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An Interview With Epic Fantasy Author James Neal

The Official Cover to "Of Blood and Blade" by James Neal

So what’s your name, and where are you originally from?

My name is James Neal, and I hail from Camdenton, MO. If you don’t know where that is, I’m not offended.

What’s the title of your book?

The title is Of Blood and Blade. It’s the first book in the Cards of Chaos series.

How’d you arrive at this title?

This title is well over 10 years old. As soon as I decided to write a novel, I decided I wanted to make it as violent as possible. While the original version of the story was indeed bloody and violent, as a story it was crap. This version has moments of intense violence, but the story is much meatier that the original.

What genre would you classify this title as?

Of Blood and Blade is definitely high fantasy. According to modern nomenclature, since the main characters are teenage boys, it fits under Young Adult as well.

Distill the story into two sentences. What is it about?

A martial king-to-be and a theatrical usurper to the throne clash, just as a mysterious stranger begins manipulating each of them into yet another game. The search for the legendary Cards of Chaos begins, and the price for each player will prove to be steep.

"The greatest thing about Derisma is that, while realistic, you get the feeling that anything can happen...and a lot of wonderful and horrifying things do come to pass."--James Neal, on Of Blood and Blade

Tell us a little about your protagonist.

Grier Solemn has been training since childhood to be a warrior, and he lives that code to the point that several of his subjects and peers believe he doesn’t wish to become king. Though untrue, Grier does learn that maybe he isn’t quite as ready for the throne as he believed. He will learn what it means to be responsible and accountable for his actions. He will also discover that those actions will always have a direct effect on his kingdom, and it will be in one of the harshest ways possible.

Tell us a little bit about this world.

Derisma is a 75% manufactured world. It’s not based on Earth, magic takes place on a fairly regular basis, and it has its own mythos and religions. Several humanoid races exist here, most of them you’d find in general fantasy texts. I didn’t try to twist the elves or dwarves into something fresh or new, or give them powers beyond recognition. What I did do, was give those stereotypes a reason to exist within the context of this world. The elves live in the woods for a reason. Dwarves live in mountains because they love creating huge monoliths dedicated to their ancestors. The greatest thing about Derisma is that, while realistic, you get the feeling that anything can happen…and a lot of wonderful and horrifying things do come to pass.

What inspired this title?

The honest answer? Magic: The Gathering inspired the overarching storyline. A few friends of mine introduced me to the card game when I was 19 years old, and despite my every attempt not to love it, I was quick to get hooked.

In the original storyline, everybody and their mother had “Cards,” which performed various magical feats. When I was done with the original story, I even asked Wizards of the Coast (who created the card game) if they would help me publish the story like they did with R.A. Salvatore with the Drizzt novels. Not only did they say no, but told me if I attempted to publish the story, I would deal with their lawyers in court. Yikes.

Instead, I let the book sit on the shelf for years, forgotten, until one of my friends asked me if I was still working on it. My friend’s interest rekindled my passion, and I decided to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. Now, there are only ten Cards, each one insanely powerful, and the only thing in common with Magic: the Gathering is the fact that they are called “Cards.”

Will there be a sequel, or more adventures in this world?

Oh definitely. Of Blood and Blade only scratches the surface of what is going on with the Cards of Chaos. I’ve already started working on the sequel, tentatively titled Of Rogue and Ruin. This time around, it won’t take me a decade to write the novel.

Also, I plan on releasing short story anthologies that take place in Derisma’s past. If fans start sending in fan-fic, I may even help publish those under the Cards of Chaos label. We’ll have to see how that works out, but it would be cool.

When and where can we expect this title?

The ebook launches on Amazon only, on October 15, 2014. As I have already been asked several times, I will be working on getting paperbacks made early next year, but there is no set date for that project just yet.

Given any thought to your next project? Care to share anything?

My next project deals with animation. I’m putting together an animation bible for my webcomic, Mandy and Murder-Bear, and will be sending that out to different studios ASAP. Just click the link if you’d like to read it.

On the publishing side, I’ll be working on the Cards of Chaos series for the foreseeable future. Once that’s done (if?), I have ideas for a story called Iriquois. I also want to write a heavy steampunk adventure, but that is still baking in the oven right now.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I just want to give a huge thank you to everyone who is, and has, backed me on this project. Avery, you know you’re one of those people. My wife, Dawn, for accepting that I needed to accomplish this dream. Then there are the countless others who said, “Okay, you have no idea what you’re doing. Do this, and see if it helps.” To all of you, it has helped.

I hope new people discover this title and are entertained by these characters, and can connect with them. If I did my job, readers will get to live outside the norm for a little while, which I believe is what continues to make writing a worthwhile passion.

James Neal also shares his thoughts on life over at his blog American Dirt. You can also find him on Twitter at @BloodandBlade. Check it out for more info on the man behind the world and keep a lookout for of Blood and Blade, which will be released on 10/15/2014!

Thanks for reading!


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