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Jeff Wheeler (@muirwoodwheeler) is a writer from 7-10PM on Wednesday nights. The rest of the time, he works for Intel Corporation, is a husband and the father of five kids, and a leader in his local church. He lives in Rocklin, California. When he isn't listening to books during his commute, he is dreaming up new stories to write.
(P.S. Jeff...The Bookie Monster loves the Yoda statue!)
Interview by Hilarie Joy @elusivlibrarian
Ready when you are, Jeff.
Ready! First though, you have to tell me why you picked the Twitter handle you did
I wanted twitter to be something a little less traceable and I am a librarian. I'm more open on twitter than I am on Facebook. Does that make sense?
Yes - it's also a catchy handle. Thumbs up
Thank you. It's my pleasure to interview you today for The Bookie Monster, I thought chat would be better than just emailing you a list of questions. Let me preface this by saying that I devoured the Muirwood trilogy and I absolutely loved them. If I get some Amazon gift cards for Christmas, I'm planning to pick up your other books.
Hope Santa is nice to you
Haha, me too. Do you have a favorite of the books or series that you've written? I do have some questions about Muirwood, though since I've read them all. I don't like to pretend.
It's like asking which kid is your favorite, but I do have strong feelings about the Muirwood world. Blight is my favorite book. Judging by my readers, the Muirwood trilogy is also their favorite too.
I can see why. Lia is a spitfire. How did she come to life? Did she take a hold of you?
I have a niece who was a teenager at the time I wrote Muirwood. She even looks like Lia and there are some similarities in their personality. But like with all of my characters, they kind of show up in my brain and start to reveal themselves over time. It's a little like talking to ghosts inside your head.
I was going to ask if there were any real life influences for your characters. It's like she's your Dorothy. In your mind, what do you love about Lia?
I admire her spunk and her attitude. She was raised in a world without any privileges, but she was determined not to be bound by her restrictions. Her positiveness is infectious and I love that she's always tweaking against the rules and not being confined to her station.
She's one step beyond the usual orphan-hero in the fantasy genre in my opinion. What do you think sets her story apart from other fantasy heroines?
No love-triangles? (grins)
Seriously though, she's strong and independent, but she also needs people. She hates to be alone and thrives when she's around other people. She's also not a complainer.
She is not. She projects a very hard exterior, but there are times when she is vulnerable and you realize that she's grown up very fast. There is love there, though. Do you think Colvin and Lia have their happily ever after?
I'm not a fan of that cliche. But like with any marriage or relationship, there are always ups and downs. I'll put it this way: They lived happily.
Their relationship is very different and not a cliche at all. She's no damsel in distress, he's not always a gentleman. But they work together and have trust and respect for one another that was hard earned. Would you say that's a fair statement?
Not only is it fair, it's realistic. When Twilight was really popular, I was always a little bothered at how "perfect" Edward was portrayed to be. Both Lia and Colvin had their flaws but they bonded very deeply with each other regardless.
Totally, I agree. In fantasy, there have to be real elements to keep the material something for the reader to relate to. In this case, I think the relationships are very real in Muirwood. On the fantasy element; Lia's magic is a little different than the standard magic formula. What inspired Muirwood's style of magic?
Several sources, actually. In the author notes, I describe how the powers of the Medium are ones that I've distilled from various scriptural references. I added an element of ancestry too in order to add to the mystery of who she really was and to create a sense of unfairness that she, being a wretched, wouldn't be allowed to learn the magic. But one of the biggest influences on the philosophy came from Napoleon Hill's work (Think and Grow Rich). Hill didn't invent the philosophy that thoughts control outcomes -- that's been around since before King Solomon. I wanted the magic system to be unique. I think it worked pretty well.
It did, it still stays with me. It feels very natural and organic. Who was your favorite character to write (in any of your books) and were they inspired by real people?
I'm a people watcher, definitely. Some of my characters are inspired by real people, but sometimes I just borrow elements from several and weave them together. I really enjoyed writing Dieyre--he had a very strong presence and the chapters with him seemed to write themselves. I'm currently writing a series called Whispers from Mirrowen and there is a relationship in that story which I really enjoy writing about. Can't talk about it because it comes out in Book 2 which will be published in February.
I'll be looking forward to it. A lot of fantasy authors who gain recognition inevitably have to deal with Hollywood. What is your take on film adaptations of fantasy novels?
My readers have been begging for a movie of Muirwood. I would be fine with it, but I'd be very cautious before selling the rights. I love the Lord of the Rings movies and thought Peter Jackson did awesome. They are my favorite movies of all time. But often the movie version just doesn't match up to the original. I also don't like the way Hollywood sexualizes everything so much. I'd want to be sure that movies based on my books stayed true to my vision of the series, not trying to meet some current trend.
Do you have an ideal Lia in mind? Sky is the limit, dream big.
Actually, my preference would be to pick a totally unknown cast. There isn't anyone I've cast in my mind to play her. What about you?
I actually really like when they do that, it's not so distracting. There's no one quite like I imagined, but I'm afraid my knee jerk reaction would offend you.
Posh - don't worry about that. Who?
She's getting a little too old now, but as I was reading, I was seeing young Kristen Stewart. She's done so much in the genre, but it just felt natural. If you watch American Horror story, Taissa Farmiga would be a possibility as well.
She learned how to hack with a sword in Snow White, right?
Yes. I was picturing her in Speak (another book adaptation). She was so frail looking and yet so powerful. She did, yes. There are a lot of haters, but I'm not one of them. Moving on. As far as process goes; do you envision the whole trilogy's bones before you start writing or do you let it flow naturally.
Good question. I definitely start off with a story arc that extends through the entire trilogy. It's the spine, really. I know where it's going and I know where it will end. The fun part of writing, for me, is imagining all that happens along the way. Sometimes I have to re-direct things a little bit, but for the most part, it lands where I intended it to land.
That's what I always wonder about authors. Some feel restricted by the traditional story format, but others see it as a helpful tool.
There isn't one right or wrong way to do it.
Definitely not. Any more advice for aspiring writers?
I get that question a lot, actually. My biggest advice is that there isn't a secret recipe, or a right way to write a book. I ended up tossing out all the advice years ago and just wrote from my heart the kind of books that I want to read. I figured that maybe there would be some people out there who would enjoy it. I've been overwhelmed by the reaction to my books and how many people have been drawn in. I think it shows that the world can use a variety and not just one repeating recipe.
Well said. Just a few spitfire questions before we wrap this up, just for fun. Pen and paper or computer?
iPhone or Android?
iPhone until the new Intel phones come out next year!
Piccard or Kirk?
Wow! Nice. One more. Twilight Zone or Outer Limits?
Good answer! You're my new best friend. I have original celluloid from the film in my possession. :-D
Ooooh, jealous! I love Scully and Mulder
The only dolls I ever wanted to own. I got second place in a Scully lookalike contest once. Thank you so much for your time, Jeff!