Monday, September 23, 2013

Author Moment: An Interview with JR Vikse - Part The Second

Good Evening Humble Readers...

I hope you've all had a great Monday.  Or at least as good as a Monday can get.  My day has been wonderfully productive, and now I get to come and hang out with you fine folks!  Yay!
JR Vikse
Today I am privileged to bring you the second part of my interview with my friend JR Vikse.  His new book, The Keeper Chronicles: Playing With Fire, released earlier this month, and after I got a chance to read it, I fired a bunch of questions at him.  He was generous enough to share some insights into his process of creating a fantastical world, peopled with numerous races, intriguing characters, and power-hungry villains. 

On a personal note, I was blown away by this book.  As I told JR, in reading his book I became profoundly aware of the fact that I will never be fit to write fantasy.  I am already harassing him for the next installment.  If you enjoy young adult fantasy, you will LOVE this story.  I don't want to spoil anything for you guys. 

Many authors can pinpoint when or where an idea first came to them.  How did Tranthaea first come to you?  It's true, sometimes there is a moment, or an image, or an idea that you just know is going to be special. Tranthaea, and the stories that are encompassed within it, was one of those ideas for me. It originally came to me as a picture in my head. I had the idea of a warrior riding a silver, floating animal, both horse-like and fish-like, but at the same time like nothing ever seen before. The warrior and creature were slowly and silently weaving through the trees of a dark forest. 
A simple enough image, but one that held a great fascination for me, and quickly grew more detailed in my mind. This, thankfully, was expanded upon to great effect, and eventually the story and the world that you read about in The Keeper Chronicles: Playing with Fire came about. For you watchful readers, that conceptual image did make it into the book, so keep an eye out for it (although many other original ideas did not, but that's another story!).

How much of this story, and Tranthaea itself, was inspired by your time in Australia?  (If any)
Very little of the story itself (plot, etc.) was inspired by the years I lived in Australia, but some of the characters were. One old and wise character in particular (not to give too much away, though if you've read the book, you might just know who I mean!) was inspired by a neighbour of mine, and plays an integral part in the story of Tranthaea. I actually have a picture of said neighbour on my website in the Author's Blog section, for those readers who are interested in a sneak peek!  I have been fortunate enough to live in some of the most beautiful countries in the world, traversed continents and hemispheres, and seen many sights, and though I have not purposefully based any locations in the book on places I've visited, I'm sure that similarities abound. After all, we write what we know. We shall see if the next book reflects my new home in any way!

The relationship between the natural world and the peoples who inhabit it becomes a large part of the story (rather Tolkein-esque, in my opinion 😊).  Was that intentional, or did it sneak up on you? An intentional happiness. I knew early on that I wanted to start the trilogy with a very segregated group of societies, and for me those groups were naturally constructed based on their environments. A large part of my pre-production for the book was the creation of characters, peoples, societies, and creatures that would feel like they have a long and strong history with the world they live in, and with each other. I really wanted to give the feeling of a fully developed world with its own challenges and beauties that has a history outside of its interactions with Humans. I'm very glad that came across in the reading! 

You said previously that writing Jingwei’s character was ‘incredibly freeing’ and a ‘pleasure’.  She certainly isn't shy about stating her opinion.  Were there other surprises from your characters?  Characters who were harder to control or make do your bidding?  I think each character I write is surprising to me in the end. There is some unknown point in the writing of a book when the characters begin to have more input into what happens to them, and the personalities that you've created start to affect the storyline and the other characters in ways that you didn't expect. Certainly there were characters that I fell in love with that I didn't intend to, and other characters who simply decided to write themselves a bigger part than they were originally intended to have! Callum Swift (the other lead character, along with Jingwei Li) was a pleasant surprise for me. When I started the writing process, I wasn't sure if I was going to like him as much as Jingwei, (not that I disliked him, but against such a strong personality, it would have been easy for him to disappear) but he grew on me very quickly, and is now a favourite of myself and my readers!

I'm in awe of the breadth and depth of your cast of characters.  Were there any races that were more difficult to envision or create?   Thanks very much! Yes indeed. The design process was an extremely fun and challenging part of the writing of the book, and  and I knew very early on that I didn't want this to be "just another fantasy series," so I steered clear of placing any elves, dwarves, or unicorns in my world. As I mentioned before, the peoples and creatures that I created were meant to show connection and history with the environment around them, so as I designed the races, their place in the world, both figuratively and literally, helped create their physical appearance as well as their political affiliations. The gru'Esh and the Aru Faylen were a couple of tricky species to work with, because once their... unique physicalities were decided upon, some common actions, such as talking or breathing, became very difficult for them. Figuring out the solutions to these little challenges was a great deal of fun, and paid off with some intricate and interesting ideas and details that really bring the races a depth and personality that translates well in the book.

The conflict that arises in Tranthaea, while based in the immediate, stems from some pretty major decisions made in the past.  Will those decisions, made by past leaders continue to haunt the Keepers and the peoples of Tranthaea?  Will we get to learn more about Tranthaea’s history in the rest of the trilogy?  Ahhh, a very astute observation. Yes, the past is extremely important to the events of the first book of the trilogy, and will continue to be so in the next two books. I have a very thorough chronology that details major events in Tranthaea's history, going back hundreds of years, which I often refer to as I write. Tranthaea's history is long and rich, and the decisions that have been made, the baggage that has been carried, and the effects that those have on the present are driving forces in the trilogy, as you have seen, and will see again as the next two books are written and released.

I hope that you all are intrigued, Humble Readers.  This book is a wonderfully entertaining read, and creates a new and exciting fantasy world for us all to escape into. 

The Keeper Chronicles: Playing With Fire is available from Amazon.  And don't forget to check out JR Vikse's website to learn more about Playing With Fire, The Lazy Postman, and his other projects. 

And, Humble Readers, I am offering you a chance to win a copy of Playing With Fire.  Tell me in the comments what your favourite fantasy series is, and why everyone should read it.  Giveaway winner will be announced on September 29, 2013. 


  1. I would love a chance to win a copy- it sounds like a great book. Pre-2011 I would have said my favourite fantasy series was George R. R. Martin's 'A Song of Ice and Fire', but I hated the fifth book. I feel like he's completely lost direction and focus and it's spiralling into becoming another 'Wheel of Time' debacle (I gave up on Robert Jordan at around book four). Two of my all-time favourites, to which I return over and over again, are Guy Gavriel Kay's 'The Fionavar Tapestry' and Melanie Rawn's 'Sunrunner' sextet. I also very much like Robin Hobb's first couple of trilogies (I'm not as fond of her more recent work). I did read and enjoy for the first time this summer Karen Miller's 'Innocent Mage'. And Pullman and Tolkien remain close to my heart.

  2. I promise I'm not sucking up when I say that all of Tolkien is my favorite by far. :) I actually recently re-read The Silmarillion, and it gets better every time. I think I'm going to pull out The Children of Hurin and re-read that as well. I know I'm kind of morbid when I say that the story of Turin Turambar is my favorite. Though obviously there is something magically wonderful about Beren & Luthien as well. Of course everyone loves The Hobbit and LOTR, but Silm is a secret joy that some "Ringers" haven't yet found. If you haven't yet, do yourself a favor and read it. I've read a lot of other Tolkien Middle Earth books, but they can be really difficult to follow and to get through. Silm, Children of Hurin and LOTR/Hobbit are the best ones. Tolkien writes such incredible tales of heroism, love, and woe, and everyone needs to read it.

  3. Shall I try to win his newsy book now?? ;) This one intrigues me because I love fantasy! Which is funny because I never used to growing up. Now I love Tolkien, CS Lewis, Rowling! And I love introducing the genre of fantasy to my kids. Another fave of mine is Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. Fantastical!


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