About Michael Meyerhofer:
His fourth poetry book, WHAT TO DO IF YOU'RE BURIED ALIVE, was recently published by Split Lip Press. He also serves as the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. His poetry and prose have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Brevity, Ploughshares, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Rattle, and many other journals. He and his fiancee currently live in Fresno, California, in a little house beside a very large cactus.
1.) Tell us a little bit about your series, especially the first book, WYTCHFIRE.
WYTCHFIRE is 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. Anyway, WYTCHFIRE is Book I in the DRAGONKIN TRILOGY. KNIGHTSWRATH, the sequel, came out a few weeks ago. I've also completed a rough draft of the conclusion, tentatively titled THE WAR OF THE LOTUS.
2.) How would you describe these books, in terms of genre/subgenre?
The first book, WYTCHFIRE, is probably halfway between epic fantasy and dark fantasy. The sequel, KNIGHTSWRATH, gets significantly darker (spoiler: there's a guy contemplating whether or not to carve out his newborn son's eyes, and that's just in the prologue!). The series does have one central protagonist, but there's also a big cast of characters and a lot of interrelated conflicts. Regular fantasy fans should feel right at home, though I hope they'll also appreciate the twists I've put on some of the "traditional" ideas, like magic and honor.
3.) What inspired you to write this series?
I've always loved fantasy--dark fantasy, in particular. Also, I was born with birth defects that made me the target of a lot of bullying and teasing when I was younger, so as a child, I 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, this formed the basis for the discrimination that underlies the story and various conflicts of the DRAGONKIN TRILOGY.
4.) Who are some writers who have influenced your writing style?
Yikes, too many to count! Some of my biggest influences, though, were George R. R. Martin (of course), Katherine Kurtz, Raymond Feist, Richard Knaak, Lloyd Alexander, Terry Brooks, Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, Robert E. Howard, and J.R.R. Tolkien (another "of course"). I've also been influenced by a lot of writers outside the fantasy/horror genres, including Ernest Hemingway, Shirley Jackson, Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O'Connor, Walt Whitman, and J.D. Salinger, along with contemporary poets like Dorianne Laux, George Bilgere, Allison Joseph, Yusef Komunyakaa, Billy Collins, and Tony Hoagland.
5.) On a related note, can you discuss one author who had a big, early impact on you?
Sure! One of my favorites for many years now has been Richard Knaak. I first discovered his work when I was plowing through nearly all the books in the Dragonlance series, and I came upon his book, THE LEGEND OF HUMA. I was wary because Huma is a big, historical figure in the DRAGONLANCE books, and I was worried that actually nailing down his story in a prequel would dispel some of the mystery. Instead, it was quite the opposite. Knaak’s writing conveyed both action and emotional nuance, and I loved his portrayal of Huma as fallible and struggling. After THE LEGEND OF HUMA, I sought out pretty much everything else he’d written, and was especially a fan of the unique world and textured characters created in his DRAGONREALM books. As a side note, I’d already written WYTCHFIRE by then but was very surprised to find that Knaak also has a character named Shade (though aside from the name, the characters are completely different).
6.) What’s one thing that distinguishes your book from other fantasy books?
I’ve always liked complex plots with lots of characters (wait… is that two things?). So, while my books do have a central protagonist, you also get to see the story through different sets of eyes. I find that’s a good way to establish moral ambiguity, which is really just a fancy way of writing a story that kind of gets under your skin (but hopefully, in a good way).
7.) Tell us a little more about the conflict in your series.
The primary conflict in the DRAGONKIN TRILOGY centers around the Shel'ai, those born with the “gift” of magic. The Shel'ai serve as echoes of a dark past in which sorcerers (who gained both power and madness by draining the life-force of dragons) ruled with an iron fist. As a result, Shel'ai are almost always viewed with hatred and paranoia. Most are killed at birth, and those who survive still face a lifetime of running from mobs. However, many of the Shel'ai are far from blameless, as they've been using increasingly more brutal and desperate means to defend themselves, creating a schism in the ranks.
8.) What's the most challenging part of writing this book?
I tend to focus a lot on character development, to the point where I get almost absurdly invested in what happens to them. At the same time, especially in my stories, necessity and realism demand that awful things happen to these characters on a regular basis. I'm also a perfectionist when it comes to plot lines and dialog. Long story short, this series has given me a lot of sleepless nights.
9.) I read that you’re a history buff. Did you base any of your characters on historical figures? What about the world-building?
Ha, yes and yes! I'm kind of an amateur historian (emphasis on the amateur part) and I'm fascinated by Greek and Roman history, plus the pre-Civil War era of the United States--the good and awful elements, both. Also, I know it's a bit cliché to say this but when I was young, I spent a great deal of time studying the Holocaust, reading various memoirs and testimonials (particularly those of Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi). I guess all that went into the mental cauldron... as did stacks and stacks of X-Men comics.
Rowen Locke has achieved his dream of becoming a Knight of the Crane, and he now bears Knightswrath, the legendary sword of Fâyu Jinn. But the land remains torn, and though Rowen suffers doubts, he would see it healed. His knightly order is not what it seems, though, and allies remain thin. When Rowen and his friends seek an alliance with the forest-dwelling Sylvs, a tangle of events results in a midnight duel that teaches Rowen a dangerous lesson and leaves him with a new companion of uncertain loyalties.
The sadistic Dhargots still threaten the kingdoms, but another menace lurks in the shadows, playing a game none can see. As Rowen struggles to prove his worth—to his allies and to himself—chaos raises its hand to strike. A price must be paid, and not even the wielder of Knightswrath will remain untouched.