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 David Keck, author of the new fantasy novel, In the Eye of Heaven, first book in the Tales of Durand series.
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DJ: Hi David! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
David Keck: Big picture, I’m a prairie Canadian. Winnipeg is where I grew up, and it’s still the place I think of when someone asks about “home” although I’ve been living in New York City for fourteen years. Somewhere along the line I got hooked on science fiction and fantasy. I remember watching Star Trek reruns after school, and playing Hoth in the snow drifts. I will also confess to playing Dungeons and Dragons too much at high school.
I did a degree in writing at the University of Sussex and snuck off to climb around castles and henges as often as I could. I am not sure how many tombs and towers and mossy stones I’ve seen. (An Ordnance Survey map can be your best friend). Now, I’m a teacher in a Washington Heights middle school. Life can be astonishing. Oh, and, when I grow up, I also want to be a cartoonist! (I love drawing monsters and things, and a few have appeared in professional spots over the years).
DJ: What is In the Eye of Heaven about?
David: In the Eye of Heaven is the story of a real, rust-and-muscle knight who backs into the center of a civil war full of mad dukes and sorcerous horrors. It’s the first book in a trilogy, and it sees our hero, Durand Col, miss out on an inheritance and make some terrible mistakes as he tries to find his own way. Without giving away too much, Durand earns a place in the retinue of a young man who hopes to prove himself as a tournament hero. Before the end of the novel, the half-war of those early tournaments leads Durand and his friends deep into the politics that tear their nation to pieces.
DJ: What were some of your influences In the Eye of Heaven and the series?
David: I’m a huge reader of actual history and folklore. I’m deeply interested in how people actually lived and died–and what they believed while doing it. My bookshelves are crammed with the stuff. So, when I turned to writing In the Eye of Heaven, I brought with me all of the eerie folktales and grim histories I’d been reading. In some ways, what you get is an antidote to an Arthurian romance. You will find uncanny places and ancient sorceries, but the men and women you meet must deal with broken bones, grumpy horses, and at least one scrape with medieval dentistry.
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?
David: Durand Col, the protagonist of the novel, is, at heart, a very decent man. Although he doesn’t see himself this way, he’s as brave and honorable as anyone he meets. He’s also strong and shrewd enough to take care of himself in the world of brawls and tournaments where he must survive. Unfortunately for him, he makes a few huge mistakes along the way. He falls in love with wrong woman. Guilt becomes a big issue by the end of the trilogy. Really big. There’s a whole Jacob Marley thing. It’s a lot of fun.
In the first book, we also meet Deorwen, the woman Durand falls for. It’s hard to talk about her without spoiling things, but she’s not the sort of person content with being sidelined by silly ambitious men. I remember my mum reading a very early draft, and saying to her very stupid son, “Do they ever have romance in these books?” Now, so much revolves around Deorwen that I can’t imagine the trilogy without her.
I had a good time with the rest of the cast of Eye of Heaven. The tournament circuit in the early middle ages was really just a series of voluntary battles, and so the big names made sure to assemble a group of capable retainers. The knights Durand joins are as full scars and superstitions as any minor hockey team. There’s a man whose eye was stolen by a forest crone. There’s a shrewd commander who’s lost everything. There’s a bowlegged skald, and a bearded giant with an heirloom blade. And there’s an aggrieved duke so enraged at the sleights and betrayals inflicted upon him that he pulls down as much of the world as he can reach.
DJ: What is the world and setting of the Tales of Durand series like?
David: The novels are set in a gritty, medieval world with its own faith and nations. The kingdom where the story unfolds, Errest the Old, should feel at least as unfamiliar as the streets of our own past, and, everywhere, the supernatural is a worrying undercurrent. There are haunted forests and lost realms and women with the teeth of pike who know the future. It’s that sort of thing.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing In the Eye of Heaven?
David: I wrote the first draft of the book while living as a graduate student in the UK. We lived on the South Downs, and, at night, you could hear foxes and badgers make their strange noises under the hills. One very foggy evening, a friend and I walked up on the Downs. It was winter and the hills could have been round asteroids in the mist. Here and there you would find clots of blackthorn. More than one of those lost moments has ended up in the book.
DJ: Normally, I ask what do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish – but since this is being republished, you already know! 🙂 Tell us, what have readers reactions been to In the Eye of Heaven?
David: My very favorite reaction to In the Eye of Heaven was my first review. It was in Quill and Quire, a Canadian literary review. You have to imagine, when a book is coming out, you have no idea how it will be received. Most new writers (maybe most writers period) have a solid case of imposter syndrome. And here’s what I read: “Is it too early to label a writer visionary based only on a debut novel? Not when that novel’s as impressive as In the Eye of Heaven, a book as commanding in its own right as Neuromancer and The Summer Tree (the auspicious debuts of Gibson and Kay, respectively).” Publishing is a tough game, and not everyone was quite so flattering, but I enjoyed that one!
DJ: The second novel, In A Time of Treason, is also being re-released in August this year as well. Is there a reason for this?
David: It’s an unusual step: My publisher, Tor, is reissuing In the Eye of Heaven and In a Time of Treason to prepare the way for the November release of A King in Cobwebs, the conclusion of Durand’s trilogy. It took a long time for me to get Cobwebs right, but now the whole series is back in print in a new size and with new cover treatments. It’s a big investment, and I’m profoundly grateful that Tor is still excited.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Tales of Durand series? In the Eye of Heaven is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish the whole series? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
David: There’s a great deal about ambition and betrayal and guilt in the book. There are people who can forgive no one, or cannot forgive themselves. It certainly becomes an issue for Durand Col. All through the book heroes and villains (and whole lost realms) are caught up in feelings of guilt and betrayal, becoming monstrous in the process.
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 In the Eye of Heaven that you can share with us?
David: I tend to notice such things in other people’s work.
DJ: Now that In the Eye of Heaven is released, what is next for you?
David: 2018 promises to be a big year for my work with two novels returning to print, one after another, with the dramatic finale of the trilogy hitting the shelves in December. It’s been fun getting back into the business.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Writing Blog and Homepage: www.keckbooks.com
And especially for the weird doodles of a fantasy author:
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about In the Eye of Heaven the Tales of Durand series that we haven’t talked about yet?
David: In Tales of Durand I am trying to capture everything I love so much about fantasy as a genre: the thrills, the terror, the sense of exploring a strange land. I want the world to feel like a place where real people live. I’ve also got a taste for uncanny things and those tingles of wonder and fear and enchantment you get when the otherworldly stares back at you. That’s what I’m shooting for with In the Eye of Heaven.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** In the Eye of Heaven is published by TOR Books and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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In the Eye of Heaven is book one of David Keck’s acclaimed and gritty epic fantasy Eye of Heaven trilogy
Durand is simply a good squire trying to become a good knight in a harsh and unforgiving world.
After fourteen years of grueling training, Durand’s knighthood and inheritance, the lordship of a small village in his father’s duchy, seemed assured. However, Fate saw otherwise. When the long lost son of the knight of that village unexpectedly returns, Durand must forge his own name and fortune.
Disgraced sons, treacherous dukes, plots of murder, and banished monsters—what begins as a young man’s journey to self-discovery quickly turns into a quest to save the World of Man.
About the Author:
TaDavid Keck is a New York based writer and teacher who grew up in Winnipeg, Canada.
On long winter evenings, he filled pads of newsprint with drawings, cartoons, and stories. His mother made him write on both sides.
After completing degrees in English Literature/History and Education in Winnipeg, he traveled to Britain’s University of Sussex where he earned an MA in creative writing and indulged his taste for exploring the medieval and the Neolithic.
Over the years, he has had the chance to climb through countless castles, cathedrals, tombs, and henges from the South of France to the Orkney Islands. There is something about really being in these places–getting chased by the farmer’s dog–that brings the past to life.
David loves to dig up stories that show traces of earlier ways of thinking. He’s endlessly curious about how people actually lived in other times and places, and he wants his readers to join him in an older, stranger world.
In 2004, he moved to New York to marry editor and author Anne Groell. They met in Montreal at the World Fantasy Convention in 2001, and now have an intrepid young daughter together.
For twelve years, he has been teaching English at a public middle school in Washington Heights. He tries to bring his drawings and his imagination to every class, and has become a great proponent of educational technology. From the streets around the school, you can often see the tower of The Met Cloisters museum, with its medieval treasures, peeking out above the trees. The past is never far away.
David recently fulfilled his childhood ambition of getting his cartoons into print, placing work with The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Analog Magazine, and Random House’s Suvudu website, before it became Unbound Worlds. He currently enjoys populating snapshots of New York’s subways, streets, and secret forests with pop-eyed monsters. But, in his fiction, a reader will find the darker side of his imagination.