On a cold winter night, wind howling into the desert sky, one ordinary hospital gave witness to a historic event. JJ Sherwood was born at 2:30 a.m. on December 31st, just barely managing to squeeze in to supplant New Year’s Eve. JJ has always had a flair for the dramatics.
Sherwood began writing in the womb after a harrowing incident in which Mother Sherwood swallowed a pen—and thus, destiny was born. JJ’s first work was completed by the age of 5: a riveting tale of a duck attempting to climb into an apartment during the pouring rain. Unfortunately this book is not in print, but it served as the first spark that spurred on a lifetime of creativity.
Much of JJ’s childhood was spent tearing through the woods, playing out fantasy worlds, and tying Barbie to the roof so that the Power Rangers might rescue her. Middle and high school carried on this roleplaying, while college encompassed creating and refining over 250 characters in the world of Aersadore.
After escaping college, finally armed with the tools of the trade and a lifetime of development, JJ set to writing what would become the Steps of Power series: it was then that Eraydon slew his first dragon, Jikun battled the warlord Saebellus, and Taranus rebelled against his brother’s throne.
When not orchestrating the lives and deaths of the people of Aersadore, JJ’s hobbies include drawing, video gaming, wearing a bathrobe, and eating too many baked potatoes. JJ Sherwood lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with one loving and extremely patient spouse, a bearded dragon, a monk parakeet, and four cats who look far too similar.
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Kings or Pawns (Steps of Power: The Kings Book I) and what compelled you to write it.
J. J. Sherwood: Kings or Pawns is the first novel in the Steps of Power series. It was difficult to decide where to begin with such a rich and historical world, but I chose this point in time because I felt that it allowed readers the best impression of the world, the relationship between the races and politics, and it put them smack dab in the middle of some very exciting events and fantastic characters.
M.C.: What is your book about?
J.J.S: The story takes place after two very significant events in the world—the continental division between the human and elven races after the betrayal and death of Aersadore’s hero, Eraydon, and the recent Royal Schism that has left the elven nation’s politics even more corrupted than was prior. The new elven king, Hairem, is determined to overcome the council’s corruption and restore the elven lands, but he has far more to contend with than just the politics within the capital: an assassin has begun killing those loyal to him, a rebelling warlord threatens the city from without, and an unknown beast devastates the king’s forces at every turn. There are multiple points of view—the youthful and naïve king Hairem; the mute and spunky servant girl, Alvena; the mysterious and arrogant foreigner, Sellemar; and the cynical, dry-humored General Jikun.
M.C.: What themes do you explore in Kings or Pawns?
J.J.S: Many—I believe themes add great depth to the work: power obtained through corruption, redemption, the ignorance of the privileged, decline of civilization, the virtue of tradition, abuse of power, fear of loss, illusion of power, inspiration by beauty/art, religion, and, yes, more!
M.C.: Why do you write?
J.J.S: I have many hobbies—cosplaying, anime, scrapbooking, video games, drawing, music, etc… but all of them pale in comparison to my passion for writing. I write because no job I’ve had—and no hobby I love—can compare to it.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
J.J.S: After a full, 10 hours of sleep, a delicious breakfast, and a quiet office. Or alternatively when I really need to sleep and the voices in my head have decided that they have a brilliant idea and I had better write it down or suffer writer’s block for the next month.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
J.J.S: Any time I’m not writing my novel, I’m about as colloquial as a person gets—lots of emoticons, exclamation points, or just plain writing. But in my novels, I’m extremely picky. Many writers seem to edit their novels 3-5 times. I edit my novel thirty times. Picky with language?—I’m on the leaderboard.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
J.J.S: I am never not manipulated from afar. Every character has utter control over my work. There is nothing I can write (and not have to go back and change later) that the characters do not control and demand entirely.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
J.J.S: In the morning. I am not—and have never been—a morning person. Or a mid-morning person. Breakfast by noon sounds pretty great to me.
M.C.: Your best?
J.J.S: When it is quite and it is dark, I write fast, effectively, and beautifully. It is the time when all the voices come out of their quiet corners and I can finally hear them over the usual din.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
J.J.S: Nothing. I mean, unless we are talking about sleeping, eating, showering, and the business ends of things… But other than that?—I was born a writer and I will always be a writer.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
J.J.S: When a reader says that they love the character, they can’t wait for more, and they must know what happens! Every time—and there is not one greater than another—where someone shows as much passion in the series as I have, those are the moments I write for.
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
J.J.S: Unequivocally yes. There is nothing else in the world I would do—nothing at all—over writing.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
J.J.S: Yes. Every character, every theme, every part of the world means something to me—moves me in some way, reflects something I love, or reflects an aspect of my personality (and not all of them good).
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
J.J.S: There is nothing farther from reality than high fantasy—that should answer your question. Hahaha.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
J.J.S: Yes, actually, and it’s a pretty awesome website. We are constantly growing it to help readers fall even further into the rich world of Aersadore. Right now we’re working on the interactive map, drawn by Kirk Quilaquil, the primary artist for The Kings series. We plan to have over 100 interactive places on the map with tidbits of non-spoilery information that helps enrich the series! We also intend to have a majority of the characters drawn with bios added, summaries for the series, downloads of the first 100 pages, events we are attending in the future (like Wizard World in Chicago and Gen Con in Indianapolis), a news blog AND a fun blog, etc…! I am also very active with my followers on Twitter!