Joining us today is epic fantasy author, Jim Melvin. Born in New York, Jim grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida where he became an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times. At age 50, he retired in 2004 to become a full-time novelist. The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy series, marks his debut as a published novelist.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Jim. It's a pleasure to have you with us. Before we dive into your series, please tell our readers a bit about yourself. What was it like to move from journalism to novel writing? Who do you enjoy reading? What do you do for fun?
I became a journalist fresh out of college at age 20. At the Times, I was a reporter, designer, editor, and supervisor for 25 years. But though I enjoyed my work, I always considered myself a novelist who supported his family as a journalist. Soon after I was hired at the Times in 1978, I wrote my first novel: a Stephen King-like horror novel entitled Sarah's Curse. It was never published, but at the time I wasn't overly concerned. I figured my second novel would be the one to hit it big. But for a quarter-century, there never was a second novel. Finally, in September 2004, I wrote the first page of The Death Wizard Chronicles. Seven-hundred-thousand words later, I'm in the final revision process of Book Six, which concludes the series. To finally answer your question, the move from journalist to novel writing came naturally to me. Everything about the transition felt joyous.
As for what I enjoy reading? Well, I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time in the mid-1970s and have read it at least 25 more times since then. So I guess that sort of clues you in. Ha! At least 70 percent of what I read is fantasy, with my favorites being Tolkien, of course, along with Stephen King, Stephen Donaldson, Steven Erikson, and George R.R. Martin. But there are many others.
What do I do for fun? I have five daughters ranging in age from 8 to 24, so not much. Ha, again! I live near the Blue Ridge Mountains, so I love to hike in the woods, swim in lakes and streams, and kayak.
What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day when you are more productive than others?
I write seven days a week from about 8 p.m. to midnight, and am definitely most productive during this time slot. I rarely miss a day; probably no more than 20 days during an entire year. When I'm writing the first draft of a novel, I also spend about an hour the following day, usually in the morning, revising what I wrote the night before.
Let's move on to The Death Wizard Chronicles. The first book in this series, The Pit, was released by Rain Publishing in September, and the next book, Moon Goddess, followed soon after. Tell us what these two novels are about.
In what I consider to be a groundbreaking paradox, the Death Wizard, a champion of good, derives his power from a source traditionally seen as negative — death. His nemesis, an evil sorcerer, derives his power from the sun, the benevolent source of all life. Their struggle to control the fate of the planet Triken unfolds in epic fashion throughout the series.
In a truly original twist never before seen in this genre, the Death Wizard is able to enter the realm of death during a temporary “suicide.” Through intense concentration, he stops his heartbeat briefly and feeds on death energy, which provides him with a dazzling array of magical powers. The series also is a love triangle involving two desperate characters attempting to come together despite the machinations of an all-powerful psychopath. Graphic and action-packed, spanning a millennium of turmoil, The Death Wizard Chronicles carries readers on a breathtaking journey they will never forget.
In Book I (The Pit), Torg, the Death Wizard, is imprisoned in a horrifying pit bored into the solid rock of a frozen mountain. His captor is Invictus, the evil sorcerer whose power threatens to engulf the land in eternal darkness. Torg spends 22 days in agony before making his dramatic escape and setting off on a series of adventures that will change the fate of Triken.
Book II (Moon Goddess) introduces the powerful love story of Torg and Laylah (sister of Invictus), who are irresistibly drawn together by supernatural passion. After each one escapes the clutches of the sorcerer, they meet in the wilderness in a frantic attempt to outrun the forces of evil and reach Jivita, the White City.
Do you have release dates for the other novels? Can you give us a bit of a teaser on what they are about?
Book Three (Eve of War) already has been released and is available at http://www.rainbooks.com and http://www.amazon.com. Book Four (World on Fire) will be released before the end of December. Book Five (Sun God) will be released in late January and Book Six (Death-Know) in late February.
In Book IV (World on Fire), the story of Torg and Laylah’s flight culminates in three massive battles between the forces of good and the monstrous armies of Invictus. One battle takes place at the ancient fortress of Nissaya, the second at Jivita, and the third in the great desert called Tējo.
In Book V (Sun God), Invictus is defeated on the battlefields, but the sorcerer, even with his armies in ruins, still wields unstoppable power. He recaptures Laylah and takes her back to his tower in the city of Avici, out of reach of the man she loves. Eventually Torg defeats Invictus, with the help of a snow giant and an ancient demon. But the damage already has been done.
In Book VI (Death-Know), Laylah gives birth to Invictus’ child, who turns out to be even more dangerous than his father. In the dramatic finale, Torg and the forces of good combine to defeat the boy in a battle that takes place in the frozen wasteland called Nirodha.
Karen Haymon Long, book editor of The Tampa Tribune, said, “Adult Harry Potter and Eragon fans can get their next fix with Jim Melvin’s six-book epic The Death Wizard Chronicles.” What is it like being compared to popular authors like J. K. Rowling and Christopher Paolini?
It’s wonderful, of course — especially the popularity part. The best part of that review is that it came completely out of the blue. It’s not like Karen and I were friends and she was doing me a favor. Now, if I can become just one one-hundreth as popular as Rowling, I’ll be cooking!
In what ways are you books similar to Harry Potter and Eragon? Did you write them with these books in mind?
This is a good follow-up question. The Tribune reviewer was comparing my imagination and narrative descriptions to Rowling and Paolini, not necessarily my content. While Rowling and Paolini are very popular for young adults, my series is more adult in nature. If my six books were made into a series of movies (I wish!), each would be R-rated. I compare more to the Eriksons and Martins of the world, in that regard.
You are a student of Eastern philosophy and mindfulness meditation. I understand that both are woven into your work. How so? And do you also weave in other elements of spirituality into your novels?
Another good question. My series revolves around a race of desert warriors called Tugars. In an allegorical sense, Tugars are Buddhists at heart, in that they meditate as part of their training process and that they believe in karma and rebirth. However, many other forms of religion also are allegorically represented in my series. People of different faiths must unite to defeat to defeat an all-powerful enemy.
The major theme of The Death Wizard Chronicles is the “fear of death” and what role it plays in the human psyche. The Death Wizard, more accurately called a Death-Knower, has died and returned. And he remembers. He doesn’t fear death. Between the lines, you’ll find out why.
Please tell us where readers can purchase The Death Wizard Chronicles.
For people who live in Canada and the northern United States, it can be purchased directly from my publisher’s website: http://www.rainbooks.com. For others, http://www.amazon.com probably is the better way to go, due to shipping costs. It’s not yet available in bookstores nationwide, but Rain is working on it and I have high hopes.
Are you working on any other projects outside of The Death Wizard Chronicles?
Though I have only been writing the series for about three years, The Death Wizard Chronicles has been a part of my mind for more than 30 years. For this reason, I have no other projects going right now. My next book probably will be a stand alone novel in the horror genre. I’ve got a very spooky ghost story in mind.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Write from the heart. Pull no punches. Don’t try to guess what readers want to read. Write what you want to write, and then let the chips fall where they may. Write with passion about large issues. And cry real hard when you’re finally finished. Then, do your best to get an agent, and work hard every day at getting published. Even then, there’ll be no guarantees. But at least you’ll be able to look yourself in the mirror and know that you’ve given it your best shot.
Thank you for joining us today, Jim. It has been wonderful getting to know more about you and your work. Best of luck in all you do.
It was my pleasure! May you and your readers be healthy, happy, and peaceful.
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