Author of The Arch Mage series
Today, I am talking to YA fantasy author, Cami Murdock Jensen, author of the Arch Mage series, which currently sits at three books with Cami currently working not the fourth. Welcome Cami. Please tell us a little about your series
Cami: I wrote the books to encourage my chronically ill daughter to fight against her depression. Agnes (my heroine) struggles with nerve pain in her legs, weakness, and scars on her face. As the only wizard born on our planet which banned magic thousands of years ago, Agnes has to use her creativity and determination to outsmart a variety of severely overpowered villains. Well, creativity, determination and magic.
Agnes isn’t in this fight alone, as she travels from planet to planet, she gathers a circle of friends who help her meet her destiny. A matter-shaping prince, a water elemental siren, a beautiful necromancer, a computer hacking genius, and incredible magical creatures including dragons, genies, and sciftans (magical talking cats from Fifth Earth that can take any feline form).The Arch Mage series is chock-full of adventure, action, mystery, and amazing magic. It’s a fast, clean read, and will engage even reluctant readers. And, I have to admit, each book teaches a lesson that helps teenagers navigate a difficult time of life.
Helen: I am so sorry to hear your daughter has been ill. I hope the books have helped her overcome her challenges as I am sure they help many other teenagers. What made you name the books, First Earth, Second Earth etc?
Cami: I named the book First Earth for simplicity. Kind of boring, but there it is.
Helen: Sometimes simplicity is best. The covers have such vibrant colours, they are really eye catching. The covers give off a science fiction vibe, but you write young adult fantasy, don’t you?
Cami: I love Young Adult Fantasy. I’m all about magic, creativity, and quality stories. As a child, I voraciously read every book I managed to lay hands on. While I read adult fiction, (mysteries hold a special place in my heart) I still love YA stories. It’s a stage where young people are figuring themselves out. My books are a way to convey lessons I wished I’d understood myself—lessons to make life easier. Who doesn’t want an easier life?
Helen: Very true. It’s great when books can provide multiple purposes, not only entertaining but also imparting wisdom and knowledge. What gave you the inspiration to become an author and write?
Cami: My daughter. As a teen she began displaying unique and troubling health problems. She would suddenly lose strength in her legs, go pale, and slump into a heap onto the floor. It took years to find a doctor who could give us an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. In the meantime, I wrote First Earth to keep her engaged and help her deal with depression. My main character is Agnes Ann Cavanaugh, the only wizard born on our planet since it was banned thousands of years ago. She survived an explosion as a baby and suffers from severe neuropathy in her legs and scars on her face. She accomplishes great things despite her handicaps, and never stops trying. My daughter was inspired by this character, who was based entirely on her, and pushed herself to get out of bed every day. She is now married, going to a local university, and writing her own stories.
Helen: How wonderful. I am so glad your daughter was able draw strength from your writing. I hope others are able to as well. Out of all your books, who is your favourite character?
Cami: I like the quirky side characters. I have a sciftan in my Arch Mage series named Grimmal. A sciftan is an intelligent, talking, magical creature that can take the form of any feline. I love writing Grimmal. He is such a picky thug, who is totally loyal, but would never admit it. I also love Dame Maudine, the eccentric former warrior queen whose crazy ideas are relentlessly right. As a script writer, actress, and director, my characters are always speaking in their own voices and running about my pages as though I lived in their world.
Helen: Writing is very immersive, I agree. I do similar things, playing the scene in my mind to get a feeling for how the characters should react. Let’s chat about your writing style. Do you plan out your novels, or do you let hem take you where they will?
Cami: Combination of both. I know where a book is going and what steps it needs to get there. I often nail down character traits on paper, so I don’t write something unbelievable. Other than that, I am a pantser all the way. It feels almost like reading, only much more slowly. I can’t tell you how many times stories have taken me somewhere I didn’t anticipate. I once wrote a mystery for my children’s theater group with no idea who the ultimate thief was until the detective revealed her for me. It was such an exciting moment–even for me.
Helen: How wonderful! Characters can be sneaky like that. Always providing us with unexpected surprises! How do you come up with the ideas for your books?
Cami: Walks. I love walking my dogs through our neighborhood at night when it is quiet. My brain never shuts off. So far, I’ve never had crippling writer’s block. I always have ideas and use my very patient family as a sounding board to weed the good ideas from the bad ones. Thanks family! [Insider’s secret, I’ve also been known to talk to myself while doing dishes or laundry. Acting out a potential scene really brings it to life.]
Helen: Which element of the writing process you do you prefer? Writing or editing?
Cami: J. Scott Savage once said, “I’m a terrible writer, but a good re-writer.” I feel that. I have a piece of notebook paper propped up next to my computer that says, “Just slap words on the page.” Not very poetic or inspirational, but I can’t polish what isn’t there. And isn’t that the purpose of a rough draft? To be rough?
Helen: It is indeed. Thank you so much for joining me today; I’ve loved chatting with you. Just to close us out, can you tell us what you are currently reading?
Cami: I’ve got one book left in John Gaspard’s Eli Marks Mystery series. I love putting an element of mystery in my books. I try to have a big reveal accompany the big triumph at the end of my stories. Double the satisfaction!
About the Author:
Cami Murdock Jensen grew up in Spanish Fork, Utah, fostering two passions: science and the fine arts. As a senior in high school, she won the Sterling Scholar in science and cloned DNA to compete on the state level. One year later, she wrote the score for her first children’s musical, “Robin Hood: Tales of Ye Merry Wood”, which she later published. She has since dedicated years to teaching, writing, composing, and directing, as well as studying the genetic defect that runs in her family. Cami has six amazing children who have battled leagues of demons and a husband who is a much better hero than any prince..
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