Author interview 164 – J.V. Hilliard


J.V. Hilliard

United States

Age 50

Born of steel, fire, and black wind, J.V. Hilliard was raised as a highlander in the foothills of a once-great mountain chain on the confluence of the three mighty rivers that forged his realm’s wealth and power for generations.

His father, a peasant twerg, toiled away in industries of honest labor and instilled in him a work ethic that would shape his destiny. His mother, a local healer, cared for his elders and his warrior uncle, who helped to raise him during his formative years. His genius brother, whose wizardly prowess allowed him to master the art of the abacus and his own quill, trained with him for battles on fields of green and sheets of ice.

Hilliard’s earliest education took place in his warrior uncle’s tower, where he learned his first words. His uncle helped him to learn the basics of life—and, most importantly, creative writing.

Hilliard’s training and education readied him to lift a quill that would scribe the tale of the realm of Warminster, filled with brave knights, harrowing adventure, and legendary struggles. He lives in the city of silver cups, hypocycloids, and golden triangles with his wife, a ranger of the diamond. They built their castle not far into the countryside, guarded by his own two horsehounds, Thor and MacLeod, and reside there to this day.

The Last Keeper, Book One of the Warminster Series

A young boy’s prophetic visions. A terrifying force of evil. Will chaos reign supreme?   

Blind since birth, Daemus Alaric is blessed with the gift of Sight by a visiting stranger. When his prophetic visions come to pass, he leaves his noble home to join the fabled Keepers of the Forbidden, wielders of vast arcane knowledge who serve leaders throughout the realm of Warminster.

But Daemus’ ideal life is short-lived as a recurring nightmare takes hold, threatening to catapult him into a terrifying struggle that will leave the fate of the Keepers hanging in the balance. In his fight to save the realm, Daemus and his allies set out to face the menace that threatens their very existence. Can they defeat the forces of evil before it’s too late?

The Last Keeper is the first book in The Warminster Series. If you like fantasy told with gripping action and heart-pounding adventure, you’ll love this new adventure series.

Romelia:   WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE UNDER-APPRECIATED NOVEL?

J.V. Hilliard:   I love the time wars series by Simon Hawke. I read these novels when still in high school and it really helped raise my interest in both the fantasy-adventure and sci-fi genres.

The books take you on a string of adventures that connect the main characters through a series of campaigns to stop villains from altering the timeline. However, in doing so, they irrevocably alter the timeline itself, creating new futures for them and others.

The adventures take you back to fictitious history, with the first novel beginning in the time of Ivanhoe.

Romelia:   HOW DO YOU BALANCE MAKING DEMANDS ON THE READER WITH TAKING CARE OF THE READER?

J.V. Hilliard:   I think that readers want a good story, even if some outcomes don’t always turn out the way they would want them to. So I try to point to obvious plotlines that end in different outcomes than they expect. My beta-readers tell me they like being kept on their toes and that no one in my novels is “safe.”

But in the end, you want the reader to come back for more, so giving them what I think they want (In terms of ending or segue) is important to the next chapter, or even the next book.

Romelia:   AS A WRITER, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE AS YOUR MASCOT/AVATAR/SPIRIT ANIMAL?

J.V. Hilliard:   My avatar would be a vampire. I am a night owl by nature, rarely sleep and when I do, it’s usually dead as a doornail. I do my best work at night, and I like the idea that my work sneaks up on my victims (uh, I mean readers) and captures their interest for all eternity. Or something like that. J

Romelia:   WHAT DO YOU OWE THE REAL PEOPLE UPON WHOM YOU BASE YOUR CHARACTERS?

J.V. Hilliard:   I owe them more of a debt of gratitude, so I usually give them free copies of my work (autographed if they want it personalized) and any collateral material I have as a token of my thanks. In many cases, they are unaware that I have adapted them to a story or novel, but for some—they are keenly aware I have brought them to life “anew” in fiction.

Romelia:   HOW MANY UNPUBLISHED AND HALF-FINISHED BOOKS DO YOU HAVE?

J.V. Hilliard:   I have only a debut novel published so far, with the second in the series being edited and the third book in draft form.

I have notes for about four more, not all in the fantasy-adventure genre though, which will make the publication more difficult under the same name. I will likely create a pen name for works in different genres.

Romelia:   WHAT DOES LITERARY SUCCESS LOOK LIKE TO YOU?

J.V. Hilliard:   Having someone read my books and reach out to me to discuss them. I think reading and tucking a book away on a shelf is great, and the purchase of my work is even better, but success is motivating someone enough with my tales that they email me or find me at a convention somewhere to chat about characters, plotlines or even what they didn’t like about the story. To know that someone else cares enough to do that is what I would call “success.”

Romelia:   WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO MARKET YOUR BOOKS?

J.V. Hilliard:   I have found blog/vlog/YouTuber tours and other person-to-person outreaches are the best forms of marketing for me. This type of contact often leads to referrals and reviews for my work, and it builds a longer-term relationship with the reader.

Social media is a close second, as readers can contact you through their own social channels and follow you as an author. But nothing beats an old-fashioned handshake or exchanged pleasantry.

Romelia:   WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DO YOU DO, AND HOW LONG DO YOU SPEND RESEARCHING BEFORE BEGINNING A BOOK?

J.V. Hilliard:   I would say I spend a moderate, but necessary amount of time doing research for my novels. Let’s face it, my novels are epic fantasy, so much of what I write involves some world-building, but many items that help put a personal stamp on a fantasy series (like unique monsters, magic, and even monetary systems) add to the flavor of the final work.

For instance, I once spent several hours doing online research on how a privy system is cleaned in medieval castles. Imagine explaining that to someone that is “browsing your browser” history.

Romelia:   DO YOU VIEW WRITING AS A KING OF SPIRITUAL PRACTICE?

J.V. Hilliard:   I view writing as something incredibly personal. You are letting the world in on what’s in your head and the stories you find interesting enough to spend months of your own time writing, editing, and publishing in the hopes that someone else may agree.

in a strange way, you are giving life to characters that have been calling out in your head to do so. And in some cases, waiting many years to be released.

Romelia:   WHAT’S THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT WRITING CHARACTERS FROM THE OPPOSITE SEX?

J.V. Hilliard:   In part, it’s pretending how to know what other people think. You really don’t, but you can only try and capture tendencies from your own experience with them. And when you add into it some creatures, races, genders, etc., that don’t really exist elsewhere except for in my fictitious realm of Warminster, it adds a layer of sophistication and challenge to it.

For example, one of my characters in the last keeper is a creature known as a skin stealer, a monster of sorts that can transform itself into any other creature by absorbing them from the inside out. They cannot have their own children and are by their very nature, sexless. They can only procreate by becoming two matching sexes of a different race and impregnating themselves, but in doing so, doom the true mother and father by eating them painfully. How do you identify with that?

Romelia:   HOW LONG WERE YOU A PART-TIME WRITER BEFORE YOU BECOME A FULL-TIME ONE?

J.V. Hilliard:   Almost my entire life. I started late in writing, as a second career in fact, and regret the time I missed by not starting earlier. Now I am doing everything I can to “catch up” on years of stories rolling around in my head.

Romelia:   HOW MANY HOURS A DAY DO YOU WRITE?

J.V. Hilliard:   It varies from day to day, week to week and month to month, but on any given day I spend at least two hours writing, editing, or planning for the next “adventure.”

Romelia:   WHAT PERIOD OF YOUR LIFE DO YOU FIND YOU WRITE ABOUT MOST OFTEN? (CHILD, TEENAGER, YOUNG ADULT)

J.V. Hilliard:   I write mostly fantasy-adventure fiction, so I rarely write about periods in my life that are relevant, but most of my stories feature characters of all ages, races, sexes, and genders.

But to your question, I like writing character scenes related to the time in one’s life when they are becoming adults—or—giving characters later in life a chance at redemption, whether it’s a result of a choice they made, unrequited love or a deed they should or shouldn’t have done.

Romelia:   HAVE YOU READ ANYTHING THAT MADE YOU THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT FICTION?

J.V. Hilliard:   I have always been a fan of fiction and good storytelling, whether it be in literary form or other similar arts like film.

Ernest cline’s ready player one made me think about the implications of whether or not, in the near future, we will be able to live a version of augmented and/or virtual reality that would be completely different than our own and in doing so, make our virtual life more important to us that our real lives.

The idea that one may need to choose between living the life of the avatar you can perfectly create for yourself or being the real “you” is both intoxicating and disturbing.

And we are beginning to see the start of this in our lifetime. Many folks live through their online personas now, and many folks meet friends virtually around the globe, and never really need to know the people they live next to.

Romelia:   WHAT ARE THE ETHICS OF WRITING ABOUT HISTORICAL FIGURES?

J.V. Hilliard:   Always stay true to history and make sure you know as much about those figures as you can, to honor them the right way. You don’t want to have painted a character for your readers that isn’t true about historical figures. That is unfair to history and propaganda for your readers.

Romelia:   HOW DO YOU SELECT THE NAMES OF YOUR CHARACTERS?

J.V. Hilliard:   In many instances, the names are in some respects related to who they are in my stories. For example, Daemus Alaric’s first name is derived from Nostradamus, as they are both seers or oracles. In the case of Sir Ritter of Valkeneer, Ritter means “Knight” in German, and his father, Hertzog, means “Duke.”

Romelia:   DO YOU READ YOUR BOOK REVIEWS? HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH BAD OR GOOD ONES?

J.V. Hilliard:   I am only human, so yes, I do read my reviews. It’s important to learn what readers like and don’t like, and how well I am doing. I think honest reviews, whether I like them or not, are the best because that is where we can receive true constructive criticism and grow as writers.

Romelia:   DO YOU HIDE ANY SECRETS IN YOUR BOOKS THAT ONLY A FEW PEOPLE WILL FIND?

J.V. Hilliard:   Of course! My writing is festooned with little “Easter Eggs” that only certain readers would understand. I think that is a fun part of being an author and a way to memorialize experiences that are close to your heart, and the hearts of others.

Romelia:   WHAT WAS YOUR HARDEST SCENE TO WRITE?

J.V. Hilliard:   I can’t say, as a don’t want to ruin parts of my novels for those that haven’t read them yet, but I believe killing characters or having characters live through something so personal or difficult are always the hardest scenes to write.

I feel like I owe it to both the character and the reader to get it right, even if it means stewing over the simplest of language, hoping to elicit the correct response from the reader.

Romelia:   DO YOU GOOGLE YOURSELF?

J.V. Hilliard:   Rarely, but I have been known to drop my name in the ole’ google machine from time to time. Not proud of it but I always write it off as “necessary research” to identify any problems I am having.

Romelia:   WHAT ONE THING WOULD YOU GIVE UP TO BECOME A BETTER WRITER?

J.V. Hilliard:   Wow… tough question. I think I have given up some things already such as my own personal time and opportunities in other businesses because I have decided to walk this path. But in fairness to your question, if a leprechaun came by and said, “I’ll make ye a better writer if ye will trade me your _____,” I would say they could have my entire collection of sports memorabilia that I have cherished from the time I was a child till now. But that better get me some new followers… J

Romelia:   WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE LITERARY JOURNALS?

J.V. Hilliard:   I enjoy “Clarkesworld magazine” for the science fiction stories I like to read and “Beneath Ceaseless Skies” for Fantasy-adventure. Both are filled with great tales—and more importantly—opportunities for me to see examples of work that will make my writing better.

Romelia:   WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CHILDHOOD BOOK?

J.V. Hilliard:   The hobbit and of course the Lord of the Rings series by Tolkien. I had them read to me by a substitute teacher in the fourth grade when he was filling in for my teacher who went on a sabbatical.

I was enthralled and from that day I wanted to pen a fantasy-adventure novel.

Romelia:   TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY FROM YOUR ADULT LIFE.

J.V. Hilliard:   I have a penchant for getting the middle finger when I drive. Am I deserving of such a demonstration as often as I get it? Perhaps…

But I tend to think of others as the bad drivers. I mean, It can’t always be my fault, right? But imagine what it takes to generate that response from perfectly good strangers. I dunno. Lots of poor drivers out there that are not driving in the correct lane. Just sayin’.

Romelia:   DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW SENTENCES. TELL US SOMETHING WE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU HATE ABOUT THE WORLD.

J.V. Hilliard:   I am a big dog lover, and find dogs sometimes to be more truthful, loyal, and forgiving of faults than most humans. And in some cases, dogs are better conversationalists.

And my hate of the world? laziness. I don’t begrudge people the need for downtime, but I believe the world would be a much better place if everyone just took care of their own responsibilities.

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