Friday, June 22, 2018

Weekly Author Fridays featuring J. Keller Ford - Author Interview

Excited to showcase another author! This time I will be featuring J. Keller Ford, author of In the Shadow of the Dragon King and Rage of the Dragon King.

What made you start writing? 
I have always loved making up stories. If my mom were still alive, I’m sure she would tell you I created some doozies. LOL!! I’ve always had an overactive imagination and was always either acting out the story or trying to write it down. I loved stories of magic and romantic fantasy. I always wanted to read stories of knights on white horses rescuing damsels in distress. I’ve always had stories bubbling inside of me, waiting to burst out. One day, I couldn’t take it anymore and I wrote my first story. It’s been going ever since.

How long have you been writing? 
I guess the best question is when haven’t I been writing. I wrote my first story around the age of six and I’ve been doing it ever since. Granted, the majority of stories never saw the light of day and I’ve lost or misplaced many of them over the years, but that didn’t stop me from doing what I love.

Can you tell us a little about your series? 
The trilogy is an epic YA fantasy that has been compared to The Chronicles of Narnia, Eragon, and Lord of the Rings. It’s about a realm that is on the brink of war, three teens who are destined to save it, and a dragon bent on seeing they don’t. It’s political. There is corruption. There’s magical intrigue, unbelievable secrets and deceit. It’s also a tale of right and wrong, loyalty, sacrifice, love, honor and redemption.

How did you get the idea for writing Chronicles of Fallhollow? Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing? 
The Chronicles of Fallhollow was inspired by many things. My dad was in the Army and served in Vietnam twice. I learned about war first hand, I saw what it did to people when they returned. I overheard conversations between my mom and dad at night when they thought my brother and I were asleep. The tales where horrible. His nightmares real. I couldn’t get them out of my head. I knew, in some capacity, I had to write about them. I had to write about war. But I was young and knew little of actual battles, so I focused more on where I would place my war when I wrote about it … which would be the castles I visited when I lived in Germany.

My favorites were those that belonged to the Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. He was such a romantic and he built the grandest, most exquisite castles and palaces I’ve ever seen. Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for the Disney castles, was still under construction when King Ludwig died a very tragic death. Some suspect he was murdered. The mystery surrounding his death fed my imagination while writing this trilogy, and readers will find lots of similar themes in the books.

My father passed away before my 12th birthday, and I knew I needed to write him, his essence into the story. After all, he was a real life ‘knight’ to me, a soldier, a fighter for good. The Chronicles of Fallhollow emerged at that time, but it was far from what it is today. Over the years, my dad evolved into Trog, the knight and father figure in the trilogy. My two sons were templates for Eric and David, and Slavandria and Lily are loosely based on my daughters. Of course, all of the characters are uniquely their own beings, but it’s nice to have living ideas to start with.

Who is your favorite character in the series and why? Or, which character was the most fun to write and why? 
I have several favorite characters that I loved writing. Each one, every villain and every protagonist was a complete joy to write, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Trog. He is strong and brave, wise and fatherly, yet he has scars, many of which are difficult to deal with, so he chooses not to deal with them. This of course makes things a lot worse for him. I love his flaws, the way he irritates, yet the characters and readers can’t help but love him. He is a symbol of all that is right and good in the world. He is Trog.

If you could meet any characters in your books, who would it be and why? 
Other than David, Eric and Charlotte (the three main characters in the books), I’d love to meet David’s friend, Jackson. He’s funny, he’s a daredevil, a class clown. He’s the guy in high school that breaks all the rules, either for fun or to help his friends, and he has a way to make everyone feel at ease. He’s so likeable and I my only regret is that I wish I’d given him more page time.

I think I would also like to meet Mangus Grythorn, the general of the mage army. He is magical, dangerous, strangely handsome, and a kick-butt warrior. He’s also incredibly likeable and not one your enemy would want to mess with. He’s got mad magic skills, and when combined with his sword fighting, he’s simply awe-inspiring.

What was the hardest part of writing? 
I hate to admit it but it’s a lack of faith in myself and my writing. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t doubt myself and my writing. I always think I can do better. Sometimes it gets so bad that I almost talk myself out of writing all together. I see all these authors who get fan love and I want it for my books, but it doesn’t come. I think this doubt stems from being bullied when I was young, from never being looked upon by my peers as anyone special. I thought my writing would change that, but being published is a difficult business, and getting myself out there where people can find me is hard. Harder than I ever thought, and being an introvert doesn’t help. Thankfully these depressive funks don’t stick around for long periods of time. I do start writing again, and get energized … until the next ‘I suck’ phase hits again. The doubt, the emotional swings make it hard to complete a book. 

Why did you choose to write YA novels? 
Like I said, I was bullied a lot as a kid. I was called names, told I was ugly and that I would never amount to anything. Kids can be horrible and cruel and when you’re young, words can hurt and they stick like glue. So, when I decided to write, I decided to write stories where I could change the dynamics of being a kid. Mean kids could be taught lessons and kids like me could shine. I liked making up my own fantasy worlds, my own rules, my own laws. I wanted to vicariously live my teen years all over again but in strong, dynamic characters.

What’s the next step in your writing career? 
I have three other novels I’m working on at the moment. One novel I’m considering making into a series of stand-alones. All of them are YA fantasy. The project close to my heart at the moment takes a step into the YA romance arena, a tall order from this romantic at heart. I would also like to find an agent and get a publishing contract with TOR books.

Any advice for future authors? 
Never compare yourself to other authors. It will only make you depressed. Write because you love writing and write what you love to write. Don’t write for others or what you think others want you to write. Surround yourself with positive reinforcement. Break the rules. Set new boundaries. Keep the faith in you and know you can do this. It’s a difficult business. You may never get rich and famous – most authors never do – but if you stick with it, you’ll fulfill a dream that many never do. There is something amazing and wonderful that happens when you hold your first book in your hand. It makes you write book 2. And the rest is history.

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