BookView Interview with Author Ryan Wakefield

Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.

Recently, we talked with Ryan Wakefield about his writing and his soon-to-be-published middle grade fantasy Journey to Jumbalot, an addictive fantasy (read the review here).

Ryan Wakefield has worked primarily as a graphic artist for the last 20 years, but he always dreamt about creating a fantasy world young readers can escape to. Since grade school, he was fascinated with animal hybrids. He loved the idea of blending two or three animals together to create a magnificent new species. This fascination and his love for fantasy inspired him to fulfill his lifelong dream to breathe life into a new world middle grade readers can explore – Jumbalot.

He’s also the proud co-parent of a silly pug named Lily, and a sometimes difficult feline named Rocky. The book’s protagonist, Alby, is based on Ryan’s first pet: an oversized black and white housecat named Albert. The only thing larger than Albert’s appetite was his heart and he is sorely missed. Also, the character of Queen Lola was based on his wife’s first pug named Lola. Sadly, Lola recently succumbed to poor health and will also be deeply missed.

Ryan and his wife encourage everyone to open their hearts and their homes to adoptable pets.

Book website:

Amazon page:

Book teaser trailer:

Do you find writing therapeutic? 

Yes, writing is extremely therapeutic for a creative individual like me. It is beyond satisfying to visualize fantasy characters and place them into unique situations. The story plays out like a movie in my mind and I enjoy transferring those ideas/visions into the written word.

What was your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood book would have to be Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. When I was a boy, my mom would take me to the local library, and I made a habit out of always checking out that book. More than anything, I loved the monster illustrations, and I would always try to draw them myself. Thirty-five years later I found myself illustrating characters for my own book called jumboos.  

Tell us more about your book.

Journey to Jumbalot is a story about a brilliant engineer’s housecat named Alby and his adventure within a strange, new world. Alby’s best friend, Professor Wizoom, builds a triangular gateway and mysteriously vanishes. Alby’s compassion for his missing friend gives him the strength to venture through the gate and commence a sometimes-dangerous search. Jumbalot is inhabited by intelligent animal hybrids that include the following: menacing mantaravens, friendly froguars, terrifying wolvaraptors, courageous tigeroons, and much more. During his search, Alby dodges pulse blasts from jumboo pirates, befriends jumboos endowed with magical powers, and witnesses a massive battle between two jumboo armies.

Tell us a little about how this story first came to be. Did it start with an image, a voice, a concept, a dilemma, or something else?

The story began when I lost my cat named Albert after he succumbed to poor health. Albert was a plus-sized tuxedo cat and was my best friend for 13 years. Losing him lit a spark in me to write a book about a housecat for middle grade readers: my way of honoring his memory. The idea for Jumbalot began when I was much younger. I always fantasized about breathing life into a fantasy world filled with unusual creatures. I loved animal hybrids more than anything and desired to build a world like Wonderland, Oz, and Middle Earth, but inhabited with something different – jumboos. I loved to draw when I was a boy and I think some of my earliest jumboo characters were invented when I drew animal mashups with crayons.

Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?

My favorite book chapter is one titled The Battle Begins. This takes place at the end of the book and showcases two jumboo armies battling for the future of their world. One side is led by a tyrant that has an insatiable lust for power while the other is led by a noble queen that is determined to save her world. Readers will enjoy the action, adventure, and conflict that occurs when both sides collide like tsunamis. I think readers will also enjoy reading how Alby adapts to this perilous situation to achieve his goal.

What do you hope readers will take away from this story?

My wife and I love animals and we encourage everyone to consider pet adoption. In the book, Alby was once a stray cat that was rescued by Professor Wizoom. This is one of many reasons Alby is determined to find his missing friend.


3 replies

  1. Your artistic ability was only outshined by your journalistic and writing skills. You could always paint a picture with words as well! Your dream will be realized. We have every confidence in you. Love you both.

    Liked by 2 people

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