Interviewed by Melissa
A riddle: What do you get when you cross a regional author with a great young adult fantasy idea, throw in an eager publisher, and put the whole shebang on the national scene?
Answer: J. Scott Savage, and his exciting first (national, young adult, and in a series) fantasy novel Farworld: Water Keep.
Thankfully, he was more than willing to take time out of his busy schedule to chat with me (via e-mail, of course) about Farworld, writing, and his first national novel.
MF: How did you come up with the idea of Farworld?
JSS: I bought it from a guy in Hoboken for twenty bucks. Just kidding. The idea for Farworld came from a short story beginning I wrote several years ago in which a wizard and a warrior go in search of a young boy who is about to be attacked by undead creatures. I was just playing around and never thought I would do anything with it. But ideas have a way of taking on a life of their own, so be careful what you let float around in your head
MF: Did you find it difficult to create and write a fantasy world?
JSS: For some reason I never thought I could write. I started writing Farworld at 2:00 AM to prove to myself I couldn’t do it and get this crazy story out of my head. But five hours and five thousand words later, I realized I was writing a fantasy and I was having a ball doing it. The rest of the book seemed to flow almost as easily. Once I got started, I wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner.
MF: Why did you decide to make the main character disabled? How did that affect the way you wrote the story?
JSS: From the very beginning, I knew about Marcus’s disability. That was the very first glimpse I got of Farworld. In many ways it made writing the book. But it had to be there for far too many reasons to list. At the same time, Marcus is not his disability any more than Kyja is her disability—which is every bit as real as Marcus’ in the world she was raised. Neither of them let their issues keep them from reaching their goals. They may be slowed down, or have to take another path. But they will not be ruled by their weaknesses.
What I was afraid of was that people might think it was a gimmick to sell books or something. That is not the case. Without Marcus’s physical disabilities and Kyja’s magical disabilities the story would never have happened.
MF: What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
JSS: Mostly I just want people to come away having enjoyed a good story and felt like they got their money’s worth. Washington Irving has a great quote.
“Methinks I hear the questions asked by my graver readers, ‘To what purpose is all this? How is the world to be made wiser by this talk?’ Alas! is there not wisdom enough extant for the instruction of the world? And if not, are there not thousands of abler pens laboring for its improvement? It is so much pleasanter to please than to instruct to play the companion rather than the preceptor. “What, after all, is the mite of wisdom that I could throw into the mass of knowledge? or how am I sure that my sagest deductions may be safe guides for the opinions of others? But in writing to amuse, if I fail, the only evil is my own disappointment. If, however, I can by any lucky chance, in these days of evil, rub out one wrinkle from the brow of care, or beguile the heavy heart of one moment of sorrow; if I can now and then penetrate through the gathering film of misanthropy, prompt a benevolent view of human nature, and make my reader more in good humor with his fellow-beings and himself, surely, surely, I shall not then have written entirely in vain.”
Anything more than that is gravy.
MF: You have created so many interesting and unusual characters in Farworld. Who's your favorite character in the book and why?
JSS: You can’t pick a favorite character in your own book, anymore than you can pick a favorite child. But I actually had a lot of fun writing Screech. He just made me laugh.
MF: I'm assuming this is your first novel. I apologize if it isn't... Is this how you make money, or do you have a "regular" job? Do you want to write full time? (How do you manage to find the time with four kids running around?) Was it hard to sell your manuscript?
JSS: It is my first national, my first young adult novel, and my first fantasy. So in many ways it does feel like my first book. But fortunately I’ve got the background of publishing four regional novels first to hopefully improve my writing. I do have a full-time job still, but I anticipate moving to full-time writing next summer. Honestly writing is just like a second job. You end up making sacrifices. But if the sacrifices I make this year translate into spending more time my family from next year on, it will have been worth it. Actually selling Farworld was easier than I expected, but the process took longer. There were a couple of times I wondered if it would really happen. But Shadow Mountain believed in the project and stuck with me.
MF: Can you tell us a bit about the process? How long did it take from conception to finally seeing it in print? How do you feel finally getting your story out there? How did the choice of Shadow Mountain as a publisher come about?
JSS: Well Lisa Mangum said if I didn’t go with Shadow Mountain she would fill my gas tank with Jell-O. Actually, I did have some choices. Two other publishers were interested in Farworld. But I’d been so impressed with the success SM had with Fablehaven and Leven Thumps that they were always my first choice. They have done an amazing job of selling more books than some of the biggest NY publishers. I mean five? four? NY Times hits in two years is incredible. It’s been almost two years since I first finished writing the manuscript to now. That’s actually not long in publisher terms, but it felt like an eternity at times. Still, I am so pumped to almost be there.
MF: Do you have a special time or place to write?
JSS: That goes back to the four kids. Whenever and wherever I can find a minute and a quiet spot.
MF: What are your top five favorite books of all time?
JSS: That changes by the day. I have so many favorites. Today I would probably list:
Bag of Bones by Stephen King
Shadowlands by Peter Straub
Enchantment by Scott Card
Life Expectancy by Den Koontz
and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
MF: So, what can we look forward to seeing from you next?
JSS: Well I still do a regional mystery series, called the Shandra Covington mysteries. Then my next book, Land Keep will be out next fall. And I’m working on an dark fantasy series 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.
MF: Thanks so much for your time, Scott!
JSS: No worries. Thanks for having me!