I am extremely pleased to share this interview with you. I recently reviewed Jack’s novel, “The Fire And The Forge” and was completely blown away by how great it was. It has a permanent spot on my favorite books list. Jack’s insight and story telling will leave you mesmerized. I truly believe that Jack is a born story-teller and I can’t wait to devour every word he writes. I hope you enjoy the interview and grab a copy of the book for yourself.
Q: “The Fire And The Forge” is an amazing story. What are your hopes for the book?
Honestly, my hopes are just that it will reach as many readers as possible and that they’ll enjoy it as much as you have. There’s a lot of authors out there and a lot of other books people could be reading.
Q: In the world of “The Fire And The Forge”, a Blacksmith must earn his ‘iron’ before going out on his own. Can you explain this custom?
‘Earning one’s iron’ is a phrase I used in the book, but the concept dates back to the guilds of medieval Europe. Upon completing his apprenticeship, a young man would embark on what were known as his ‘journeyman’ years, where he would travel from place to place, earning day wages and gaining experience. Later, he would become a master craftsman himself and take on his own apprentice. This is more or less the plan for Imharak’s life until Alba is attacked.
Q: This world is comparable in some ways to the “Old Testament” and different Mythologies. What inspired you to bring this world to life?
I suppose I was tired of the medieval European setting that had become standard for epic fantasy. I wanted to see something different, and was always much more fascinated by ancient history than the Middle Ages.
So I created a world that borrowed from ancient Egypt, Israel, Carthage and Rome, rather than England or Scandinavia. I drew mainly from the Old Testament in terms of the Liberites themselves and their exodus from Kemet, but there’s also a lot of Homer’s Iliad in there, too. You’ll notice distinct similarities between the old pantheon of gods who are not really worshipped anymore with the Greek gods of Mt. Olympus. We’ll see more of that ancient Greek influence in Book #2.
Q: Authors often mention that their stories are either already in their head or the writer is a kind of vessel that the story flows from. How did this story come about for you?
Funnily enough, it started as a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi dystopia. It was all about a society that evolves in the wake of a nuclear holocaust – each tribe had a different elemental power based on the environment in which they lived (desert, sea etc.). But that concept was really all that stayed.
I guess the story, for me, felt like a natural culmination of all the things I loved most – ancient history, the setting of the Old Testament, movies like Gladiator and Braveheart and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I didn’t want to write historical fiction exactly, but fantasy allowed me to explore history with the freedom to change details to fit the story I wanted to tell. I’m sure I’ll get some people who are upset that I don’t have complex magic systems or other things that are common to the genre, but that wasn’t really what drew me to fantasy in the first place. Hopefully, that means I’ll be able to bring something new to the table.
First and foremost, I focus on the characters. I’m not really interested in doing multiple plot-lines – I find it hard to latch on to someone I really care about, and if I do, I find myself wishing I could just see the entire story from their point of view. That’s why I chose to keep The Fire and the Forge focused mainly on a small group of characters in a single narrative arc – follow them on their journey from one place to another, the conversations they have over campfires and the dangers they face together, the revelations they come to.
Q: Infernos seems less autocratic in personality than Caelos, do you think the society of Libera is reflected in the god they praise?
I think part of that might be because we don’t really see Infernos in this book. For that matter, we don’t really see the Kem or get a good insight into their way of thinking. All we really have to go on is Imharak’s interpretation of them.
However, I certainly think that Infernos could be less autocratic. He was banished to the underworld by Caelos, and is something of an underdog in this story. His patronage of the Kem could be seen – especially from their point of view – as ‘teaming up’ to take down the cruel tyrant that is Caelos. They certainly don’t think they’re the bad guys in the story.
With regards to Libera being reflected in the god they praise, I think you’ve really hit the nail on the head. Caelos is unyielding, jealous and has the capacity for terrible violence. The Liberites (or at least the ones we see in The Fire and the Forge) are very similar in the way they treat other peoples who may have different beliefs, and indeed, their own people who stray from the path.
Q: The Kem seem much different than the God Infernos who they seem to be tied to. What is the main driver for this divide?
For the Kem, the adoption of Infernos as their one and only god is a very recent thing, more recent than the Liberites adopting Caelos as their sole deity. They are, in many ways, still transitioning from a polytheistic state, and this is reflected in the blending of Infernos with their former chief deity, the sun god, Bast – a process known as syncretism.
There’s another reason for the Liberites potentially being more devout followers of Caelos than the Kem are of Infernos, but that will be explored in a later book…
Q: Imharak is torn between many allegiances. This sets him apart from society from the onset of the book. The intention was as punishment but could it also be the reasoned as an asset?
That’s a very interesting way to look at it. I, personally, believe that it is an asset. It allows Imharak to be critical and self-aware in a way very few others around him are. Being skeptical of his surroundings, of people and their gods, gives him an advantage over others who might be blinded by their faith and the way they think the world works. Because of this well-honed doubt – for lack of a better word – he is able to see the truth of things, even when the truth is unthinkable.
Q: “The Fire And The Forge” is the first book in what is an ongoing series. Is there a planned amount of books?
There are four books planned at the time I’m writing this. I’m almost finished editing Book #2, which is called To Kill a King. It is due for release January 12th (it’s actually up for preorder now). Book #3 is called Queen of the Dead Lands and that will be out sometime around April/May.
The third instalment has been fully outlined, and while I’ve got a very definite idea about what Book #4 will be, I haven’t plotted it out yet. All I can say is that it will bring this particular series to an end, but there are other planned series in the universe, each drawing influence from certain, less-explored periods of history (think the rise of Islam in late antiquity, or the transition from hunter-gatherer tribes to cities in Central and South America).
Q: Who in the story do you feel the deepest connection to?
Probably Gaius. I find him to be the most sympathetic and empathetic character in the book, a man who has done terrible things and who is trying desperately to forget, or redeem himself if he can. I know this probably isn’t how a lot of other writers do it, but when I envision a character, I’ll usually think of the actor I imagine playing them in the movie. It might be a hold-over from when I was studying screenplays before I turned to writing novels, but I always imagined Andre Braugher in the role. He has this careful deliberation and gravitas about him, a quiet power. Very eloquent, enunciating every syllable.
Q: If you could have any two powers, what would you choose and why?
Flight, without even thinking. I’ve always been very jealous of birds. Second to that would probably be some kind of regenerative ability – I’ve had a bad back for a few years now, which is kind of messing with my hips and knees, too. It’d be nice to get rid of that.
Q: If you were to identify with one of the many societies in your story, with whom would you belong?
Wow. The ancient world was such a brutal place, even just in daily life. I suppose if I had to pick one, it would be the Elladenes. We get a glimpse into their culture at the end when Longinus is playing his lyre and singing in the Elladene language. If the Liberites are influenced by the people of biblical-era Israel in the Old Testament, then the Elladenes more closely match the ancient Greeks. In the world of The Fire and the Forge, they’re perhaps the most progressive, advanced and tolerant society around. But more on them in Book #2…