• Featured Novel: 'Wytchfire' (The Dragonkin Trilogy Book 1) by Michael Meyerhofer

    Wytchfire, the first book of The Dragonkin Trilogy by Michael Meyerhofer, tells the story of Rowen Locke, a former orphan-turned-sellsword who gets caught in the middle of a sprawling conflict fueled by age-old prejudices (what one reader described as a thousand-year cyst about to burst), and his desperate, fallible attempts to both gain and maintain honor in a world where behaving honorably usually gets you killed.

    Meyerhofer's love for dark fantasy inspired him to write his epic fantasy series. Born with birth defects that made him the target of bullying and teasing when he was a child, he felt something of a kinship with people who were different, who were disliked or even hated simply based on the lottery of their birth. Eventually, his experiences formed the basis for the discrimination that underlies the story and various conflicts of The Dragonkin Trilogy.

    Interview with Michael Meyerhofer

    The Shel'ai sounds like a well-developed and intriguing group of sorcerers. How do they affect the people around them? And how are they the center of Wytchfire's conflict?

    -Despite all the time that has passed since the overthrow of the Dragonkin (roundabouts nine centuries), the peoples of Ruun remain deeply suspicious of magic, to put it mildly. Fear of the supernatural permeates their myths, and superstition rules much of daily life, to the point where the Shel'ai aren't welcome anywhere. Furthermore, when one is seen, he/she is almost always blamed for every famine or death due to illness, and hunted down. This means that every Shel'ai lives with a kind of perpetual PTSD, which they address with varying degrees of success. How far they should or shouldn't go, and how they can secure a safe place for their kind, is constant cause for question and debate--when they aren't fighting off mobs and armies, that is. At the risk of giving away too much, even their name (a homonym of Shall I?) is a hint at the ongoing self-doubt and indecision that many of them experience. Despite this indecision, the Shel'ai are still capable of acting decisively. For instance, many of the Shel'ai are acting in accord with a complex (and not necessarily sound) plan that involves a swirling conflict with many other realms--some of which hate each other almost as much as they hate the Shel'ai.

    Tell us about the world of your novel. How did you develop this setting?

    I'm an avid history buff, so I found myself patterning parts of the continent of Ruun after different historical areas and time periods that have caught my interest over the years. The Lotus Isles are obviously patterned somewhat after feudal Japan. Ivairia is a bit European (especially French). The Free Cities are a touch Greek, whereas the Dhargots (who figure heavily into Knightswrath, Book II in the trilogy) reflect historic Rome at it's very, very worst. There are also plenty of elements of Ruun that have no exact real world counterpart, though. For example, Ruun was once home to dragons, whose crimson-tinged bones are still sometimes turned up in the earth. These bones are prized, even worshiped by certain fanatics who deliberately harm themselves, thinking their penance will bring about the dragons' return.

    What are the "age-old prejudice" of the conflict that your protagonist gets caught in?

    -The world of my fantasy novels was previously ruled by the Dragonkin, a sect of sorcerers who were as powerful as they were mad. Even though they were eventually overthrown, this created a deep and lasting suspicion towards all things related to magic (even the magic that helped win the war). Add to that the fact that the Shel'ai (descendents of the Dragonkin, though not as powerful) sometimes go too far in defending themselves--and other times, not far enough--and you have a recipe for a pretty complex, nuanced conflict with no easy answers or resolution.

    What are the darkest themes in Wytchfire? Do you vividly describe violence and sex in your series?

    -In addition to recurring themes of bigotry, there are some references to child abuse, and characters having experienced it, but I tried to handle these delicately and avoid being gratuitous by not going into great detail, instead just letting the reader see how characters' pasts affect them now. The books certainly contain a fair amount of violence, some sexual content, but I'm a big fan of Hemingway's so-called Iceberg Theory. Put another way, I put a lot of faith in my readers' imaginations.

    You said that you like to focus on character development. How do you develop your characters?

    -I often begin by patterning a character after a real-life person, but I prefer to use small details--physical quirks, hypocrisies, senses of humor--to serve as metaphors for the bigger picture of who/how the character really is. Crises are a factor, too. It's like Vonnegut said: "No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them--in order that the reader may see what they are made of."

    How would you describe the magical elements in Wytchfire?

    -The Shel'ai are those very few people born (seemingly at random) with certain abilities that include telepathy, telekinesis, healing, and the conjuring of wytchfire--a magical, purple flame that can be used to stun, or increased in intensity to the point where it can melt steel or turn bones to ash in seconds. Despite these substantial abilities, the Shel'ai are mortal, and their magic is far from inexhaustible. A Shel'ai who conjures too much wytchfire within the space of just one battle might easily exhaust him/herself to the point of death. As Shel'ai magic is kind of a genetic leftover from the days of the Dragonkin, and the Dragonkin gained their powers (and subsequent madness) by literally draining the life-energies from dragons, it could be said that all magic in the Dragonkin Trilogy originated with these now-extinct dragons. That's another theme I love to work with, by the way: the legacy of runaway power tinged with madness.

    What fantastical creatures are found in your fictional world?

    -Much of Ruun would appear similar to ancient Rome or feudal Japan, but there are some things that set it apart. While dragons appear to have been hunted to extinction long ago, there bones still turn up in the soil, inspiring dread and fascination. There are also living creatures like the greatwolves: wolf-like creatures with ruddy fur, almost the size of horses, but capable of rising on two legs like bears for a brief time. Another addition is the urusks: a species of docile animals that resemble gigantic ant-eaters, which are predominantly hunted and eaten by the very poor (in spite of the bitter taste of urusk-meat). There are also the Olgrym (similar to traditional Ogres, but with bony protrusions all over their bodies), the Dwarrs (like Dwarves, only gray-skinned and a bit taller), and the Sylvs (Elf-like with azure eyes but more Asian facial features). On a slightly different note, one small thing I'm kind of proud of is the vegetation. I mean, how often do you read a fantasy series where there's a plant that addresses dental hygiene?


    Get 'Wytchfire' (The Dragonkin Trilogy Book 1) on Amazon now

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