Lisa (@ Over the Effing Rainbow), Jorie (@ Jorie Loves a Story) and imyril (@ One More) are delighted to bring you WYRD AND WONDER, where they plan to celebrate all things fantastical throughout the month of May!
Today I am interviewing Tyler Whitesides, author of the new fantasy novel, The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn, first book in the Kingdom of Grit trilogy.
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DJ: Hi Tyler! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Tyler Whitesides: Hi! Thanks for interviewing me! I live in northern Utah with my wife and son. I’m the author of two fantasy series for young readers, JANITORS, and THE WISHMAKERS. ARDOR BENN is my first venture into fantasy for adults. I’m so excited!
When I’m not writing, I love to get out into the mountains near my house and enjoy hiking, skiing, and fly fishing. I studied music in college (specifically percussion) and I still try to play as often as I can. I’ve always been cursed with an overabundance of interests, and you know what they say about a jack of all trades…
DJ: What is The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn about?
Tyler: The story centers around a con man, Ardor Benn, who calls himself a “ruse artist extraordinaire.” After years of successful heists, he’s hired by a priest for his biggest job yet – to steal the king’s coat and crown. To do it right, Ard needs to play the long game, consulting with expert criminals as he and his team infiltrates high society to gain access to the king.
DJ: What were some of your influences The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn and the series?
Tyler: I love smart heist movies and tv shows such as Leverage, and White Collar. I wanted to capture a similar feeling in a fantasy world. I also love the complexity and unique nature of the magic systems in Brandon Sanderson’s books, so I definitely found some inspiration there as well.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
Tyler: Within the world of my book, “Ardor” is a religious name meaning one who is intensely passionate or overly zealous. The main character definitely lives up to his name. He is clever, witty, and suave, but he also cares. Oh, he likes to pretend like nothing matters to him, but deep down, his zeal drives him. While his partner just wants to get the job done and get paid, Ard can’t stop himself from digging into his employer’s secret motives.
Another point-of-view character is the master thief, Quarrah Khai. She is methodical, calculated, and extremely cautious. Quarrah likes to slip into the palace under cover of darkness and take what she wants without leaving a trace.
Ardor, on the other hand, likes to draw as much attention to himself as possible and trick people into giving him what he wants. A fun dynamic develops between Ardor and Quarrah as they realize that they are both experts in the field, but their methods could not be more different.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Ardor Benn like?
Tyler: The known world is referred to as the Greater Chain. It is a series of five main islands, and a number of smaller islets. While civilization has spread across four of the main islands, the center island, Pekal, is wild, inhabited by massive dragons.
With an exception of Pekal, the islands are relatively flat, with a high cliff shoreline. Every thirty days a red moon passes, and anyone left on Pekal contracts the Moonsickness, leaving them blind, mute, and irrationally violent.
The predominant religion is Wayfarism. It preaches that the islands are a temporary dwelling place and all are strangers here, yearning to return to the blessed Homeland. Wayfarism and the monarchy are closely intertwined, which is part of the reason why there remains a dominant religion.
When the story begins, the islands have been enjoying decades of peace, unified under one beloved king. Economical and educational advancements have been flourishing, and strides have even been taken to bridge centuries of division with the Trothian race. Amid such growth and progress, there has never been a better time to be a ruse artist!
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn?
Tyler: I really enjoyed the characters! There is a lot of quick banter between Ardor and his right-hand man, Raek. Crafting their dialogue always put a smile on my face. And it was fun to see them grow through the story. Quarrah accomplishes things she never would have imagined possible at the beginning, and Ardor begins to realize things about himself that give him greater purpose in life.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
Tyler: Possibly the magic system? I think it’s pretty unique. The basic concept is based on grinding special materials into dust and then igniting this “Grit” to achieve many different effects. It’s sort of like magic grenades. And the dragons are closely tied to the magic system, since the Grit materials are basically a byproduct created by the huge creatures.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Ardor Benn? The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
Tyler: I’ve loved reading long epic fantasy since I was a kid. When I got the idea for Ardor Benn, I decided it would be my pet project – something to pick away at between writing stuff for young readers. I figured in a few years I’d have a finished manuscript. But the world and characters really took hold of me and I ended up writing the entire first draft in just six months.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn that you can share with us?
Tyler: Haha! So many! How about this one?
When trying to avoid manual labor, Ardor’s mantra is: “The work of a hundred men can easily be done by ninety nine.”
Or this one, after Ardor reveals the location of their newly purchased hideout.
“The Bakery on Humont Street?” Quarrah read.
“A dangerous place, to be sure,” added Ard. “Enough secret meetings there and none of us will be squeezing through a culvert grate.”
DJ: Now that The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is released, what is next for you?
Tyler: I’m working on writing the sequel right now. It’s so much fun to revisit the characters and see how things have changed as a result of their actions in the first book. Also, the second book in The Wishmakers releases this fall, so that’s keeping me busy!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn and the Ardor Benn that we haven’t talked about yet?
Tyler: I certainly hope that the book will be interesting and engaging to all readers, but I think musicians will get an extra kick out of it. High society in the Greater Chain centers around orchestral music. Naturally, when Ardor and his team decide to infiltrate the court, their point of access is through the royal orchestra. There are plenty of shout-outs to the band nerds and orchestra geeks. I was one of them!
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
Tyler: Thank you for reaching out with an interview and creating such great questions!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is published by Orbit and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is the first in an action-packed epic fantasy series featuring master con artist Ardor Benn.
Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.
When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.
But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory – Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.
About the Author:
Tyler Whitesides was born in Washington state. The youngest of five siblings, he was raised in northern Utah where he still resides. Tyler spent much of his childhood outdoors, exploring the mountains near his house, and imagining many adventures with his neighborhood friends. He developed a love of books from a very young age, and with that came a desire to write his own stories.
In middle school, Tyler joined the school band and began learning to play percussion instruments. He had many opportunities to perform on stage as a soloist with concert bands and orchestras, as well as rehearsing and performing some of his own compositions. After high school, Tyler spent two years in Argentina where he learned to speak Spanish.
Upon returning home, Tyler attended Utah State University, where he received a Bachelors in Music, specifically, Percussion Performance. While attending the University, Tyler got a part time job at a middle school as a night custodian.
Wandering the halls of the middle school each night sparked the ideas which eventually led to the JANITORS series. Tyler wrote the first draft of JANITORS in 2009, and after connecting with his first agent, Rubin Pfeffer, landed the series at Shadow Mountain Publishing. JANITORS was published in 2011.
Over the next five years, the JANITORS series was developed and published, with the fifth and final book hitting shelves in 2015. During the course of the series, Tyler had the opportunity to visit many states, presenting at more than 600 schools across the country. He is now represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
Tyler lives in Northern Utah with his wife, Connie, and their son. Tyler still enjoys spending time outdoors, fly fishing mountain streams, and exploring nature. He continues to practice percussion, performing in a garbage-can drum quartet aptly called, The Jammin’ Janitors. Tyler also enjoys acting and singing, performing musicals with local theater companies. But most of the time, you’ll find him hard at work on the thing he loves most – writing!