As a writer everything within my everyday life has the potential of inspiring in me a story. Although, I find that I get my most fantastical inspirations from dreams. I was very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to interview Marjorie Young, Author of “The Boy With The Golden Eyes” series.
Michael: Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did your background influence the genre you write in?
Marjorie: Growing up in Rhode Island until age thirteen, I felt out of place and restless. As a result, I’ve had wanderlust since childhood, spending many years living abroad and seeing the world, while always being powerfully drawn to learning about other cultures and lore. I lived twenty years in Tokyo, working as an English teacher, immersing myself in its lifestyle along with studying Japanese and martial arts. In addition, I’ve always had a pronounced psychic and spiritual bent to my nature. Delving into it has, in turn, led to many extraordinary experiences. It has been suggested that I write about that aspect of my life in the form of a memoir…but I ultimately became drawn to exploring it in fantasy/adventure form. That, and the knowledge acquired traversing many lands, has greatly influenced my series, The Boy with Golden Eyes.
Michael: Wow, that’s fascinating. So, you mentioned that you’ve always had a pronounced psychic and spiritual bent, when did you first become aware of it?
Marjorie: I’ve been aware of it all my life…since earliest childhood. My abilities express themselves in many forms: clairvoyance, precognition, as a medium, receiving profound ‘guidance,’ healing, etc. I even do ghost-hunting upon occasion! I’ve worked with scientists both in the USA and in Japan, who have verified my abilities. Though some think all this is ‘weird’ or ‘spooky’ I’ve come to realize that my gifts are like any other…athletic, artistic, and so on. We all have areas in which we excel, and this just happens to be mine. There are a number of math geniuses in my family…that certainly has passed ME by! But we are who we are, and I’ve come to see my ‘off-beat’ talents as a profound privilege and blessing. My young hero, Rupert, certainly comes to share many of these gifts…another reason I find writing my series such a delight.
Michael: Very interesting! Speaking of talents, another talent you obviously have is writing. Where and when did your writing journey begin?
Marjorie: I’ve always been drawn to story telling, but my first official effort came at seventeen, when I co-wrote a screenplay with my sister that came very close to being sold. Later, I put writing aside. While still living in Tokyo, I felt the urge to write for films again, but realized I’d probably have to move back to the States if I was serious about pursuing it. Once more, I came very close to selling my screenplays, but not quite close enough! I had never thought to write a novel…since my imagination is so vividly visual. But it was after moving to Seattle, and coming to know my nephew’s young son Sam, that my true, and entirely unexpected, career as a writer began.
Michael: Wow, Sam must have had a huge impact on you to inspire such a change in your writing career. What was it about Sam that had such an impact?
Marjorie: Sam and I shared a profound ‘connection’ from when he was a toddler, though is very difficult to explain or describe. He’s always had such a lively mind, loves to explore and learn, is marvelous to look at, and on and on. But our connection seems to be based on something more inexplicable and complex. Since I absolutely believe in reincarnation, it seems likely we have shared a past life or two together…though, to be truthful, I haven’t managed to ‘recall’ them. Though Sam has myriad interests, he has always been enthralled with ‘Golden Eyes’ and contributes endless inspiration and ideas. ‘Rupert’ is Sam, and Sam is ‘Rupert’…my hero embodies so many facets of Sam’s personality…voracious intellectual curiosity, charisma, confidence, stubbornness, and an overall dazzling brilliance. Rupert is a fantasy figure and amazing in so many ways, but Sam is equally astonishing. I hope I do both of them justice.
By the way, last summer, when he was fifteen, while busy with tutoring jobs and learning to drive, he sat down in a burst of inspiration and wrote a full –length (120,000+words) fantasy novel in about three weeks! He’d send me multiple chapters daily, and I was completely in awe. Both the story and style were marvelous. I’m urging him to publish it…if he ever gets the time. I am truly in awe of Sam…just as I am of ‘Rupert.
Michael: Sam sounds like an amazing young man. I couldn’t remember writing that many words in a year at his age! I guess he had you around to inspire him. Talking about inspiration, who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
Marjorie: I have always been a voracious reader…that is, until recently, when writing has taken so much of my time! My taste is eclectic. I adore Jane Austen, Vladimir Nabokov, Dostoyevsky, the historical works of Barbara Tuchman, and modern and classical Japanese novelists as well. Less ‘highbrow’ but thoroughly enjoyable, are Elizabeth Peters, Susan Isaacs, and so many others. I’ve read lots of Stephen King in years past, and the entire ‘Sherlock Holmes’ collection. In addition, I also devour non-fiction, including history, biographies, works on ancient cultures and civilizations, and so on. Naturally, I must not forget Shakespeare, who has entranced me since age ten! While all these great authors have afforded me unending pleasure, I cannot say they directly influence my own writing. I’d never dream of comparing myself to any of them, nor do I wish to mimic them in any way. I believe each author has his or her unique voice. I wouldn’t want my female characters to echo ‘Elizabeth Bennet’ any more than male figures to echo ‘Hamlet.’ I do admit that one ‘samurai-like’ character, Komo, who makes his initial appearance in book 4 of my series, was originally inspired by a figure in one of Akira Kurosawa’s great films, ‘Seven Samurai.’
Michael: That is definitely a great list of authors. If “Seven Samurai” inspired one of your characters then I must read it! So, we all know that writing the book is just a small part of being an author. Promoting your books is really when the hard work comes it. Now that you’ve gotten so many books that you need to promote, when do you find time to write? What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
Marjorie: I am definitely a morning person! In fact, my day unfailingly starts before five AM, when I get up and go jogging for an hour (often taking my neighbor’s Husky along for company). I keep an early schedule for work as well, doing spiritual counseling and writing until no later than 3pm, when my energy begins to wilt. When I work on my series, I turn off the phone and any other distractions, settle down with my laptop, and see where my imagination takes me. It may seem odd, especially since I’m often complimented on the ‘intricate plotting’ of my tale, but I plan nothing in advance! I routinely have absolutely no idea what will occur in the next sentence, let alone in the entire chapter. I simply open up and trust that inspiration will manifest. This is a very enjoyable way to work, gifting me with a continual state of suspense concerning what trials my young hero will become entangled with next…let alone how he will resolve them! I find such a process to be very energizing and invigorating…but after I’m done, I’m ready to crash!
For the first few books, I always composed an entire chapter in one sitting…leaving time for revisions later on, of course. Nowadays, I’ve given myself some leeway; if I don’t have time to complete a chapter all at once, I make a beginning and finish it later, which works out just as agreeably. But one thing has never changed…the creative process is purely a joy.
In addition, I also write a monthly column dealing on spiritual matters for a local newspaper, which is also a pleasure.
As for evenings, they are largely spent quietly, reading, with friends, or enjoying the company of my cats. I do watch my share of TV as well, I freely admit.
As for book promotion, I know it can be utterly time-consuming, so I confine myself mainly to Twitter, which I have found very useful in spreading word about the series world-wide. As a result, I have fans in Australia, Japan, the UK, Venezuela, Switzerland, etc, as well as the USA. They are great about providing feedback too, and some have become real friends along the way.
Michael: I’ve got to ask. What exactly does your “spiritual counseling” involve? The whole idea of ESP and the like is so fascinating.
Marjorie: So glad you find it interesting. The world seems divided into those who do…or are at least open to the idea…and those who find it ‘crazy’ or ‘irrational!’ But since everyone is entitled to their opinion, it’s all fine with me!
As mentioned before, my ‘psychic’ gifts are wide ranging. When I do a reading for a client, I wish to know nothing at all about them other than their first name. Then, I ask them to speak for a moment about the weather…and following that, I am able to ‘tune in’ to them. What follows is unique with each client, but usually I am able to ‘see’ many facets of their past, present, and future, and help guide them towards living their life in the most fulfilling way. I pick up details of their childhood, including traumas, that might be affecting them negatively and help them deal with it. I very often intuit information about their friends or family as well. And most of the time, I am able to communicate with loved ones who have passed on. I can ‘hear’ them from the ‘other side’ and their ‘messages’ are detailed and distinct, so my clients know I am truly hearing from those who have ‘crossed over.’ Obviously, this will sound ‘bizarre’ to some, and even I sometimes wonder how on earth I am able to do this. But, like anyone possessing a talent, I don’t question it too much…I just go with the flow. It is so rewarding that I have been able to help so many…even save a number of lives in the bargain.
Michael: That’s amazing that you are able to use your gifts for the benefit of others. I apologize for the sidebar, let’s refocus on your writing. How did you come up with the idea for your series, The Boy with Golden Eyes?
Marjorie: The Boy with Golden Eyes, was entirely unplanned. It originated with my great-nephew, Sam, who loved the stories I’d tell him. He and his family stay in Seattle every summer, but reside in New York City the rest of the year. As they were saying good-bye late one summer when Sam was seven, he became saddened at leaving me. To cheer him up, I promised I’d write him a story. A month or so later, falling asleep one night, the image came to me of a boy who was kept deep in the forest, entirely isolated from the world by his peculiar grandparents, and who had golden eyes. I knew nothing beyond that, but the very next day I sat down and wrote the first chapter. Again, I did not plot or plan out anything…the story came to me, almost as a gift. That process has continued to this day. Thus, a bedtime story for Sam (and later, for his younger sister, Lucie) has taken on a life of its own. Originally, as others heard about it, they asked to also be sent chapters as I completed them. Eventually, I was urged to publish it. My beloved Swiss friends, Dilip and Carole Hiralal, even offered to sponsor the first book. Thus, the series was born, gaining several international awards and a loyal band of readers as a result. It still comes as a surprise and pleasure that people around the world are following ‘Rupert’s’ adventures, for the writing seems so very personal to me.
Michael: Other than the fact that it seems as if the story had come to you on it’s own, what do you think sets your YA fantasy/book series apart from others currently on the shelves?
Marjorie: First of all, let me say that the story isn’t aimed specifically at the YA category. To my delight, ‘Golden Eyes’ has appealed to readers of all ages…the youngest I know of is six, with others in their 90s! Parents report buying it for their kids, then refusing to hand it over till they finish it! That being said, I regard my work as a ‘non-fantasy fantasy’…meaning, though there are undeniably ‘extraordinary’ elements to the story, it remains grounded more or less in ‘reality.’ In fact, I made a vow to Sam when I began, that, though he was a huge ‘Harry Potter’ fan, he’d find neither wizards nor dragons on this journey. And though I adore The Lord of the Rings films, I had no desire to revisit dwarves, elves, various ‘monsters’ and other familiar elements found in the fantasy genre. The very young hero, Rupert, has unusual gifts, but they are more of a psychic or spiritual nature, and therefore more ‘down-to-earth.’ While suspense and mystical mysteries abound, I wished the reader to feel that at least one foot was planted in believability. In addition, many of my own breath-taking experiences have been woven into the journey. I hope, while entertaining and filled with surprises, that the saga will inspire readers, young and old, with thoughts of viewing the world…and their own lives…with new possibilities and new eyes.
Michael: That sounds like an amazing book series you have there. And I can see the passion you have for your writing. Which character in your book series is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
Marjorie: Oh, no, that’s like asking a mother to reveal who is her favorite child! I eventually came to realize that all the characters contain elements of my own self, since I created them LOL! But the young hero, Rupert, while certainly inspired by my nephew Sam (for his brilliance, rabid thirst for knowledge, confidence, and eagerness to explore the world) has become more and more a reflection of my own spiritual life lessons and encounters. Like me, he has a decidedly mystical bent, combined with unusual psychic abilities. He also adores animals and communicates with them, and is (like me) a staunch vegetarian, even when facing starvation. In fact, to my knowledge, Rupert is perhaps the first and only ‘vegetarian action hero!’ His expanding mystical insights and his struggles to utilize his gifts without abusing them certainly reflect certain aspects of my own life.
One other character that encapsulates a part of my own self is Rupert’s erstwhile ‘grandmother,’ Shomila, who owns powerful clairvoyant and telepathic abilities…and so much more besides. She eventually becomes Rupert’s mentor, but in a manner that constantly challenges him to push back the boundaries of what he considers ‘actuality’ while offering no clear method for dealing with the unsetting results. But she opens new possibilities to the boy, just as I attempt to do with Sam. Shomila and I both ‘march to our own drummer’ and don’t care overmuch how odd others may think we are!
Michael: You’re right. As the creator of all these characters, choosing a favorite character is kind of like choosing a favorite child. What about scenes in the book? Which scenes in your series did you have the most fun writing?
Marjorie: Another challenging question! I thoroughly enjoy writing of Rupert’s myriad ‘breakthroughs’ that lead to him comprehending a ‘higher truth.’ Those episodes are written with passion and great emotion. Yet, in many ways, I love the action sequences…especially when the Golden-Eyed Prince and his comrades get trapped in an impossible situation…and I have absolutely no idea how things will be resolved! I’m as surprised as my readers at the outcome to their dilemmas. In book two, for instance, Rupert’s party is crossing the desert on a camel caravan, when they are attacked by a band of cut-throat raiders. Rupert had foreseen the assault the previous night, but his warnings had gone unheeded. Death was upon them…until Rupert receives a stunning inspiration that allows the entire party to survive. That episode remains one of my favorites, because their deliverance was inspired by Rupert’s love of nature, and was non-violent as well. I especially enjoy when the young hero can use his brilliant mind to extricate his friends from danger, rather than weaponry. Alas, that cannot always be the case. But Rupert’s growing notoriety and eventual mythic status stems from that caravan incident, and its repercussions still prevail throughout the story.
Michael: As someone who has been more on the intellectual side than the athletic side myself, I definitely see the appeal of a hero who uses his brilliant mind over weaponry. I’m really excited to start reading your book series! What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your series?
Marjorie: Each reader will bring their own sensibilities and perceptions to The Boy with Golden Eyes. For some, it will be viewed as an exciting adventure, but others may discover a profoundly spiritual journey. I wish them to reflect upon the many themes brought forth…especially the concept that ‘reality’ is, to a considerable degree, an individual creation, limited only by our own beliefs, and customs, which may vary wildly from place to place. Rupert’s interactions with many lands and cultures bring home this principle…which he eagerly embraces as liberating. He can form his own ‘truth’ and not be limited by the constraints of others. We each inhabit our own ‘universe’ and so the goal of our journey is to become our truest self by pushing back the boundaries of the known.
I’ve received many letters from readers telling me that Rupert has inspired them in myriad ways. Believe it or not, some have become vegetarians, following his example. Others have gone through heart-breaking difficulties in their own lives, but find within the tale the message that even the greatest tragedies may bring hope and inspiration. One fan moved me to tears by reporting that she read the final chapter of book one aloud as her loved one lay on his death bed…to provide him with a vision of beauty and peace.
And there is always the ‘tapestry of life’ to consider. If we focus upon only one small section, we cannot comprehend what is being revealed. Only by standing back and viewing the whole, can we know what is being depicted. Thus, only a measure of detachment can provide true clarity.
Michael: I know that you mentioned sharing your first book a chapter at a time. What are some struggles and trials that you have had collaborating on your writing?
Marjorie: Actually, although The Boy with Golden Eyes was written entirely by me, I have collaborated with my great-nephew Sam and his little sister, Lucie on this amazing journey. Sam and I have discussed the story and its ramifications by the hour, whether in person or by phone, from the time he was seven (he’s now sixteen). I remember one incident so clearly, while writing book one. Discussing the latest chapter with him, he asked what would happen next. I replied that I didn’t know, but that Rupert was sure to get into trouble! He then mentioned an idea for what that might be. His thought struck me as so brilliant that I gave a shout, declaring, “Sam, you’re a genius!” (which he certainly is!)
Sam is Rupert to a very large extent, and he has been a constant inspiration…and this series continues to be a gift to him and Lucie. His image appears on the cover of each book, in the guise of the hero. Lucie greatly inspires another main character, that of Lira, who, though young, is amazing in her cleverness, confidence, courage, and clear-headedness. Lucie enjoys delving into the story and her character as much as Sam does. Without them, there would be no ‘Golden Eyes.’
Michael: I just love how these kids in your life have inspired such an amazing book series. What are your hopes for this series?
Marjorie: Of course, my chief goal is to attract more and more readers as time goes on. I have quite unexpectedly received several international awards for my saga, and recently did my 2nd book signing event in Switzerland. Of course, I will admit that my dream would be for tale to be made into either films or a TV series. Virtually every fan I’ve heard from thus far has mentioned what great movies the story would make. There has been some interest on that score, but nothing concrete as yet. Steven Spielberg, where are you!?
Michael: It definitely sounds like it has all the right elements for TV. And I’m sure that your experience in screen writing has contributed to that! What do you have in store next for your readers?
Marjorie: Next will come book six, which will probably be the final installment…though I can never be certain until after it’s written. Following that, I plan a ‘spin-off’ to be called The Lira Chronicles, which will likely feature more political intrigue than fantasy elements. Lira is a fascinating character, and I am very much looking forward to telling her story. I hope my readers will be equally intrigued with her exploits.
Michael: Sounds like you’re going to have an excellent ‘spin-off’ series! Thank you so much for sharing with us your story!