LAST WEEK I attended the Great Iowa Book Fair in Des Moines where I met Anthony G. Wedgeworth, fantasy author. Anthony’s fantasy adventures are for audiences from pre-teen to young adult – and beyond. His web page, Altered Creatures, says, “There are those who use the natural powers, those who control the natural powers, and those who are at one with the natural powers. And then there are those who that have no special powers, yet they believe they can save the world from those who do. These are the tales of one such individual, whose very faith challenges the vast domination of the naturally powerful.” Okay, so I wanted to find out a little more about his books and what this means so I asked him to join us to explain.
Mike: Welcome, Anthony. Alright, I have these titles from you: Altered Creatures Epic Adventures, Thorik Dain Series, and Essence of Gluic. What is this all this about? How do all these titles fit together?
Anthony: I know, I know. It sounds like a lot, but let me break it down for you. The overall saga is Altered Creatures. It is then broken out into a few series, and then within each series is a set of 6 books.
M: Okay, this sounds like quite an undertaking. How many series do you have going right now?
A: Two. The middle grade series, the Nums of Shoreview, is for ages 9 to 15 pending their reading level. These are fast paced short books filled with action, large printed fonts, and wonderful illustrations. The second series is the Thorik Dain series for YA and older. These are fantasy adventures for the entire family.
M: Fantasy Adventure typically isn’t for the entire family. How is yours different?
A: First of all they are written in a very visual style, so it seems like you have just watched the movie by the time you finish reading it. Also, there is something in the novels for everyone. There is excitement and fast pacing for the younger crowd and dangerous mystery for the more mature readers. And even though there is magic and battles, the real story is about relationships and how people struggle to get along during challenging times. This is probably why the two largest groups of my readers are women between 30 and 50 and men between 15 and 30.
M: What exactly is the setting for these novels?
A: Think of the backdrop and landscapes of Lord of the Rings or Narnia. Dragons, Giants, and whole new group of species have evolved to provide the reader with an entirely new experience. But it is the story and the characters that take center stage. You’ll feel like you’re part of the traveling party by the time you are done.
M: And the quote from your web page: “There are those who use the natural powers, those who control the natural powers, and those who are at one with the natural powers. …” What how does that bear on your stories?
A: The protagonist, Thorik Dain, is a young man struggling with his own demons as he relentlessly attempts to stop a pending war by leaders of great armies and mysterious powers. Thorik refuses to accept his place as another pawn in the game of war around him, and instead pulls a handful of family and friends together to help him stop those in power. The rift between those who have the various type of control over the natural powers has gone for thousands of years, so the idea of someone without these special powers, such a Thorik, seems very unlikely. But Thorik has something the rest has lost, his belief that anyone, no matter how small, can make big changes in the world.
M: Okay, if I understand it, you have two series and are releasing the third novel in the Thorik Dain series, Essence of Gluic, correct?
A: Correct. Each novel is a standalone story which moves a larger plot along which ties all 6 novels together. Within each novel are hidden “Easter eggs”, or at least that’s what I call them. Hidden secrets are laced into dialog along the way without taking you away from the main story at hand. The fun comes in when you read them a second and third time as you realize these Easter eggs, making the series even more fun than the first time you read it.
M: This sounds complicated.
A: Not at all. Growing up with Dyslexia, I made sure that this series is extremely easy to follow. I spent thirty years making notes on these stores and several years designing them so that they would be just right. Years of editing and test copy readings has resulted in a set of stories that have characters that you’ll fall in love with and cheer for.
M: Okay, you said you spend thirty years making notes…these stories then appear to be a long time in coming. Tell me, how and why did you start writing the stories and did you always intend to do so?
A: When I was younger I was in theater, sports, and played many role-playing games. Even before that, I used to create stories and put on neighborhood plays. I simply couldn’t get enough of creating and directing new stories. Then I started playing around with a new concept for a larger story and began making notes. The goal has always been for it to be a movie, but I needed to get it all out on paper first. Once my kids moved onto college, it was time for me to pull years of notes together and focus on this endeavor. All that said, no matter how good a story you have, if the readers don’t care about the characters, then it flops. So, I focused several years just on them, and in a weird way they have become so real to me that I think of them as friends.
M: What kind of writing background did you have when you started?
A: Growing up with a reading disability, I avoided writing whenever possible. However, I realized that I needed to learn to do so, so I pushed myself into positions that forced me to write and read. I’ve created business & marketing plans, quality & engineering specifications, held positions of company newsletter editor, and I’ve done some freelance writing. I did all of this with the intent to learn how to write better so I could eventually write this series of stories.
M: Tell me a little about your dyslexia. How has that influenced you?
A: It was difficult growing up with a reading disability. Back then, they didn’t even know what the problem was. I was told that either I wasn’t trying hard enough or I was stupid. I knew I was trying hard, but I couldn’t give in to the latter option. It played on my psyche for many years as I struggled, never being able to read as well as the other kids. I promised myself I would overcome my challenge to a point that I would write books that even people with reading challenges could enjoy without becoming books for “those kind of people.” I’m one of “those kind of people” and I’m proud of it. I’m in good company of Albert Einstein, Alexander Bell, Cher, Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, and so on.
M: Did this affect your career?
A: To a degree. I became an Industrial Engineer, which uses a lot of the gifts that dyslexia gives me. I’ve also worked my way up to VP and Director of many companies. Nevertheless, my focus is now on writing and marketing my books.
M: How did your dyslexia “gifts” help you become an industrial engineer?
A: The way dyslexia works is that we are just wired differently so we see things in a different way. There are many types of dyslexia, but mine caused me to have a wonderful ability to visualize things that others can’t. I can easily understand 3D concepts within 2D drawings, as well as quickly visualize how various objects and gears can fit together interact long before any drawings are created. Industrial Engineering was a playground of puzzles for me to figure out how to streamline manufacturing processes.
M: Does your struggles with dyslexia affect how you market your books?
A: Yes. Whenever possible, I love to get into schools and libraries to talk to people with learning disabilities about overcoming and utilizing these challenges as opportunities. I hope that I can help others understand the gifts that they have and how they can use them.
M: What is the reaction by students, teachers, and parents to your message?
A: So far it has been great. I get so excited when I see the eye contact by those who can relate to my stories of growing up with the challenges. Heck, who didn’t grow up with some type of challenge? They almost always stay afterward and talk to me about their own experiences. We typically end up exchanging e-mail addresses and become good friends. This process has been a much more fulfilling and enriching journey than I had planned.
M: You have been very productive with your writing…can you give us an idea about your writing habits?
A: Well, I used to write full time, but then I accepted a contract position with a company that takes care of people with mental and physical challenges. Before I knew it, it became a 50+ hour a week job. But it’s worth it. So, that said, I do most of my writing while driving, at lunch, and in the shower. This is when I feel creative, so I make notes. Then on the weekends I sit down and type up all my thoughts from the prior week.
M: And what about your family, wife, children?
A: My kids are now out of the house, so it’s only my wife and our three small dogs right now. Of course that number keeps changing. We’re foster parents for a local dog rescue group and it’s so hard not to fall in love with them during their 1 to 3 month stay with us until we find them new parents. Aside from dogs, my wife and I love to travel and visit our first grandchild whenever possible. When we are lucky, the kids come home for a weekend. But on free weekends, I go Ghost Hunting with a local paranormal investigation group.
M: Have you found any ghosts yet?
A: LOL. Actual our group is pretty diverse. Some investigate to prove ghost exists, while others, like myself, try to debunk everything. I'm super skeptical. That said, I've experienced some weird stuff, like when I felt my arm grabbed when no one else was around. I haven't debunked that one yet.
M: How can people find out more about your book series and how to purchase your books?
A: They can check out my website at http://www.alteredcreatures.com/ or e-mail me at AGW@AlteredCreatures.com to find out more. Books can be purchased from the website or on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, as well as a dozen other internet book stores. I also have the first two novels, Fate of Thorik and Sacrifice of Ericc, on Kindle. The third novel, Essence of Gluic, will be available on most internet book stores by the end of October. Until then, it’s only available on the series website.
M: Anthony, thank you, it has been a pleasure and I hope to be seeing you again at upcoming book fairs.
A: Thank you.