Title: Exiled (The Never Chronicles Book One)
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Blurb from Goodreads:
James has never known an ordinary life. As long as he can remember, he and his family have been on the run—moving from place to place, never settling down, never growing roots. Now, just when he’s on the brink of manhood, the very thing his family has been trying to prevent tears him from all he has ever known and thrusts him into a place where he is powerless and alone.
Bent on finding a way back, James must brave a place reserved for the worst of his kind. He quickly learns that the land itself poses a greater threat than its inhabitants and if he is to have any chance of returning, he must work with the very people he’s been raised to fear.
James has known magic since just after he was born. As a sorcerer, his skills are exceptional yet when he wakes in The Never, his abilities are gone. Armed with nothing but determination and the will to survive, he braves a land wrought with dangers, mysteries and temptations meant to ensnare both body and mind and prevent escape forever
J. R. Wagner was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, during a blizzard. The snow made travel by car impossible, so his father called an ambulance when his mother went into labor. The ambulance became stuck at the bottom of their home’s driveway, prompting the dispatch of a fire truck, which towed the ambulance to the hospital where he wasborn.
Maybe it was this experience that destined J.R. to love adventure.
A competitive cyclist, triathlete, mountain biker, and adventure racer, he once received a medal for saving a woman’s life during the kayaking section of an adventure race.
J.R. drafted his first story, a sequel to Return of the Jedi, when he was ten years old. A self-proclaimed Star Wars geek, he had lofty aspirations of working with George Lucas on filming the
project. In 1990, he began filming his version of The Lord of the Rings in his parents’ basement, but the plug was pulled after he nearly burned down the house. Since then, J.R. has written two
full-length screenplays and a thriller novel.
After graduating with a kinesiology degree from Arizona State University, J.R. returned to Pennsylvania, where he took up writing once again.
He began writing Exiled while vacationing in Maine
You can purchase J.R.'s book at these sites:
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’m not sure there was a moment when a light bulb went off in my head and I decided I wanted to be a writer. It was more like an infestation that slowly worked its way through my brain. In fifth grade I vividly remember trying to re-write scenes from Return of the Jedi. I would have my friends act them out in the recess yard while everyone else was running around playing football or at the playground. (Go ahead, you can say it, I was a total dork!) Around the same time I had a teacher give us all journals with the instructions, ‘Write whatever you like,’ well, I wrote Jaws IV. Throughout my younger years my main focus was screenwriting and the filming that went along with it. If you’ve ever seen the movie Super 8, that was my childhood minus the alien and the pretty girl. I think at this point I knew I wanted to do something creative with my career, however it took a few more decades to whittle it down to writing.
2. How long does it take you to write a book?
It took me ten months to write a first draft of Exiled. I’m 2/3 of the way through the first draft of book #2 and hope to have it complete by early fall.
3. What do you think makes a great story?
Great characters. You can have the coolest settings in the world but if your characters are lame, the story will not captivate the readers. I also believe a great story should make you think. I like subtle connections between characters and events and I love when, at the end of a story, events that appear independent come together and in that moment everything makes sense. Stephen King is a master at this.
4. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I get up at 4:30am, write until 6:30 or so and then start getting my daughters ready for school or summer camp or whatever else they’re involved in.
5. How do you balance family and writing?
I specifically chose my writing time to fall when everyone else is asleep so I’m not disturbed and I don’t lose any time with my family. There are times when I’m doing an event that takes me all day or requires me to travel and most often, my wife and daughters are happy to come along. I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for the efforts of my wife to pick up the household slack since my book began consuming more and more of my time. She is an amazing woman.
6. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I think my inspiration/ideas come from my collection of life experiences. Books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, places I’ve been, things I’ve done. Take all of those, smash them together, throw them in a blender and press puree and you’ve got my creative brain in smoothie form. I believe all of my past interactions have impacted what I write and how I write it. I can’t cite one source as all-inspiring. When I sit down to write, I’m just as excited as when I sit down to read because I have no idea where the story is going to take me. The story dictates the direction, I’m just the conduit between my brain and the keyboard. It’s funny (odd may be a better descriptor, I’ll let you decide) but when I’m not writing, the characters call to me. They poke at the back of my brain until I give them the attention they deserve. I believe this is part of the reason why I find back-story so important. Everybody has a story to tell and I find one-dimensional characters dreadfully boring. As far as information, I use books and the internet and my all-knowing editorial friends as often as possible. Right now I’m trying to figure out what the inside of an 18th century men’s clothing store looks like –not an easy task.
7. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I was really surprised when I realized that the amount of effort that went into writing the book pales in comparison to the amount of effort that goes into marketing the book. Creating your author platform, staying current with your social media, etc. etc. etc. It can be exhausting. Two weeks ago my wife and I drove sixteen hours for a book signing. Something else that surprised me was when I realized there is more to being an author than selling books. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to at-risk teens on several occasions and I see how profound reading and writing can be for kids in that situation. I am continually building upon that experience and hope to help create a program that will give them the tools to see and use what I call The Outlet and The Escape through writing and reading.
8. How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
Exiled is my first published work so, after much deliberation, I’d have to say Exiled would be my favorite if I had to pick just one. J
9. Are your characters based on anyone you know?
I haven’t based a character on any one person. Bits and pieces of personalities I’ve come into contact over the years (including my own) are in all of the characters, some more so than others. I’ve named characters and places after people in my life. The Queen Mary is the name of the ship James, the main character, uses to sail to the satellite islands of The Never. The Queen Mary was the name of my grandfather’s fishing boat –picture a tiny boat no wider than your outstretched arms with a small outboard motor that wouldn’t start half the time. In fact, (feel free to delete this because I’m rambling) my father, uncle and grandfather were fishing one time (probably not the first time) in the path of the ferry that takes cars from Cape May New Jersey to Lewes Delaware. They saw the ferry coming, pulled up their lines and went to start the motor –no luck. So as this massive multi-story ship is bearing down on them, my father is desperately yanking on the starter cord while my grandfather tinkers with a screwdriver trying to get it started. Needless to say, they were able to finally get it going and avoid becoming shark chum.
10. Do you have a favourite place you love to write?
I write in my office every day. It has a nice view of my flowers but I can’t see them because it’s always dark. Beside me is my ever-loyal German Shepherd, Sorin…sleeping. I always have my noise canceling headphones on and listen to movie soundtracks as I write (I told you I was a dork.).
11. How hard is it to get published?
Very, very hard. With the current upheaval in the publishing industry right now, very few people are willing to take risks –especially on new authors. The industry will change in favor of the author, I believe, but that is still in the distant future.
12. What do your family and friends think about your books?
Everyone is thrilled. Most didn’t know I was writing a book until I announced the launch party (I always hold my cards close). They always seem to say, ‘I look forward to being able to say, I remember Josh when…’ no pressure or anything, right?
13. What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I work with my brother at the business my father started over 30 years ago. We are holding it together during these not-so-prosperous times in hopes of better days to come. I’m hoping those days come in tandem with my full-time writing career allowing me to step away without being a detriment to the family business. To keep me sane, I ride my bike, run and swim…and compete in an occasional triathlon or adventure race. Somehow I managed to qualify for the National Olympic-distance triathlon championships this year although my schedule will not allow for proper training to even consider participating in that event. (I’m neurotic when it comes to training…and just about everything else.)
14. Do you have any suggestions to help aspiring writers better themselves and their craft? If so, what are they?
Write every day. Set a schedule and a goal and stick to it. Same time, same place if possible. Shoot for a duration or word count. Read every day. Read in your genre most often. Enter writing contests. Visit figment.com and set up an account there –it is a great website.
15. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A Hollywood film director.
16. What are your favourite books and which authors inspire you?
The chaos walking series by Patrick Ness, The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, of course and one can’t mention fantasy without mentioning Mr. Harry Potter and his creator, J.K. Rowling. I also love Ray Bradbury, Michael Chrichton and Stephen King.
17. For an aspiring writer what do you feel are certain do's and don’ts for getting their material published?
Write a blog. Start it yesterday. Build a following. Focus your target reader and cater to their likes with your blog as best you can. Provide content they will enjoy as often as possible. Post often, build that following. Get on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and do the social media thing. Most importantly is to get readers familiar with your writing style. Throw in a chapter of you book if you’d like. Start a serial story. Content is important. Never lose sight of your target reader and focus on them whenever you brainstorm about content ideas. I wouldn’t even consider looking for a publisher before you’ve gotten a following. They want to know you can market yourself before they’ll even consider working with you. Sorry, the days of holding up in a cabin in Maine and doing book signings only when your novel releases are over. Being an author requires constant work. It’s not just about writing anymore. If you don’t like it, get out of the game. You’ll only find frustration. One more thing, have your manuscript professionally edited BEFORE you even send out a query letter. If you can’t afford it, wait until you can. Also, when you’re ready to query, have that professionally edited as well. Seriously, don’t rely on your roommate. If you want in the game, do it right.
18. What are you working on now?
I am working on book #2 of The Never Chronicles –and it isn’t just because everyone whose read Exiled wants to kill me for ending it the way I did.
Thanks so much for the interview, J.R. I wish you success with your next book in The Never Chronicles!
Feel free to visit J.R. at the following sites and follow him on Twitter: