Thursday, August 11, 2016

Celebrating Debutantes 2016: In the Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford (Author Interview + Giveaway)

Hi guys! I'm back with more features! Maricar and I are posting alternately from August 5 all the way to September 30. Keep coming back for more features and giveaways. It's listed in the main Celebrating Debutantes page, which you can access by clicking the post over here >>> (top right). Today, we are featuring a fantasy novel, In the Shadow of the Dragon King. 


Hi Precious! Thank you for having me today. I’m super excited to talk about my novel, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING with your readers.

What or who inspired you to write In the Shadow of the Dragon King?
You know, I’ve always had the story in me, ever since I was a little girl. My dad was in the army, so I grew up traveling all over the world. I lived in Germany for almost 3 years when I was young and visited tons of castles and palaces. I loved fairy tales of princesses, and knights on white horses. I always kind of viewed my dad as one of those armored heroes that saved the day. He defended his family and the land he loved and when you put that together with stories of wars and castles and dragons and fairies, well, you’ve got a fantasy story brewing. While the plot has changed considerably over the years, the underlying themes of love, perseverance, honor and sacrifice remained.

What kind of research did you do for the book?
I think what I was the weakest on was my knowledge of medieval weapons, official titles and military ranks of soldiers and knights. I read a lot, went to Renaissance Fairs to observe language, mannerisms, fight scenes. I’ve held swords, shot arrows and tried to submerse myself in that sort of lifestyle as much as possible. I also did a lot of research on dragons so I could come up with my own unique creatures.

Could you tell us about Fallhallow? How did you develop the storyworld?
Fallhollow is one of five realms in the world of Estaria: the floating isles of Itas, Fallhollow, Felindil, Gramata, and Ansilar. Fallhollow is made up of three kingdoms: Berg, Braemar and Hirth, with Hirth being the seat of power. Each country rules itself, but matters concerning all of the realm must be debated and decided upon by all governments of all kingdoms. Those meetings take place at Gyllen Castle in Hirth.

But it’s not so simple. There are magical beings that live in Fallhollow: barbagazis, unicorns, fae, elves, gnomes, and yes, dragons. To oversee these magical beings, there are mages and sorcerers and sorceresses that maintain the peace over the magic. They also have representatives that attend the military/governmental meetings in Fallhollow as they need to also be aware of what the humans have in mind.

Mages and humans do not get along, which adds fuel to the fire.

As to how I developed the world, I never really thought about it. It sort of evolved as I wrote the story. I even surprised myself a couple of times. Some things I had to cut because they didn’t make sense or they felt far-fetched, but for the most part, I let the world develop on its own. I knew I wanted certain political elements, but I didn’t dictate where they would happen. I let the characters and story lead the way.

Could you share with us some of the key places in Fallhallow and tell us a bit about its importance?
Wow, there are so many. As I said earlier, Hirth is the primary focus in Fallhollow. It is where Eric, my young squire lives along with Sir Trogsdill Domnall and the other revered knights, as well as the beloved king and queen, Gildore and Mysterie. It also is the home to the mages, who live in a town called Avaleen. This is a gorgeous area of the realm set among lush green hills and peaceful valleys.

I don’t want to give too much away, but the kingdom of Berg and Berg castle itself, are extremely important, as are the towns of Gable and Tulipakar. The Southern Forest and the Northern Forest also hold their own secrets that the readers really need to discover on their own because they’re magical, spooky, or mesmerizing. They are all important to the story, either because of someone or something that lives there or the role they play in the telling of the story.

What were the difficulties that you encountered while writing In the Shadow of the Dragon King, if any? How did you deal with them?
My biggest difficulties were plot lines and date lines. The story is linear yet at the same time, it isn’t. There are important events that happened fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, even more, and to keep them straight was really hard. Lots of times I had to go back to my notes to see when something happened to make sure I had it in the correct timeline.

I ended up making a timeline graph, kind of like those graphs you find in high school history books. I’d list out the year and then all the events that they took place and where they took place. Having the visual really helped a lot.

I also drew a map of Fallhollow. It was a really rough sketch but it let me visualize where all the key places were and, by referring to legends from real maps, I was able to determine how long it would take to get from one place to another. Very important when traveling a magical world. 

What is your favorite part about writing your debut?
OMgosh, meeting so many people because of my book has been amazing!! Whether it’s through blog posts or on social media or in person, the enthusiasm from my readers has been so special to me. Seeing my readers’ smiles when they hold my book. Priceless. You have no idea how much it means to me. I can’t thank them enough for their kind words, their belief in my story. The book signings have been fantastic and I loved going to ALA in Orlando to meet so many teachers and librarians who were so excited to include my book in their school libraries. I think the biggest praise came from the School Library Journal where they compared me and my novel to Paolini and Tolkien. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that for a debut novelist!!

How did you blend high fantasy and urban fantasy? Could you share your techniques on how you balanced these two?

I think the key is to introduce elements as early on as you can. In the Shadow of the Dragon King is told from two perspectives – Eric, who lives in Fallhollow, and David, who lives in Havendale, a small town in the Cherokee National Forest not too far from Bristol, Tennessee. The story opens in Fallhollow, but we are introduced to the possibility of someone or something coming from outside the realm.

The next chapter is all about David, and the fantasy aspects come into play very, very early. I found this worked best for me. My beta readers tended to agree after reading a couple of versions with the chapters reversed.

The fantasy aspects have to make sense, too, and my beta readers were very clear when something didn’t seem right or jarring. It’s all a delicate balance. For each fantasy element, I had to ask myself: who, what, where, when, why and how. If I couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation for each of them, out it went. I also relied heavily on my beta readers and my son who wasn’t afraid to ask questions of each element that seemed weird to him. He was relentless in his questions and if I didn’t have a good enough explanation, I really had to examine what I was doing. I think the results turned out great and I hope my readers will think so, too.

Thank you!

No, thank you so much for having me!!

About the Author:

J. Keller Ford (known to all as Jenny) is a scribbler of Young Adult and New Adult speculative fiction. As a young Army brat, she traveled the world and wandered the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles in hopes of finding snarky dragons, chivalrous knights and wondrous magic that permeated her imagination. What she found remains etched in her topsy-turvy mind and oozes out in sweeping tales of courage, sacrifice, honor and everlasting love.

When not torturing her keyboard or trying to silence the voices in her head, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, screaming on roller coasters and traveling. Jenny is a mom to four magnificent and noble offspring, and currently lives in paradise on the west coast of Florida with a quirky knight who was silly enough to marry her, and a menagerie of royal pets. Published works include short stories, The Amulet of Ormisez, Dragon Flight, and The Passing of Millie Hudson. IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING is her debut novel and the first installment in the Chronicles of Fallhollow Trilogy.

Find Jenny: Instagram| Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook 

Book Description:

Seventeen-year-old, Eric, is a kick-butt squire to the most revered knight in Fallhollow. Well he would be if Sir Trogsdill allowed him to do anything even remotely awesome. Determined to prove his worth, Eric sets out to find the mythical paladin summoned to protect the realm from the evil lurking nearby.

Sixteen-year-old, David, spends his days collecting school honors, winning archery tournaments, and trying not to fall in love with his scrappy best friend, Charlotte.

Right when things start to get interesting, he is whisked away to the magical realm of Fallhollow where everyone thinks he's some sort of paladin destined to fulfill a two-hundred-year-old prophecy. He's supposed to help kill a dragon with some sort of magic key. The same key that happens to adorn the neck of an annoying squire who's too wrapped up in proving himself to be much help to anyone.

With egos as big as the dragon they need to destroy, Eric and David must get over themselves, or watch everything they know and love, burn.


Thanks to Jenny for this giveaway!
What's up for grabs: Copy of In the Shadow of the Dragon King by J. Keller Ford
Scope: US and CA

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full schedule and links to the posts!


  1. This looks really interesting. I love combinations between high and urban fantasy.

    1. I love combinations, too. Thanks for dropping by, D!

  2. Thank you for having me, Precious. It means so much to me and I love connecting with readers. :-)

    1. No, Jenny. Thank YOU! It's amazing to have you onboard. :)

  3. I never met a dragon I didn't like ☺️

    1. That's great to hear, Jennifer! Ditto.