Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kimberly Trix Lee is talking with Wally Jones, author of Sam the Chosen.
FQ: Sam the Chosen was written as the first book of a potential fantasy series. Do you already know where the series will take the characters or are you working that out as you go along?
JONES: Sam the Chosen is the first book in The Prophecy Storyline. Oddly though, it was not the first book written. The third book in the series was actually written first, then I wrote and published Sam the Chosen. I am currently working on book two.
Basically, I didn’t feel comfortable with the readers jumping directly into the fray. I decided the series needed an introduction to ease people into the overall plot and provide some backstory. I believe people enjoy a deeper understanding of why things are happening. It also gave me the opportunity to explain who the Chosen are as a race and to realize their motivation.
I am unsure exactly how many total books will be required to complete the series, but I feel it will most likely be four or five novels with an additional three or four side books. I’m fairly certain readers can pick-up where the side stories will feature while reading Sam the Chosen.
The characters in Sam the Chosen will come and go throughout the series. While Sam is the heroine in the first book, she plays a supporting role in the second book as a new character takes the lead. That same mechanic holds true in book three as well. Then all the characters will come together as the story rounds out and sets the stage for the ending.
FQ: Tell us more about Sam, the protagonist. Who is she as a person?
JONES: I had a wonderful time building Sam as it was a massive learning experience. Creating this “every woman” character was challenging because she carries so many different sets of responsibilities. I believe all women are like her.
Sam is intelligent, strong, energetic, honest, and unapologetic when she knows she is right.
Sam is a wife, a mother, a homemaker, a teacher, a care-giver, and a mentor. And she excels at all of them because she is caring and selfless, almost to a fault, like all mothers.
At the same time Sam is stern when she needs to be. And yet she manages to find time for herself, which I feel is important in maintaining that sense of self, especially for someone so giving.
At the same time, Sam deals with a very real issue, her anxiety. It definitely hinders her and she struggles with it, rather severely, at times. Anxiety is the leading mental health issue. I hope Sam the Chosen sheds some light on this subject and makes anxiety a more relevant concern.
As for Sam being the protagonist, I’m not certain of that. I tried to create the book in such a way to allow multiple points of view on exactly who carries the mantle of protagonist. I wanted to create a more natural feeling story, a tale more in-tune with nature. Nature is not good. Nature is not bad. Nature is both, and yet neither. My goal was to write a book to reflect that, to have the characters be like nature.
Sam is certainly the title character and the book absolutely follows her journey. That makes her a good candidate for being the protagonist.
Grondi is the most prominent figure in the story and his actions move the story forward. That makes him a good candidate for being the protagonist.
Nechek is the champion of the book, the true advocate for Sam. Without his conviction and determination, the story of Sam would be very different. That makes him a good candidate for being the protagonist.
So all three are strong possibilities as the protagonist.
Interestingly, when I proposed the question of who plays the protagonist to my beta readers I got a nearly even split between the three.
I believe an even more interesting question is, who plays the roll of the antagonist?
In keeping with my nature-tuned inspiration, all the prime characters can be seen as the antagonist as well. In other words, each of them plays the protagonist and the antagonist, good and bad, at the same time. Just like nature.
Just as interesting, when I asked my beta readers who played the antagonist, it was strongly divided between Grondi and the Sun. I am apt to believe think the Sun is the true antagonist, which sets the book up to be a man versus nature theme.
FQ: In your author profile, it states that you are dyslexic and that it took you over 4.5 years to write Sam the Chosen. Could you share with us the challenges you encountered as a writer and how you were able to overcome them?
JONES: My analogy for writing is - a thousand little daggers constantly stabbing at my mind.
Obviously, I’ve always been dyslexic. It is a mental disfunction you are born with. As a child I struggled in school and fell behind. Everyone knew something was wrong, they just didn’t know what or why.
Unfortunately, Dyslexia wasn’t discovered as a diagnosis until my mid-twenties. I went through many tests where it was discovered that I lack the mental tools of word decoding and encoding. Basically, I cannot read or write.
After those tests I was shown a means of correcting the issue and spent years building a substantial sight vocabulary through rote memory and sheer determination. Now my brain carries a dictionary of sorts and I read by recognizing whole words.
I write in the reverse order. I look the word up in my mental dictionary and copy it to the page. It is very time consuming and words tend to get jumbled as my mind jumps forward in anticipation of the next word.
Many people suggest using dictation to write, but it doesn’t work for me. My mind moves too fast for dictation. I am better with written words as it slows me down and allows time to prepare for the next sentence. It seems counterintuitive, but it works.
Sam the Chosen took more rewrites than I can count. Each chapter was rewritten at least a dozen times. Every time I read what I had written I found errors and omissions. Then the whole book was rewritten numerous times as the story was refined.
I am hopeful that Sam the Chosen brings attention to dyslexia and those who suffer through it. Dyslexia is the leading learning disability, but it can be overcome with training and patience.
FQ: Battle Master Nechek was a stoic guy but he warmed up pretty quickly to Sam. He even announced to everyone that he wanted her to be part of their pack quite early on in the book. Tell us more about his thoughts.
JONES: I feel this question is key to the story and another question I asked my beta readers. When did Nechek first realize he cared for Sam?
The answer is during his stint watching her in the holding cave.
Nechek respects strength, in all forms. That’s just his manner, his burning righteousness, and Sam has shown amazing strength in many fashions.
Sam proved her strength of resolve in sacrificing herself to save her son.
Sam showed inner strength as the first adult ever to survive the change. That is enough for any Chosen to become enamored with her, which many are. Despite Nechek's size and intimidating presence Sam never bowed to him. In fact, she displayed courage and openly taunted him.
During the hike to the pack house Sam exhibited physical strength and outright bested Necheck. That was a huge thing for him as he rarely gets beat. On that same trip she shows mental acuity while questioning Grondi and strength of character in accepting her new life and adapting quickly.
It was only natural for Nechek to be drawn to her and the more time they spent together the stronger their bond became.
Another interesting side note is where Nechek went once they got to the pack house. He disappeared for a bit, but it is purposely unwritten where he went. This is done to cause the reader to piece the puzzle together much the same way Sam has to piece together her own puzzle of the Chosen.
Nechek went to the Honored Dead to ask for guidance from his ancestors. His answer solidified his belief in Sam.
FQ: Kevin, as an 11-year-old boy faced with shifter wolves and death, took things in stride but kids are more adaptable than adults anyway. Was it a challenge to write about how a young boy would adapt to what was going on?
JONES: A really fun fact, when I first wrote the story Kevin was actually the main character, not Sam. It was originally meant to be a book for young-adults featuring a young boy who becomes Chosen.
About half way through the writing process I realized that Kevin didn’t possess the necessary tools to take the story where it needed to go. Due to his age he lacked many of the life experiences required to finish the tale properly.
So I changed everything and made the story about Sam. Instantly the book took on a completely different feeling and became an adult fantasy. I believe the book is much better for the change and Kevin will feature more prominently as the story continues.
Oddly, that change became Kevin’s persona. He goes with the flow and adapts easily to any situation.
I don’t dwell on what happened before we met Sam, but it becomes clear that Kevin has had a bit of a rough road growing up. Plus, he is fascinated with science and discovery. The Chosen represent everything he could ask for. It is a fresh start with a society that knows nearly everything. He truly feels at home with the pack and his go with the flow persona accentuates that.
FQ: And what about Sam? As a mom faced with the death of her husband and stepdaughter plus the chaos of lycanthropes, she was going through a lot. Was she a fun character to bring to life?
JONES: I believe life is harsh. We are only here for a short while and there is much to learn. Sadly, much of what we learn is from negative experiences. Those are also the ones we remember the clearest. However, those hard lesson can bring forth amazing growth and positive gains.
Sam is no different. She goes through staggering loss, but gains a higher existence and a deeper level of understanding. She is better for it.
The fun part as the author, was figuring exactly how much I could do to Sam, how far I could push her, before she exploded with anger and stopped. Then I tried to maintain that level for as long as I could.
The original manuscript of Sam the Chosen was over 109,000 words. That was cut down to 82,000 during the editing process, so much of what Sam endured is gone, but the overall feeling is still there.
I feel it is important to say that I don’t lament the loss of 28,000 words. My editor is brilliant and the book is better because of him. Thanks Joe. While I’m at it, my artist is amazingly talented. The cover and the maps are wonderful. Thank you Lauren.
FQ: Without giving away too much, there was a theme in the book of global culling which was essentially “sacrifice the few for the sake of many.” This is a concept that has been discussed by various books and movies. Do you think there could ever be a time/some event where this might be seen as a possible option?
JONES: As a point of interest, I would say the culling in Sam the Chosen is the sacrifice of the few to save the even fewer. This is based purely on the math of the situation.
I also feel the need to point out that this culling was a last ditch effort performed only after extreme deliberation and with absolute disgust for the need to do so. It was a horrible thing.
This aspect of the book actually caused many problems and I rewrote it numerous times trying to get the numbers correct. I researched the most awful atrocities our planet has seen to better understand the numbers involved. It is scary.
As for any sort of culling becoming a reality? I sincerely hope not.
Could it happen? Regrettably, yes.
We live in the era of biological warfare, during unstable times on a deteriorating planet with an ever growing population. That’s just the truth of it.
FQ: If you have the next book in the series “fleshed out,” would you give our readers a sneak peek at the story?
This passage is the end of chapter 1 of the second book in the Prophecy Storyline. It is titled, but I’m not ready to make any announcements about it just yet. For those who have read San the Chosen, you will know how that book ends.
This is that door.
The main character is alone starting at the door while thinking to himself.
Finally I can end all this and make things right. I can stop the storm and save humanity.
The door had no decorations, other than a shallow three inch square recess in the exact middle. In fact, if you didn’t know the door was there you would most likely ignore it and never notice it at all as it blended perfectly into the surrounding wall.
This means Yelabri was real and stood at this very location all those thousands of years ago. She sealed this door so that no one would find what it protects. That also means everything else must be true as well, the secret society, the Prophecy, and what was sealed behind this door.
That was a scary reality and made his whole body shudder. His mission was suddenly more real and more important than ever. That single thought brought his mind back to his present situation.
No more time to reminisce.
He stood up and walked over to where he had flung his pants. He reached down, undid the button of the left cargo pocket, reached in and pulled out the Breach Stone.
“Let’s see if this works,” He said out loud.
“Let’s see if this work,.” echoed back to him.
He walked up to the Breach of Yelabri and carefully put the Breech Stone into the square recess in the middle of the door. It was a perfect fit.
Master craftsmen indeed.
As soon as the Breach Stone was fully fitted into the socket the ancient stone door began to shake violently and he took a few cautionary step backwards, so much so that he now stood with his left foot back in the scalding salt water.
Suddenly the stone door dropped partially through the ground and slid into a hidden lower chamber. It came to a halting stop with a loud thud that sent percussion waves, and a thick dust cloud, rolling through the small underwater cave. He quickly found his shirt and tied it around his head to cover his mouth.
Squinting through the dusty haze he could see the Breach of Yelabri was ten feet tall and three feet wide, but a full foot thick. The bottom two-thirds of the ancient door had slid beneath the ground, so only the top was now visible. He could no longer see the Breach Stone as it was buried, locked away forever. He would need to rectify that first and retrieve the Breach Stone. It would be a good first test.
In truth, the Breach Stone no longer held a purpose. It had done its job. He could leave it here, but he truly meant to keep his word and return it to the proper owner, Maharaja Din, as its value was incalculable.
Behind the Breach of Yelabri was a tiny space carved into the cave wall. It was only an inch high, three inches deep and seven inches long. He expected it to be bigger. No one really knew exactly what was hidden inside, except Yelabri and she was long dead, but somehow your imagination always makes unknown things bigger.
He stood staring in amazement at what lay inside the hidden chamber. It was a single black feather, perhaps that of a crow. Despite its immense age it still looked fresh and completely unblemished.
“All this for a feather?” He asked to no one, a bit shocked and surprised.
“All this for a feather?” echoed back, a bit shocked and surprised.
The mighty Weapon of Bortouk, the Thought Translator, the most most dangerous thing ever created, is nothing more than a feather. Such an innocent an ironic thing, yet so deadly. No one would expect it. Bortouk was clever.
He carefully removed the feather from its chamber and held it in his cupped hands.
“Time for a test.”
“Time for a test,” Repeated back.
He closed his eyes and concentrated on what he wanted. He needed to retrieve the Breach Stone. He pictured it in his mind. He imagined its weight in his hands. He thought of the perfectly smooth surface and dark green hue of the giant emerald, forcing the Breach Stone imagery through his minds eye.
Then, miraculously, the Breach Stone appeared in his cupped hands with the feather.
“It’s works!” He said laughing and yelling out loud.
“It works!” came roaring back.
Then he closed his eyes and concentrated on the blisters of his burnt and aching skin. He wanted the pain to stop. We wanted his dry clothes back. He wanted his old leather backpack. He was wrong to throw that overboard.
Instantly his pain went away and his clothes materialized around him. His old leather backpack hung off his left shoulder.
He put the Breach Stone back in the left cargo pocket of his pants for safe keeping.
“Now for a true test,” He said in a shaky voice.
“Now for a true test,” echoed back, a bit shaky.
He concentrated on Maharajah Din’s palace in the mountains of northern Burma. He could see it in his mind. Mentally he pictured the main hall with the pale yellow walls, the high white ceiling, the long chandelier and the old threadbare rugs. He could see Maharajah Din wearing his purple and gold robe sitting in his large chair at the end of the long table.
He concentrated hard, pushing all other thoughts out of mind.
Then, suddenly, He disappeared, leaving the small underwater cave beneath the lonely island abandoned for eternity. No others would ever find the Breach of Yelabri again. There was no need.
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