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 resides there to this day.
TBE: Firstly, for those who haven’t yet read the incredible ‘The Last Keeper’, can you briefly sum up what it’s about?
J V Hilliard: The Last Keeper is about a young seer, tormented by prophetic dreams of the return of a fallen Keeper, one who used his powers against the will of their gods and was cursed a generation ago. His return marks a time of turmoil and chaos, and only Daemus Alaric, the last Keeper, can stop him.
TBE: The storyline of this book is definitely intriguing, filled with fantasy, adventure, and mystery. What made you want to write this particular story in the first place?
J V Hilliard: I have been a fan of epic fantasy since I read Tolkien in my formative years. Since then, i’ve read the genre loyally and one day knew I’d write my own adventure series. When COVID hit the world hard, my work was shut down for over a year, and I found a silver lining in the epidemic. I was in lockdown at home and now had time to write. The Last Keeper was the result.
TBE: When writing a story, where do you generally start? Do you pick the characters first, the overall plot, or the story’s moral/theme, etc?
J V Hilliard: Yes, I am a plotter and planner to the core. I usually know the general story and then literally plot it out on graph paper and a white board, connecting plot lines, characters, inflection points and the like. Then I write it backward, from the end to the beginning to ensure I miss no details. I tease that there is never any wasted space in my books. If a detail appears, there’s a reason.
TBE: Do you have to plan out every detail of your story in advance, or do you just have a good idea of where it’s going?
J V Hilliard: I can’t do the “pantser” thing. I appreciate the talents of those than can, but I am definitely a plotter. I meticulously ensure there are no plot holes, I know where each character arc is headed and how the story ends before I can begin. It’s a blessing and a curse.
TBE: What was your favorite part of world-building? The magic and fantasy aspects of the book are so vivid, and I would love to know how you did that!
J V Hilliard: I’ve played Dungeons & Dragons for many years (and still do). During those decades of role-playing, I memorialized our adventures, whether I was a player or a Dungeon Master and used the central themes of those campaigns to create Warminster. And of course as you’ve read, the creatures, the realm, the races… they are all unique to my books, but I did find inspiration from the greats like Tolkien, Weis, Hickman, Brooks, Salvatore and others.
TBE: What kind of research did you undergo during the writing process?
J V Hilliard: Great question. In many respects, it’s a fantasy realm so anything goes. But you want to have a baseline for societies, codes and social/cultural norms. However I found the most challenging aspects of the novel in research on small details like what or how do falcons eat? How does a privy in a castle work? Or even how some of the advanced war machines that I use for battle scenes move from place to place.
TBE: When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
J V Hilliard: Yes and always yes for me. As I mentioned earlier, I am a plotter, so I know where the character begins and sometimes end (unfortunately). I plan to provide character growth through interaction with other cultures, races, personal experiences and, of course, personal struggle.
TBE: Out of sheer selfish interest, when will we see the second installment in ‘The Warminster Series’?
J V Hilliard: Book two, Vorodin’s Lair, will be launched August 2022 with book three, The Trillias Gambit, scheduled for release around the holidays 2022. Book four, the final installment in the series is scheduled for the end of quarter one, 2023.
TBE: Thank you, Mr. Hilliard, for your time and insightful responses, we really appreciate it and wish you well in your forthcoming endeavors!
J V Hilliard: Pleasure was all mine!!!!