Interview with middle-grade fantasy novelist J.M. Bergen

Helping me kick off a new week is novelist J.M. Bergen. He’s chatting with me about his new middle-grade fantasy, Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria.
Bio:
J.M.’s debut fantasy/magic series originally started as a bedtime story for his oldest son. The story turned into a saga, and one book turned into five. Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows was released in February, 2019. The book won the Feathered Quill Book Award, a Readers’ Favorite Book Award, and was an award winning finalist in both the American Book Festival and the Red City Review Book Awards.

When J.M. isn’t working on the Thomas Wildus books, you can find him playing with his kids, napping, or dreaming up new adventures. If you ever meet him and can’t think of anything to talk about, you might ask about Herman the Shark, the Kai and Eli stories, or why Riddle-Master by Patricia McKillip is his all-time favorite book. Or maybe you’ll have questions and stories of your own – if you do, he’ll think that’s far more interesting.
Please tell us about your current release.
In the first book in this series, Thomas Wildus discovered a secret family legacy of magic and began to unlock his extraordinary abilities, all while racing to prevent a ruthless billionaire-magician from securing the ability to control – or destroy – the world.
The adventure resumes when a surprise message from a mysterious hacker lets Thomas and his friends know that the fight isn’t over. To the contrary, it seems that their nemesis is after an even more powerful magical object than before, and this time he’s gathering the forces of darkness to his side. Deceptions abound, new characters come into play, and the stakes are nothing short of the fate of the world. It’s a wild ride!
What inspired you to write this book?
The entire series was inspired by bedtime stories, and it was clear relatively early that it was going to take a relatively long series to cover the entire journey (there are a total of 5 books planned in the main series).
Excerpt from Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria:
“Hey, what’s that about?” Thomas stepped into the lab and stared at the panel of monitors.
“What’s what about?” Akhil pushed past and glanced at the bank of monitors that covered the far wall. Every screen had gone blank except for a single row of huge white letters running across the center.
The STAFF is REAL, NERDLINGS. Find it, or he will. TIME IS RUNNING OUT.
“What the—?” Akhil stared at the center screen in the large display.
“That’s not right.” Enrique crossed his arms and stared slantwise at the monitor.
“I don’t understand.” Akhil jumped into his chair and punched commands into the keyboard. “This network is built to the same standard as an NSA data center. This shouldn’t be possible.”
Enrique looked at the screen. “I don’t know what should or shouldn’t be possible, but someone did that and it prob- ably wasn’t your dad.”
“My dad is flying home from a conference in Switzerland.” Akhil continued to type furiously. “He’s been on a plane for the past six hours. There’s no way this was him.”
Perplexed, Thomas stared at the message. “I’m less worried about the hacking than the message. What staff? And who is this ‘he’?”
“Arius?” Enrique looked from the message to Thomas, his greenish eyes suddenly concerned. “Who else could it be?”
A shiver ran up Thomas’s spine. Just a few months earlier, Arius Strong and his followers had nearly recovered a crystal that would have given Arius extraordinary power and put the entire world in jeopardy. Arius’s quest had ended in Sumidero Canyon, with a battle that destroyed the crystal and left two of Thomas’s mentors seriously injured. Scott Alpheus had taken Arius’s sight as punishment, but the enigmatic billionaire was still a formidable enemy.
Akhil tapped another button. The words on the screen disappeared and were replaced with the typical interface and command prompt. Clearly annoyed, he pushed his chair back. “Why would someone who has the skills to break into a system like this bother to send a message like that? I don’t get it.”
What exciting story are you working on next?
Thomas Wildus and the Shadow of Elandria isn’t scheduled for publication until next summer, but already it’s shaping up to be quite an adventure!
We recently put out a short prequel to the series as well – The First Crystal – which can be purchased on Amazon but is available for free for your readers if they follow the link.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I was a creative writing major in college, and even though I had a few poems picked up in anthologies, I didn’t feel like a ‘real’ writer until my first full-length book was finished and on the market.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
My morning typically starts with some combination of meditation, martial arts, and writing, and I tend to write until either I run out of steam or one of my kids needs help with something. The rest of the day varies quite a lot, but typically includes a bit of creative work and a bit of practical ‘getting things done’ type stuff.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
When I first started writing the tendency to overthink and over-edit was so overwhelming that I sometimes forced myself to write with my eyes closed. I still do that from time to time, and it still helps get the inner critic out of the way.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
If you’d asked me as a ten year old I’d have probably said baseball player, but writer would have been right in the neighborhood as well. Today, writer tops the list, and I’d love to do some work with the film and television industry.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Just how much I value and appreciate their support. Writing is something I’d gladly do for free (and have, for a good part of my life), and being able to share my work with people who enjoy and appreciate it is literally a dream come true. It brightens my day every time someone recommends Thomas Wildus to a friend, or leaves a positive review, or tells me how much they or their kids enjoyed one of the books. The critical feedback has been helpful as well, and I feel like my readers are responsible for a large part of my growth.
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