Guest Post by David Farland (on YA and Magical Systems)

Friday, October 28, 2011
Amber: Why did you decide to write young adult after all of these years?

David: Actually, I’ve been doing it most of my life. It’s just that no one ever noticed!

My first novel had an older protagonist, but beginning with my second novel, Serpent Catch, my protagonists have almost all been young men and women in their late teens—age 19 or so. The Serpent Catch, Golden Queen, and Runelords series all feature very young protagonists. In fact, with the Runelords I have a couple of children as protagonists. In Wizardborn, I have a girl who is 8 as a protagonist for most of the book, and in Sons of the Oak, my main protagonist is between 11 and 14.

I have also written movie tie-ins using young adult characters. My novel Star Wars: The Rising Force was a big hit for Scholastic, and my Mummy Chronicles novels, four books in all, remained high on the New York Times Bestseller lists for months when they came out from Random House.

To tell the truth, when I first began working on the Runelords series, I strongly considered making it young adult, or perhaps writing a parallel series that was YA.

But it wasn’t until I was teaching a class at BYU in 2002 that I really got thinking seriously. I had one of my students, Stephenie Meyer, come to talk to me one day. She asked, “How do you become the bestselling YA author of our time?” So I we sat and talked about how to approach that. I suggested that she work on a contemporary fantasy with a powerful romantic angle to it, and all the time I was thinking, Of course as a man, I couldn’t write that novel. People would think it was just too weird. But I could write something for young men, with more of an adventure feel that would do much the same.

My existing contracts kept me busy for a long time, but now that I’m about done with the Runelords, I wanted to get a jump on the next series. So I’m hoping that this novel will go big. Whereas Stephenie went straight for the heart of the teen female audience, I wrote something that I think will have a much broader appeal for both men and women, from teens through adults.

Still, I have to worry that Stephenie and I took a similar approach to these novels. I really wasn’t copying her. I’m just trying to follow my own best counsel .

Makes one wonder how fine the line really is between YA and adult. I have a MS that I can't figure out where it belongs--YA or adult. It's kind of a blend of both, and it definitely has some violence (though not as bad as some YA books).

Amber: Tell us about how you came up with your magic system?

David: Years ago, in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I read a book by a doctor who had worked for the CIA, experimenting with drugs that would erase both long- and short-term memories. It was fascinating work, and he eventually won the Nobel Prize for it. So I became interested in memory transfer ages ago. I totally have a dystopian memory eraser book--it's in the editing stage presently. ;)

Later on, one Christmas, I got to thinking about the three “Wise Men” from the bible. Normally, a “wise man” is called a wizard. A “maji” is called a magician. Why was it that the writers of the bible were using double-speak when discussing these guys? Weren’t they astrologers? Doesn’t the Old Testament condemn these folks to death?

So I went back to the Hebrew and found out that indeed these three gentlemen were in the same class of magicians that the Old Testament, the m'khashepah—which originally referred to a class of magicians that hung around royal courts.

So the thought occurred to me, “What if they weren’t just coming to give Jesus gifts? What if they really had come to be . . . advisors. What if they wanted to give him wisdom?”

That started a whole train of thought dealing with memory transfer—transfer of memories, the possibility of training reflexes, transfer of memories on a cellular level, and so on—which led to the creation of my magic system.

The questions arose, what would people do with such power?

And of course from that a novel was born.

Nightingale tells the story of a young man named Bron Jones, who is abandoned at birth. Raised in foster care, he’s shuffled from home to home. At age 16, he’s kind of the ultimate loner, until he’s sent to a new foster home and meets Olivia, a marvelous teacher, who recognizes that Bron is something special, something that her people call a “Nightingale,” a creature that is not quite human.

Suddenly epic forces combine to claim Bron, and he must fight to keep from getting ripped away from the only home, family, and girlfriend that he has ever known. He must risk his life to learn the answers to the mysteries of his birth: “What am I? Where did I come from? Who am I?” I would of course like to take this moment to offer a review for Nightingale. You can send me the novel amberargyle at yahoo dot com ;)

This is a big project, an enhanced novel with illustrations and animations from half a dozen talented illustrators. It has a sound track by the head of the National Composer’s Guild, James Guymon, with a dozen professional musicians and vocalists. We’re releasing the novel in several formats, as an enhanced novel, a normal e-book, an audiobook, and as a hardcover.

But we did one last cool thing. The enhanced book was designed for the iPad, though you will also be able to read it on just about any other pad or smartphone. But we had our programmers create a web app so that you can enjoy the book on your computer—read a few chapters, take it for a test drive, or simply buy it for reading online. You’re free to go check out the results at If you like it, remember to “Like” us on Facebook. Better yet, re-post our site info and tell your friends on Facebook.

Oh, and while you’re there, check out our short-story contest, where you can win $1000. I should totally enter that.

Thanks for stopping by, David. As you all know, David is a hero of mine. He was good enough to write a blurb for Witch Song, for which I will ever be grateful.

Isn't it interesting to learn how authors come up with some of our ideas. We take a concept and spin thoughts around it like a cone dipped in a cotton candy machine. Layers and layers of thought combine to make something magical.


  1. Great interview. Amber asks all of the important questions. Nice meeting you, David.

  1. Great interview you guys! It was nice getting to know David better! :)

  1. That really is funny about Stephenie Meyer. She's always portrayed as this "became-a-bestselling-author-by-accident-after-weird-dream" figure.

  1. That's a fascinating way to conceive, develop and deliver a book. I'm so checking this out.

  1. Thanks for stopping by everyone!

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