Interview with Justin Fike, Author of The Farshore Chronicles

01 Sep 2020

What can you tell us about your new release, The Farshore Chronicles?

The Farshore Chronicles was born out of a “what if?”

What if the discovery of the New World had also included the re-discovery of myth and magic?

What if those hearty pioneers who stepped off the first ships to cross the Atlantic had discovered elves ranging through the forests, dwarf pirates prowling the waves in huge longships, feral halflings haunting the southern jungles, and all the horrible monsters and wild magic that had shaped their folklore and ancient legends hiding within every cave, hollow, and lost ruins within a hundred miles?

The story centers on Charity, a sassy, quick-witted thief who always managed to stay one step ahead of trouble until a job gone wrong lands her on a prison ship sailing to Farshore, the emperor’s new colony across the great sea. Charity’s adventures are always fun to write. She’s full of surprises, thinks fast, and doesn’t wait around for someone to ride in and rescue her.

Inspired by the colorful, swashbuckling action of D&D and 90’s fantasy greats like R.A. Salvatore, Mercedes Lackey, and Raymond Fiest, the Farshore Chronicles are basically the kind of books that I combed my library shelves trying to find more of as a kid.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I was very fortunate to grow up in a family that loved to tell stories, so I think I always loved it too. I took a creative writing class every semester of college purely as a personal outlet while I studied something “serious”. The idea of writing and publishing professionally didn’t really register with me until I began to see the growing indie author scene. The traditional publishing route always seemed like such an exhausting lottery system, but the idea of writing books that would succeed or fail based on how much readers enjoyed them rather than on what a publishing house needed for their catalog that season really appealed to me.
By 2014 I’d been working hard on a book for several years, but still just thought of it as a hobby. It wasn’t until my mom asked me over coffee one day why I didn’t just admit that I wanted to be a writer. “You light up when you talk about your book in a way you don’t for anything else.” Thanks to her I finally committed myself to seriously improving my craft so that I could consistently write and release the kind of quality stories I’d been dying to create my whole life. Fast forward several years, one masters degree in creative writing, two babies, one cross-country move, and more cups of coffee than I care to admit, and here we are!

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

Which books are “best” is kind of subjective depending on what criteria or categories you’re using, so I think I’ll share the 5 books that had the most significant impact on me as a reader, in no particular order:

1) Tigana, by Guy Gavriel Kay – A beautiful story in one of the most lavish fantasy worlds I’ve yet encountered. It’s basically a 400 page poem, and I love it.

2) The Phoenix Guard, by Steven Brust – It’s basically a fantasy book written by Alexander Dumas. Swashbuckling, intrigue, romance, all set within a fascinating world and culture, this story has it all and really raised my expectations for what a fantasy book could be and do.

3) White Knight, by Jim Butcher – I love all of the Dresden Files, but White Knight is the book that made me cry. A surprising story of redemption, hope, and sacrifice that you don’t usually find in urban fantasy.

4) Redwall, by Brian Jacques – When I was 9 my parents took my sister and me on a cross-country train trip and brought several books along to read aloud as a family. Redwall swept me up and captured my imagination. It’s the book that completely hooked me on reading, and I’ll always love it.

5) The Sandman Series, Neil Gaiman – I love Gaiman’s books, but the Sandman graphic novel series is the corner of his work that I go back to whenever I want to feel overwhelmed and inspired all over again. It helps me believe in magic again.

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask

My first answer would have been Neil Gaiman just to have a chance to get inside his head and learn about his approach to storytelling, but honestly the Masterclass he produced does an excellent job of exactly that. So instead I’ll say Joseph Campbell, because his thoughts and research about the nature of mythic and archetype in story and the role they play in shaping our society and culture are endlessly fascinating to me. I’d love to be able to ask him a whole string of questions about his thoughts on our current social moment and more, and I’m sure I’d learn more in an hour long interview with him than I did in many of the full semester courses I took in college all those years ago.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

I love the creative discovery of the process. You start with a concept in mind, and I’ve always been a pretty heavy plotter so the general structure of the story is typically fairly clear from the beginning. But then inevitably some random idea or inspiration strikes you, or a character says or does something unexpected that opens up a new angle on events, and by the time you type “the end” there are so many aspects of the story that you didn’t and couldn’t have planned in advance. Those bits of surprise and unexpected discovery are what keep drawing me back to write the next story.

What is a typical day like for you?

I have two young daughters (three years and six months old), so my mornings generally start with making a bit of breakfast and a lot of coffee, brushing hair, wrestling little bodies into clothes, etc. My wife is amazing and works hard to make room for at least one full writing day every week, so on those days I get to squirrel myself away in the office and work on my current project. Right now that’s finishing the first draft of The Flowers Of Belhame, Farshore Chronicles Book 5. On other days I’m typically working on some aspect of our digital production business, which usually involves a lot of meetings with clients or contractors, planning sessions, copywriting, video production, or just whatever needs to be done that day. I try to be done with work by around 6:00pm for family dinner, bath, and the bedtime routine, and then get some time relaxing with my wife in the evening. Currently, we’re working our way through watching Castle together since we both agree that Nathan Fillion is God’s gift to television (why did you leave us, Firefly? Why?). All in all my days are very full, but also very satisfying, and I love working from home as I get to spend more time with my family and make room for consistent writing.

What scene from The Farshore Chronicles was your favorite to write?

This might have been the hardest out of all these questions to answer. I always have fun with these characters, so I immediately thought of a dozen or so great scenes that I really enjoyed writing. But if I have to pick just one it would probably be the big, climactic battle with Tyrial in Farshore’s central plaza at the end of Crown Of The Mad King. There were a lot of great callbacks to earlier moments in the story, satisfying payoffs to long-running themes or relational dynamics, and everyone on the team had at least one cool moment to shine. It’s also the scene where Charity really cuts loose and fully embraces her place in this strange new world of magic she’s landed in. Pulling all of those threads and elements together into one massive battle scene was very satisfying.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

“The future belongs to those who prepare for it.” – Malcolm X

Justin Fike is the author of the new book The Farshore Chronicles Box Set.

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