizes that he is receiving all the mail for his entire housing complex and is forced to deliver it to his new neighbours.  As he meets them and is introduced to their eccentricities, he discovers that the world outside of his childhood bubble is more complex, and more hilarious, than he'd ever expected.  Soon, Jordan is inserting himself into their lives, reading their mail, and getting into situations that make him confront the reality of relationships in all their complicated glory.  The Lazy Postman is a book about connecting with people, and all the hysteria, hilarity, and heartache that can result. 
This new series is significantly different from The Lazy Postman.  What made you go in a different direction?
Like I said before, The Lazy Postman was a bit of an experiment.  I wanted to see if I could write a full story in an extended format.  It turns out that I could, and so I decided to put my mind to a more complete and intentional project.  The Keeper Chronicles is the extension of that decision.  It's really been about me maturing as a writer and being best able to give the reader an incredible experience.  Once the idea for this story presented itself to me, I invested my time and energy into a full pre-production process, scribbling pages of notes in my own chaotic version of an encyclopaedia.  I even sketched a few designs and maps which will never see the light of day, as I am not an illustrator of any kind!  For me, this project has been about aiming to bring order and discipline to the passion project that writing has always been for me.  The entire trilogy, not just Playing With Fire, is mapped out, with full characters and plot points ready to go.  The writing experience has been very different because of that.  The fact that it's fantasy, and therefore one of the most creative of all literary styles, in my mind, is the icing on the cake.  I've always loved youth fantasy, and it has been a pleasure to delve into this side of writing and pursue the creative with the safety net of actually knowing what I'm doing this time!  I am very excited about this project, and about Playing With Fire particularly!

Is there anything you can tell us about the new book to whet our appetites?
Ooooh, you're a naughty, naughty girl for asking that!  This project has been wrapped up in more secrecy than a J.J. Abrams film!  I have released a blurb that will adorn the back jacket of the book, which I will post again here:

Under the guidance and protection of the Keepers, the world of Tranthaea has been at peace for five hundred years.  But all of that is about to change...

Callum Swift, a fifteen-year-old pickpocket, and Jingwei Li, a sixteen-year-old environmentalist, are just trying to live their lives as best they can. The challenges of school, work, and awkward relationships are all that they have time for each day, and every night when they go home; Callum to the dirty streets of London and Jingwei to an uncaring foster home in L.A., each of them wonders what it would feel like to be wanted. Until, that is, they discover they may have unexpectedly developed powerful new abilities.

When they are transported to the strange and unfamiliar world of Tranthaea, they have no idea what is expected of them, and even less of an idea of what's in store for them. Tested by shifting allegiances, incredible creatures, and powerful enemies, Jingwei and Callum are asked to defend the world from an unknown attacker with an unknown agenda. But are they able to accept the responsibility, or will their new powers be too much for them to handle? Faced with impossible decisions, Callum and Jingwei are forced to rely upon one another to find the courage they'll need to survive.

I won't be giving to much more away before it's published, but what I can tell you is that over the next couple of weeks I will be releasing some excerpts from the prologues of Playing with Fire on my website (, so check it out and you'll get a sneak-peek at the two lead characters, Jingwei Li and Callum Swift. 

In the meantime, I can say that contained within the pages of this book are some of my favourite characters of those that I have written.  Jingwei Li, especially, was a true pleasure to write.  She is a very strong, forthright girl, who refuses to take any nonsense from anyone else, and more often than not speaks her mind, often to hilarious effect.  She was incredibly freeing to write, and I would often laugh out loud (and still do) at some of the things she says, and the inopportune times she chooses to say them.  In one scene, when she is being presented to a person of no small importance, she introduces herself and Callum.  The other party notes: "You speak for him.  Is he your servant?"  Jingwei responds, "Not yet... but we've only just met."  I look forward to introducing her to the readers with great anticipation. 
Writers are quirky folks.  Do you have any idiosyncrasies when it comes to your creative endeavors?
Certainly more than my wife wishes I had!  I do have the tendency to require absolute silence to write.  The noise of traffic, a dishwasher running, or even loud birds (of which there are many in Australia, I can tell you!) can knock my brain off-track.  This means that my most creative moments are often in the middle of the night/early morning when I jump out of bed to write down my newest, greatest idea before it fades into the dream from whence it came.  Of course the irony of this is that I am told that I am a very noisy writer; I mutter, click my tongue, pop my lips, tap my fingers, and hmmm and haw audibly.  As so many other writers do, I also always have to have something handy to jot down notes in; my phone will do in a pinch.  Inspiration will strike at the most inopportune moments, and I'll often interrupt dinner, a walk, or a night out with friends to jot down whatever brilliant thought hit me and is threatening to fly away, unexplored.
I also need a pen close at hand.  Preferably one that can come apart into multiple pieces.  If it can be put back together again as well, all the better. 
When does Playing With Fire hit Amazon?
I'm hoping for a release date of September 9, 2013.  This is, of course, dependent on how quickly the Amazon folks do whatever technological magic they need to do to make sure it's up and available on time, and perhaps even more dependent on the final editing drafts going as smoothly as possible, but barring any natural disasters, September 9 is the target date. 
Thanks for taking the time to hang out with us today, J.R.!  I'm very excited about Playing with Fire and can't wait to read it. 
And Humble Readers, I have a little bonus for you.  I'm giving away a copy of J.R.'s book The Lazy Postman this week!  It's a fun read, and there just might be another give away with the second part of my interview with J.R. next month!  To enter, just leave me a comment and tell me about the your most recent new-to-you author that you've started reading.  The winner will be announced on August 28th! 
And if you don't win the giveaway, you can always go to Amazon to get a copy for yourself!


  1. Awww, we have to wait until September to finish the interview? How unfair! :)

  2. I'm excited to read the book. I like to keep up to date with what's going on in the world of young adult fiction.

    The author I discovered over the summer was Karen Miller (Innocent Mage and others). I really enjoyed her books.

  3. This is so awesome Mrs. G! :) great interview and the new book intrigues me. Might be good for the kiddies at school, no??

    I also like the concept of The Lazy Postman!

    My new favourite author is Rita Leganski who wrote The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow. Amazing! You have to check it out!

    Also, (as per your recommendation) I'm reading about a certain Harold Fry and I'm loving Rachel Joyce's writing too. :)


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