The following questions and answers are taken from a variety of interviews with Chris Hansen and J.R. Fehr.
CH: I’m inspired by the fact that we have the ability to create things. This can be anything. We can sing a goofy song or build a tall glass office building, we can stitch up a yellow sundress or draw a picture of a sunset out of chalk on the sidewalk. The dedication to the first volume in the series is to “those who make and love their blue wallaroos.” This won’t make sense unless you read the story, but it’s for people who make things and love the things they create, even if they don’t turn out the way you expect.
JF: When Chris and I originally met, it was because a friend recommended him as a story coach. He’s trained people for years in the concepts of story, so I was immediately drawn in. As he taught me story, and helped me work out the kinks in my first novel, Skyblind, we became best friends. Around 2015, we decided we should write something together. I wasn’t sure what it would be in the beginning, but I knew if we worked together, we could come up with something incredible and hopefully be a blessing to others.
CH: Yup I’m a fan of fantasy. But I’m not a fan boy; I don’t have a real sword hanging on my wall and I don’t have the slightest clue how to speak elvish. I have plenty of fantasy authors I enjoy, but there is one I think is way-WAY-way above all the rest. This may seem nutty, but it’s whoever made all of the fantastic stuff we see here on earth.
Take geckos for example. They are so cool. I once spent the night in a rundown wooden hut in Hawaii. It was awful. But there was a gecko climbing around on the walls chirping all night long. And somehow, it transformed this nightmarish hut into something wonderful.
Or take volcanoes. Think of lava exploding up into the air or rivers of hot red, liquid rock. Who could have thought up something like that? It’s absolutely crazy. And then don’t get me started about all the photos the Hubble telescope has taken of the stars. Geesh, if I could invent a fantasy story one billionth as fantastical as that I’d be happy.
JF: When I was younger, I was a big fan of The Wheel of Time, but I’d have to say my favourite fantasy author is C.S. Lewis (and not just Narnia either). I took a class on his fiction in university and loved every second of it. His final novel, Till We Have Faces,was one of the biggest influences on Skyblind.
JF: It is definitely a “Coming of Age” story, and the target audience would fall to teens, but I wouldn’t want to limit it to just them. I feel like the themes discussed here are relevant to all ages, and that this story is full of characters that (hopefully) anyone can relate with. Most of the characters are 16, but there are a few point-of-view characters who are older.
CH: Did we create rules? Wow. That’s like asking if presidents create executive orders or if Texans like BBQ. (Texans generally do, by the way.)
Yup, we spent a lot of time creating rules. We did this primarily because we, as authors, needed to stand on solid ground when we were writing the story. We needed to know what could happen and what could not in this world.
JF: Oh yes. We spent a significant amount of time working out the rules for the magic, as well as the rules for everything else. This was part of a “world building” phase that we were in. I’d estimate that we spent about 5-6 months working steadily on this, as the “magic” in our story is quite different than traditional magic.
CH: Yes there are. But the heroes and villains might be difficult for some people to see. I wanted the characters in the book to reflect ordinary people in our world. So there aren’t Super-heroes or Super-villains. There are people who have aspects of themselves that are heroic as well as aspects that are villainous. We had fun taking characters and flipping our understanding of them upside down and then upside down again. In one chapter a character will act heroic, but then later they will be a real stinker, only to later do something marvellous.
This said, there is one primary villain in the series of books. He/She/It is very hidden. But he/she/it is hard at work, doing diabolical, villainous stuff. Muwah ha, ha. Cackle. Hiss.
CH: For me stories consist of a world, the characters that exist in that world, the actions the characters take in that world, and finally the way the world changes because of those character’s actions. Thus, I need to know a lot about the setting/world and characters before I can begin to craft a story.
Put another way: Stories are propelled by characters. But those characters exist in a world that has rules, history, geography, weather, and all kinds of things that affect those characters. The more solid the world, the more solid your characters can be. And if you have solid characters who have clear dramatic desires the story usually flows pretty easily.
CH: It was after my first book was published and I started hearing reports that the people who were buying it were recommending it to others. That to me communicated that I had written something that people found valuable.
JF: For me, it was around the time that I started to pursue writing several hours every day. Up to that point, I’d only called myself a writer. But it wasn’t until I was actually ‘writing’ regularly that I felt I could call myself a writer in truth.
CH: Yes, I write full time. I get started between eight and nine in the morning and stop around five to six in the evening. I’m generally writing or editing six to seven hours of this time.
JF: Not currently, no. When we were writing Volume One and Two, I worked 6 days a week, and wrote for eight hours each day. Currently, I’m working at a University in Canada as a Community Manager. I write as much as I can in my free time.
CH: We have loved working together; co-writing has been the best experience.
The short answer is that we did everything together. This was easier than we expected even though we live in different countries, about a thousand miles apart. But it took a lot of time, about three to four times as long as it would take writing a book alone. Most of our work was done over the phone. We must have racked up thousands of hours. Pity the cell phone company that sold me an unlimited international calling plan for $5 a month.
JF: Ah, yes. Co-writing is quite an interesting endeavour. It was really easy in the beginning. It was just a matter of brainstorming ideas and coming to agreement on things. When we actually started writing, we divided up pieces of the plot and assigned certain characters to each other to work on. We’d write an initial “1.0” pass on a chapter, then share that with the other person, who’d go through and improve it with a “2.0,” which they’d then send back. We’d go back and forth like this, editing each other’s work and improving areas where one might be weaker. Honestly, it was so much fun. I’ve been writing all my life, but I definitely think co-writing is my favourite. It’s so nice to have someone else to bounce ideas off of and to help me out when I get stuck.
CH: Someone watching me write would find it rather boring. I’m just typing at my computer. I don’t listen to music or do anything. I suppose the most unique thing is that I spend time preparing to write before I begin. I want to be in the right place physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So I exercise each morning and during this time I try to work out any emotional issues I may have.
Then I spent time in prayer. This is a time when I let go of problems and focus on my relationship with God, where my true value comes from. Writing requires me to be very active internally, thus I find that if I’m all stirred up on the inside it’s difficult to think or create. It also makes it difficult for me to focus on the characters and tell their story. My time in prayer is a time where my needs are being taken care of so that I can then care for others. It’s kind of like how on an airplane the safety instructions tell you to place your own oxygen mask on before putting one on your kids.
JF: I don’t think I have any writing quirks, unless you consider the fact that I’ve been able to sit down and write for hours and hours at a time without wanting to jump off a cliff. I should say, though, that often the writing process for me requires a long walk, laying on the floor in strange places, or doing mindstorming exercises to unlock my thoughts. Like Chris, I also try to spend time working on my mental, emotional, and spiritual health, as the things I write and create are highly affected by imbalances in those areas.
CH: I wanted to be a homeowner. I didn’t know this wasn’t a job.
JF: I wanted to be a movie director. I loved the idea of making movies for a living and telling stories. I also had a dream of owning a big production studio, where people I loved and vouched for could work for me and together we could create great content for the world.
JF: We definitely see there being a few more books in the series. Our original estimate was six volumes total. Though we can’t give an exact release date yet, we have started working on Volume Three.