A few weeks ago, we took a quick peek at the novel Exoden, written by Jeron Ricks. Today, we’re lucky enough to share an interview we had with the author. We were able to talk about his novel, magic, and faith—it was a very interesting conversation and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
That’s Entertainment: Jeron, thank you for taking time to sit down with us. Let’s get right into it—where did the story of Exoden blossom from?
Jeron Ricks: Thanks for having me! I would consider it a parable of my beliefs. One, being that anything is possible and another, that God’s power is real.
TE: You can definitely see the religious influence—a lot of people find it difficult to talk about, or share their feelings on, religion. Did you have the same difficulty sharing your beliefs with your readers?
JR: I try to stick with just a small sprinkling since I don’t want to be preachy, but with 70% of the US identifying themselves as Christian I think a lot of the ideas are common ground so it wasn’t too tough to toss out the ideas.
TE: The story takes place in a very modern world. What made you decide to tell a story of fantasy and magic in more of a real world setting vs a traditional fantasy setting?
JR: Realism. I wanted my readers to imagine being able to do more in our world so my world doesn’t have your typical slew of magical creatures. The big difference is that we haven’t figured out how to tap into our power yet.
TE: What do you think it takes to fully tap into our power?
JR: Faith and God’s Will. Peter walked on water, Elijah called fire down from heaven, Moses parted the Red Sea; how much more could we do if we believed it was possible and we knew it was in line with what God wanted?
TE: That’s an interesting thought that you explore in Exoden. Brook, the main character of your story, struggles both in believing that power and, later, tapping into it. Does that represent any kind of struggles you may have had with your faith in the past?
JR: I hadn’t really thought of it that way, but yes, there have been times when my faith was limited and I failed at some tasks that required more faith. For Brook on the other hand, it was a means of limiting him, which is a blessing in some aspects of his magic.
TE: Brook has to make a decision about leaving everything he knows behind to be part Exoden, a world of power and magic; does he explore settings outside of the real world?
JR: Exoden is another planet, so it is outside of our world, but it is very similar to ours.
TE: So Exoden is physically another location? I have so many questions! Aside from magic, how does Exoden differ from Earth? Where is Exoden located within the solar system? Is it hidden from Earth? How did Exoden continue to grow and prosper? You’ve set yourself up with so much potential.
JR: That’s more than one question 😉 Yes, different planets, Briggs tells Brook that as far as they can tell they aren’t visible to each other through telescopes and have different constellations, so not sure of locations. Wizards called bridgers can create a bridge between the two planets, depending on the wizard’s proficiency it may look like a white glowing doorway or just a sliver of light, instant movement from one planet to the other, though with the energy required it only allows living matter through as far as they can figure out (Brook mentions that if Noah could bring the Ark through a bridge must be a way to get inanimate stuff through) so they have special robes made out of a white moss like plant that they weave into basically living robes that can survive the transition through the bridge and absorb a portion of the energy causing the robe to glow for a short time, hence angels are typically depicted as wearing glowing white robes since presumably they bridge from ‘heaven’. Brook figures this out the hard way when he goes from Earth to Exoden since he shows up naked.
The main difference between the two planets is the magic, majority of uncursed descendants of Adam have a core and can work magic which having the magic provides for longer life, hence people before Noah lived a long time, then Noah came to Earth and we started living ‘normal’ life spans. A couple of people from the bible, Cain and Lamech were cursed by God and their pure descendants have the magic in their blood, which allows them to have the long lifespan, but they can’t work magic and can’t cross over a bridge. Exodenlings tend to be taller- towards the 6.5-7’ range and even up to 8’- along with being cursed as it mentions in the bible they were marked, so the Dwarvel (dwarv referencing small and El being God, so translates to small need of God or some such) are dark skinned and Lamech’s descendants took the name of Felel (fell from God) and are the progenitors of the Island/Asian race on Earth (Noahs sons had wives that were part relatives of these). Their short names are Dwarv and Fel which helped create myths of Elves and Dwarves, but they are for the most part normal people. Another difference, animals have the magic imbued in them also and thus live a bit longer and get larger, figure about twice their Earth size. For the most part Noah brought most things to Earth with him, the animals and plants, though Brook finds one called the Canut, that is a fruit with a sweet rind and sour interior that he particularly enjoys. Also Exoden is a Pangea so people all stuck on one continent with much more land available than Earth.
After Noah left, people continued to expand, wars, progress, with the magic they can develop some technological advances quicker than us and then through people’s holdings on Earth they’ll figure out how to duplicate it here, they have big cities, cars, skyscrapers, etc. Brook wonders about their use of English, Mr. Trenton explains that English language came from Exoden, a large group of people were exiled to a northern area of Earth and it was hoped they’d just freeze and die, but they survived and eventually did some conquering, thus spreading the English language.
TE: Wow, you have put a lot of time into creating this world. Passion like that can start for yourself, but then spread to those around you. Did you begin writing for yourself or did you have an audience in mind?
JR: My goal was to provide an urban fantasy where an adult saved the day, without the other adult content that tends to accompany it. That is what I would enjoy reading and I hope to find some like-minded people.
TE: Could you elaborate on what sets Exoden apart from other urban fantasies? Was it difficult to avoid those tropes?
JR: Most fantasies, urban or otherwise, have your array of gods, werewolves, vampires, fairies, and/or other creatures. All Exoden has is magic, but I feel like that is plenty to make it interesting. It wasn’t difficult to avoid them, it actually simplifies life I think.
TE: How has fantasy influenced you? Both within your story and in your everyday life?
JR: It’s given me and my main character the belief that anything is possible. When I have a project around the house that needs done I have no doubt that I can do it. I might need to go and buy a new tool, but I can get it done.
TE: What have you learned writing and self-publishing your first novel?
JR: There is a lot of advice out there; listen to all of it, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow all of it. I’ve found that I have to be true to my own voice and self-publishing isn’t just for wash-ups that can’t get published. Some of us just don’t care to deal with the hoop jumping when we could be writing more.
TE: Self-publishing has really been great for indie authors to find their audience. On the flip side, self-publishers tend to have to wear many different hats—from editing to marketing—how has that affected you? Is it a great learning experience?
JR: It has been a little tiring at some points, at least the editing. I thought Exoden was ready and then in talking with a couple more people I ended up going back for a couple more major edits. I think the editing gets easier as I go though. Marketing and business management are another story. There are so many marketing things available now, but it is tough to tell what is more of a scam and what might actually reach readers that would be interested. It’s been good, I just wish that I had more time to focus on it, but life is always busy.
TE: I’m sure it would mean giving up certain liberties, but would you ever consider traditional publishing to not have to be a one man operation?
JR: Certainly. Having freedom is nice, but having the right publisher can open many doors and provide more opportunities to reach readers. It would be a matter of weighing the advantages of having a particular publisher, since there are plenty of small ones that don’t seem to offer much benefit over self-publishing aside from putting their name on your book.
TE: Your author bio doesn’t hide the fact that you were an introvert—did this influence your writing at all?
JR: My main character Brook, or Cajin as he comes to be known, is an introvert. They say to write about what you know so I ran with it.
TE: That’s interesting! Could explain the name change for Brook? And why the decision to have this “other” name be more exotic?
JR: Cajin Von Sian is the name I’ve used for game characters for a couple decades and so I wanted to use it since I enjoy it. Brooklyn was the name his earth family gave him and he has had grief from it for almost 18 years, it being considered a girl’s name. At the end of Exoden he finds out that his name at birth was Cajin Von Sian, and takes it as his name.
TE: The names of Exoden are much more exotic vs. those of Earth; is there a reason for that? And, how do you come up with the more exotic names?
JR: There are plenty of your standard names that I pull out of a 20,001 Names for Babies book, but that is more of a go-to if I can’t pull something out of my head, though have to watch it since had to change a few when I found I had three frequently seen characters that all started with L… figure in the Bible had some odd names with common ones, similar to now a days where people get creative with their naming, like Arantxa, Krithik, just to name a couple off of a unusual baby name site.
TE: It sounds like if you had to identify with a character from your book, it would be Brook, correct? Will he end up following a similar path as yourself and force himself to be more outgoing? It sounds like he may find a group of people he’s more comfortable with?
JR: Yes, Brook has many of my qualities and thoughts and is following a path that requires more interaction and leadership which is forcing him to change his nature. Magic breeds a greater measure of self-confidence in him and helps with some of the transition, but yes, finding people he doesn’t mind being around helps also.
TE: It’s no secret that you’ve set Exoden up as a series. We’ve decided to continue our discussion about the follow up book, Berthed, in another interview in a few weeks, but could you give us a brief teaser what Brook and the world of Exoden has awaiting them?
JR: Berthed is a curse word on Exoden, similar to being damned, but it refers to being Bound to Earth, or exiled. If you could work magic… throw fireballs, call down lightning, teleport (called a tuer on Exoden), etc.…. Then how tough would it be to get stuck on Earth where your core doesn’t refill so once you’ve used your magic it is gone? Basically going from wielding the power of God to being… normal. Cajin gets stuck back living the life of Brook and struggles to find a way back to Exoden and keep himself from getting killed.
TE: Jeron, thank you so much for taking time out of your day and sharing so much info with us!
Jeron Ricks has a passion for his story and has many books planned for this series. We’ve been lucky enough to already secure an interview in another week or so to talk about his second novel, Berthed. In the meantime, be sure to pick up this first book in the series, Exoden.
Kev is the host of the podcast, Everything is Awesome and is the co-host of The Zombcast. He is the former host of the podcasts Happy Hour with Steel Tip, Creepcast, Happy Hour, 30 Minute Outsider, The Muff Squad, That's Entertainment, 215th Entertainment Presents: Sounds of Philly, Academic Nerds, and OuaT: The Unofficial Once Upon a Time Podcast.
Kev also writes for Dark Knight News and is working on a science fiction series.
Most of all, Kev is a dad to two wonderful children.