Editor’s Note: Ivan’s back yet again with another interview, and this time it’s for a more obscure genre of literature - that I only personally found out about via this very interview - written by Tim Kaiver. You may have heard of him under his other nom de plume, Timothy C. Ward. Enjoy!
Ivan Grabar: Can you tell us what Cipher's Quest is about and few details about main characters?
Tim Kaiver: I've spent a lot of time trying to do that. Here's the recent blurb:
A real-life game system lost millennia ago could turn the tide of a galactic war. But first, it must be unlocked.
Cullen can't believe after ten years of exile in deep space, the Cipher would appear to him with a way home and a new set of powers to equip him for the journey. All he has to do is follow and succeed in its quests.
His first mission is to rescue a mother and son imprisoned since the Osuna invaded their home and killed her husband. Now they're seeing game-like messages and earning experience points for using telepathy—a skill they didn't realize they had until they followed the Cipher.
Together, they'll enter a jungle with dark secrets and clues from ancient texts to unlock the mystery and power of the Cipher. Survival will require leveling up and utilizing their new skills as they encounter EMP hurling tigers and militant telepaths led by a berserker with more than one trick up her sleeve.
Welcome to Reject Jungle Dungeon. No quest is easy that involves telepaths. Even if it’s your first one.
Cipher's Quest is a LitRPG Sci-fi Fantasy mashup akin to a Stargate team traversing a galaxy where the rules and powers of Final Fantasy and Age of Empires apply.
IG: Can you explain what is LitRPG for our readers who might be unfamiliar with term and genre?
TK: LitRPG is what would happen if the games you love were translated into a book, including the stats you collect, the progression of your characters and whatever other rules of the game become shown on the page. If you go to amazon.com/litrpg, it has numerous categories for the types of games and genres of books you can explore. Cipher's Quest fits into Gameworld > Sci-fi because the Cipher has always existed in this universe, though for thousands of years prior to my story, it was absent.
Some LitRPG takes readers from the very beginning of a story where a character has to go into a Virtual Reality system, and either they get stuck, or spend most of the time inside. With those, the story tickles that fantasy of "what would it be like to escape my boring life and just play a real-life game all the time?”
For Cipher's Quest, I wanted the game to come to them as they're trying to survive a galactic war, a journey across the stars and the planets they discover with magical creatures, societies and mysteries to uncover.
IG: As you know there are many scifi and fantasy books on market. Could you tell us what separates your books from others i.e why should readers buy your books?
TK: I write for what I loved so much that it has stuck with me for decades.
I loved discovering a shelf long stack of Dune books that explored numerous different worlds and had interesting societies at war, as well as cool stuff like giant worms and sand that creates prophets and navigators to pilot ships across galaxies.
Cipher's Quest is me coming up with my own triad of universal powers. The Osuna are the tyrants searching for the Rucien homeworld. My main character is an exile whose memories are required to travel through a wormhole home, but he lacks the kind of ship strong enough to do so. So instead of navigators using spice to travel through wormholes, my tech uses memories to pull space only to places the pilot has already been. This limits discovering new planets to how long it takes for generational ships to discover them.
The thing about LitRPG is it takes your favorite science fiction or fantasy and adds the fun of inserting a game system. Ready Player One was a simple story of a boy escaping oppressors in a dystopia, but him entering a game to do it was so fun that millions of readers enjoyed it. For me, I'm writing a Dune, Stargate, Final Fantasy mashup that combines space opera and world colonizing elements with the fun of playing a video game, which readers have said is a fresh take and very unique.
Here's a recent review from Amazon (E.N.: several are available on Goodreads, too):
“A difficult to classify novel - just the sort I like! LitRPG, fantasy, sf, and mixed together, stirred well and a bit of grenadine and bitters added (the last two just in my imagination).
It's a debut novel and a lot of fun. Take spaceships, escapees, a war, and 'quests' that appear in your mind- and the fact that you can only talk about them to others who have them appear in their minds - and let the fun begin! We have leveling up, mutant tigers, bounty hunters, poisonous thingies, and telepaths.
It's a fun and fast ride and I'm looking forward to reading more in this strange world Kaiver created.”
IG: What is inspiration behind your books?
TK: I'm inspired by how stories like Dune, Stargate, and games like Final Fantasy VI, Age of Empires, and Command and Conquer captured my attention. I want to tell the stories of my characters in their own version of these kinds of worlds.
IG: Do you have any books, shows, comics or games that influenced your work?
TK: Beyond what I've mentioned, Dragonlance was also a large influence. I remember borrowing a copy of the first book while on vacation as a young teen. My parents were recently divorced within a year or so and my life was in shambles. Going on a vacation with my mom's boyfriend's family was this uncomfortable reality I didn't want to be in. Dragonlance took me into a fascinating Fantasy world where I rooted for a wide cast of characters. I have ever since wanted to create something like that for others.
IG: What is your method of writing – are you a discovery writer or you prefer to make a detailed plot, and why?
TK: My story started with the idea of being able to use memories to create wormholes. What if an ancient race/power left clues on how to access this? What if my main character is a late twenties guy (like me), who was exiled from home and at the start of the story is given a way home, but it won't be easy? Then I asked, what if the path home includes discovering a power that his whole race can use to turn the tables on a galactic superpower bent on wiping them from existence?
In short, I just ask myself what would be awesome to write about, and then I write into the dark until I find the light.
IG: Can you tell our readers something about yourself?
TK: I've been lost and broke on the other end of the earth. I spent a semester abroad in Australia, and at 20 had no idea what a budget looked like. I'm thankful for my mom and grandma, but on a spring break vacation to New Zealand, I found out halfway through that every debit card swipe was accruing fees because my airline ticket was the last of my savings. Ha! I'm still alive though, and had an awesome time in Queenstown watching Austin Powers in a movie theater surrounded by strangers and then walking around the small mountain town observing God's beauty in creation. I like to tell stories like that.
IG: Where can our readers find your work and where can people contact you?
TK: My website is www.timkaiver.com, or you can search for me online on Facebook, Twitter, and I've recently set up a Patreon account at www.patreon.com/timkaiver if you'd like to support my writing journey and get early, exclusive access to my work.
About the author: