Max Farmer shows the first of the many books he has hatching in his head. “Grim Beginnings” is the first in his “The Ashen Plane” series. The second, “Omens,” is also available on Amazon. The 2011 Massac County High School graduate, writing as Maxwell Farmer, is currently working on his second series of fantasy LitRPG books.

When Max Farmer graduated from Mississippi State University in 2018, it was with more than a doctorate in veterinary medicine.

His senior year he developed a love of reading that is turning into a second career career as an author. Under the moniker Maxwell Farmer, he is now diving into his second series of LitRPG. The first two books of his first series are now available from Amazon.

The son of Scott and Angela Farmer, formerly of Metropolis but who live in Starkville, Mississippi, Dr. Farmer developed a love for storytelling by listening.

“It started when I was a senior in vet school. It was by accident. I’d purchased an Audible subscription and had completely forgotten about it,” he said. “I checked it and realized I was paying for it every month, so I might as well use it. I started listening to audiobooks and really loved it. I used it as a nice little stress relief and escape during my time of vet school. About two months before I graduated, I had decided: ‘I really enjoy this. I’d like to write a book of my own.’ That began my pursuit.”

Now, audiobooks serve as Farmer’s escape on his drive to and from work. Farmer and his wife Rachel live in La Crosse, Wisconsin, which he describes as “a river town like how Metropolis/Paducah is: I actually work over in Minnesota. … I met (Rachel) down in Mississippi and she’s a Wisconsinite. I locked her down before she wisend up on me. She’s what brought me up here and her family’s up here. We’ve been enjoying it.”

LitRPG is short for Literary Role Playing Game. It started in South Korea about 30 years ago and spread to Russia. It’s gained popularity in the United States over the last decade.

“It’s really tailored towards people who are avid video gamers, role play gamers; people who like fantasy or sci-fi. It can kind of differentiate and go in different directions. I typically write in the fantasy realm — magic, monsters, those kinds of things,” Farmer explained.

Farmer said his ideas for the genre come from a variety of sources from games he’s played to books he’s read to “ cool drawings and depictions of environments of creatures” to inspiration from Pinterest.

“I’m very much in the fantasy realm. So when it comes to things like orcs, magic, different races — I’m very much inspired by that. I dabble in video games, role playing games, I take a lot of different inspiration from things,” he said.

His first product is a series titled “The Ashen Plane.” He’s written two books so far in what is “probably going to be five to seven books depending on how I’m wanting to take the story. It’s definitely not as kid-friendly as a ‘Harry Potter’ book; it’s more for the teen to adult stages.”

The first book, “Grim Beginnings,” became available in paperback and e-book in March. Its followup, “Omens,” also available in paperback and e-book, came out in August.

“ ‘The Ashen Plane’ follows a charter who’s a janitor turned professional gamer” Farmer explained. “Early on in the story, he actually dies in a pretty brutal fashion. He’s essentially given a second chance at life.”

That chance is given by a giant, chained-up monstrous being who gives him two options — he can die or work to free the being and live in this new world.

“Between those two options, our main character goes with the latter and is thrown into this fantasy world that has a lot of the game like settings he’s used to, which kind of puts him at an advantage because it’s familiar — he has a notification screen appear in his vision that tells him leveling and stats,” Farmer said.

So what is “The Ashen Plane”?

“There’s going to be a pretty critical plot reveal later in the series as to why the name is what it is,” Farmer said. “I was really trying to create a hook, a good name of this fantasy world this series of books are going to be named after.”

“Grim Beginnings” was just released in audiobook on Audible. “Omens” is currently being produced and should be available by the end of this year. Being “an avid audiobooker,” Farmer knew who he wanted to voice his books, so much so that he contacted the voice actor’s agent directly.

“There are definitely people who can make a huge difference in how they portray things — some people you can listen and they can be very monotonous; some people you can listen and all their accents sound the same, like every single female character sounds similar,” he said. “I hired a really talented guy who’s done a number of different of audio books, and I like his work; he’s a voice actor named Armen Taylor, he’s familiar with the genre I do as well. He’s done a fantastic job so far.”

Excluding the audiobook production, Farmer is taking a little break from “The Ashen Plane” to work on a second series, “Dr. Druid,” a fantasy LitRPG trilogy with a veterinarian as its main character. The trilogy has been picked up by a publisher.

“I had contacted the publisher directly about my ‘Ashen Plane’ series. It did not work out, but they expressed interest with working with me for a new series. I submitted to them for a new series, and we came to an agreement,” he said. “I’m hoping to do some quick and efficient writing to get done with these three books in under a year. I’m almost done with book one. I’m hoping to have all of them done by early- to mid-2021, and then I will kind of reintroduce back into ‘The Ashen Plane’ series.”

Farmer tried writing his very first book while in high school; he graduated from Massac County High School in 2011.

“I wrote a bad attempt at a children’s book called ‘The Cool Side of the Pillow,’ which I may one day try to redo now that I know what I’m doing,” he said, with a laugh. “I wasn’t too much of a writer back then. What started me on this path of loving books in general was audiobooks. In vet school, all I had time to do was to read and study. So during times when I’d be on break or driving, that was the time I couldn’t necessarily sit and read, but I could listen and be taken to a new world, experience this rush of action, fun and adventure.

“That’s what I hope to bring in my series to people — the fun action, high-pace sort of things that I believe a lot of people connect with, people who are avid fans of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘World of Warcraft,’ ‘Dungeons & Dragons,’ it’s right up their alley. I really hope people take the time to enjoy it,” he said. “I’m grateful for the time anybody would give to read the books. I hope they’d just enjoy it and take the time to be taken away from the stresses of our modern day world right now — to have that escape and adventure. It is definitely people can have and enjoy and just have an action-packed thrill ride.”

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