Virtual Book Tour: Jim Melvin Talks about his Fantasy Series The Death Wizard Chronicles.
The Death Wizard Chronicles
A six-book epic fantasy
What do you like about magical fantasy?
I grew up on the waterfront (Tampa Bay, Fla.) and was lucky in that about ten other boys my age lived on the same street. We hung out morning, noon, and night and played all the usual sports that young boys adore. But we also were obsessed with fantastical games involving super powers and super heroes. Rather than “grow out of it,” my love for magic and monsters stayed with me into adulthood.
When I first discovered The Lord of the Rings in the mid-1970s, I became hooked to magical fantasy for life — and the more magic the better. Entertainment-wise, it’s what turns me on. I would love to be huge and strong and wield magical powers. (Though if I ever really had to face down a monster, I'd probably run with the best of them. Ha!)
Why did you choose it as your writing format?
I wrote my first novel when I was 20 years old. It was a Stephen King-like horror novel entitled Sarah’s Curse. An agent who was a family friend shopped it around, and though it received some nice responses, it never found a publisher. But I wasn’t overly concerned because I believed my second novel would be the one to hit it big. In the meantime, I started my career as a journalist at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida. For me, the rat race officially began. Soon I was working 50-hour weeks and raising a family — and there never was a second book.
But from the time I finished Sarah’s Curse until now, a magical fantasy that eventually would become The Death Wizard Chronicles took center stage in my mind. When I was falling asleep at night, taking a shower, or driving alone in the car, I daydreamed about a wizard who could die and return to life enriched with magical powers. I did this for thousands of hours, all told.
About four years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to semi-retire. In September 2004, I wrote the first word of Book One, entitled The Pit. Seven-hundred-thousand words later, I’m in the final revision process of Book Six.
You work has been described as not being for the "faint of heart." Why?
An author — and especially a debut novelist — never wants to lose potential customers. But neither do I want to be dishonest nor offend anyone unnecessarily. When a lot of people hear the words “magical fantasy,” they think Harry Potter — and rightfully so, given the enormous popularity of J.K. Rowling’s ground-breaking series. But people who are more knowledgeable about fantasy know that a lot of it isn’t necessarily kid’s stuff. The Martins, Eriksons, and Donaldsons write for adults, as do I. If my books were made into a series of movies (I wish!), the movies would be R-rated. I describe The Death Wizard Chronicles as a cross between J.R.R. Tolkien and Stephen King – Tolkien because it contains many aspects of epic fantasy, King because it’s pretty darn scary and rough. The Death Wizard Chronicles is a classic tale of good versus evil, with lots of action, monsters, and magic. It also contains a very compelling love story. But it's not for kids. I would say that 18 and older would be okay, though everyone is different in terms of what they might or might not find offensive.
Who is your target audience? Why?
My target audience is anyone 18 and older who likes action-packed epic fantasy, but The DW Chronicles extends beyond that. My series is literary in nature and has a lot going on between the lines in terms of symbolism, foreshadowing, parallel construction, and allegorical elements. So anyone who enjoys reading literature also will enjoy my series. I believe it will stand the test of time. I just hope I’m not one of those authors who dies of old age before my work is discovered by the masses!
This is a six-book series. How long between the releases of sequels?
I've got great news for anyone who discovers The Death Wizard Chronicles and becomes compelled to see it to its conclusion. There are no two-year waits between the releases of each book. My publisher (Rain Publishing Inc., a traditional house based in Canada) is as excited about the potential of this series as I am, and Rain has agreed to release the books once a month. Book One (The Pit) was released in September 2007. Book Two (Moon Goddess) was released in October 2007. Book Three (Eve of War) will soon be released by the end of November 2007. Book Four (World on Fire) in December 2007. Book Five (Sun God) in January 2008. And Book Six (Death-Know) in February 2008. All books can be ordered immediately at www.rainbooks.com or on a slight delay at www.amazon.com. There’s a delay on Amazon because the first shipment of books sold out faster than expected.
Which authors inspired you? Why?
Hands-down, J.R.R. Tolkien influenced me more than anyone. I have read The Lord of the Rings at least 20 times. But in terms of content, my writing is closer to Steven Erikson’s (the Malazan books) or Stephen Donaldson’s (the Thomas Covenant books) than Tolkien’s. But without the inspiration of Tolkien, my series wouldn’t exist. To me, he is an unparalleled genius. I wish he was still alive and writing.
As I touched on in a previous question, Stephen King also has been a huge influence on me. Hmmm ... King and Tolkien. I guess I'm not being very original, huh? Ha!
If you could have any famous person endorse your work, who would it be and why?
I've done quite a few interviews, but this is the first time I've been asked this particular question. And it’s a good one. Stephen King would be nice. For one thing, being endorsed by him would be like being endorsed by Oprah. You could sit back and watch the sales roll in. However, my adoration of King extends beyond that. In my opinion, he’s a victim of his own success. How could he be any good when he’s so popular? And how can his writing be taken seriously when it’s about vampires and spiders masquerading as clowns? Well, let me tell you: He is good and his writing should be taken seriously. There are good writers, great writers, and geniuses. King is the latter.
Please give me a brief synopsis of the book and an overall synopsis of the series.
Book One (entitled The Pit) opens with Torg, the Death Wizard, imprisoned in a horrifying pit bored into the solid rock of a frozen mountain. His captor is Invictus, the depraved psychopath 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 future of the world.
My series is graphic and action-packed, spanning a millennium of turmoil. In 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 Triken will take your breath away.
What separates my series from most others is that I am an active student of Eastern philosophy, which fuels my world view. The concept of karma and the art of meditation play key roles in the symbolic aspects of my work. While deep in meditation, Buddhist monks have had recorded heart rates of less than 10 beats per minute. My main character takes this to the extreme. In an 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 concentrative meditation, he stops his heartbeat briefly and feeds on death energy, which provides him with an array of magical powers.
My series also contains an ancient language that is directly translated from Pali, a dialect closely related to Sanskrit but now extinct as a spoken language. When translated to English, it is beautiful and erotic.
I would like a brief excerpt from a scene you are particularly proud of.
With one final surge of mindful concentration, Torg willed his heart to stop beating. When Sammaasamaadhi arrived, his temporary suicide began. What the wizard experienced next occurs to all that ever live — from the simplest bacterium to the most complex animal.
And that is what made Torg so special.
Only a Death-Knower can die.
And live again.
Only a Death-Knower can return from death.
Only a Death-Knower can tell us what he has seen.
Not all care to listen.