Hi folks, today I have an excellent author interview for you, which coincides with the release of his new book in just under 2 weeks!
I chat with James Lloyd Dulin, author of the upcoming No Heart For A Thief (Releasing January 24th, preorders open). Check out some information about the book below, followed by our interview. Enjoy!
We are the stories we tell ourselves…even the lies.
The Thief, a great spirit, and her descendants have abused their ability to steal magic for centuries. When Kaylo starts to hear the song of other people’s magic, he must learn to hide from his people as well as the invaders. A gift or a curse, Kaylo may be able to save his people from the Gousht Empire that claimed their land with this stolen magic.
Eighteen years later, Kaylo still prays to the spirits, but not out of loyalty or love. He knows better than to rely on those selfish bastards for anything. While hiding in the forest from his foolish acts of rebellion, he encounters a girl, Tayen, being pursued by two soldiers of the empire. Against his better judgment, he risks facing the consequences of his past to intervene.
When Tayen attempts to run off seeking vengeance for her family, he offers to train her to wield her magic and a blade. If he can’t convince her to relinquish her need for vengeance and stave off the demons of his past, he’s going to get them both killed.
You can preorder for just 99c/99p!
Hi James! Your debut, No Heart for a Thief, releases next month (Jan ’23). Congratulations! What are you hoping most that readers take away from your book?
Thank you for taking the time to ask me these questions. It’s cool that we get to take the time to talk about books and build community around that. We all get to nerd out over stories with magic and enjoy them together, which actually segues into this question pretty well.
I read for a lot of reasons. I want to be entertained. I want beautiful prose that makes me enjoy the way the story is told as much as the story that is being told. I want to connect with my emotions and encounter interesting thoughts. My hope is that No Heart for a Thief allows readers to do that.
What did you most enjoy about writing No Heart for a Thief? Was it a long process?
Writing has been my creative outlet for years. I originally started out as a poet, doing spoken word, competing in poetry slams, and publishing in a few online magazines.
For a long time, I wanted to write a book, but I didn’t know if it was something that I could do. After thinking about a concept for a story that eventually became No Heart for a Thief for several months, taking notes in my phone and playing ‘what-if-games’ in my head, I gave it a shot. I loved it. I loved the act of creating a world and telling myself a story.
My first draft was a mess, but I took what I learned from poetry and sat down to hone my story and refine my prose. Despite how some people talk about disliking editing, I loved it. This is all a long way to say that I found something I love through and through, which was a unique experience for me. I have never loved any type of “work” the way I love writing.
From the first word of my first draft to publication will be about three and a half years. In that time, I also wrote several drafts of Malitu Book Two and started two separate projects.
A big theme in your book is magic, and you say that art and magic have the ability to tell stories that sink beneath the surface. Do you think with the current uncertainty in the world, it’s especially important to give readers a magical world they can escape to whilst the book is in their hands?
I don’t think any work of fiction is pure escapism. The themes of a story ground it and help readers connect with it. I think that genre fiction allows readers to access complex themes through magic, horror, mysteries, humor, unique worlds, and imaginative technology. These tools help us understand our world and the people in it because they untether us from the baggage of our reality.
Entertainment is a big part of why I read, but I also like to be challenged by ideas. That’s the kind of book I attempted to write. It’s up to readers to decide if I succeeded. I hope they can escape, but I also hope they feel more connected to humanity and not less.
Where did magic come from for you over the years – are there any particular works in the creative world that have given you hope, comfort, adventure, something else?
Too many to name. I love stories. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss showed me how beautifully fantasy stories can be written. The poetry of Danez Smith broke the way I thought about language and started me thinking about how ideas can exist within words. Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro was proof of how breaking the walls between fantasy and reality can make reality more understandable. The Good Place gave me a lot of hope, always making me laugh, even when I cried. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin set the peak of what fantasy could accomplish, blending beautiful prose with a unique world, deeply realized characters, and a thoughtful story.
Can you tell us about the magic system in your book?
The magic in No Heart for a Thief exists somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between hard and soft magic systems. It is guided by rules, but the people of Ennea view their magic as a connection to the spirits and explore it in those terms, rather than something that is more of a hard and fast science.
Some of the people of Ennea were gifted with the ability to hear The Song and connect with one, or in rare cases two, of the Seven Great Spirits. These gifted individuals are referred to as dancers, and can call on the elemental power associated with their spirit ancestor. Their elemental magics allow them to manipulate the elements within the general bounds of the element’s nature. A fire dancer can ignite something that will burn, but cannot throw a ball of fire.
On the other hand, the Gousht, an empire that has conquered most of Ennea, found crystals that allow them to steal and use the spiritual magics of dancers.
And how about the implementation of two timelines; reviewer Craig (‘The Bookwyrm’) recently wrote about how much he enjoyed it. What did the use of these two timelines allow you to achieve as an author?
People say write the book you want to read, and I did. I love narratives that have multiple timelines or mess with the chronological order of the story. I like the mystery of wondering why someone is who they are, and exploring how they became this version of themselves.
In this case, we get to see how and why Kaylo ended up abandoning the war he helped start. We also get to see the similarities and differences between the experiences of Kaylo and Tayen, jumping between the two coming of age stories.
How have you found the experience of becoming a self published author and what advice would you give to others starting off on the same path as you?
Know the reasons you are pursuing the path you decide to pursue. I originally started by querying agents and trying to become traditionally published, but the process was not good for my mental health. Querying involves a lot of putting yourself on the line, and in many cases, not hearing back at all. I queried on and off for a year, getting nibbles here and there. During the whole process, I started enjoying writing less.
When I decided to pursue self-publishing, it lifted such a weight off my shoulders. I may not be able to share my work with as many readers, but I get to continue enjoying the process and share my work. It is much better for me as a person.
If you decide to pursue self-publishing, reach out and build community. The authors in this community are so open and giving. I have reached out to so many people who went through this process before me and asked about their experiences. No one is trying to gatekeep their strategies. We are all trying to lift each other up.
What was the last book you read that really blew you away or that you couldn’t put down?
I just finished A Touch of Light by Thiago Abdalla, and it was wonderful. The pacing moved along smoothly, and the characters were fantastically realized.
I am currently reading The First Binding by R. R. Virdi, and it’s a masterclass in storytelling. The prose is beautiful, and the story flows seamlessly.
Thanks for giving us your thoughts, James. Best of luck with the release of No Heart for a Thief!
Preview Chapter one – https://www.jamesldulin.com/previewchapter
James is a nerd with a head full of stories and limited time to put them on the page.
He grew up in Grand Rapids, MI, spending an excessive amount of time at a local community theater where he developed his affinity for storytelling. This affinity grew into a deep admiration for language and spoken word poetry while studying mathematics and education at the University of Michigan. A few hundred mediocre poems and lackluster performances later, he decided his dream of writing a novel might not be as ridiculous as he once thought. He firmly believes that art—even silly books about magic, or maybe especially silly books about magic—has the ability to tell stories that sink beneath the surface.