Please welcome my guest today, author Deborah Jay who will also be sharing an excerpt from The Prince’s Man which is Book One in The Five Kingdoms Series which is also on offer at 99p/99c this weekend.
Firstly a brief introduction to Deborah…
Deborah Jay writes fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.
Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she can find time.
Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many dressage horses, and her complete inability to cook.
THE PRINCE’S MAN (#1 The Five Kingdoms), winner of a UK Arts Council award, and an Amazon Top 100 Hot New Release, is her debut novel. Book #2 THE PRINCE’S SON and book #3 THE PRINCE’S PROTEGEE are also now available.
Urban fantasy, DESPRITE MEASURES, is the first in a projected 5 book CALEDONIAN SPRITE SERIES, and a stand alone short story SPRITE NIGHT is now available.
Deborah has also published a multi-author SFF anthology THE WORLD AND THE STARS, which includes her SF story, PERFECT FIT.
She also has non-fiction equestrian titles published under the name Debby Lush.
Welcome Deborah and perhaps you could tell us what is the genre, or genres that your books fit best into, and please tell us about the genre, and how you see it evolving in coming years? For example the growth in Fantasy and the success of Romance.
I write Fantasy fiction – a genre bursting with an ever-growing number of sub-genres.
My Five Kingdoms series is Epic Fantasy, but can also fit into Sword and Sorcery and Low Fantasy categories. Epic is a genre that is little changed over the years at a fundamental level, although it has spawned a popular new sub-category in recent years – GrimDark, for readers whose taste stretches to more gritty violence and depressing (in my opinion) outcomes.
The notorious ‘Game of Thrones’ fits comfortably into Epic, and I think although the basic premise of Epic (sprawling narratives over extensive time and reach, with multiple characters and huge stakes) will remain unchanged, this more brutal and uncompromising presentation will continue to grow. It isn’t a direction I plan on moving, but clearly there is a big market for such work.
My Caledonian Sprite series is contemporary, and nominally Urban Fantasy, though with much of the action taking place in the countryside, rather than a city, that’s a bit of a stretch.
The current big thing in UF is Academy series – young magic wielders at school. Harry Potter undoubtedly had a hand in starting this trend, but like Epic, even young readers may go for more darkness in their reads, with species such as vampires often central to these stories.
Identifying these trends (thanks to Sally’s question prompting some thought on the matter), I’m not sure I’m quite comfortable with the direction of my genre. Thank goodness there is still a massive readership for the more traditional fantasy, because I have no intention of following the latest fashion.
Are your books indie or mainstream published and please tell us about your publishing process and the pitfalls you may have encountered?
I am what is known as a hybrid author – I have both traditionally and self-published books. My trad pub work is non-fiction (horse training), which, if you are knowledgeable on your subject and can spot a hole in the market, is easier to sell than fiction. It helped that I had a track record of published magazine articles.
My first novels were written long before self-publishing (other than vanity publishing – for the most part an expensive and fruitless venture) was an option, and I was delighted to gain an agent at first attempt. However, the books didn’t sell, encouraging though the comments were from the Big Six publishers (as they were in those days). When I discovered self-publishing, I embraced the idea as I was certain my books would have an audience, even if they weren’t what publishers were looking for at the time – and I was right. My debut novel, THE PRINCE’S MAN, shot into the Amazon Hot 100 New releases category and sold like hot cakes for the first few months.
After that, I employed what I’d learned from my traditional published venture – if you want to sell books, you have to market them yourself. No one else is going to do the job for you, unless you are one of the really, really big names.
What would be your advice for an aspiring author before they put pen to paper?
Read widely – good books, bad books, different genres – and be prepared to experiment. Then before you decide what to write yourself, think hard about what makes you feel passionate.
First, pick a genre. This may not be as simple as it sounds, as you also need to have a clear idea of why you are writing: what your goals are. If you want the chance at big money, you will need to write in a popular genre. That, of course, has its own challenges, due to stiff competition.
If you are more interested in the experience alone, by all means, write whatever you want, but realise that niche genres are small for a reason, with limited reader interest, and tough to market.
The one thing I would advise against, is inventing a new genre. Sounds like a cool idea, but where will you find readers? If you don’t know who will read your work, you won’t know where to find them.
Second, analyse the books you’ve read – what made you fall in love with one, and discard another. The mechanics of writing can be learned (there are plenty of books and courses out there), but knowing at a gut level what inspired or enthralled you is equally, if not more important, and you need that passion to come over in your work.
Where did the inspiration for your featured book come from?
I really love films and TV series, and the protagonist of THE PRINCE’S MAN, Rustam Chalice, (Rusty to his friends), is based on James Bond. I adore the spy genre, but found it incredibly frustrating that Mr Bond was never allowed to develop as a person, or change his lifestyle, so I decided to do it for him!
Unlike the quintessential spy, I steered Rusty to develop from a shallow womaniser, albeit one devoted to his kingdom’s safety, into a character of far deeper morals, who questions not only his own way of life and his blind obedience to his master, the prince, but the validity of his magic-fearing society.
Building my world was great fun, and I made the decision early on that the inhabitants were to be refugees from another continent, so they are evolving their culture and learning about the land as they go along, which enables me to bring in new aspects whenever I want. I did, however, develop strict rules for my three magic systems before I set up the story, as these are integral to the whole scenario – characters, society, and plot. If pushed to say what inspired these, I would say my fascination with the psychology of ‘damaged’ individuals, and how their behaviours might be expressed if they had magic at their fingertips.
Do you belong to a writing group and if so, what benefits do you feel it offers an author?
I have belonged to the same writers’ group for 30 years, and I’m not sure what I will do without them once I move away, which is becoming increasingly imminent.
As a group, the majority of us are published in one form or another, so, with the exception of newer recruits, we are producing professional level work, and we are both experienced and skilled at critiquing, and also at receiving criticism! As we all know we will be on the receiving end at times as well as doling out our own views and opinions, we have become adept at highlighting issues without destroying confidence.
My group point out weaknesses or inconsistencies in plot before it develops too far, meaning less backtracking in the editing stage. They also pick up on those habits we all have – words or phrases we use so often we become blind to them – and they spot proofing errors. My group has around six to nine members, and between them we cover a wide range of professions, which also helps as almost every question will find an answer.
If you can locate such a group, they are worth their weight in gold (I would be instantly pulled up for using such a cliché). The danger in groups is when you have members who think they are better than the others, rather than everyone working to help each other. If you find one of those, don’t hesitate to walk away. One of the best things about being a writer is that we aren’t in competition with each other – the more people we can enthuse to read, the bigger the market becomes for all of us.
Now time to find out more about Deborah’s books including her The Prince’s Man – Book One in The Five Kingdoms Series with is on offer at 99p/99c this weekend.
About The Prince’s Man
Think ‘James Bond meets Lord of the Rings’
Rustam Chalice, dance tutor, gigolo and spy, loves his life just the way it is. So when the kingdom he serves is threatened from within, he leaps into action. Only trouble is, the spy master, Prince Hal, teams him up with an untouchable aristocratic assassin who despises him.
And to make matters worse, she’s the most beautiful woman in the Five Kingdoms.
Plunged into a desperate journey over the mountains, the mismatched pair struggle to survive deadly wildlife, the machinations of a spiteful god – and each other.
They must also keep alive a sickly elf they need as a political pawn. But when the elf reveals that Rustam has magic of his own, he is forced to question his identity, his sanity and worst, his loyalty to his prince.
For in Tyr-en, all magic users are put to death.
Award winning novel, THE PRINCE’S MAN is a sweeping tale of spies and deadly politics, inter-species mistrust and magic phobia, with an underlying thread of romance.
An extract from The Prince’s Man
Rustam laid the elf in the shade beneath an ancient spreading oak. His breathing was audible now, but that was no more reassuring. Now it rasped and bubbled like a drowning fisherman, and when Rustam touched his face, the skin burned.
He looked around for Risada and found her kneeling by the stream, scooping water in her cupped hands. She had removed the net and hat, and her pale golden hair tumbled down her back, kinked into waves by its confinement. Rustam’s eyes fixed for a moment on the graceful arch of her throat.
He shook himself. “My Lady?” he called softly, aware that she was still furious with him.
She glanced up, frowned, and then rose to her feet. “Yes?”
Rustam pointed at the supine elf.
“What do you expect me to do about it?” she inquired icily.
Rustam shrugged. “I don’t know. I just thought you might have some idea; he’s hot as a baker’s oven.”
“What did you expect? He has very little chance of surviving this journey.” The sunlight faded from the clearing and Risada glanced up at the clouds beginning to amass overhead.
“Especially if winter decides to break early.”
She knelt down beside the elf and touched his flushed cheek and forehead. “He has a fever—”
“That’s what I said!”
“If you will let me finish? In my saddle-bags you will find a small twist of blue paper. No, the other side. Yes, that’s it. Bring it over here with a canteen.”
From the paper she took two pinches of powder and mixed them with a small amount of water in the canteen cup.
“Hold his mouth open.”
Slowly Risada dribbled the potion into the elf’s mouth, holding his jaw closed when he choked and gagged. Then, satisfied that he had swallowed enough, she rinsed the cup and stood up. “That should reduce the fever, always supposing he responds like a human. It’s all I can do; I’m not an apothecary.”
Rustam tightened the horses’ girths while Risada filled the canteens. They had just remounted when thundering hooves pounded down the slope behind them and three riders burst into the clearing.
On the edge of his vision Rustam saw Risada drop the bay mare’s reins, draw her dagger and raise a blowpipe to her lips in one fluid set of movements, while he struggled awkwardly to free his sword from the saddle scabbard beneath his left thigh.
Nightstalker pranced eagerly, destroying the tiny moment of concentration he needed to snap his mind into high speed. The unconscious elf bounced in front of him, blocking his view. He cursed and curbed the mare sharply. She half reared in protest.
The glint of a blade sliced towards him. Rustam threw himself sideways just as Nightstalker squealed and lashed out with her hind feet. Already off balance, Rustam slithered from the saddle pulling the elf with him, and they crashed heavily to the ground.
Hooves rose and fell finger distance from his face, trying to trample him, and they might have succeeded had his beloved black mare not lunged at the attacker’s brown gelding with her teeth bared.
Rustam rolled away, finally managed to shift his time sense, regained his feet and darted in beside Nightstalker. He dragged his sword free with a satisfying rasp of metal on leather. The soldier, dressed in Melcard’s maroon livery, guided his frightened gelding around the angry mare, and with a curdling battle cry attacked Rustam. His sword arced downward and Rustam ducked, twisted around as the horse passed him, and sliced upward. A severed arm thudded to the ground at his feet.
Uttering a hysterical shriek, the soldier dropped his reins, and his horse lurched to a confused halt. The man sat frozen in shock, gazing without comprehension at his bleeding stump. Rustam sprinted forward, swerved around the spurting jet of bright blood—no point soiling yet another shirt—caught hold of his victim’s sword-belt and dragged him from his saddle. One quick dagger thrust ended the man’s worry.
Rustam turned to see Risada not faring so well. The blowpipe was nearly useless against fast moving armoured targets, and her dagger was too short to menace their swords. She was still mounted, but one rider was circling to get behind her.
Rustam vaulted into his saddle. Nightstalker grunted an objection at his rude arrival but bounded obediently forward. One soldier’s back was towards him; the other saw him coming and cried out. The nearer one began to turn, pirouetting his horse on its haunches, but Rustam’s charge brought him quickly within range and although the man managed to raise his sword awkwardly to parry Rustam’s first blow, it flew from his grasp and the backswing sliced through his neck.
Turning to confront the last of their attackers, Rustam found only an empty saddle. The man lay spread-eagled on the grass, a tiny yellow feather adhering to his exposed throat.
Risada was already off her horse, kneeling beside the sprawled tangle of limbs that was the elf. As Rustam jumped down from Nightstalker’s back to join her, she rose gracefully to her feet.
“Somehow I don’t think falling on top of him has helped his chances of survival.”
A recent review for The Prince’s Man
I thoroughly enjoyed this entertaining and skillfully-written fantasy novel. I was particularly taken with the tight narrative, not a wasted scene or conversation, every word counting as the story unfolded. This contributed to a quick pace and complimented the well-considered plot that comes together with a satisfying ending. Though the first in a series, The Prince’s Man can also be read as a stand-alone.
All that good stuff, and then there’s more… the characters are fabulous, deeply flawed and sympathetic at the same time. The relationship between Rustam and Risada takes center stage. There are hints of a romantic attraction but the reader is saved from moon eyes and heaving chests by a very real tension based on past experiences, current loyalties, and objectives. Despite being allies, there’s a lot of loathing going on here. I love that.
Elves, trolls, and were-cats throw the story into the classic fantasy genre and are integral to the plot and underlying theme of the book. The political machinations are realistic enough to be recognizable today. Prejudices, bigotry, genocide, and beliefs in cultural superiority are alive and well in her world-building. The characters are forced to revisit their worldviews, but just like in real life, they will only open their eyes so wide. And Jay doesn’t hold back on the brutality.
I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series and seeing what happens to the two main characters as well as a host of others who intrigued me no end. Recommended for anyone who loves a good fantasy.
Read all the reviews and buy the book 99c today: https://www.amazon.com/Princes-Man-Five-Kingdoms-Book-ebook/dp/B00I9N2Q20
and Amazon UK 99p: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Princes-Man-Five-Kingdoms-Book-ebook/dp/B00I9N2Q20
A selection of other books by Deborah Jay
Read all the reviews and buy the books: https://www.amazon.com/Deborah-Jay/e/B00E4X3UHY
And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deborah-Jay/e/B00E4X3UHY
Read more reviews and follow Deborah on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7172608.Deborah_Jay
Connect to Deborah Jay
My thanks to Deborah for joining me today and if you have any questions then please leave them in the comments section below.
Thanks for dropping in.. Sally.