So my latest review is on Ben Reeder's novel 'The Demon's Apprentice'; first installment of a Young Adult series about Chance Fortunato, a younge warlock striving to leave his past behind and claim the bright future he so richly deserves.
What was it that inspired the story of Chance Fortunato?
Chance’s story, like many I find myself working on recently, is a combination of elements that were completely separate in my head to start with. I had read lots of stories about wizards that had already completed their training, and I wasn’t quite satisfied with how the Harry Potter books treated the actual study of magick, so I wanted to tell the story of an apprentice from the beginning. What he learns, and what it means to be a wizard. But I never could get the character right, and the story just never gelled.
Chance himself came about during a brainstorming exercise for a roleplaying game. The idea was to create a teen character in a mystical setting with a dark secret or a compelling backstory. I ended up with the kid who could win the “sucks to be you” award hands down. From there, the story almost wrote itself, once I combined the two major elements.
I noticed that this is set in Missouri, which is where you live. Are there any other similarities between Chance and yourself? Is he based on yourself or are a few similarities as far as it goes?
Chance really has only a few similarities to me. Mostly, the places where we are alike are his dry, sarcastic wit, and his moral compass, though his steers a little off of true sometimes. Truth be told, Chance is a lot stronger in some ways than I am. He’s the kind of kid I wish I could have been at fifteen. I’ve known more than a few people who have been badly abused in a variety of ways, and the best parts of his personality are more of a tribute to their courage and resilience than anything of mine.
The law firm that contacts Chance, Sammael and Berith, ring similar to the firm Wolfram and Hart from the Angel television series, which I found very pleasing. Did they inspire S&B or is it pure happenstance?
It’s a backwards sort of inspiration. The truth is I created the character associated with them first, then needed a firm for him to work for. A couple of my beta readers wanted me to do something similar, but the truth was, Wolfram and Hart is a play on words (wolf, ram and hart) and I wanted something a little more direct. Hence the names Sammael and Berith, the two major demons who run the firm. The firm, however, is mostly window dressing for Kyle. He’s playing a deeper game here, and he will have a larger role to play in later stories.
I can't wait to see just what that role will involve!
What made you chose this particular audience?
Actually, Chance chose my audience for me, because of his age. Once you put a teen as the main character, your audience becomes young adult almost by default. That led to a lot of soul searching, because of the nature of the story, and some of the issues that some of the characters have to deal with. I realized very quickly, though, that the world is not rated PG. The things my characters are facing are problems kids of all ages have always had to face. And in reading some of the young adult fiction that is out there, I found myself in good company. That made me a lot more comfortable writing in this genre, even if I was playing in the darker end of the pool. In the end, young adults deal with the same issues as their older counterparts, sometimes, even better.
Quite a good point, there. People do underestimate the strength of teens.
I still have a few questions left teasingly unanswered. Please tell me that you are planning a sequel.
Just one sequel? The Demon’s Apprentice is the first in a series. I’m already halfway through the second installment, and I have the next four in various stages of development. The second story, tentatively titled “Page of Swords” should give those who have read the first book a clue to what the second one deals with. A later story will feature Kyle (don’t want to give too much away to those who haven’t read the first book) reaping the return on the “investment” he made in this one. Obviously, future stories will also deal with Chance’s and Shade’s rather complicated relationship as well.
I'm doing a little happy dance in my seat at this news!
Do you have any other projects in the works?
I have several ideas lurking about in my mind, including a dystopian story with both sci-fi and urban fantasy elements combined, and an old high fantasy world that has been lurking about in my mind for years. For now, though, the Chance Fortunato series is my primary focus.
I understand, don't want to take the focus away from such an interesting story.
Now how about you? What would be your favourite genre to read for pleasure?
I enjoy urban fantasy the most, though I do wander into YA urban fantasy as well. What can I say, I write what I know.
Well, that makes sense. A fair statement.
Do you have an author that you find inspiring or particularly interesting?
Actually, I have two that fall into both categories. Jim Butcher was the writer who most inspired me to write for publishing. For a long time, I didn’t have much confidence in my writer’s voice. Then I picked up Dead Beat, the seventh Dresden Files book, and heard a voice that resonated with mine. I remember thinking as I read it that there was an audience for this voice, so there had to be an audience for mine. I started The Demon’s Apprentice not long after that.
The other author who really inspires me is HP Mallory, who I had the pleasure of meeting through Online Writer’s Workshop a few years ago. We were both in about the same place at the time as writers, both with manuscripts we were shopping to agents, both getting the occasional request for a partial and both with a growing pile of rejection letters in our inbox. We exchanged critiques for a while, and I have to say, my writing benefitted from the experience. She also showed me how to keep track of my queries and agent info with a single spreadsheet. Unfortunately, I lost track of her when she moved back to the US from England, and the next time I ran across her, less than two years later, she had turned the manuscript I had seen into a self-published bestseller on Kindle, had three other books out in two series, and had gotten a contract for one of those series from a major publisher. She is living proof for me of the power of persistence and believing in yourself.
Just brilliant inspirational figures. Well done to HP Mallory; I think a lot of inspiring authors could take a page or two from her book, so to speak!
How long have you been writing? Have you always had a passion for it?
I’ve been writing stories for other people to read since high school. When I was a kid, people used to say I had a very active imagination. Sometimes, they said it like it was a bad thing. My mom used to say I should write down some of the things I made up, even as my father told me to “get my head out of Star Wars”. Fortunately, both sides of the family encouraged me to keep writing, and I was so passionate about it that I kept my notebooks with all my writing in them in my locker at school because my dad would throw them out if he found them. As long as I can remember, my bookshelves have been filled with notebooks with half completed stories and character sketches.
Glad to hear that you never gave up. There's nothing wrong with an active imagination. I'm sure J R R Tolkien would have had doubtors of his own, and yet look at his works now. One never should give up what feels right; they should never give up on a dream.
What advice would you give for those aspiring authors out there?
That’s a question I’ve given a lot of thought to. It comes down to three things. Practice, Persist and Read.
Write often, and don’t be afraid to write badly. Experiment, color outside the lines sometimes, and most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Turn your internal editor off sometimes, and remember that not everything you write is going to be perfect, or even good. Just remember that it isn’t a failure, it’s just eliminating something that doesn’t work.
Never give up on your dream, not even in the face of rejection. The difference between a frustrated writer and a published author is one more query letter in your outbox than rejection letters in your inbox. It’s a finished novel, a completed work, and it’s refusing to quit when everyone else tells you that you should. It’s staying home to write for a couple of extra hours instead of going to the movies, or making sure the kids are taken care of, then sitting in front of the keyboard instead of the television.
Finally, a writer can only write what they know. Read, read, read! Some writers tell me that they don’t want to change or dilute their voice with outside influences. In my personal opinion, they are hampering their own talent. We learn to talk by listening to other people. Your writer’s voice is no different. As you read, both fiction and non-fiction, your knowledge grows, YOU grow, and your writing only gets better. The more you read, the better you write, I think.
I’m glad you gave me the opportunity to share with your readers. I’d like to remind everyone that a portion of my sales are being donated to the A21 Campaign, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to ending human trafficking in the 21st century. One of the main themes of my stories is being an everyday Hero, and this is one way my readers can be heroes for someone who really needs it. To us, it may be just a book, but to them, it’s a shot at a new life.
Very sage advice, definately something to be kept in mind.
Also a very good cause, and good on you for getting involved.
Thank you very much, Ben, this has been a wonderful read, and very intereting interview!
The Demon's Apprentice is available on Amazon.com, and Barnes & Noble as both a Nook book and paperback. Don't forget to check out my review and comment, as 1 lucky winner will win a copy of 'The Demon's Apprentice'!