Published by 47North on April 1st 2016
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King Severn Argentine’s fearsome reputation precedes him: usurper of the throne, killer of rightful heirs, ruthless punisher of traitors. Attempting to depose him, the Duke of Kiskaddon gambles…and loses. Now the duke must atone by handing over his young son, Owen, as the king’s hostage. And should his loyalty falter again, the boy will pay with his life.
Seeking allies and eluding Severn’s spies, Owen learns to survive in the court of Kingfountain. But when new evidence of his father’s betrayal threatens to seal his fate, Owen must win the vengeful king’s favor by proving his worth—through extraordinary means. And only one person can aid his desperate cause: a mysterious woman, dwelling in secrecy, who truly wields power over life, death, and destiny.
Ali: Hello Jeff! Thank you for stopping by Dazzled by Books today. We are so excited to have you. I wanted to kick things off with a fun question, so what is your favorite book of 2016 so far?
Jeff: I started on Brandon Mull’s Five Kingdoms this year, so my favorite so far is Book #1, Sky Raiders. I think Mull does a great job of creating tension right away to hook you into the story. I loved his Fablehaven books and Beyonders, so it’s time for another fix.
A: Did you always want to be a writer?
J: If you ask my mom, when I was in kindergarten I wanted to drive the garbage truck and would stand by the window and wait for him to show up in front of our house. But the desire to become a writer struck when I was in Junior High and started reading Terry Brooks’ Shannara.
A: What inspires your writing?
J: Inspiration typically comes to me through a mixture of history and geography. I love reading biographies, historical books, and browsing Wikipedia pages just for fun. I’ve often been touched by historical figures or settings that I then re-purpose into fantasy novels. At the same time, my writing is also influenced by my various travels. Both of these elements played a role in the development of my new Kingfountain series. It was inspired by Shakespeare’s Richard III (along with a lot of history books I own about the War of the Roses) as well as several trips I made to waterfalls in Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Idaho.
A: What was the hardest part writing “The Queen’s Poisoner”?
J: This book really challenged me because I made the protagonist an eight year-old boy. Even my publisher was nervous at first because this book is very different than all the other books I’ve written or published with them. I’m grateful for the relationship and trust that I have with them and that we could explore this new idea together. The end result ended up being the best story I’ve ever written (according to my fans). I like taking risks and challenging myself.
A: What is your favorite thing about writing “The Queen’s Poisoner”?
J: My favorite thing about writing The Queen’s Poisoner is the different personalities in the story. Each character came almost fully formed into my mind, springing into being like the mythical Athena in Zeus’ brain. My favorite is probably Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer. As I mentioned, the setting is during the War of the Roses. Well, my family history goes back to those times and so I looked in the records to see if there was a little girl, about eight years old, who would have been alive back then. I stumbled across the name Elisabeth Mortimer who was exactly the age and exactly the era I was looking for. She’s one of my favorites.
A: Do you have any habits while writing? For example: a specific snack food you have to have or maybe music playing in the background.
J: For me, I don’t snack or listen to music while I write. In fact, I try to do all that I can do drown out all background noise so I can get into a “flow” state quickly. So I use a white noise machine in my den and then a set of noise cancelling headphones. I know it sounds strange, but the combine effect puts me in a kind of bubble that helps me write efficiently and I can crank out a chapter in a single sitting.
A: What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t writing?
J: I love going on walks with my wife. We’re pretty old fashioned and have date night once a week. We love to find new parks or hiking trails in the area and just wander and explore. I love being in nature and soaking in the details, smells, and sounds.
A: Last but certainly not least, do you know the Muffin Man?
J: Yes I do, and he happens to be me. I cook dinner twice a week and my kids favorite is Breakfast for Dinner on Thursday nights. Muffins of various kinds wind up on the menu. We all have our favorite. Mine is blueberry.