Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud-Review and Interview

My stop on the blog tour is a review of the book and an interview with its author, Jon Thomason.

From goodreads: Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud is a fast-paced fantasy adventure for all ages and is the first of a planned trilogy. Fans of magic, swordplay, secret agents, and conspiracies set in a modern everyday world will not be able to put the book down. Jon Thomason is a debut author and paints a vivid world of magic right under our noses and delivers rapid-fire action that keeps the pages turning.

This book drew me in from the very first sentence. The story is fast paced and well written.

At first glance, this looks like sci-fi, but is definitely fantasy. I enjoyed the original concept of modern jinni. They live among non-magical people and have to choose which area of expertise they would like to work in. I liked that there were only a few traditional wish granting jinni and that every jinni got to choose their occupation. This book reminded me a little of Harry Potter in that every teenage jinni goes to camp on the island of Zumuruud to learn more about and practice the art of magic.

I liked seeing the character development of this book. I liked that Max was a cancer survivor, and while that experience hardened her a little, it also made her fearless-a trait that was necessary in learning magic. She definitely has some anger issues, but by the end of the book she started to gain some control, and learned to trust and reach out to her friends. I'm interested to see her story continue in the next book.

I loved seeing the imaginative world of magic that Thomason created. There were so many modern twists on the idea of genies. I loved the flying carpets and skate carpets--I could totally picture Phillip and Aaron riding around on them. I loved the occasional alliteration and  similes--several of them made me smile. Thomason is a gifted writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed his first book. 

Rating: 4
Published: 12.2012 

Today, I am talking with Jon Thomason, author of Max Xylander. Jon lives in San Diego with his family and is passionate about reading and writing.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I don't remember NOT wanting to be a writer! My mother taught me to read at an unusually young age. It wasn't long before I said to myself, "I can do that!" Reading is like breathing to me. Over the years I wrote a number of stories, but it wasn't until recently that I decided I needed to "put up, or shut up" and wrote my first novel, Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud. I'm a very project-oriented person and this was one of the most engaging and fun project of all.

Can you describe your typical writing routine?

I go through wildly different phases. First, concept. Working on the initial concept is one of the most difficult parts because it depends on sheer inspiration. I'll come up with ideas in the shower or when half (or completely?) asleep, or out for a run. I keep notes on these as much as possible in Evernote, which I love because they support pretty much any device, from phone to iPad to computer.

When I'm ready to write, I start by writing a 1-2 page plot summary and create a new novel file in my favorite writing tool, Scrivener (for Mac and PC). Scrivener lets me create index cards for each scene. I do this, and color code them by whose perspective the scene is to be told from. I rearrange the cards into an approximately final order. Finally, I start writing, a scene at a time. Scrivener is amazing in that it will collect all the scenes and fit them into chapters and build manuscripts or e-books for you. Scene by scene, chapter by chapter (unlike my non-linear card process, I write scenes and chapters in order) I write the book. I will sometimes rewrite a chapter on the spot if it's not good enough.

When the book is complete, I go back with a critical eye and try to eliminate 20% of the scenes, striving for a tight, fast-paced story. Next, I mark chapters that need rewriting. I rewrote Max in its entirety twice. The first rewrite eliminated about 100 pages. It was painful, but the story is much better for it.

Then, it's on to final editing. It usually takes me about ten passes through the book to be happy with the writing. On each pass, I look for awkward sentences (which usually happen when I'm trying to be too clever) and (especially) overused or repeated words, and adverbs. I try to delete all adverbs. The last couple passes, I try to disallow making changes other than typos. It's devilishly hard for me to find the last typos because my eyes coast right over them.

And then cover artwork and design, rear cover text, and preparing the front and back matter for both print and e-versions.

When that's all done and uploaded, the real work begins of selling the novel!

Do you have any habits you have to do while writing (snacking, listening to music, silence, writing late at night, etc?)

I never have as much time as I would like to write, so I can't be picky about the time. I do love to listen to music and have a fairly large collection on iTunes. My computer is attached to a stereo receiver in my office with high quality speakers and a subwoofer. My goal is to make writing enjoyable and as relaxing as possible. My favorite time to write is early in the morning when there are fewer distractions, but anytime has to do.

Have you ever written a character that resembles you?
I don't remember doing this consciously, but my character Philip is somewhat opposite from me physically: he's skinny, blond and blue-eyed. I'm dark complected with dark hair and green eyes. He's sarcastic, cynical, and impatient with people. I'm, well...let's just say that this represents my dark side that I try to hide away, but still manages to get out from time to time.

What are some important qualities in remaining sane as a writer?

If you can't learn to enjoy going back over and over and over your manuscript and taking pride in the craftsmanship of improving your writing, you probably will not be able to stay sane as a writer!

Do you have any advice to aspiring writers?

Just do it! Everyone has their own style and method. You will never publish anything if you don't write, It's definitely intimidating to start a novel. So don't. Start by grabbing the first household item you can get your hands on and decide which genre: fantasy, crime, thriller and write a story intro using the object and for fantasy, decide that it is a magical object. Crime? That it was used as a murder weapon. For a thriller, that the object was spirited out of a hostile nation by a dying spy and your character has to use it to unravel the mystery, avenge the spy and keep the country (or world) safe. Now write a story intro. Don't worry about finishing it, just make up some characters and write a few pages. Let your imagination run wild and see what comes out.

If this exercise is fun, take a writing class and learn more about your new craft.

If you're interested in novels, start working on concepts.

And by all means, keep writing...something...anything!

Can you tell us a little bit about your next project?

I am working on the sequel to Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud. I can't tell you the title yet, but for my readers, know that all your favorite characters are coming back (and I mean ALL). The immediate next question is, in the process above where am I? As I write this, I'm at the index card stage, and I'm SO looking forward to writing...can't wait!

Thanks for your time today, it's been nice talking to you! 
Thank you for talking with me! Good luck on your future books!

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