Jeff Wheeler is joining us today to talk about his novel, Knight’s Ransom. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. A brutal war of succession has plunged the court of Kingfountain into a power struggle between a charitable king who took the crown unlawfully and his ambitious rival, Devon Argentine. The balance of power between the two men hinges on the fate of a young boy ensnared in this courtly intrigue. A boy befittingly nicknamed Ransom.
When the Argentine family finally rules, Ransom must make his own way in the world. Opportunities open and shut before him as he journeys along the path to knighthood, blind to a shadowy conspiracy of jealousy and revenge. Securing his place will not be easy, nor will winning the affection of Lady Claire de Murrow, a fiery young heiress from an unpredictably mad kingdom.
Ransom interrupts an abduction plot targeting the Queen of Ceredigion and earns a position in service to her son, the firstborn of the new Argentine dynasty. But conflict and treachery threaten the family, and Ransom must also come to understand and hone his burgeoning powers—abilities that involve more than his mastery with a blade and that make him as much a target as his lord.
What’s Jeff’s favorite bit?
There is one part of the publishing process I especially look forward to each time I finish a new book. That part is hearing back from my dev editor (this is short for “development editor”) after she’s done reading it for the first time. Writing books can be such a lonely process: hours, days, weeks, months cultivating a bubbling story, adding the right spices, letting it cool and firm up. Working with a dev editor, you get to see the figurative “look” on someone’s face as they taste it for the first time. I have early readers who help in my process and offer great feedback, but my dev editor’s contribution comes page by page, chapter by chapter, in meticulous detail. It’s the closest thing an author can get to sitting next to a reader and listening in as they experience the novel.
I have an amazing dev editor named Angela Polidoro. We started working together with my Covenant of Muirwood series and she’s been with me for the over twenty novels I’ve written since then. Her insights are spot on and her feedback and suggestions truly improve the recipes for each of my series. What a wonderful partner.
When Angela’s feedback arrives, I take my time and read every suggestion, but what I look forward to is the comments she adds in the margins. Those give me the sense when I get the emotions right in key scenes. For example, getting a comment with a “<3” from her (a love emoji) means the world, that all the right feels were there. When there’s a double <3<3 (rare), I know I’ve hit a homerun and that my readers will be equally delighted.
In my new book and series, Knight’s Ransom, my favorite bit is some character development I did for the protagonist, a knight who earned the nickname “Ransom” because when he was a child, the king nearly hung Ransom from a noose in front of his father’s castle because he was a hostage for his father’s good faith. The scene and the nick-name stuck for the rest of the boy’s life.
Ransom is a natural when it comes to swords and the lessons of war. In fact, he’s probably too good. His natural gifts, his dexterity, and his ability to take on multiple foes at once earn him a reputation but not always a good one. There’s something about him that goes a little wild when he’s in a fight. There is a darkness to him that he doesn’t trust, that makes him afraid of what he could become if he gave into those tendencies.
Ransom’s inner turmoil and conflict was fun to write. I could tell, through Angela’s comments, that this moment, this little peek into Ransom’s soul, worked for her:
Lord Bryon lowered his fist, looking at Ransom. There was a strange expression in his eyes. He was grateful, yes. But there was also a hint of fear as he stared at his young knight and all the dead piled around him. (Angela Polidoro: Nice! I like this ongoing theme)
Ransom is a kind of Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt kind of character, but lives in my medieval world of Kingfountain. The First Argentines series, which Knight’s Ransom kicks off, may be familiar to my readers, but this story takes place centuries before the tales I’ve told before.
I enjoyed writing Ransom’s character and the tenuous relationship that blossoms between him and Claire de Murrow. But my favorite bit, for this book, was watching Ransom wrestle with his capacity for violence and his desire to be an honorable knight.
Jeff Wheeler is the author of more than 30 epic-fantasy novels that have sold more than four million copies worldwide and earned him status as a Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Wheeler took an early retirement from his career at Intel in 2014 to pursue writing full-time.
Growing up in Silicon Valley, Wheeler fell in love with the work of Terry Brooks and decided that he wanted to create stories that inspired people, just as Brooks’ novels did for him. His writing journey began early on—writing full-length novels in high school. As a D&D enthusiast, many of his campaigns from high school were the inspiration for his early stories. His first self-published novel, The Wretched of Muirwood trilogy, catapulted Wheeler into the spotlight. Soon after, 47North came to Wheeler with an offer and published The Queen’s Poisoner trilogy in 2016. In July of this year, Wheeler secured an exciting deal to release TV rights to Nucleus Media for a PG or PG-13 adaption of the Kingfountain series. Morgan Gendel (known for his work in Star Trek Next Generation, Dresden Files, and Law & Order) will be leading the development of the series and has signed on as showrunner.
Jeff currently resides in the Rocky Mountains with his wife, Gina, and their five kids. He is a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ and The Latter Day Saints and has his time full drafting new stories and running Deep Magic (www.deepmagic.co), a quarterly e-zine featuring fantasy short stories and novellas by upcoming authors.