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J. KELLER FORD INTERVIEW AND IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING GIVEAWAY



Happy Monday Everyone! I’m thrilled to have debut author J. Keller Ford here to share about her YA fantasy IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING that released in May 2016. It sounds like a riveting fantasy told from two teenage guys’ POV.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads


Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the realm from the evil lurking nearby.

Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte.

Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he's some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He's supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who's too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone.

With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.
 

Hi. Jenny! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you so much for having me!! It’s awesome to be here!

  1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a love for books and writing. Even before kindergarten, I always had a book stashed somewhere on my body. My mom said they were like security blankets for me. One of my favorites was Cinderella, and yes, this is my worn copy. J


Growing up, my very first novel I ever read with the help of my mom, was HEIDI by Johanna Spyri. As I lived in Germany at the time, it really resonated within me. It stirred my imagination so much that I wanted to write stories, too.  My dad thought I’d be a great story-teller, especially since my wild imagination and elaborate tales got me into trouble sometimes (as they do with kids now and then) J, so I made a pact with  my dad that someday I would write a novel for him … about him … and here we are.

  1. I always had a book with me too. Often still do. Where did you get the idea for your book?

I’ve always loved fantasy stories. Anything with princesses and knights on white horses and dragons and fairies, I was there. Couple that with living in Germany, visiting castles and palaces and ruins from north to south, AND having a vivid imagination and the ability to tell “tall tales”, it was no wonder that I began to write my own fantasy stories.  My dad was in the Army and was a huge influence. Sir Trogsdill, the main knight in my novel, is based in many ways off my dad. He always struggled with the good and bad sides of war, feeling at times that war is vital to peace, yet at the same time, wondering how we can have peace with war. The theme permeates the trilogy, and it’s a theme my own kids wrestled with when they were growing up and watching as current world events unfolded. 

  1. So cool how you used your dad's experiences. Your story is told from the POV of two teen guys, Eric and David. Was it hard to write from guys’ POV vs. a teen girl’s? Why?

You know, it really wasn’t. I have two sons, and I think that helped me develop Eric and David.  The story always wanted to be told by two male teens, at least for the beginning of the trilogy. I’m not sure why. It was just the way the story wanted to come out of me. Having my boys and their friends around a lot, watching the way they interacted, listening to the sarcasm, listening to the music that moved them, I got a unique insight into male teen egos and personas and what makes them tick. I took pieces of both, threw them into pot, split it up and voila! Eric and David. And I love them both.

  1. That must have been helpful being around teen boys so much. Who was easier to develop as a character—David or Eric? Why was it like that?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I’d probably have to say Eric was easier. He is snarkier and
seems to have more ‘umph’ about him. He doesn’t like being forced into situations, but manages well and sort of goes with the flow, even if it means coming up with his own solutions that may not always be the right ones. David is more stand-offish. He doesn’t like being forced into things. He’s always balking. That sort of personality I think is more difficult to write because there has to be a reason for the resentment, the need to distance. David is 16. He’s so conflicted because of everything that has happened to him, and he is angry. He feels played. Used. That was definitely harder to write so it feels real, if that makes sense.

  1. What was your world building process like? What tips do you have for other writers building a new world?

You know, I let my imagination play out when I wrote the story. I knew that I wanted dragons and castles and gnomes and fae, but I didn’t have a set plan for anything, except for how David meets a character named Twiller. I literally let the world play out on its own, then, after the story was completed, I went back and tightened things up. I knew I had to make the mage world more complicated. Once I figure out how to do that, I went back and tweaked sections to show that. After a gazillion beta reads, I discovered where certain areas lacked in description where other parts were overly described. I revised accordingly. I also knew that since magic is quite prevalent in the story, it had to have limits. Just because one has magic, doesn’t mean (s)he can do whatever. There are always consequences. I think that’s the biggest advice I can give anyone thinking of writing fantasy.  For every cause there is a reaction. Does one type of magic make you ill? Is it painful? Can it only be used at night? If so, what happens if used during the day? Political systems have to be in place to a certain extent. Does religion play a part? If so, how? Is it a religion we know or one you create? For every piece of the world you create, ask the 5 “w’s: who, what, where, when, why and of course, how.  If you can’t answer any of those, you need to rethink the world, what is its purpose. What is the story you want to tell?

  1. So true that the magic has to have consequences. Tell us what your road to publication was like. Did anything surprise you about it?

I submitted my novel to a publisher in 2012 on a whim. It was a small indie publisher that had published a short story of mine. The manuscript came back chopped up in little pieces with red-lining all over it and a note at the end that said they loved the story, but it needed work, and they would love to see it again once I fixed the problems. Being my first submitted novel and my first real baby I put out in the world, I was devastated to see it all marked up. I went through all the stages of grief: denial (how could they not love it as much as I did? Surely they missed something). Then came the anger. Seriously, I was ticked off that they couldn’t see the beauty of my story. How dare they mark it all up and tell me it had problems. It was my baby. Grr. Then I entertained the idea of bargaining with them. “Hmm, what if I wrote to them and tried to explain what I was trying to do. Maybe they’d understand and end up on my side”. Then came the depression. I convinced myself I was a horrible author. I didn’t have the ability to string two sentences together, much less plot out a book. It was horrible, this feeling of complete failure. Then came the acceptance. With the help of a dear friend and beta reader, I discovered that my story wasn’t bad, but it did need work to make it really good. If I wanted my story in the world, I had to buckle down and accept the advice from the publisher, dive in and fix it. Two years later, and after another gazillion edits, I submitted it to Month9Books. There was one day left to submit before they closed the doors on submissions. I wrestled with it, wondering if it was good enough. I held my breath and pushed that submit button. Two months later, I received an offer of publication, which really surprised me because I knew tons of other authors who had submitted to M9B, authors who I thought were much better than me, whose stories were rejected by M9B. That I was picked was a huge surprise, and I’ve been so pleased with the entire process.

  1. What a great road to publication story. So your book released the end of May. What was your debut like and how did you market your book?

You know, I suck at marketing. It’s a story I hear from a lot of authors. I have a wonderful publicist who got the word out about five months before publication. There were blog posts, pre-orders, pre-release reviews (I would still love to have a Kirkus or USA Today review, but I doubt that will happen this late in the game). My release also coincided very closely with Barnes and Noble’s 1st annual YA Book Fest. I was able to book a signing at my local B&N, which helped a lot. I got to meet quite a few people and get my book out there. A few weeks later, I attended the ALA convention in Orlando which was amaaaazzing! There have also been giveaways on Goodreads and through my newsletter, but I’m really, really lost when it comes to most of it all. I still struggle with branding and sorting the whole process out.

  1. Sounds like you've thought of a lot of good things going on. WelWhat do you think worked and what didn’t work marketing wise so far?

I think the giveaways through Rafflecopter have helped a lot. At least a lot of people have signed up to read it on Goodreads.  The book is still hanging around in the top 100 books in the category on Amazon, but I’m not sure what’s driving those numbers. Did I mention I’m horrible at marketing? J I don’t think book signings generate a lot of sales, but they do get an author out in front of their potential audience, which is worth so much more than sales, in my opinion.

  1. Well, I think you're doing a really good job. And I really agree that Goodreads giveaways and giveaways in general can help grow excitement about a book. What are you working on now?

I recently submitted book 2 in the trilogy to the publisher, and we’re about to head into edits. Book 3 is in the process of being written, and there is another new YA standalone that I’m working on that I really, really love. Of course, there are around a dozen unfinished YA novels on my computer waiting to be finished, so who knows what will come in the future. I can tell you, though, that there will be fantastical elements and probably a dragon or two involved. J   

Thanks for sharing all your advice. You can find Jenny:

Jenny has generously offered a paperback or e-book of THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON--winner's choice--for a giveaway.  To enter, you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through September 24th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This is for U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

On Monday I have a guest post by debut author Traci Chee and her agent Barbara Poelle  with a three chapter critique by Barbara and a giveaway of THE READER, a YA fantasy, by Tracie.

On Wednesday next week, I have an agent spotlight interview with Catherine Cho and a query critique. 

The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Jennifer Bardsley and a giveaway of her YA speculative fiction GENESIS GIRL

The Monday after that I have a special treat. Our follower and my friend Kristin Lenz is debuting as a YA author. I'll be interviewing her with a giveaway of her YA contemporary THE ART OF HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO.

Hope to see you on Monday!


59 comments:

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Those big reviews are difficult to get.

I bet your boys are delighted they helped inspire your characters.

Crystal Collier said...

What a wonderful book concept, and the book sounds fabulous. I'm going to have to aim my son its direction.

Anonymous said...

I'd love that, Crystal. :-) Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

My boys still play a huge part in the writing and editing process. I am blessed to have them both to keep me sane and grounded. :-)

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed the interview and completely agree that having limits on the magic in a world is crucial. And I love how the characters of Eric and Dave have to "get over themselves." Haha!

J. Keller Ford said...

They are both works in progress, Lexa.

Christine Rains said...

Wonderful interview and lovely to meet Jenny. I world build as I write, and I'm thankful for my beta readers too.

Anonymous said...

Christine, my betas are worth more than their weight in gold, silver, platinum, all put together. :-) Truly. I don't know what I'd do without them. Nice to meet you, too.

Unknown said...

Nice review, if you want get some tips on writing reviews you have to visit this page where pro writers can teach you how to become ninja at writing

Weaver said...

I love the sound of this book. I'd totally listen to it if it was available in audiobook. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

I'll let my publisher know, Donna. :-) I've often thought about who I would like to narrate it and I keep coming back to Morgan Freeman. Who would you see as the narrator?

Anonymous said...

Awesome link, Red Hot Eleonora!! I've bookmarked it. Thanks!!.

Cherie Reich said...

Lovely interview, and you had some great world building tips. Congrats!

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats on your debut, Jenny! And books 2 and 3 in the works. I'm in the midst of all the overwhelming, confusing marketing aspects right now, so it was helpful to see what you've been through. Best of luck!

Patchi said...

I love the premise and that this is a boy book. I have two of those at home and I think they'd love this story.

As for narrator, Charlie McWade did a wonderful job with Jennifer A. Nielsen's Ascendence trilogy. And I'm really liking Steve West in Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races.

S.P. Bowers said...

Pretty book! I've always wanted to write a book with dragons. It's just never been the right book yet.

Jemi Fraser said...

Sounds like David & Eric are going to have some hilarious adventures!!

M Pax said...

Awesome title and fabulous cover. All success, Jenny.

Waves to Natalie.

J. Keller Ford said...

Thanks, Cherie.

J. Keller Ford said...

Good luck, Kristin. I am really at a loss with marketing. I wish I had a magic wand and it would all be taken care of. :-) If I find one, I'll pass it along.

J. Keller Ford said...

Ohhh, Steve West did a fabulous job with The Scorpio Races. Totally forgot about him. Now I'm in a quandry. :-)

J. Keller Ford said...

This one took a long time, S.P. Bowers. Don't ever stop thinking about it, plotting it, planning. When the time is right, that dragon will appear and you won't be able to stop writing. :-)

J. Keller Ford said...

They do have a few moments where you have to chuckle. They are quite a snarky pair.

J. Keller Ford said...

Thank you, M Pax. I am in love with my cover and now that book two is in the works, I can't wait to see what it's cover will look like. Ohh, the waiting and wondering. :-) It's a good thing.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

I love the cover, Jenny. It definitely would have helped having two sons to get the right voice for the book.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Congrats Keller and I added this book to my TBD wishlist.

Jenni said...

This book sounds so unique and intriguing! It's not often that you see teen boys as the protagonists of a fantasy series. I could relate to what you said about living with teen boys--that's where I get my ideas for how to write as a boy as well.
Congrats, Jenny!

J. Keller Ford said...

Thanks, Lynda. I'm partial to the cover, too. I wonder why. 😊

J. Keller Ford said...

Aww, Sheena-kay, thanks so much! 💛

J. Keller Ford said...

I really feel there needs to be more YA books for teen guys, Jenni. That's one reason I wanted to keep this story the way it is. Of course a touch of romance helps but this is really a guy story.

J. Keller Ford said...
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J. Keller Ford said...
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Sydney said...

What a gorgeous cover! I actually discovered this book a while back, but haven't had the chance to read it yet. Books were like security blankets for me too! Thanks for the chance!

Rachna Chhabria said...

Congrats Jenny, glad you didn't leave your story and worked on it again. I agree with you that we go through a lot of emotions when we encounter rejection, but we writers are a persevering lot and after licking our wounds, we start revising and rewriting. Good luck with your book, I'll add it to my TBR pile.

J. Keller Ford said...

Hi Cindy. Thanks for getting a copy. When you do get around to reading it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it. :-)

J. Keller Ford said...

Thank you so much, Rachna. I'm glad I didn't give up, either. I wouldn't have met all the wonderful people that I have if I hadn't followed through.

Unknown said...

That's so cool! Thanks for sharing

Penny said...

Very cool cover! I'd love to read In the Shadow of the Dragon King.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a first time out of the gate publication. I, too, write YA fantasy, and am waiting for that "special someone" to love it. Thanks for sharing your encouraging journey.

Rosi said...

Really interesting interview. Thanks for that. I will pass on the giveaway. I'm way behind on my reading.

Danielle H. said...

Congratulations! This cover is so gorgeous I'd frame it! Thanks for sharing today. I shared on twitter:https://twitter.com/dhammelef/status/773963445913866240

abnormalalien said...

Wow this story sounds fun. I tend to like tales where the author tosses us on our butts by messing with the standard. And snark, I'm a sucker for snarky characters.

Nick Wilford said...

Great to read about Jenny's publication story! Definitely need to have rules in fantasy as it keeps things believable even if it's a different world. Glad you persevered with those re-writes and edits.

J. Keller Ford said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ashley. :-)

J. Keller Ford said...

I'd love you to read it, too. LOL!! I hope you enjoy it when you do, Penny. :-)

J. Keller Ford said...

Good luck, Sandy. It will happen one day as long as you don't ever give up. Let me know when you get the deal. I do a shout out for you. :-)

J. Keller Ford said...

Nice to meet you, Rosi, and thank you. :-)

J. Keller Ford said...

I agree, Danielle. I am in love with the cover, too. I cried the first time I saw it. It so went beyond anything I'd imagined.

J. Keller Ford said...

Your response made me smile, Jamie. Thanks for that!! :-)

J. Keller Ford said...

Thanks, Nick. Never give up, right? Someone's bound to like it.

Empty Nest Insider said...

It's wonderful that Jenny was inspired by her dad and her boys! I also love the masculine cover that really captures the theme! Thanks for hosting Jenny, Natalie!

Julie

J. Keller Ford said...

Hi, Julie. Thanks for stopping by, and yes, Natalie, thank you again for having me!! It's been so much fun.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Congratulations, Jenny! I love that line about the two squires having egos bigger than the dragon they want to slay. Makes for an awesome hook!

abnormalalien said...

:-) Everybody needs an excuse to smile; I'm glad to be of service!

J. Keller Ford said...

I agree, Dianne. Thanks for chiming in. Nice to meet you.

J. Keller Ford said...

I agree, Dianne. Thanks for chiming in. Nice to meet you.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I love that you wrote this book for your dad and based one of your characters on him!
Congratulations!

DMS said...

This sounds like an exciting read. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. I really liked learning more about the author and her path to publication. I could relate to the stages she went through when her book came back all marked up. Thanks for sharing what has worked as far as getting the word out there. I would imagine that a good publicist would be very helpful.

Wishing J. Keller Ford the best of luck!
~Jess

J. Keller Ford said...

Thank you for stopping by, Jess, and all the best to you and your own writing. :-)