Farworld, Book 1, Water Keep
By J. Scott Savage
Hardcover by Shadow Mountain Press
Expected release, September 2008
I don’t read LDS authors. No, that’s a lie; I do read LDS authors when their names are Orson, Scott, and Card. So when my Wife, a voracious reader of all things LDS, stumbled across the Six LDS Writers and a Frog blog site and saw that J. Scott Savage was offering a free advanced copy of his new book to anyone who had an active blog site and who would be willing to write a review of his book, I was… less than enthusiastic. But, I do have an active blog (after all, I visit it almost every day) and I just can’t pass up a free book. It’s a sickness I know but let’s move on.
In the world of YA fiction there are the good, the bad, and the… Harry Potter.
Did I say anything about his scar? No, I don’t think so… Geez! I just didn’t like it ok?
So when I picked up Farworld, and found that it started out as a nice little story about a poor little wheelchair bound orphan, Marcus, who lived in a boarding school and was being picked on by a bully named Chet, I thought, “Harry Potter clone… this is going to be a long, sucky read,” and I started to wonder if I should just send the book back to Mr. Savage with regrets that I would not be willing to bar-b-que his book on my blog site. But then something happened… the book… it got… Good. In fact, it got really good.
As with many fantasy type books the main character, Marcus, is a special kid, with a special destiny, who has to face many trials on his way to fulfilling that destiny. One of those trials is in the form of an unstoppable army of darkness being lead by “The Dark Circle.”
Voldemort can now be sent to the Bad Guy Retirement Home for Pansies, because he just can’t hold a candle to The Dark Circle, in fact, if he tried, he’d be consumed in an evil that not even he could understand, or would even want to. Think… Night of the Living Dead meets both the Devils and Demons sections of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. Yes, my fellow geeks, The Dark Circle is that scary.
Along this journey, Kyja, a little farm girl with a mysterious resistance to magic and a tragic speech impediment that only affects her when she tries to pronounce Earth and Basketball, joins Marcus, as does Riph Raph, a pint size fairy dragon or Skyte with a heart (and an attitude) the size of an 18-wheeler.
Mr. Savage’s writing is very good for YA fiction, and he was able to avoid Steven King’s preverbal Road to Hell… he doesn’t use many adverbs, and for that I’d kiss him full on the mouth…
Well, not literally… I mean... not as such… I’m married, and… he’s a guy…
He’s also succeeded in creating a world that is very original and just magical enough to be believable. I did, however, find his characters just a little bit to cartoonish to be completely believed. This may due to the breakneck pace at which the book is set, and so the story’s timeline doesn’t allow for a believable growth cycle in the characters. I don’t know, but I am looking forward to the next book to find out. But cartoonish or not, I did find myself caring a great deal about these kids and, to me, that’s the primary key to a great book.
I was recently able to sit down with J. Scott Savage at one of my favorite places, Darrow’s Bar and Grill, Home of the 10 pound Haggis, for a little one on one chat about his new book.
Murph: Thanks for meeting with me today Mr. Savage, Sorry I’m late; there was some kind of freak duck incident on the freeway today, very frightening. Have you ordered?
J. Scott Savage: You really have to watch out for those quack drivers. Glad you could make it. I haven’t ordered yet. I asked the waiter what was good and he said something that sounded like “Champit tatties and bashed neeps.” I was actually a little afraid he was threatening me.
Murph: Ahh, you must have met Angus. You didn’t say anything about his kilt did you? May I call you Scott?
J. Scott Savage: It seems appropriate here at the home of the ten pound haggis
Murph: I just have to know, you aren’t related to that kid on “The Wonder Years” are you? I mean it’s a very unusual name. Where does it come from?
J. Scott Savage: Fred. Nope no relation. Although we are both handsome dark haired devils. Savage is Irish. Originally it was French, but the L’Savages got tired of pommes and moved to Ireland for potatoes. Not sure how they worked out since they left for the US sometime thereafter.
M: A French Irishman? Perish the thought.
Waitress: Good afternoon gentlemen, my name is Mairi, and I’ll be searving you today. Can I start you off with some fresh champit tatties?
M: Ah, no… thanks… I’ll have the Irish Meat Cobbler with a side of Haggis Nuggets.
Waitress: Okay… and for you sir?
JSS: Hmm, I think I’m going to try this football shaped thing with some of the bashed neeps. Also I’ll have some of that fish head soup. I kind of like food that looks back at you.
M: Scott, I feel that I do need to warn you that The Mind of Murph blog site is a Geek site. And when I say Geek, I’m not talking “I can fix your computer” geek, I’m talkin’ greasy hair, D&D playing, Star Trek loving, still living with Mom and reading Spiderman comics at the age of 40 kind of geek, so some of my questions may be a little… unusual. Are you good with that?
JSS: Well, when I was a senior in high school I nearly got arrested for leading a live D&D group on a midnight battle for a hidden golden banana. Does that count?
M: Shaa! LARP for a banana? I’d say that cements you firmly into the geek realm. And your wife knew this before she married you? Um, I guess I’d better get on with this interview then. So, what’s the capital of New Hampshire?
JSS: Is this a trick question? Because if you’d asked me about the old Hampshire I would have told you Winchester. But I was even aware there was a new Hampshire. Let’s try Carson City?
M: Sorry… but it had to be done. Now really, who are your influences? What authors really get your creative juices flowing?
JSS: You know it really depends on what I’m in the mood for. My bookshelf is so wide ranging. I love Poe and Lovecraft as far as older authors. I think that Peter Straub is almost poetic in his writing. I love how creative Dean Koontz is. I think that Steinbeck created incredibly believable characters. And despite your swipe at him, King is the master of capturing the every day man or woman. I love about ½ of Card’s books. From a fantasy side, I like Brooks, Donaldson. I’m a big Sci Fi fan with all the classics: Asimov, Heinlein, Herbert.
M: What swipe at King? I love King. Do you hear me! Sorry, must be my blood sugar.
And… I am sorry for this next question, well actually, I’m not sorry but my readers will really want to know… are you a fan of Joss Whedon?
JSS: This has got to be another trick question. How could I not be?
M: Who was your favorite character on Buffy?
JSS: Angel. Hands down. I’m working on an adult series (meaning not YA, as opposed to X rated) about a PI/Hit Man who goes to Hell and has a chance to be sent back to Earth if he can solve a little problem for the big man. For some reason whenever I picture the protagonist I see Angel. Although Buffy is pretty easy on the eyes.
M: Yep, my wife liked Angel too, but for completely different reasons. So, next question… Kirk or Picard?
JSS: I’m so glad you didn’t mention anyone after Picard. I might have had to end our interview. Personally, I think Picard is the best star ship captain of any movie or series.
Waitress: Now who had the Meat Cobbler?
M: That would be mine
Waitress: Be careful, the plate is very hot.
Su dogh yough mmmphf haff a mubbech lishmmm?
JSS: Ohh. That looks like it hurt. Were you asking for the pig’s brain relish?
M: Pig what? No, my fingers are really burned and sucking on ‘em really doesn’t help. I asked what’s the one thing you really want to do before you die? Do you have a bucket list?
JSS: You know, I was driving with my wife the other evening and it suddenly occurred to me that if someone had told me back when I was in high school that at the age of forty-five I’d be driving in a convertible with a gorgeous blond, listening to ZZ Top and I was only two months away from releasing my first book in a five book fantasy series (One that had a map in it no less!) I would have figured I’d died and gone to heaven. Is there really anything more to strive for? How about having dinner at Club 33 in Disneyland?
M: I’d prefer a brunet, but Club 33’s on my list too. So, what made you want to write a fantasy novel? Were you a D&D geek as a teen or something? Oh, I know… it was a 10-hour Lord of the Rings marathon, am I right?
JSS: This is just between you and me right? I have taught all my kids how to play D&D. The first thing I ever tried to program was a text adventure on an Atari 400 I think. I once interviewed Michael Okuda (google him if you don’t know the name) for a computer tabloid my wife and I published together. I have played every Ultima game ever made and I finally had to cancel my WofW account because I wasn’t getting enough writing done. Does that count for geekdom?
M: Turbo Geek, man, you’ve got nothing to prove to me. This cobbler is really good, you want a bite?
JSS: Heck yeah. It’s not ever day you see a cobbler that jiggles.
M: How about a Haggis Nugget?
JSS: Yeah. Think I’m going to pass on that. Reminds me a little too much of the lamb fries Chevy Chase ate in “Funny Farm.” But you enjoy them. Want to try some of this football shaped thing?
M: Wow, that is really tasty, the bashed neeps really brings out the flavor of the… whatever that is... So, now that you’re a fantasy novel author, are you going to become a crusader for geek rights? Come on, join the fight.
JSS: Do geeks have rights? Seems almost like a contradiction in terms.
M: Of course we have rights! We… well… no you’re right, we have no rights. Oh well… Um… If you could be any Battlestar Gallactica character, who would you be, and why?
JSS: Boomer. Liked the character and the name.
M: Um… you know that Boomer’s a chick now, right? And a cylon… oh… you mean the old Battlestar Gallactica, well… that makes more sense. Okay... shifting to the novel for just a second, after all, that is why you agreed to meet with me. How do you pronounce some of these words? Thrathkin S’Bae, Terra ne Staric, did I miss any? Also, how did you come up with words like these?
JSS: Thrath-kin just like it looks, but with an emphasis on the first syllable. The second half S’Bae is a little harder. The s is nearly silent . Pronounce it as if the S was at the end of the Thrathkin. Terra (like terraforming) Nay Star-ick. I don’t like to do a ton of unpronounceable names. It’s annoying for the reader and I always wonder if the word is pronounced Shay, why spell it zzaegh? I mean, can’t we assume the author translated into English anyway? But I wanted the Thrathkin S’Bae to really feel different. They have their own language, their own hierarchy. There’s a lot more to them than I get to show in the first book. The city just came to me. It was the name I thought of as soon as I imagined the city. There is more to the name, which we’ll learn about in book two. It does mean something.
M: From what sick, twisted part of your mind did the Dark Circle spring?
JSS: You know, you’re about the tenth person to mention how scary my dark creatures are. I really thought I was holding back. I’m going, wait till you see what’s in store. Again, I read a lot of dark fiction so that may shape my thinking.
M: I really enjoyed the water references in this book… without giving to much away to the future readers of your book… this might be a bit of a spoiler, but… when Marcus first arrives in Farworld, he’s laying half in and half out of a stream, is that symbolic of his marginal existence in Farworld? Or am I reading too much into it?
JSS: Great catch! Even more so than you might think. I really didn’t have a chance to address it in book one. But there is much more to the relationship between earth and Farworld. You’ll see more of that as the series progresses. But yes, I really like the visual of him halfway in the creek and halfway in Farworld, although the reader doesn’t know that at the time.
M: Gee thanks, my Dad will be so pleased that my Literature Degree came in use somewhere. Umm… I really thought that your idea of “finding the magic within you” was a great moral for your book. Where did it come from? Is that the message you want readers to carry away from your book?
JSS: Absolutely! It’s not like I write a book trying to get a certain message across, but as I wrote this book, finding your magic kept coming through. This is going to sound geeky—even to you—but I think magic is much more prevalent that we give it credit. I look at someone who can take a handful of colored pencils and turn it into a picture that takes my breath away, and to me that’s magic. I look at the roses that keep growing in front of my house, despite my non-existent gardening skills and that has to be magic. In a religious argument, tell me that someone commanding the sea to part or bringing down a rain of frogs or telling the water to be solid isn’t magic? We look for all these rationalizations, but a big part of me thinks that the world is full of magic. We just don’t always recognize it as that. Heck, I’m getting paid to tell stories. Is there anything more magical than that?
M: Do you have any advice for young folk out there who may be thinking about writing as a profession?
JSS: Hmm. This is a tough question. The other night my ten-year-old son and I were on a walk, and he told me he wanted to be either a basketball player or a computer programmer. We came into a discussion about being whatever you can dream of while also balancing that against the real world. I am a dreamer. I always have been. So, my message is, understand that it’s tough to make a living at writing, then go ahead and do it anyway. But for the moment, just enjoy writing. If you feel like everything you write has to be good enough for publication, you take away too much creativity. It’s like telling kids to color in the lines. Instead, write because you love it. If it becomes a profession, great. But if it doesn’t, don’t let that dampen your love of writing.
M: How large was your collection of rejection letters before you were first published?
JSS: You know. I’ve never been one to collect rejections. (Way to much of that in high school!) I only collect acceptances. But, yeah, I’ve had a few.
M: When can readers expect the next Farworld installment?
JSS: One a year for the next five years. And hopefully a few other things along the way.
M: Were you an Eagle Scout?
M: If you could have one Super Power, what would it be?
JSS: Flying would probably be the coolest. I hate planes, and I hate long drives, so that would rock. But I am fascinated by the concept of time. I’d like to be able to bend and twist time like Silly Putty. And I’d really like to see what time looks like after you smash it against the Sunday comics.
Waitress: Can I get you anything else?
M: I think we’re done
JSS: Wait, we can’t go without trying the Crannachan. Shall we share a bowl?
M: Oh ya, that would be tasty.
Waitress: Then who gets the check?
M: That would be for Mr. Savage…
JSS: Wait I thought--
M: Hey, you’re the big famous writer; I’m just some geek with a blog site.
JSS: Alright, but if I pick up the check you have to change that review so it says you liked Farworld. I mean I feel a little robbed after I paid for lunch and you called my book, “The worst tripe I’ve ever set eyes on.”
M: Ok, I’ll loose the tripe. Thanks for lunch! Call my people… we’ll do it again.
JSS: Ciao, baby.