Robert J. Fluegel is the author of Gift of the Master, available here.
N.B.: How did you think of the idea of having Thomas be able to enter the World of Books?
R.F.: Tommy is living my childhood dream. As with many in my genre, I grew up reading about the adventures of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. What is striking about their situation is that they are comfort-loving creatures who love hearth and home, yet are thrust into an adventure they want nothing to do with. In essence Tolkien gave us the ability to adventure through our own eyes or at least his. Tommy allows me that same ability although he does so across genre, not just in epic fantasy.
Were you inspired by something you saw in the real world, or by reading a book?
Mostly through reading, although my characters are always inspired by people I know. I know Amelia quite well, she just goes by a different name in the real world.
In adapting to living in the World of Books, Thomas reaches the conclusion that he “could either spend [his] time trying to figure it out or just enjoy the ride.” Does this attitude carry over to other situations in life, not just entering a book, but rather making everyday decisions?
I think so, especially for a 15 year-old boy. I don’t remember stopping to think too often about the long-term consequences of my choices at that age. That comes with experience and maturity. In fact, it might be the single greatest difference between my 15 year-old self and today. I actually contemplate the consequences of my actions today. Or at least I do so more often.
Thomas says that “reading about battles was fun; being in the middle of a real one [he] found nothing but horror.” What does this say about our proclivity towards reading?
Why do people find reading pleasurable if they would not find the same situation pleasurable when faced in real life?
Reading allows us the ability to escape this existence and enter new worlds and new circumstances. It is precisely that ability to live through another’s eyes that creates the illusion of being there. I will never hunt down the Red October, I will never steal a cup from the hoard of Smaug and I certainly will never lead my tribe into battle with wolves at my side as Tommy does, so reading allows us the pleasure of doing what we could never do. Yet I think it is important to remember glory in battle is not in slaying the dragon or vanquishing the goblin host. True glory is in saving those you care about so that war does not touch them. That is the sacrifice soldiers make. Very few relish combat and yet, I have read so many characters who do so. I attempt in this book and those that follow to take a more serious look at conflict and peace, war and death.
A theme in the novel is reading versus reality, how when one reads things look easy and quick, whereas when one does something in reality, it can be very challenging and tedious. Does this suggest that authors ought to write more realistically, or that readers ought to remember things in reality are not as simple as authors might suggest?
A quick answer would be yes. Although I like the escape of reading I enjoy much more a realistic portrayal of conflict including violence and the cost. I was a long-time gamer and in video games as in many novels there is no cost for violence. In video games you simply respawn and start over. In fantasy I can’t tell you how many times people are reborn, resurrected or miraculously healed. There is a price to pay and I would like to see more authors show me that price. There is more than just life to lose in battle or conflict. When Tommy sees his first battle it was described in the book as a small skirmish and yet, to Tommy, there on the battle field, it is the worst thing that has ever happened to him.
The Keeper of Books says “‘the life of one person, however innocent, cannot be placed above the needs of a planet of billions. We are in a war…and in a war there are casualties.’” Is he correct in suggesting if Thomas refuses training to use his gift for good, he should be sacrificed and killed to save others’ lives?
Without giving too much away I can say that Wilfred knows what would happen if Tommy remained untrained. His ability to bring the World of Books to our existent world would have devastating consequences if done without a guiding hand. If Tommy truly stepped over to the side of evil there is literally no one in the world who could stop him. So is it evil to suggest his death is justified? I’m not sure I want to answer that, it is for the reader to decide.
Thomas’ mom tells him everyone is bound to make mistakes, and “‘it is what we do after our mistakes that counts.’” Does this apply to all of Thomas’ actions in the book, that he takes the opportunity to fail, recover, and in so doing grow into an adult?
Again a theme throughout my series is that we make mistakes, our parents make mistakes, we screw up, that cannot be avoided and quite frankly isn’t near as important as what we do after. If we correct our small mistakes we will avoid our big failures altogether.
How many books do you plan to write in the Master of Books series?
I have 6 books planned in this series with many short stories and novellas in between. After it is over I will sit back and decide whether I will start a new adventure or leave it there.
Do you already have ideas for what the sequels will be about?
I have the entire series mapped out, especially the endings of each of the remaining books. Book 2, Secret of the Master, was released November 24th of last year. Book 3, Test of the Master, is currently in its first draft. I am about 1/3rd done with it and hope to have it out early spring. I just released a short prequel to Gift of the Master yesterday to my newsletter subscribers which will be out for general release soon as well.