Me: J. Scott, thanks for meeting me here at the bottom of the lake in the Water Keep.
J. Scott: No problem. Hey, what are those things in your nose?
J. Scott: What for?
J. Scott: Ahem. We can breathe underwater here, you know.
Me: This is your fantasy, so you go ahead and breathe underwater all you want to. (I shuffle my waterproof notepad.) As for me, I'm sticking with my back up plan. You got a problem with that?
J. Scott: Well, you look like you have really long boogers…
Me: I've got claustrophobia, okay? Now do you want to be interviewed or not?
J. Scott: Of course.
Me: Okay. Let's get down to business. First of all, I use a variety of bookmarks, from official ones to toilet paper squares. It was the strangest thing, but the longest lasting bookmark while reading your book was a receipt for 10 gallons of water for my son's aquarium. Do you think that's a sign?
J. Scott: No silly. It’s a bookmark. A sign is big and often metal or wood. Unless it was a really small sign it would never fit into a book. Weird coincidence though.
Me: So where did you get the idea for Farworld? Did you wet the bed as a child or something?
J. Scott: As a child? I mean, no. Of course not. And even if I did, I don’t now. At least not recently. Although I just finished going to Disneyland and I may have had a small accident on the Tower of Terror. Here’s a thought though. Would you know if you had wet the bed in a city of water? Actually, 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. Or maybe it was about a girl who falls madly in love with a vampire. Something like that. Shirley, please tell me those bubbles coming from behind you were from a fish.
Me: That's beside the point, and besides, there are fish all around us. OF course it was a fish. Your hero is not a fish, but it's intriguing that your hero is crippled. I've been trying to imagine how he gets around. Can you explain it, or is that left to the fertile imagination of the reader?
J. Scott: I assume you mean when he is not in his wheelchair. I actually got a lot of great advice on this from our good friend Kerry Blair. I assumed he would crawl on his knees, but Kerry pointed out that people in wheelchairs usually scoot on their rears because it is less painful.
Me: There's a fish on your head. No, don't slap it! There. It's gone. (snort)
J. Scott: What did you say?
Me. Nothing. Just clearing my throat for the next question.
J. Scott: No. You were laughing. What's so funny?
Me: You really want to know?
J. Scott: Yes.
Me: It's just that when you scream underwater, you sound like a girl.
J. Scott: Some fish have big, sharp teeth, you know.
Me. Okay, okay. Now tell me about the name of your group of villains. Thrathkin S'Bae. What does that mean? What is "S'Bae" a contraction for?
J. Scott: There they go again. Those bubbles. You know this is a family event. Try to contain yourself. That fish is gone right? Cause I thought I felt something on the back of my neck. Thrathkin S’Bae are evil wizards who are part of The Dark Circle. We’ll learn more about them in future books. Bonesplinter is a Thrathkin S’Bae. One of the coolest parts of writing a fantasy (as you well know) id coming up with great creatures. Some of mine had self-explanatory names like the mimicker and the unmakers. Others needed something different like the Nazgul in LOTR. It took my a while to come up with Thrathkin S’Bae, But I liked the way it rolled off the tongue once I got it. They even have their own language.
Me: Your story has an amazing variety of settings, from desert to water and places in between. Did you plan that? Or did it happen as Marcus pulled you along on his adventures?
J. Scott: It totally took on a mind of it’s own. The book honestly ended up being nearly 40,000 words more than I expected. But I had so much fun discovering it along with Marcus and Kyja. I’m hard at work on book 2, and there are even cooler places coming. Like trees that make you an emotional wreck and creatures that fly through the ground.
Me: You say that the two worlds must be balanced – that if one person moves to the other world, someone from the other world must be exchanged. Is it required that the people be the same age, or could, say, a child be exchanged for an old geezer like you?
J. Scott: Okay who invited you to this party anyway? First you insinuate I have urinary issues, then you tell me I scream like a girl, and now you make fun of my age. I’d boot you out of here if I didn’t need the publicity. Well that and you’re kind of cute. There are a lot of things for readers yet to discover about the balance between Farworld and Earth. Much more than you’d expect. Some of those things are hinted at in book one, but a lot of what readers will learn may surprise them. Let’s just say this wasn’t a random switch.
Me: (absently pushing away a bit of seaweed floating by my face while I scribble on my waterproof paper.) The Unmaker creatures in the mountain cave are pretty creepy. Do you think it would be safe to say that those monsters could make the jump into homes that have TV's running all day long? I mean, isn't that pretty much like staring into nothingness? Do you think those people would be safer if they spent their leisure time with, say, a good book?
J. Scott: Oh, most definitely. Tell me you can’t feel your will to live getting sucked in by that big flashing screen.
Me: Ew. There's seaweed brushing my leg.
J. Scott: Maybe that's your leg hair.
Me: Ha, ha. Very funny. Just pay attention to the questions, okay?
J. Scott: Sorry.
Me: Since this book is "Water Keep," may your readers assume that your next books are going to be about earth, air, and fire?
J. Scott: Great guess. In fact, this will blow you away, but the titles of books two, three, and four are Land Keep, Air Keep, and Fire Keep. I’m still working on the title for book five. What do you think about Shirley Bahlmann and the Goblet of Seawater?
Me: Yeah! I really like that. It has bestseller potential. Kind of like your little creature, the endearing skyte, Riff Raff. He adds a great element of levity, then he comes in pretty handy at the end. Was he perhaps patterned after some charming blue pet you once owned?
J. Scott: No. But he is absolutely the pet I would have wanted if given the choice. I would so totally have had him blow fireballs at some of the bullies in my school!
Me: Augh, what is with all this seaweed? Can someone get me a seaweed whacker? (Shoving it away, I fix Scott with a hypnotic eye) Would you be opposed to a mind probe?
(J. Scott stiffens and his eyes go glassy, staring into mine as he shakes his head slowly from side to side.)
Me: It's just a painless little procedure so I can get a sneak peek into what's coming up for your next book. I'll give your readers the greatest scoop on the planet. Bwa-ha-ha… ah! Pesky seaweed! Get away from me! Where is all this coming from? It's on both sides now – ahhh! Get away! Wait a minute… that's not seaweed… it's tentacles! J. Scott, help me! Don't just sit there staring at me with a goofy grin on your face! Get this octopus off my head! It's not a good look for me. Besides, it's taking my paper mmfmpfmpf.
As gallant as our J. Scott is, he had just enough presence of mind to hit himself on the head with a medium sized clam, breaking his trance, then laughed himself silly at the sight of his pet octopus sitting like a hat on my head. I think he had tears in his eyes, but it was hard to tell underwater.
Since he eventually helped me back to the surface where I could get to my laptop, I'll go ahead and give you a review of his fantasy book, "Farworld: Water Keep." But because he laughed at me, I'm going to tell you… when J. Scott laughs underwater, he laughs like a girl.
Farworld: Water Keep
By J. Scott Savage
It's hard enough to be a hero, but when you're a hero in a wheelchair, the bad guys aren't the least bit intimidated. But if you can turn yourself into a shadow and get past them without being noticed, then they're like, "Whoa! Cool!" But they try to kill you anyway.
In J. Scott Savage's "Farworld: Water Keep," an orphan boy named Marcus (good name, by the way. I personally know a pretty spectacular Marcus Bahlmann) is busy evading bullies at a boys' home when a really bad grownup bully, bad enough to turn into a snake when he's angry, shows up to claim Marcus.
Marcus has such a bad feeling about the whole road trip thing that this creepy guy has in mind that Marcus uses the excuse of needing to potty (a hard one to argue with) and manages to escape through a bathroom window, of all things. His heroic effort comes to naught because he's captured anyway, and just when he's getting an up close and personal view of the snake man's tonsils, a girl named Kyja yanks Marcus away to another world.
It turns out that Kyja is his same age, but they share a more striking connection. During a terrible, world-changing battle, wizardry had to exchange two children in order to save one's life. Once the crisis was over, the wizard couldn't figure out how to trade them back, so he is amazed at Kyja's ability to bring Marcus back to Farworld. (But, hey, she's a girl. The rest of us females fully understand her awesome power.)
So, in order to defeat evil, Marcus and Kyja must help band the elements of water, earth, fire, and air together. In this wide-ranging adventure that ultimately brings us to the Water Keep, we experience differences as varied as the hot, dry Arizona desert to the Keep's wet and misty walls, so thick with water that you can't see a person standing right next to you. It turns out that the water folk don't see any reason to help the humans until one of them is kidnapped.
I know you don't want me to spoil the end of this captivating fantasy, which leaves you breathless with a satisfying conclusion, as well as a skilled opening for Book #2. (Will that be earth, air or fire? I wonder.)
Savage has spun a tale of high adventure with unique characters that are easy to care about or despise (depending on whether they can turn into snakes or not.) He takes you to lots of imaginative places before you even get to the Water Keep, so it's like you're on five different fantasy vacations, one right after the other. And by the time you close the back cover and return to your ordinary, every day home, you're going to want to book your next vacation in Savage's upcoming sequel.
Write on, J. Scott.