Fearbreeders: A New Reading Experience by Richard James


Author Richard James stops by TFF to sink our collective psyche into the murk of uncertainty! He literally blew our minds with this new concept of his. Have a look and see for yourself how your experience with eBooks may never be the same again. Richard gives a look behind his process for creating his new novel Fearbreeders and how making it a “cross-media” project may have just changed the game… for the better!

“There’s a strong possibility that Fearbreeders may be the most innovative use of cross-media I’ve ever seen… Richard James has just changed the game, folks.” -Commissar Ploss, The Founding Fields

Aware that this site is interested in article writers, I decided to jump the queue for a review for my latest YA fantasy novel, Fearbreeders, and write an article instead.

My aim, then, is to gain the notoriety this site offers an author on its “Contact Us!” page, while providing something interesting in the way of not only creativity but also my slant on how the creative process for writers increasingly affects and is affected by all things digital and online. This process in turn affects the experience Sci-Fi and fantasy readers can and should expect from eBooks as well. As my work combines cross-media to tell my stories, I am well placed to give you my take on the future of eBooks – while giving you a sneak peak at how my YA fantasy novel, Fearbreeders (available to pre-order now), is leading the charge.

Fearbreeders tells the story of three young, hip, modern “psychic channelers” fighting all sorts of arcane evil along with an assortment of monsters and ghosts. I characterise it as “Middle Earth-meets-working class” or “Ethnic HP”. So far, so genre-specific then. But I hoped to update the fantasy genre for a sophisticated, modern audience – not only by way of a cool new concept but also the way the story was to be told as a cross-media project through your eReader. You read that right: eReader-as-a-portal-to-another-dimension. Cue eerie music …

Being savvy, streetwise technophiles, my heroes have little time for the usual fantasy tropes as they go about the business of fighting an “army of darkness”. In their jaded existences they have no need for “magic” chants and spells (any more than any of us do, if we’re honest) to enlist the spirits of the dead to help them fight evil. Knowledge of quantum physics and electromagnetism is all it takes to do that, thank you very much! They have no desire to undertake dangerous and noble quests to find some reputedly significant artefact: why not just buy said artefact from a 5-star PowerSeller on eBay and save themselves any uncertainty (and postage)?

If you’re getting the feeling this article by dent of the story concept behind my new crossover YA fantasy novel series is necessarily a little more surreal than the usual “here’s why I wrote what I wrote”-type article or Q&A, you’d be right. And it goes deeper. Weirdly, the most interesting story behind my series may yet literally be the one my readers are writing as they get involved online and through their eReaders with this cross-media concept. How so? Although readers – i.e., you – remain largely unaware of it, you’re actually influencing and affecting my work, even as you read this article online. Kind of like the “observer effect” in physics – you know; the one that states you can’t observe certain phenomena without changing the outcome. It’s a bit like that.

fearbreeders-coverMind-blowing, The Matrix-type-stuff, I know. But follow it through, and it makes perfect sense. The type of street kids I chose for my heroes have – like the Fremen in Dune – got used to the demands of what is admittedly, at times, a tough existence; isolating and disorientating. It occurred to me these types of characters were precisely the heroes you’d want fighting evil alongside you (at least I certainly would!), and not the refined, well-spoken milksops you typically see in British fantasy. No, my protagonists, I decided, would fight evil the way a hard-nosed east London street kid actually would: by dispensing with the fantasy baloney and looking for the facts behind the strange phenomena they encountered, Googling answers on their iPhones rather than picking up some hokey book of spells.

Thus, my Eureka! moment came relatively late in the process. I realised I had hit on not only a new way to write books for a digital medium but also a new way to communicate and entertain by combining my passion for cross-media as well. How so? Once I had figured out this new, modern direction for fantasy fiction it then occurred to me that the sites I was using to research the story on behalf of the characters might as well be included in the eBook itself as in-text links.

And why not? EReaders are specialised browsers, which means a novel manuscript is a specialised website, pure and simple. I have no time for simply recreating a flat, 2D digital counterpart of a physical book. I find it lazy and assumptive on behalf of an author and publisher when the medium pretty much demands cross-media applications to fulfil its potential. Better yet, by including picture, puzzle, game and video links, the process of reading the story mirrors the creative process the author – in this case, me – pursued while writing it. This not only creates maximum engagement but also serves to educate, entertain and enlighten.
And it does all this by challenging the reader as to what the digital reading experience actually means. As you click on the links on your eReader, tumbling through a digital rabbit hole into cyberspace (which actually is a kind of unknowable parallel dimension, if you think about it), where are you really when you read my eBook? Think about it …

And so the disorientating effect I was going for as I wrote and researched my eBook has ultimately been multiplied many fold by its deployment – creating, I hope, a fantastic new cross-media reading experience. My characters struggle with infinite dimensions on their path to their goals, never sure which dimension they exist in: read my books and you won’t be too certain anymore either.

A guest post by Richard James


Author Bio:

Rich James is a novelist, blogger, editor, speaker and teacher living in east London, England.
He can usually be found people watching on the streets of east London to get inspiration for his weird and wonderful fictional creatures and monsters – after all, who would deny Leytonstone High Road is Middle-earth with a McDonalds drive-thru?
As well as his fiction novel writing, he has a passion for writing for theatrical mediums, which inspired him to combine these mediums to develop his cross-media eBook concept.
A produced radio play writer, he is currently contracted to write several sci-fi episodes for an up-and-coming radio serial being produced by a London-based audio production company. This provided the inspiration for the sci-fi elements in his fantasy series concept, Fearbreeders.
Concurrent with his London-based audio work, his high-concept commercial Hollywood screenplays are currently doing the rounds of agents and producers in Hollywood. Having achieved high distinctions on “The Blacklist”, the preeminent site for unproduced spec screenplays in Hollywood, his work is currently being developed by a veteran LA producer – the same respected writer/director who is also interested in commercial theatrical adaptation of theFearbreeders series.

Find him on Twitter @thefantasynovel

Author Website: http://thefantasynovelist.wordpress.com/

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