Something a little different for you today – I have an interview with an author! Specifically, RJ Furness, the author of the Orgo Runners books (review here) and its related series, dissent – his new book, Sapphire Smyth and The Shadow Five, is being released in six parts. My interview is part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Part One: Shadows, and I’m so excited – I love this book!
Hi RJ! Thanks for answering my questions! A nice easy one to start with: what’s Sapphire Smyth and the Shadow Five all about?
Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five is a young adult fantasy story. In fact, I guess you could call it an urban fantasy. The story starts in our world, on Sapphire’s eighteenth birthday. However, after spending most of her life in foster care, Sapphire is having an awful day, to put it mildly. Her foster carers have told her they can no longer afford for her to live with them. Sapphire must find a new home, and she feels rejected. She doesn’t find it easy to trust people under most circumstances, but now she feels like her whole life has been torn apart. But her life is also about to change forever—in ways she never thought possible.
After running away, Sapphire searches for some meaning in her life. Except that meaning has already come looking for her. When Sapphire discovers mysterious creatures lurking in the shadows, she soon realises that her fate is unlike anything she had ever imagined.
The only other thing I’d mention is that this is a serialised story, and it will be released in six instalments until the book is complete. Part One of Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five is out now, and the rest will follow.
What’s your writing process like? Do you have a routine?
I do. Then, I don’t. In general terms, I tend to write in line with school days and term dates. In other words, I write while my children are at school. However, that can often be interrupted by school and outpatient appointments, because our children all have special educational needs and disabilities. More recently, one of our children has also been very poorly, and so has another family member. Health problems obviously take priority, and they can’t be helped. Things are improving though, and so I’m hopeful the worst is behind us.
When I am writing, I do also have a process that I follow. Overall, I’m a planner, but I’m also someone who accepts that my stories may deviate from those plans. Usually, I get an idea for a story, then I work it out in a broad sense first. After that, I break it down further into scenes and so on. Once I have a solid plan, I then begin to write. However, once I start writing, that story can change and take on a life of its own. Some of my characters will also change their minds from time to time.
How did you find switching from a futuristic, dystopian world (the world of the Orgo Runners/ dissent books) to a contemporary, real-world setting? Does it feel different to write?
I will admit, this was a little tricky. Dragons have always fascinated me, and so have fantasy worlds in general. When I was much younger, I read a lot of fantasy, which included many of the classics written by authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. This passion has stayed with me throughout my life, and in recent years I have fallen in love with the likes of Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. I say more recently, because that’s how it feels to me. For some people reading this, I’m sure these books now also feel quite old haha. Anyway, I’m going to say that many of these stories make up some of the inspiration for Sapphire Smyth. Like the Sapphire story, some of those books also shifted from the real-world to a fantasy one—Narnia and Hogwarts are great examples. However, although I had the idea for Sapphire Smyth some time ago, I never had a fully formed plan. Until recently, I wasn’t certain about particular aspects of that story. So, I decided to begin publishing stories that I felt clearer about. This brings me to the Orgo Runners and dissent books.
For a long time, I’ve developed the ideas that underpin the Orgo Runners and dissent books. Both those series are set in the same futuristic ice age, and the stories all interlink. I still have a long way to go with this world, and many more books to publish before the story is complete. Needless to say, every book that is set in this frozen future connects certain characters and concepts together. Again, this world is inspired by my interest in certain elements of science fiction. I adore dystopian stories like Divergent and The Hunger Games, and I also love certain science fiction sagas like Star Wars and Jurassic Park.
But you asked how different it was to shift between these genres. In short, it really is very different. For a start, the characters are living in different worlds. In the “dissent” stories, people are faced with a world which I have created. As such, I had to consider how different people may exist in, and react to, that world. With Sapphire Smyth, the story begins in a real-world setting, like you said, and the story is set in the present day. So, I had to do a lot more research around contemporary settings, and how people live within them. Sapphire’s character is loosely based on a certain person that I know who is the same age as Sapphire.
Another thing I’ve realised is that descriptions can be very dissimilar from one genre to the next, and so can metaphors. For example, in the “dissent” books, I had to be careful when comparing things, in case I compared those things with something else that may not exist in that world. A great way of explaining this is to use the orgo, a creature I created for these stories. In many ways, the orgo is like a futuristic horse. As animals, the two species don’t look alike, but people ride around on orgo and they race on them, too. But horses don’t exist in the dissent world, and they are now extinct. Horses were wiped out by this ice age—I know, it’s awful. Anyway, the point is, I couldn’t compare an orgo to a horse, because people in that world don’t have any idea what a horse is. At this point, I want to stress again, if you haven’t read these books, orgo aren’t like horses in appearance. Orgo are a little like dinosaurs, only with fur (which is how someone described them to me the other day). But orgo can be used by humans in the same way we use horses.
Who’s your favourite character in Sapphire’s world? Who’s the most fun to write?
So far, I’m going to have to say Sapphire. However, I have really enjoyed developing a couple of characters that readers haven’t met yet. As usual, one of those characters is our ‘baddie’, too. I do love creating the ‘bad’ ones; there is always so much more to their stories. I don’t want to say much more, as people haven’t met these characters yet.
I know this is the wrong series, but just for fun – if you were an Orgo Runner, what would your orgo be like?
Well, I’m not much of a thrill-seeker, so I’m going to say strong and dependable. I wouldn’t like my orgo to be an unpredictable animal, or one that took me into dangerous situations. To be fair, I’d like my orgo to be a little more apprehensive and wary of their surroundings. I don’t think my anxiety could cope with anything else.
Oh, and I’d love to ride a grey orgo. Grey is my favourite orgo colour by far, but I can’t really give you a reason for that. Also, I love the orgo that have manes, except I’d like mine to have a black mane, which is something I haven’t explored in the stories—yet!
And last but not least, what can we expect from you next?
Haha. I knew you were going to ask that. Am I allowed to say, Sapphire Smyth & The Shadow Five Part Two? No? Haha.
Okay, in that case I’ll let you in on a few thoughts. One thing I have planned is a Christmassy story, which will be aimed at middle-grade readers. That said, I’m hoping it’s a book that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. I’d love this festive story to be something that families can share together. This book is something I’ve had planned for a while, and I aim to release it towards the end of this year. Well, that’s the hope.
In terms of children’s books, I also have another project or two planned, but I can’t really say much about them yet. I need to know they are things that I can achieve first. But as soon as I know more, you’ll be the first to find out. I’m also hoping to release Orgo Runners Book 5, as soon as I can fit it in, too. However, at the moment, I’m not certain when that will be. I’m not being very firm with these bits, am I? Well, either way, these are my plans for this year.
Next year, it’s my intention to mainly publish “dissent” and “Orgo Runners” books. I’m calling it the Year of the Orgo, haha!
How exciting! Thanks for chatting, RJ!
Sapphire Smyth and the Shadow Five: Part One is now available at Amazon, and is currently at a bargain introductory price! Definitely check it out before Part Two comes out!