Wednesday, February 22, 2017

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Christopher Hansen & J.R. Fehr, Authors

Christopher Hansen, co-author
Volumes 1 and 2

Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr bring us THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP, volumes 1 and 2, described by one reviewer as “Whoo whoo whoosh! A mega magical experience!---- A wonderfully written story of a world where everyone has magic and can do magic, the authors take it one step further into the world of augmented reality.” Both authors value their characters and even learn from them, have an appreciation for the rules of world-building and magic, and combine approaches of “reflecting” images or feelings along with “echoes” of real life.

Although they live 1,000 miles apart in different countries, they collaborated on all parts of the two volumes. They plan to continue to write together. Christopher Hansen enjoys spending time with his family and exploring with his three children. J.R. Fehr has a day job working with people with disabilities but also finds time for an active social life in Vancouver, British Columbia.

J.R. Fehr, co-author
Volumes 1 and 2
Q: What led you to write THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP? Are you a fan of fantasy stories? Do either or both of you have a favorite fantasy author?
Christopher Hansen: 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. 

J.R. Fehr: When I was younger, I was a big fan of The Wheel of Time, but I’d have to say my favorite 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 my first novel, Skyblind.

As to the bigger question, what led me to write THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP . . . well, that is a bit of a story. It all started when Chris Hansen, my co-writer and friend, was up visiting me at my home in Vancouver, Canada. One day, we decided to meet with another artistic friend of mine who had just completed a new project. And, much to his dismay, the initial reception was not great. This friend was deeply discouraged and was on the brink of giving up his art altogether.
This encounter left a lasting impression on Chris and myself. Without saying too much about it, this experience ended up being one of the key pieces in the formation for the original idea of THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP.

 Q: Who are the target readers for THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP? Young adults? Would you also characterize it as a “coming-of-age” story?
J.R. Fehr: 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’s a few point of view characters who are older.  

Q:  Did you create “rules” for the magic of your characters? Do these rules help to offer a sense of credibility?
Christopher Hansen: 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. 

J.R. Fehr: 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.

Q: Are there heroes and villains in THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP? What are the characteristics of a compelling villain?
Christopher Hansen: 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 on they will be a real stinker, only to later on do something marvelous. 

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. 

Q: How do you engage your readers to care about your characters? How will we relate to characters who make magic?
Christopher Hansen: For me, THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP is all about the characters. Writing it was such a joy, primarily because I fell in love with the characters. I spent a tremendous amount of time listening to them (which, I’m sure must sound utterly strange and maybe preposterous) and getting to know them.  
I never know if readers will relate to my characters. But people really have connected to the characters in these books. I have no idea how this happens.

Practically what I do is rather straightforward. I assume no one will care about my characters unless I care about them. I figure if I can relate to them, others might also. I also think it’s important for characters to feel real, or believable. This is especially true with characters who have magical powers. So we spent a lot of time working out the rules of the magic so that what the characters did with magic felt “real.” 

J.R. Fehr: The simplest explanation is just giving the characters time to be real people. Both Chris and I try to let the characters speak to us out of their own characteristics, rather than force them to say or do things to advance a plot. As a result, this is a story full of rich characters. 
As to relating to characters who make magic . . . all fiction echoes real life. It is my hope that when people read the things I write, that they’ll get a sense of themselves. Readers can think “What would I do in that situation?” or “How would I act if I faced those obstacles?” Everyone can’t cast out magical projections in our world, but we can do other things that are similar. I encourage any readers to ponder that, and consider what the equivalent of making magical projections would be in our world. We may not be able to make a magical blue wallaroo appear, but we can certainly create other things with our talents.

Q: Is THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP primarily for entertainment or did you embed a few messages along the way?
Christopher Hansen: Can I say, “Neither”? I sure hope people find the books entertaining. I love fun stories and I love to write things that interest me and make me laugh. As a result there are many silly, fun things in the books. And I also hope some readers find some message in the books that helps them in life. However, neither of these things was a goal. 

Instead the objective was for the books to reflect something. Think of a painting. A painter takes something they see and then attempts to reflect that something onto a canvas with paint. It may be something they can see with their eyes, like a waterfall, a buffalo, or their daughter. Or it might be something imaginary, say a dragon or a person they’ve never seen. It can also be something abstract, say a feeling or an idea.

Before I set out to write a book I generally want to know what it is a reflection of. Sometimes I don’t know what this is until I’ve written an entire first draft of the book. On occasion it may take even longer. Other times, like with THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP, it was clear in my mind right from the beginning. For me this isn’t a message. It’s something that exists in reality. To give you an example, it may be childhood friendship. You know those relationships that you have before puberty, hormones, and dating seem to scramble our brains and change what friendships are. That’s not the theme of  THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP, by the way. I’m just giving an example. 

It’s generally wise for an author to keep the specific thing a book is reflecting a secret. This is because the thing it reflects is often killed when the author reveals it. It’s like taking a living frog and dissecting it. While this does have value to help people understand frogs, it does end the frog's life. After you look at the heart, lungs, and gall bladder of the frog, it’s not going to get up, start hopping around the table, or make its cute croaking sound. I as an author desire to create living things, but I’m happy for others to dissect the books I write. Thus, I’ll leave it to you to open up THE MAGICIAN’S WORKSHOP and see what reflection of reality you find inside. 

J.R. Fehr: Just as I said “all fiction echoes real life” I’d also say that fiction is very rarely (if ever) purely entertainment. I believe that every story has some meaning and is filled with messages—even if the readers (or authors) don’t recognize them.

Q: How do you use your settings or worlds to propel the story?

Christopher Hansen: 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. 

Q: How do the two of you work together as authors? Do you divide chapters or character development between you?
Christopher Hansen: 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. 

J.R. Fehr: Ah, yes. Co-writing is quite the 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 favorite. It’s so nice to have someone else to bounce ideas off of and to help me out when I get stuck.

Q: What’s next? Will you continue to work together?
J.R. Fehr: That’s the plan! I’m mega excited to share the rest of the story with you!

Q: What do you both like to do when you’re not writing?
J.R. Fehr: I have a day job working with people with disabilities, which—when combined with writing—takes up most of my week. I’m pretty active in my community here in Vancouver, and I have a rich social life. I don’t have any hobbies that are anything that exciting, but I do enjoy board games, hiking, movies, and traveling.

Christopher Hansen: I spend most of my free time with my family. I have three kids and we do all kinds of things together. One of our favorites is to be out in nature. Just last weekend my son and I went on a nighttime snowshoe hike. We trekked in the dark up to the top of a mountain where the wind was blowing at forty miles an hour. It was so strong it was constantly knocking us over. Bits of snow were flying through the air and stinging our nearly frozen faces. We were hungry. Our hands were damp and numb. 

But despite all this it was absolutely incredible. A huge wall of clouds covered the full moon. Every so often the wind would blow the clouds in a way that allowed the moon to peek out. Whenever this happened the moon was so bright that it was able to light up everything, almost like it was day. By its light, a nearby mountain range would appear. The valley below us would light up. The snow covering the grove of trees behind us would glow. It was an utterly inhospitable place for humans, yet there we were, witnessing something incredible. 

We stood, fighting against the wind, watching the world blink in and out of existence, like someone was switching the light switch on and off in their bedroom. One moment we would be standing in nothing but darkness, then the moon would break free and the world would light up. This only lasted for a brief moment before a new patch of clouds would rush in and cover over the moon once again, thrusting everything into darkness once again. Back and forth it went, like some cosmic battle. But all along, the moon kept on rising. Bit by bit, it traveled higher in the sky. Eventually, it was well above the clouds, and there was no fear of it being covered again. Everything remained lit up. 

And in this light we hiked down the mountain. It was easy to see; there was no fear of getting lost. The whole experience was magical.

About Christopher Hansen
The first glimmering Chris Hansen had that there was far more to reality than he had ever imagined occurred six days after his ninth birthday. “Christopher!” cried a wise, old sage. “Life is full of deep magic. Miraculous things happen all the time and all around us, if you know where to look for them.” Full of expectation and childlike optimism, Chris began searching for this magic, prepared to be surprised and amazed by it. And he was: he found Wonder! Now he’s chosen to write stories about it.

When J.R. Fehr popped out of the womb, he knew there was more to the world than the four boring hospital walls that he was seeing. “Zango!” his newborn mind exclaimed as he saw people appear and disappear through a mysterious portal in the wall. As a child he found life wowtazzling, but as he grew older the cold water of reality hit him, and the magic he once knew vanished. After spending some wet and shivering years lost in a joyless wasteland, he once again began to see magic in the world. He writes because the Wonder of true life is far grander than anything he ever thought possible.

Everyone in the islands of O’Ceea has a magical ability: whatever they imagine can be brought into existence. Whoever becomes a master over these powers is granted the title of magician and is given fame, power, riches, and glory. This volume of books follows the journey of a group of kids as they strive to rise to the top and become members of the Magician’s Workshop.

Layauna desperately wants to create beautiful things with her magical powers, but all she can seem to do is make horrible, savage monsters. For years she has tried to hide her creations, but when her power is at last discovered by a great magician, she realizes that what she’s tried to hide might actually be of tremendous value.

Kai just wants to use his powers to have fun and play with his friends. Unfortunately, nearly everyone on his island sees him as a bad influence, so he’s forced to meet them in secret. When one of the creatures they create gets out of control and starts flinging fireballs at their town, Kai is tempted to believe that he is as
nefarious as people say. However, his prospects change when two mysterious visitors arrive, praising his ability and making extraordinary promises about his future.

Follow the adventures of Kai, Layauna, and a boatload of other characters as they struggle to grow up well in this fantastical world.


In Volume Two, the Festival of Stars has finally arrived, and the Color Ceremony is about to commence. As children from all over the islands gather to stand before a puller, one question remains: who will have a Color, and who will be found void?

Rejoin your favorite characters as they step forward and receive a label that will have the power to dramatically alter the course of their lives forever.

 Purchase links
            In Canada 

Author sites

No comments:

Post a Comment