by Sarah A. Peterson-Camacho
It was like being struck by lightning—the sudden and electrifying urge to pick up a pen. And that was the moment that inspired Sierra Nevada fine artist Vicki Thomas to add “author” to her career title. Kings River Life spoke with Thomas about her remarkable journey as a young adult fantasy writer, as well as the adventures that await her young protagonist Ivan Kimble.
KRL: How did you become interested in writing? Did you always want to write?
Vicki: Most of my career has been dedicated to being an artist. In my earlier years, I was a freelance fashion illustrator and a watercolor teacher to young people in Southern California. Now, I’m a fine art artist, painting watercolors and acrylics, exhibiting my work in the surrounding areas of Mariposa and Madera Counties. But about a decade ago, writing fantasy for young adults struck me like a cyclone. I’m still trying to figure out the mystery of it.
KRL: What was the first piece you ever wrote?
Vicki: My passion for writing and creating unusual plots and interesting characters and creatures drove me to produce seven hand-written books, which I’m now rewriting and editing.
KRL: What is your novel about; what can you tell us about the protagonist’s journey?
Vicki: The first book in the Relics Adventure series is The Long Dark Cloak, released in February of 2017. The series is an exciting adventure about fourteen-year-old Ivan Kimble’s journey to maturity by overcoming his fears, motivated by his deep love for his older brother, Peter, who has been missing since the war [World War II]. Ivan enters the forbidden forest in Southern England in 1947, for the first time when he hears a rumor that Peter has been seen there. His dangerous trip begins, with strange creatures and Tereus, a vicious beast of a man who lives beneath the earth, and is hell-bent on destroying Ivan for his interference. Fortunately, Ivan has the Long Dark Cloak, where a kindly spirit resides, that guides and protects him. The story continues in The Golden Lantern, the second book, which was released in late March 2019. (And the third book, The King’s Sceptre, is written and has been edited.)
KRL: Will your book’s hero embark on further adventures?
Vicki: The story continues in The Golden Lantern, the second book, which was released in late March 2019. (And the third book, The King’s Sceptre, is written and has been edited.)
KRL: What was the journey to publication like?
Vicki: An author’s journey to publication is unpredictable, and not an easy one. My first two books were traditionally published and are in the marketplace. This year, however, my publisher went out of business because of ill health. I feel like a stranded orphan with five more books to offer. With the third book pretty much done, I feel comfortable querying other traditional publishers or agents, who may be interested in this young adult fantasy coming-of-age story.
KRL: Whose work inspires you the most?
VT: It should be no surprise that JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, is my main inspiration, as well as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit. I totally enjoyed these series, and their writing influenced me to write fantasy
KRL: How has being a fine artist aided your writing?
Vicki: To help keep the characters straight during my protagonist’s dangerous journey, and since I’m an artist, I sketched pictures/scenes and drew a map to guide me and my readers. The map is reproduced in the beginning of each book.
KRL: What landscapes inspired your written and visual imagery?
Vicki: It’s interesting to note that the area where the series takes place, in Southern England, is called the New Forest. I changed the name to the West Forest so as not to insult the lovely people who live there by imagining rivers, mountains, and caves that do not exist! I visited the New Forest in 2009, walked the heathland, observed flowing rivers beneath the stone bridges, and sought a huge tree called the Queen. (I also have a wise and kindly old oak tree, named Zephyrus, in my book, that I included long before I learned of the Queen.) See the cover of Book One, where I painted the Long Dark Cloak.
KRL: Do you have any advice for beginning authors?
Vicki: My advice to beginning authors is to stay with your dream and write (and that means WRITE!), and dedicate time to write that first book. Join a writer’s group or writer’s network/critique group, where you’ll make good friends and share your writing path. Go to writer’s conferences and workshops. Join social media where it can help you promote your book even before it’s published. Visit your local public libraries and ask them about references to guide you with writing and promoting your books.
KRL: What do you hope your readers will take away from their reading experience?
Vicki: My heart-felt motivation is to see young people fall in love with books. I hope this series will influence them to read and to be touched in a profound way.
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