Today I am interviewing D.B. Jackson, author of the new fantasy novel, Time’s Demon, second book in The Islevale Cycle.
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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?
D.B. Jackson: Of course. Thanks so much for hosting me today! So my name is actually David B. Coe. D.B. Jackson is a pen name, and I write under both bylines. All told I’ve published more than twenty novels and as many short stories since starting my career back in the 1990s. So that’s one thing I can tell you about me – I’m old! I’ve published epic fantasy, historical fantasy, contemporary urban fantasy, and media tie-ins. And I also have a Ph.D. in U.S. history. I’m a husband and a dad (which shows up in my humor), and when I’m not writing, I’m also a photographer and a musician and a birdwatcher.
DJ: What is Time’s Demon and then The Islevale Cycle about?
D.B.: So, I’ll answer that in reverse order. The Islevale Cycle is a time travel/epic fantasy series. It tells the story of Tobias, a young time traveler – a Walker, as his kind are known in Islevale – who goes back in time to prevent a war. But he’s followed back, and in this earlier time, his Sovereign is assassinated, the Sovereign’s court is wiped out, and his family is killed except for his infant daughter, Sofya. Tobias is forced to take on guardianship of the infant princess, and the two of them are pursued through this new misfuture by assassins. Eventually, Tobias’s love from his own time, Mara, follows him back into the past, and the two of them attempt to reestablish Sofya’s claim to the throne. There is A LOT more to the plot than this, but I don’t want to give too much away, and I also don’t want to bore people with too long a synopsis.
Time’s Demon is the middle book in the series, so Tobias and Mara are on the run, and they are seeking allies for their cause. And one of those allies is Droë, a Tirribin, or Time Demon. Droë, like all Tirribin, feeds on human years and remains forever in child form. She is dangerous to most humans, but not Walkers, with whom her kind have a certain affinity. The complication is this: Droë is fascinated by human love – the emotion and the act – and she wishes to take adult form, which would change the very nature of who she is. And she is infatuated with Tobias, which makes her a threat to Mara.
DJ: What were some of your influences for The Islevale Cycle?
D.B.: As soon as readers open my book and see the map of Islevale, they will realize that one influence was Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series. This a world of islands and seas. Commerce and travel and warfare are all basically confined to water. I have always been a huge fan of the Earthsea books, and even before Le Guin’s death last year, I had intended this world as an homage to her work.
And then, as with all my work, Guy Gavriel Kay has been a huge influence. I love his writing, his emphasis on character, the richness of his worlds, the literary quality of his prose. These are all things I strive for in my own books and stories.
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?
D.B.: So I left out something in my discussion of what the books are about. Time travel in Islevale takes a tremendous cost. For every year that my characters go back in time (they can only go into the past and return to their own time – they can’t visit the future) they age that amount. Tobias and Mara are about fifteen years old when they Walk back and they travel fourteen years into the past. So they arrive as full grown adults of nearly thirty. But they remain teens in their thoughts and emotions. And they are suddenly responsible for the life of a child and the future of a kingdom. They’re bright and strong – their training as Walkers prepares them for a lot. But not for this. And so I think this contributes greatly to the sympathy my readers feel for them, and it makes them relatable. All of us have felt overwhelmed by life at one time or another – just perhaps not to this degree.
DJ: How have the reviews been from readers, bloggers, and reviewers for the first book of The Islevale Cycle? Is there anything that your audience seems to be particularly enjoying or is eager to find out more about?
D.B.: Okay, since you gave me the opening, I’m going to brag a little. Time’s Children, the first book in the series, is probably the best reviewed book I’ve written to date. It received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, and was named the Best Fantasy Novel of 2018 by Reviews and Robots. Reviewers and readers are particularly drawn to a couple of things. First, they really like the dual timelines that I follow in the book. For a while we bounce back and forth between Tobias’s foray into the past, and the misfuture he has created in what had been his true time. And then reviewers also have commented on my character work – they love Droë, and they like as well the way I have humanized the assassins who are after Tobias. These assassins have their own backstory (which I deal with extensively in Time’s Demon), their own love affair, their own good qualities. They are, in certain ways, parallels to Tobias and Mara, which I believe enhances the cat and mouse game between the two pairs.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Time’s Demon?
D.B.: I spend a lot of time with Droë in Time’s Demon, and she has many interactions with other Tirribin and other races of demon. The Ancients have their own social customs and rules, their own way of communicating and dealing with one another. Exploring this social “commerce” (they refer to ALL relationships as commerce) was really fun. It forced me to make those chapters different in tone and voice and pacing. I want my readers to understand on a visceral level that while these are characters – ‘people’ in a way – they are NOT human. They are Other, and that imparts to their sections of narrative an exotic quality that I like very much.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
D.B.: [Grinning] I’m not sure I want to answer that – doing so might give away too much. Suffice it to say, I think they will be talking about Droë’s journey in this book. It is the most daring, difficult plot thread I’ve ever written, and – forgive me for saying so – I think I nailed it.
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing The Islevale Cycle? The series is not yet complete, 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?
D.B.: That’s a great question, and I want to answer it on a couple of levels. On the one hand, I started out with the goal of writing a time travel story that held together, that didn’t collapse under the weight of its own internal contradictions. Time travel is REALLY hard to do well. It has challenged me again and again in the writing of these books. But at this stage – and I’m close to completing the final book in the trilogy – I feel that I have accomplished what I set out to do.
I also wanted to write a book with a larger theme and, like so many of my series, it turns out that The Islevale Cycle is about family, about the bonds that hold us together, about the need and desire to recreate family relationships and structures even under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Family is everything to me. As I said at the outset, I’m a husband and a father, and I am those things even before I’m an author. So it’s not surprising, I guess, that my characters create a family unit in order to face the crises they encounter in my story.
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 Time’s Demon that you can share with us?
D.B.: There are many – I’m afraid I do love my darlings. But there are a couple of passages in particular, from early in the book, that illustrate perfectly (I believe) Droë’s fascination with love. She is hunting for human years in the streets of a city and she happens upon a couple having sex in an alleyway – an older man, and a woman selling herself for coin. She hears them first, then sees them. Here are the quotes (you should know that Tirribin are crazy for riddles – they can be distracted from their hunting by them. It’s often the only way the hunted can get away):
“She chased after, only to halt again on another sound she knew. Heavy breath, like a pig grunting over food, then a sudden taken breath. Passion, spent now. As fascinating as a riddle, as alluring as prey. More.”
“Droë had seen this before. Passion without love, paid for. A transaction, akin to buying food in a market or a bauble from a traveling merchant. She watched as the man wandered off toward the far end of the byway, wondering which comparison was more apt. Was it survival, like food? Or a luxury, like the bauble?”
Somehow, this captures for me her obsession, her innocence, her desperate need to learn more.
DJ: Now that Time’s Demon is released, what is next for you?
D.B.: I still have a little work to do on the third book in the trilogy, Time’s Assassin. The first draft is basically done, but I have revisions to do before I turn it in. And after that, I have a couple of projects lined up. First, I have a new real-world thriller that I want to write. I’m just at the beginning stages, so I can’t say much about it. But it will be nice to work on something different. And I’m also going to be co-editing an anthology later this year, which should be fun. I edited my first anthology last year and enjoyed it very much. I’m looking forward to doing it again.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/D-B-Jackson/e/B0069ASACU/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1
Author Newsletter: Sign up here: https://us11.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=718e8067b90b9e65bd45b7464&id=4d61c7e0f1
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/230711387599678/
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Time’s Demon and The Islevale Cycle that we haven’t talked about yet?
D.B.: One thing that I feel is important to know about Tobias and Mara is that they’re both people of color who find themselves trying to remain inconspicuous in lands that are largely “white.” All time travelers hail from the northern isles, where the people have dark skin and bronze hair. Tobias and Mara grew up among people who looked like they do and so on top of everything else they’re facing, they are dealing with racial difference for the first time in their young lives.
As an author living in a world and a time when being “other” is both more common and, in many ways, more difficult than ever, I felt it was important to add this dimension to my characters’ experiences.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
D.B.: I’m often asked who is the target audience for these books and would they be appropriate for young readers. Because my protagonists are young, many assume that I’m writing YA. I’m not. These are adult fantasies and Time’s Demon in particular deals with some pretty adult themes. I would say that readers younger than, say, fourteen or so, might not be ready for these books.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
D.B.: My pleasure! Thank you so much for the great questions!
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***Time’s Demon is published byAngry Robot and is available TODAY!!!***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
Two time-traveling heroes must change the future before they are murdered in the past, in the incredible fantasy sequel to Time’s Children
Fifteen year-old Tobias Doljan Walked back in time to prevent a war, but instead found himself trapped in an adult body, his king murdered and with an infant princess, Sofya, to protect. Now he has been joined by fellow Walker and Spanner, Mara, and together they must find a way to undo the timeline which orphaned the princess and destroyed their future. Arrayed against them are assassins who share their time-traveling powers, but have dark ambitions of their own, and the Tirribin demon, Droë, whose desperate quest for human love and Tobias leads her into alliances which threaten all of Islevale.
About the Author:
D.B. Jackson is the pen name of David B. Coe, the award-winning author of more than twenty books — including epic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies, media tie-ins, and a book on writing — and as many short stories. His work has been translated into a dozen languages. As D.B. Jackson he writes The Islevale Cycle, a time travel/epic fantasy series from Angry Robot Books. The first book, Time’s Children, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and was named the Best Fantasy Novel of 2018 by Reviews and Robots. The second novel, Time’s Demon, has just been released. A third book, Time’s Assassin, is also in the works.
D.B. also writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. The first volume, Thieftaker, came out in July 2012 from Tor Books. This was followed by Thieves’ Quarry (Tor, July 2013), A Plunder of Souls (Tor, July 2014), and Dead Man’s Reach (Tor, July 2015). In addition to the novels of the Thieftaker Chronicles, D.B. has written and published several short stories set in the Thieftaker world. Many of these have now been gathered in a collection called Tales of the Thieftaker (Lore Seekers Press, 2017).
As David B. Coe, he has most recently published Knightfall: The Infinite Deep, a tie-in with the History Channel’s ™ Knightfall series. He has also written a contemporary urban fantasy series called The Case Files of Justis Fearsson (Spell Blind, His Father’s Eyes, and Shadow’s Blade, published by Baen Books. And he has written several other epic fantasy series, including the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle, Winds of the Forelands, and Blood of the Southlands.
D.B. Jackson/David B. Coe was born in New York many, many years ago, and has since lived in New England, California, Australia, and Appalachia. He did his undergraduate work at Brown University, worked for a time as a political consultant, went to Stanford University, where he earned a Master’s and Ph.D. in U.S. History, and finally returned to his first love: writing fiction.
D.B. is married to a college professor who is far smarter than he is, and together they have two beautiful daughters, both of whom are also far smarter than their father. Life’s tough that way. They live in a small college town on the Cumberland Plateau.