Saturday , March 2 2024
My characters are very difficult individuals. From the moment I begin developing them, they take over entirely and, as I have very character-driven stories, they call all the shots.

Interview with J.J. Sherwood, Author of ‘Kings or Pawns’

jjJ.J. Sherwood was born in Tucson, Arizona, on New Year’s Eve—and has always had a flair for the dramatics. She began writing in Kindergarten and her first work was completed by the age of 5: a riveting tale of a duck attempting to climb into an apartment during the pouring rain.

Unfortunately, this book is not in print, but it served as the first spark that spurred on a lifetime of creativity. J.J. continued writing throughout her school years and escaped the horrors of short-story writing in college, ready and eager to write meaty, character-driven novels. With over 250 well-rounded characters developed from her nearly 20 years of roleplaying, she dove straight into the rich history of Aersadore, ready to let her puppeteers pull her creative strings.

She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her spouse, parrot, bearded dragon, and four cats who look far too similar.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Kings or Pawns. When did you start writing and what got you into fantasy?

I started writing when I just a kid—mostly horror novels. I had read some urban fantasy and romantic fantasy by the time I was 13, but it wasn’t until I discovered a video game buried in a garage sale box for 25 cents that my life was forever changed: Baldur’s Gate. After playing that game, I hungered for high fantasy and have never looked back. 

What is your book about? Kings or Pawns is the first novel in the Steps of Power series. It takes place after two very significant events in the world—the continental division between the human and elven races after the betrayal and death of Aersadore’s hero, Eraydon, and the recent Royal Schism that has left the elven nation’s politics even more corrupted than was prior. The new elven king, Hairem, is determined to overcome the council’s corruption and restore the elven lands, but he has far more to contend with than just the politics within the capital: an assassin has begun killing those loyal to him, a rebelling KingsorPawnscoverSMmwarlord threatens the city from without, and an unknown beast devastates the king’s forces at every turn. There are multiple points of view—the youthful and naïve king Hairem; the mute and spunky servant girl, Alvena; the mysterious and arrogant foreigner, Sellemar; and the cynical, dry-humored General Jikun. 

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

Characters that move the reader—characters they will never forget. The development of the world and strong, unforgettable characters has always been one of the strongest areas of my writing. Even now, when I look back at Dragonlance, the details of the stories have been forgotten, but the characters have stuck with me, even after over a decade: they still have an impact on me. That’s the same passion I hope readers find in my series. 

What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?

Collaborate… you mean muses CAN collaborate? Hahaha. My characters are very difficult individuals. From the moment I begin developing them, they take over entirely and, as I have very character-driven stories, they call all the shots. My attempts to write novels as “I wish” as opposed to what they want has resulted in multiple rewrites until I find myself ultimately exactly where my dear muses wanted to be to begin with. I have learned to not fight them. 

How do you keep your narrative exciting?

By focusing on very different points of view, I allow my readers to perceive the world, characters, and events from an entirely fresh pair of eyes. Every point of view enriches the story, the characters around them, and the world. The reader begins to see a far bigger picture than what is contained by an individual character and can form their own theories and opinions.

And then I pull the rug out from under them. 

Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?

Yes. I am, admittedly, a workaholic. I get up, feed my cats, maybe eat myself, and then I begin writing for about 10 hours. After I take a brief break to spend time with friends and family, I work for a few more hours and then crash for the night. I also do this on weekends… because I’m crazy like that. 

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?

Yes, actually, and it’s a pretty awesome website: We are constantly growing it to help readers fall even further into the rich world of Aersadore. Right now we’re working on the interactive map, drawn by Kirk Quilaquil, the primary artist for The Kings series. We plan to have over 100 interactive places on the map with tidbits of non-spoilery information that helps enrich the series! We also intend to have a majority of the characters drawn with bios added, summaries for the series, downloads of the first 100 pages, events we are attending in the future (like Wizard World in Chicago and Gen Con in Indianapolis), etc…! 

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Leave us with some wise words about this.

There is a love in authors to complain about the trials of our work. And there is, to a degree, pain and agony in our writing process—muses who pull our strings, rewrites, deadlines, late nights, writer’s block, etc… The creative process is always taxing on the mind. It was on one of those days that Orwell humorously lamented the writer’s life—the heart of the creativity we cannot control that drives us past the point of enjoyment and onward; but on most days I dare say we love our work. It is our passion. It is our pleasure demons. And we would not give it up for anything in the world.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

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