In this spotlight, we hear from R.V. Johnson, author of Beyond the Sapphire Gate, the first book in the Flow of Power series.
R.V. has desired to write a good story—an epic tale chock full of wonder and imagination on a rich, planetary scale. He wanted a fantastical adventure where the characters come as alive as the new world they travel through, and he wanted it for everyone.
What made you decide to publish a novel?
With the passing of long-time favourite authors—Robert Jordan, Roger Zelazny, and J.R.R. Tolkien to name a few, I craved something more traditional that conveyed a strong sense of wonder.
Where do you get you inspiration to write?
There are so many inspirations it would take hours to list them all, lately though, Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings enthralled me. I love becoming immersed in a new world and learning a new magical system.
If you could pick just one phrase from your writings to preserve for future generations, what would it be?
Strive to be the gem the dragon hoards.
The book is shown through the POV’s of the three main characters, two sisters and their father as they try and survive stranded on a world where a frothing, river of magic called the ‘Flow’ is accessed by Users of magic both light and dark. One sister tries to develop her home world magical symbols—something the world of Astura has never seen—while the younger sister, a half a world away, tries desperately to escape a harrowing Dark Citadel with her soul intact. Their father fights to escape his Dark User captors and reunite the family. In short, the main characters, and their companions really grow and bond with the reader on a strange, and violent world.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
I originally wrote a small part of it during a college course many seasons ago.
Different authors have differing approaches to writing. Some prepare very detailed plot outlines before they begin on their first draft, while others have a much looser outline and like to see where the story leads them. What was your approach with Beyond the Sapphire Gate?
At first, I had a loose synopsis of the overall story, but that changed as the story unfolded. Now, I have the overall idea in mind, which I write as a mini one-page outline, and then usually write a short two or three sentence paragraph heading of what should happen in each chapter.
Was there any part of the story that surprised you as it appeared on the screen in front of you? If so, can you tell us about it (without giving away any spoilers!)?
The character Burl, magically created by a Dark User and called a Dark Creation by most, whom Jade befriends, was more diverse than I expected. Crystalyn’s anger affliction came out as a benefit—it worked well with her symbol magic though she goes through some harsh trials. Garn and the Hooded Man’s captor-captive relationship surprised me. Lord Charn’s intrigue was deeper than I originally imagined.
What part of Beyond the Sapphire Gate did you find most difficult to write and why?
Burl, magically created, has charcoaled features on his burlap sack textured-skin with only his odd, yellow-orange eyes that seem truly alive. Since he is mute, finding ways for Burl to communicate with the others was a challenge, to say the least. The same with the Warden, Broth, who communicates telepathically to one person only, it was challenging, though at a lesser degree.
First books in series can go one of two ways. Can you tell whether Beyond the Sapphire Gate ends on a cliff-hanger or whether the story resolves itself sufficiently to be standalone?
Originally written as a standalone, it does resolve itself sufficiently, but the story picks up again at the end. The reader is left knowing another novel will follow.
Some readers of fantasy like end-to-end action, while others prefer a greater emphasis on the personal journey of the main character(s). Where would Beyond the Sapphire Gate sit between these two types of story?
Right in the middle. The personal journeys of the three family members are loaded with action through most every chapter.
Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little about how the story will develop in the next books in the series?
The next book in the series brings most of the characters back while introducing some new. The malice Jade awoke in the south gains strength and has some surprising, never before seen abilities. There are some revelations on how it got where it was, and we learn that both Dark and Light Users—everyone, on the world of Astura is in dire trouble.
First, a novella or novelette taking place on the same two worlds will be finished and given away to anyone that signs up for the newsletter on my web page. At the time of this interview, it is halfway there.
Are there any underlying messages hidden within the story that you’d like to share?
There are references to ‘The One’, the ‘Great Mother’ and others that are part of the story.
Authors can grow quite attached to some of their characters, and sometimes that attachment can be with minor characters who maybe don’t have a big part to play in the novel. Is there a character from Beyond the Sapphire Gate who you’d like to explore in more depth – if not in a subsequent book in the series, maybe in a spin-off or maybe short story?
Atoi at ten seasons, is an enigmatic, young girl hosting an unknown entity called a Dark Child that has kept her alive for over four-hundred seasons. There is much to her story still.
And Finally, what gives you the most satisfaction from writing, and ensures you will continue doing so?
Hearing from a reader how much they loved the story.
If you’d like to learn more about R.V. and his writings, you can find him on his author website: www.authorrvjohnson.com
Beyond the Sapphire gate is available in both paperback and digital from Amazon.
Thanks very much for your time, RV, and I wish you all the best!