The Whisper of the Coals can never be trusted.
It’s a shapeshifting demon with the power to grant wishes and take lives, setting up residence on the deceptively-named Mountain of Reflection. Ask for the five things you desire most, and they will be granted to you, but only if the Whisper will accept your offerings. And if you choose your words very, very carefully, lest the Whisper sense a loophole or a weakness, parting you from your life and preserving you as a statue in its garden.
The hunter called Rafal knows all this, yet he journeys to commune with the Whisper anyway. What does he want most? What is he willing to sacrifice to get it? Will he choose his words wisely, or will the Whisper outsmart him in a game it’s played for centuries? What has compelled Rafal, a calm, logical man with his head firmly on his shoulders, to risk it all bartering with a demon?
Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author James Wolven whose book The Whisper of the Coals thrilled me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love dark fantasy but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight for James Wolven, a biography of the author and an interview between us both will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful James Wolven!
James Wolven classifies himself as a wandering writer, rarely staying in one place long and sometimes intentionally doing stupid things so he can write funny stuff about it later. He’s been writing in some capacity since he was capable of producing coherent speech on a keyboard, including having a short story published in Clubhouse Magazine at the age of 13. Born in American Georgia amidst mountains, rivers and forests, James grew up heavily inspired by this scenery and the mystery it all offered, and continues to use that sense of awe and discovery in writing the fantastical, bizarre and macabre. He is also a nidan in the midwest-based martial art Shoto-Jitsu and uses his knowledge of combat to fuel his action sequences.
Now, how wonderful does James Wolven sound?! The author is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of the author’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between us both, I hope that you enjoy the author’s answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!
Thank you for joining us today at Red Headed Book Lover! Please tell us more about yourself.
My name is James Wolven. I am a wandering writer rarely staying in one place for long (I’ve moved about 5 times in the past few years and am about to take off again to who-knows-where) and an avid fantasy fanatic. I was born in mountainous Georgia and became a little drunk on the beautiful scenery, which I hold at least partly to blame for my love for high fantasy. My original intention was to become an adventurer when I grew up, but after I realized jumping around in public wearing a cape and brandishing a sword is generally frowned upon, I decided to write about other people being adventurers instead. I studied the Midwest-based martial art Shoto-Jitsu for almost exactly a decade, so on top of keeping my mind and body sharp, my knowledge of combat is something I use in my books to make any action sequences pop.
Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?
The story takes place in a magical fantasy world where word has spread of a shapeshifting demon that can grant wishes. The demon has ensnared many souls over the centuries as people from all walks of life petition it, but mystery abounds when a jaded hunter named Rafal is the next to summon it, and rather than asking for power, wealth or knowledge, he asks for the incredibly mundane. The questions are, then, what the deuce does Rafal actually want, and is he smart enough to outwit the long-lived Whisper of the Coals to achieve it?
I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of “granting wishes.” It’s something that has no logic and is tacitly impossible even in many fantasy settings, but that just made me more curious about how such a thing would work, and I knew I wanted to put my own spin on that kind of tale. I brainstormed a variety of ways the story could go, and eventually I decided to write it from a different angle where I made the human the mystery instead of the demon. I also wanted to emphasize the suspense of how easy it is for a wish to backfire if you phrase something poorly, so every word of dialogue in the story was carefully written to be a verbal game of cat-and-mouse.
What would your advice be for aspiring writers?
I’ll try not to get too carried away here, because I will write an essay if I’m not careful, but I boil it down to three major points. 1: Read. A lot. There is no such thing as a good writer who is not also a good reader. Make notes on what precisely makes you enjoy the books you like, as well as what turns you off about the books you don’t. Use those notes to develop your own style. 2: Write. A lot. That may sound like such an obvious statement, but there’s a chasm of difference between putting words together and weaving a story. Writing is a skill that must be developed, everything from prose to dialogue to plotting, and attempting to launch your debut novel without an understanding of how writing works is usually a recipe for absolutely nothing at best and frequently painful disappointment. There are various sites like Wattpad or WordPress where you can start writing for practice. Even fanfics are an excellent way to start. 3: Don’t get so caught up on making the first draft perfect. It’s the first draft; it’s designed to suck. If you have an issue with your writing quality or pacing, take it up with Future You. It’s far quicker and easier to tweak and edit than it is to try and make a story perfect the first time. 3.5, because I just thought of it and I don’t feel like going all the way to 4: Know how and when you want to distribute your work. There’s not much sense in writing a story no one will read. Figure out how you want to publish it and work on promotion, marketing and networking before the book launches!
In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book?
From a professional standpoint, probably the very beginning, tailgated by the very end. The beginning is what hooks people in; the end is what solidifies a reader’s entire opinion of your story. Neglect either at your own peril. From a reader’s standpoint, it’s the ability to invest in characters and worlds outside yourself, and open-minded readers can learn a lot about themselves and what they truly value when they put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
What is your writing process like?
Step 1: Get struck with a lightning bolt that leaves me frantically scribbling plot details on whatever will hold text. Step 2: Spend 1-5 cumulative hours brainstorming everything about the plot, usually while staring at my ceiling and listening to music. And trying not to fall asleep instead. Step 3: Do cursory (but not necessarily “sabbatical” level) research on any skills or environments featured in the story so I know what the blazes I’m talking about. Step 4: Plunk myself in front of my computer as often as I reasonably can, listen to music to tune out the world, and let my fingers improvise the rest. Step 5: As I finish chapters, send them to various friends and family to get their opinions. (On a serious note, sending a massive epic to friends expecting them to carve out the time to read it doesn’t usually work. I’ve since decided to do it piecemeal to much better results.) Step 6: Amend the story to whatever feedback I receive and make sure it’s truly ready for distribution.
I am a big believer in story-boarding the plot rather than winging it. Rarely is a book’s plot “wandering” a good thing, so my brainstorming is designed to tell me everything I need to know about the plot so I can tell it in a way people will actually care about.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I typically do a somewhat small amount of research, usually in the form of articles, essays, videos and documentaries online. It’s important to know what you’re talking about when writing, but I think so many people get caught up on “research” and “preparation” that they forget to actually sit down and write. For instance, as the name of the story might imply, fire plays a key role in The Whisper of the Coals, but heck if I knew anything about medieval fire-starting techniques or what kinds of oil were used in lanterns. I did look that up before writing just to make sure I could actually carry out the plot. If any other uncertainties leap out at me while writing, I can go and research, but I try not to get so caught up in researching that it becomes much ado about nothing. Part of the brilliance of the fantasy genre, incidentally, is that you can make up a lot of your universe’s own laws, so it becomes less about knowing how something was done and figuring out how your characters will do something that fits your world and narrative.
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?
I don’t have a set schedule for virtually anything in my life, too many changing variables. However, I do try and get at least a little writing done every day (emphasis on try!). It’s a continuous process that’s usually near the forefront of my mind. I find I’m the most inspired in the morning, though sometimes, ironically, the end of the day leaves me feeling hopeful about tomorrow, and that ensuing hope and inspiration prompt me into writing some more.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I was a massive bookworm as a kid, though I had a tendency to read the same books over and over. On the bright side, I got to be pretty knowledgeable about dinosaurs and weather patterns from an early age. These days, I don’t read anywhere near as much, but I do try and read one or two novels per month. Tellingly for my fantasy-loving self, my three favorite stories are The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski (whose writing style and setting The Whisper of the Coals is intentionally modeled after, right down to the Polish character names), Dracula by Bram Stoker (ancient but masterful at suspense and fear of the unknown), and Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (absolutely brilliant in terms of everything from dialogue to world-building to character development). Leigh Bardugo in particular is currently one of the most skilled writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading from.
Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?
As early as January/February 2019! I’m focusing mostly on launching a few different novella series. My current focus is book one of Guilt Eater, titled The Windows, a sci-fi action/suspense novel about characters from three vastly different dimensions thrown into a game of death; the varying cultural and personal backgrounds and perspectives alter how each character develops when forced to confront concepts like killing and survival. It emphasizes how tragically gray those concepts can become under the right circumstances, causing the characters to reexamine their ethical stances as the stakes mount. It’s a novel that’s proving to be far longer than I was anticipating, but on a far less depressing note, I’m also in the process of finalizing a fantasy romance titled Modern Magical Romance: Fleeting Joy. It’s far more lighthearted and humorous than Guilt Eater and focuses on what everyday life and love would look like for elves, dwarves, and orcs and the like in a completely contemporary setting. The release date of either isn’t firmly set in stone, but we’re looking at anywhere from January to March 2019.
Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with James Wolven! If you have liked what you have read about the author and are interested in learning more about James Wolven, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.
Goodbye for now book lovers,