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Sunday, June 27, 2021

Blogtour: Interview with Jeffrey Speight, the author of Paladin Unbound

ABOUT JEFFREY: Jeffrey Speight’s love of fantasy goes back to an early childhood viewing of the cartoon version of The Hobbit, when he first met an unsuspecting halfling that would change Middle Earth forever. Finding his own adventuring party in middle school, Jeff became an avid Dungeons & Dragons player and found a passion for worldbuilding and character creation. While he went on to a successful career as an investor, stories grew in his mind until he could no longer keep them inside. So began his passion for writing. Today, he lives in Connecticut with his wife, three boys (his current adventuring party), three dogs, and a bearded dragon. He has a firmly held belief that elves are cool, but half-orcs are cooler. While he once preferred rangers, he nearly always plays a paladin at the gaming table.

Find Jeffrey onlineWebsiteGoodreadsTwitter, Facebook, Instagram

Paladin Unbound by Jeffrey Speight; Published: July 1, 2021 by Literary Wanderlust; Genre: Epic Fantasy; Pages: 334; CW: Gore, Violence, Racism, Body Horror, Torture, Human Trafficking


Thank you for joining us, Jeffrey, and welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

I’m 47 and live in Connecticut with my wife and three sons. We have three dogs and a bearded dragon. When I’m not working or writing or being a husband/dad, I like to play D&D, go flyfishing, read, and watch movies.

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

Yes. I have been a professional investor for 24 years. I work as a Portfolio Manager for an investment firm.

Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influencers?

My favorite current writers are Mark Lawrence, Joe Abercrombie, and Brandon Sanderson.

In terms of influences, I was introduced to fantasy at a fairly young age through JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. My love for reading really dates to finding a box of my father’s old books in our basement when I was in middle school. He had a few Kurt Vonnegut books that I just fell in love with.

Serious writing takes not only a story to tell, but the craft of writing to tell it well—can you comment on your journey as a writer?

I’ve been enamored by the craft for a long time, but always had an excuse to not write a story of my own. Too busy with so many other things. A few years ago, I felt the need to find a new way to relieve stress and thought I would give writing a try with no aspirations of publishing a book. I fell down the rabbit hole and, about 18 months later, Paladin Unbound was “finished”. The first draft was a total disaster. I did a lot of HEAVY editing and eventually had something I thought was decent. I shared it with an author friend of mine and he really liked it and encouraged me to try to get published. My skill set and process as a writer continues to evolve. With Paladin Unbound I just sat down and started writing. Since, I’ve started adding some outlining to my process. I’m constantly trying new things to see if they work for me.

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

I write in a very visual manner, meaning I see the scene in my head like I’m watching a movie and try to get all of that out onto paper. I use multiple POV as a result. Early on, this caused a lot of POV issues for me which I’ve worked to refine but also results in a somewhat cinematic feel to the story.

How would you describe the plot of Paladin Unbound if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

We can do amazing things when we are true to ourselves. Umhra learns this the hard way and then takes the weight of the world upon his shoulders.

Okay, so you have decided to write a book, where did you start? Research? A scene that came to you? A character that you dreamed up? Tell us what got the ball rolling?

Evelium began as a D&D campaign setting for teaching my sons how to play a game I’ve loved for a very long time. I did way too much world building and character development for three young boys to appreciate and decided to do more with what I had. I had a world and some characters and then created Umhra and knew he had a story I wanted to write. I knew where I wanted him to start and where I wanted him to finish and started writing.

You've written the story in the third person multiple pov. Why? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using multiple pov characters? And how quickly have you nailed their voices?

I love this question. Like I said earlier, my writing style lends itself to multiple points of view because I write based on how I see a scene in my head. I had to rein that in within individual scenes, but always knew there would be multiple perspectives involved. I think the advantages are that you can sometimes get more descriptive for the reader if a certain scene is observing the main character rather than viewing it from their perspective. I also think with a complex fantasy it can help to be in more places than just in the MC’s mind. The disadvantages are keeping that mess organized and maybe not diving as deeply into the MC’s emotions because you aren’t always with them in that capacity. With some of the characters acted out in a D&D setting earlier, I was able to get my arms around their voices pretty quickly. I already knew many of them before I started writing.

 If you had to describe the book in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Adventurous, action-packed, and … I don’t know … effulgent.

How did you come up with the title?

There’s a scene relatively early in the book where Umhra finds himself physically bound and in great peril. The scene is a major turning point for him as a character, as he not only struggles to attain physical freedom but the freedom to show his true self. He is both literally and figuratively unbound in that moment.

How does it tie with the plot of the book?

Great people make mistakes and fall to depths they never imagined for themselves. It’s truly what they do after…how they respond to the adversity…that defines them. Umhra screwed up by hiding who he really was and it cost him dearly. The guilt he harbors for having made that mistake wills him forward throughout the story.

How many books have you planned for the series?

I have thousands of years of history to play with in Evelium and multiple continents in Tyveriel (the planet). The current story arc will be a trilogy. I’ve finished writing book two. I’m editing that now and getting ready to send it over to my publisher for a first look. I’ve also outlined book 3 and am in the early stages of writing that. I hope The Archives of Evelium will have a lot more than three books, but I need to finish what I’ve started here first.

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Paladin Unbound's protagonists and antagonists?

Umhra the Peacebreaker is the main protagonist. He’s a wandering half-Orc mercenary who is generally looked down upon because of his lineage. Unlike so many MC’s you read in today’s fantasy, Umhra is NOT morally compromised. He has a very strict ethos that isn’t quite understood until we find out more about him. He’s an imposing figure with a tough exterior and a heart of gold.

The antagonist is a cult called the Brothers of Resurrection who has dedicated its entire history to returning a banished god back to Evelium to bring about a new world order. They’ve figured out how to do it and have enlisted some unsavory characters to help them out. They are led by an absolute zealot named Evron Alabaster who will stop at nothing to succeed.

How did you select the names of your characters?

Many are just off the top of my head, like Umhra the Peacebreaker. Some didn’t come to me until I had the characters hashed out and gave some thought to a name that would be fitting of the individual. I keep a list of fun names as they come to me or as I come across interesting names in every-day life.

Does your book feature a magic/magic system? If yes, can you describe it?

Yes. The main form of magic in Tyveriel is based on a process called Suffusion. Basically, if you are chosen by a god, they can impart a mote of their powers into a piece of precious metal that will grant you abilities, etc. The closer your relationship with that god, the more-precious the metal they will allow you to suffuse and the more powerful you become. Copper, silver, gold, platinum, and rhodium. There are magic users that learn their skills (wizards) but they are a thing of the past as they were considered heretics by the Kormaic church that dominates the developed continents. Some are born with innate skills (sorcerers), but they are very rare, with only a few instances recorded in history.

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Paladin Unbound?

I wanted to show a pivotal moment in Umhra’s arc without giving away too much of the book. I knew for quite some time that this cover was what I wanted. The original artist was not able to deliver the cover, so I had to go on a last-minute hunt for an artist or settle on something less impactful. I wasn’t willing to make that concession and was lucky to have found Ömer Burak Önal to create what came out to be a better cover than I could have ever hoped for. There’s also an amazing map inside by Thomas Rey who is a phenomenal fantasy cartographer. I owe them both a great deal of thanks.

Have you written it with a particular audience in mind? Who'll enjoy it?

Well, I wrote it with myself in mind. I think it’s important for writers to write the stories they want to tell. The rest will kind of figure itself out. In terms of an audience, I think that Paladin Unbound is a very accessible fantasy. It is geared toward an adult audience and particularly fans of classic epic fantasy and roll playing games.

What are you most excited for readers to discover in this book?

There are a number of messages throughout the book. I’m interested to find out what people take away from it. At a superficial level, there are some fun characters on an exciting journey. Diving a little deeper, it’s a story of self-discovery and overcoming adversity.

Can you, please, offer us a taste of your book, via one completely out-of-context sentence.

“While duty drives me to save Evelium and deliver from destruction even those who would refer to me as a mongrel or heretic, I don’t throw myself at the mouth of hell for Evelium’s salvation, but my own.”
What's your publishing Schedule for 2021/2022?

Launch Paladin Unbound on July 1st. I’m nearly ready to submit the sequel to my publisher. Hopefully, that will be out sometime in 2022. The goal would be to have the trilogy wrapped up in 2023. Seems daunting.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Readers have more options today than ever before, and likely less free time. I hope to earn their trust as a new author and would love for them to join me in exploring Evelium. Thank you for the thoughtful questions. This has been a blast.

NOTE: Many thanks to Justine, Timy & the Storytellers On Tours for giving us an opportunity to take part in this tour. Here's the tour's full schedule.



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