Saturday, June 29, 2013

Jim Melvin's Death Wizard Chronicles

It's my pleasure to depart a little bit from what I normally write about, to introduce Jim Melvin and a recent interview I had with him. He is the author of the heralded six-book epic fantasy series The Death Wizard Chronicles. 
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Jim Melvin is the author of The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy. Books 1-3 (Forged in Death, Chained by Fear and Shadowed by Demons) are now available at a variety of venues via Bell Bridge Books. Book 4 (Torn by War) is in the editing process. All six books of the 700,000-word series are written and should be out by the end of 2014.

Jim's body of work also includes Dream House: A Ghost Story (published by Out of Bounds Press) and Dark Circles (not yet published), the first book of an epic fantasy for middle-schoolers and above. With the exception of Dark Circles, Jim's works contain adult content. Jim was an award-winning journalist for the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years. He now works at the Charlotte Observer. Here is a Q/A with the rising author.

Given the immense scope of The Death Wizard Chronicles, what motivated you to keep at it for three years and produce a six-book series?

I wrote my first novel when I was 21 years old, and I shopped it around to various publishers and got no bites. But I wasn’t particularly concerned at the time. It’s usually the second or third novel that hits it big, so I went about the business of writing my second book.

My roiling imagination gave birth to a character named Torg, and he was to be king of a band of desert warriors called Tugars.

Needless to say, I was full of zest and excitement — but not necessarily of maturity. Over the next several years, every time I sat down to write about Torg I’d get a few pages in and then hit a wall. Each time, my excuse was that I was just too busy. I already was married, raising a family, and working a challenging job.

Years turned into decades. It wasn’t until age 45 that I wrote my second novel. And my how things had changed over the course of that time. I was remarried and had five daughters, the youngest three of whom were adopted from Cambodia. But most importantly, at least as far as my writing career was concerned, I finally had developed the worldliness to bring Torg and the Tugars to life at the level of quality they deserved. After almost 25 years of starts and stops, The Death Wizard Chronicles was born for real. I wrote the first page of Book 1 in September 2004. Almost 700,000 words later, I wrote the last word of Book 6 in late 2007. 

The series was soon published, but the first publisher went out of business. Luckily, I later was picked up by Bell Bridge Books, which is publishing the series now, hence the large gap in time from when I finished the series until now.

Your protagonist MC uses death energy to achieve magical powers. Your antagonist uses the Sun's energy. Why the trope reversal and did you consider it risky?

The major theme of my series is the "fear of death" and how it pervades everything we do, both consciously and subconsciously. However, the even deeper theme is that it's not really death we should fear but rather a life filled with ignorance. Therefore, I created a paradox that carries throughout the series -- that the powers of good are fueled by death energy and the powers of evil by the energy of life (the sun). I didn't consider this to be risky, however, because most of what I've described here occurs between the lines. On its surface, The DW Chronicles is a fun, sexy, action-packed read. So if you're into something deeper, it's there for you to explore. But if you prefer to read just for entertainment's sake, you won't be disappointed.

Tolkien was a major influence in my first attempt at an epic fantasy. Are we in the same boat with that inspirational notion?

I have always been in love with Tolkien. I started reading LOTR back in the mid-'70s and have read it, literally, more than 30 times since. For me, it is a Rite of Spring. I adore Tolkien's characters even more than his story. Their depth and richness have charmed me for decades. However, my series is a more on the adult side than Tolkien's, more along the lines of George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones or Steven Erikson's Malazan series. And taking this thought further, it's more like Erikson than Martin because it is loaded with monsters and magic. My characters also tend to jive with the conventions of high fantasy, as in the good guys are morally high-minded and vice versa.

I have to know if your wife explored your writing exploits right along with you and how much she contributed to some of your ideas.

My wife is also a book author, though she writes non-fiction. And she's an amazing editor. She'd be the first to admit that she's pretty much clueless when it comes to high fantasy, but that didn't stop her from reading and editing the entire series for me. I adore her for it.

Where in the heck are you going from here? Are you experimenting with any other genres now in which you'd love to make a splash?

I've written Dream House: A Ghost Story, which is my first stab at horror. It turned out to be be loaded with sex as well as horror, and I have mixed feelings about that. I might eventually revise it and tone down the sex. Dream House is certainly nowhere near as good as The DW Chronicles, but it makes for a fun "beach read," especially if you've had a few marqueritas and are feeling feisty. :) 

Book 1 of Dark Circles is my first stab at young adult. And it's actually middle school as opposed to YA. My youngest daughter, who is 13, is a voracious reader, and she loved Dark Circles, but I'm still in the planning stages of how to go about getting it published. 

As for experimenting, I would love to attempt a collaboration with someone (either fantasy or horror), but I've yet to find the right author. Maybe I'm too much of a pain!

Do you have any new series ideas? If so, could you give us a glimpse? 

Well, Dark Circles is new. It's called Dark Circles because the ordinary kids who enter the fantasy land of monsters and magic aren't able to sleep. If they do, evil beings enter their dreams and try to kill them. So when the kids return to the real world, they have dark circles under their eyes from lack of sleep.

Also, there is a physically powerful and emotionally complex dragon in my DW series named Bhayatupa who a lot of my readers have really enjoyed. And there are references in the series to "dragon wars" that occurred 30,000 years before the time frame of The DW Chronicles. So I'm planning a prequel book involving Bhayatupa and the dragon wars, when thousands of dragons ruled the land from the skies.

Otherwise, I do want to write more horror -- the really scary kind. (I love Stephen King too, of course.) I have some ideas, but they're better left under the bed for now.

What is your favorite appeal with epic or road fantasy?

Ha! Believe it or not, "road fantasy" is a new one on me. I actually prefer the title "epic fantasy" over any of the others. As far as my favorite appeal, I don't really have a concrete answer for that other than that epic fantasy is what I most enjoy to read and to write, with horror a relatively distant second. I've always loved the concept of magical beings -- real magic that flows out physically and tangibly, versus more subtle magic such as trickery or illusion. And though it has become kind of unpopular these days, I still do enjoy characters that are one-dimensional, at least in the sense that they have sided either with good or with evil. A few of my characters are mixed and gritty, but I more often follow the Tolkien model in this regard, for better or worse.

Anyway, thanks for having me, Chris. I'm a big fan of yours, as well. 

-- Jim Melvin,,
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