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Jesse Teller Interview

Welcome to Ink & Magick. I'm your friendly neighborhood witch. What kind of spell can I get for you today?

Can you make it so that I don't have to sleep? There are two activities that the human being is locked in for life that truly annoy me. Sleeping is one of them. There's gotta be a better way. I feel like, if I didn't have to sleep, I could spend more time writing or obsessing about writing. It's really the only thing I want to do.

I can't in good conscience give you a spell like that. Sleep is too important for your health, and skipping it will hurt your writing as well. Your brain no doubt works out plot problems while sleeping. I know mine does! So, tell us about your dark fantasy, Song (The Manhunters Book One), which was just released last week.

Some of the darkest minds in Perilisc attacked Mending Keep, releasing all its prisoners. Despite his strained relationship with the crown, Rayph Ivoryfist calls old friends to his aid in a subversive attempt to protect King Nardoc and thwart terrorist plots to ruin the Festival of Blossoms. But someone else is targeting Rayph, and even his fellow Manhunters might not be enough to save him.


The serving boy’s face was stained green with disgust and horror. He looked about to be sick, about to flee, about to weep. Rayph saw the trembling lip and the panic in the eyes, and he knew what the boy was carrying. It was small, maybe a little over a foot wide, spherical, and covered with a towel. The boy wove a path through the reclining bathhouse patrons and made his slow, methodical way around the main tub to the corner where Rayph sat with his good friend, playing crease and taking in the steam.

As the boy drew closer, the dread that rose up within Rayph prompted him to turn to Dova and grimace. Rayph moved his tile, tapping it lightly with his finger, and shook his head.

“I’m afraid we are about to be interrupted,” Rayph said.

The boy trembled beside the gaming table. His white, sweating face held the world’s shock, and Rayph nodded at him. “Set it down.” He waved his hand across the boy’s eye line and muttered his spell’s incantation. The serving child’s face smoothed clear of all trepidation, and he let out a long-held breath.

“Where did you get it?” Rayph asked.

The boy’s dark eyes looked troubled even through the effects of the spell. “He hurt me,” the boy said.

“Hurt you how?” Rayph asked.

The boy pointed to his temple. “He got in here. He burned me.”

Rayph clenched his fist and anger bubbled deep within him. “What did he look like?”

Wow, that was intense. The title and character names are unique. How did you come up with them?

Names are tricky. Sometimes they just come out for me, like in the case of Rayph Ivoryfist. Sometimes they are harder. But until publication, the names are always fluid. If a name isn't serving me right, I can change it in any draft at any point. Nothing is set in stone. In order to survive, my names have to prove themselves in battle. They have to be able to be easily pronounced, so that a reader can read out loud. They have to be able to paint a picture. When a reader reads a new name, they need to be able to see an image of the character. One of my names has to possess the power of fortunetelling so that a reader can read the name and see potential. Names are important, and I spend a wide variety of time on them. Either they come fast, or I have to think about them for a long time.

I saw your son's name is the same as your main character. Who is named after whom?

Both of my sons were named after characters in my world, which is a scary thing. When you do something like this, you're putting a spotlight on that character, telling your child, "Look at this person for inspiration of how you should or shouldn't be." When I named my son Rayph, I hadn't written the book yet. The character was just an idea. So when I was actually writing the book, I had my son's attributes in mind. I named my son after the character, but when it came to detailing the character's personality and abilities, my child had a lot to do with the inspiration.

That's so sweet. Which one of your characters surprised you?

I would have to say Konnon. I had in mind what he was, gloomy and sullen, brooding. All these really obnoxious qualities that people write into their characters all the time. I hadn't grasped the true scope of what he was dealing with. In his first chapter, an aspect of his life came to me like a shot of lightning, and it colored everything. It infused the character with a sense of hope and dismay, brought death where originally there was none. Konnon was a big surprise to me. He turned out to be much more than I thought he would be. He was addictive to write.

I love when that happens! Who is your favorite or least favorite character and why?

The answer to least favorite is always supposed to be the villain, right? Supposed to be a thing where I am disgusted with the villain's actions, horrified by the things they do. I'm supposed to feel dirty about the things I had to write. Yeah, none of that is true. Julius Kriss turned out to be much more than what I wanted from him. I was very happy with how he turned out, even though he is terrible. And it makes me a bad person to have enjoyed writing him as much as I did. But still, I have to say that I don't dislike my villain. The character I find to be most obnoxious is Phomax. He is the king of the nation the book takes place in. He is petty, petulant, needs a good slap. Every time I wrote him I got angry. Everything he said was obnoxious. The reason he is like this is vaguely hinted at, but not explored. I do that a lot in my work. There's just so much there that I can't make room for all of it.

Phomax must have been well written to illicit that kind of strong emotion. Sounds like Song is an action-packed adventure. What inspired you to write it?

Richard Kimble. OK, maybe not Richard Kimble. In the movie The Fugitive, Harrison Ford plays Richard Kimble. But that was not the true inspiration for this book. It was Tommy Lee Jones's character. He ran a group of U.S. Marshals searching for Richard Kimble. He inspired the idea of a group of bounty hunters all talented and capable, all unique and powerful. I wanted to see what a group like that could truly do when pressed against the wall.

The world you've created seems very detailed. What are the rules to the game you created, crease?

Crease is a game of lists. It's a strategy game. The players create a list of objectives represented by small stones of different shapes and sizes. Those stones are all put in a column. The other columns in the game represent obstacles designed by the opponent. In crease, you have to move those obstacles about the board, moving the objectives past them, to the opposite side of the board. It is a game often played before someone embarks on a quest, a way of planning around the hardest of objectives. Movements on the board are decided based on the difficulty of the obstacle and the objective is to get your entire list to the far side of the board before your opponent does the same. I've never played crease. I don't think I would be very good at it. But Rayph Ivoryfist is. Although, had he continued to the play the game, his opponent would have won. He almost had him trapped.

Wow, just wow. It sounds really difficult. What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

OK, so I was at a workshop taught by Donald Maass years ago. He was talking about book sales, and he said an interesting thing that I have dedicated my career to. He asked us the question, "How have you heard about the books you've read in the past?" Told us to think of the best books we'd ever read, and asked us how we'd heard of them. He asked us if we had gone to a book signing, seen a video, seen an ad in a magazine, seen the author on a talk show. And the answer to almost all of these questions was no. Then, he asked us where we had heard of these books, and the answer was word of mouth. My plan, when I sit down to write a book, is to write the book that readers have to talk about, write a book that people walk up to their loved ones, or their acquaintances, and say, "You have to read this book." If a reader loves my book, I ask they give a review, which is a facet of word of mouth. I ask that they talk about the book, suggest it to their friends and family. Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing scheme in our industry. Just write a great book and people who read it will tell everyone to.

Agreed. What can we expect from you next?

Song is the first book in a trilogy. I've written the entire trilogy. For the most part, it's ready to publish. I publish a book every six months. So, look for that. After that, I will be releasing a five-book epic series that has also been written. It details a war to the north. After that, many and more books have been written and are waiting for publication.

It's sounds like you have things covered! Good luck, and thanks for stopping by.

Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to studying the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues. He lives with his supportive wife, Rebekah, and his two inspiring children, Rayph and Tobin.

You can connect with Jesse on his website, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, Reddit, and Smashwords

You can purchase Song on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

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    D. Lieber has a wanderlust that would make a butterfly envious. When she isn’t planning her next physical adventure, she’s recklessly jumping from one fictional world to another. Her love of reading led her to earn a Bachelor’s in English from Wright State University.

    Beyond her skeptic and slightly pessimistic mind, Lieber wants to believe. She has been many places—from Canada to England, France to Italy, Germany to Russia—believing that a better world comes from putting a face on “other.” She is a romantic idealist at heart, always fighting to keep her feet on the ground and her head in the clouds.

    Lieber lives in Wisconsin with her husband (John) and cats (Yin and Nox).

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