Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kathy Stickles is talking with Lloyd Jeffries, author of A Measure of Rhyme: Ages of Malice, Book 2.
FQ: This is an absolutely fabulous series, and I am so glad there is more to come. Can you tell us where the idea for the series came from?
JEFFRIES: The idea came like a lightning bolt. I was crossing the David Bogan Bridge in Pensacola, Florida, listening to the radio. They were talking about biblical legend and as my mind wandered, the idea rattled my brain. Of course, that was 12-13 years ago. Took me awhile to write it, with the demands of military service, deployments, family and life. The idea has certainly blossomed into something astounding and amazing, and the feedback I get continually buoys my spirit.
FQ: It seems to me that there is a lot of research involved in these books. Is it difficult to do all of that research and then transform that into fiction? How do you handle that exactly...is the research all done before you begin writing or do new ideas come along, and you then have to stop to do research?
JEFFRIES: I have this concept when I’m researching: to cram my head full of everything it can hold. I’ve found that the more knowledge, facts, lore, myth I can cram, the more my research informs my fiction. I think it’s magic—a magic I’ve learned to channel somewhat. Like a fire, we need fuel, we need pure resources, we must have material to mix together and see what kind of soup we get. This soup is the basis of my fiction, then my mind seems to do its own thing and gives me the epiphanies that make the story come alive and the characters, palpable and unforgettable. After I have a good solid set of bones on the story, I write.
FQ: I know that I personally have a favorite character after two books and I cannot wait to see what he does in the future. Do you have a particular favorite character of your own?
JEFFRIES: Ah, that’s not right! You have a favorite and didn’t tell me who it is? I LOVE when readers tell me a favorite, scene, character, phrase.
Sigh. Where was I? Oh yes, do I have a favorite character? Tough one! At first it was Drake, then Longinus, now it’s unequivocally Emery. The quintessential everyman who finds himself facing impossible odds and high stakes. I think he’s my favorite, at least today, because he reminds me the most of myself. Then again, there’s a new one in A Measure of Rhyme of whom I am very fond. Crispy, the ex-soldier and Rhyme’s mentor. I mean, what’s up with that guy? And of course, Rhyme Carter herself, based on my wife, she’s a force to be reckoned and someone whose ire is best avoided.
FQ: Have any of the characters changed in terms of how you write them over the course of the books?
JEFFRIES: Not to sound too mystic or artsy, but these people write themselves. They frequently surprise me with their actions and throw all my plotting into a tailspin, but always for the better. I let them lead and just try to be their conduit onto the page. I’ve tried to force certain characters to be certain ways, but it always falls flat. Like Thaddeus Drake, for instance, I used to try and make him do evil things, thinking it would bolster the story and his character. In the end though, it was forced and flat. When I let go, he wrote himself and showed me the true meaning of power, flaws, hope, evil, loss, control and destiny. Now, I just let him loose as frantic fingers try to keep pace on the keyboard.
FQ: What has been the hardest part for you in terms of writing this particular series? Does it come in parts or do you already know how the last book will end?
JEFFRIES: The backstory, the biblical stuff. I knew this would be a turn off for many. As soon as they see the word biblical, they look away. So, the problem was how to overcome that? How to get readers to give the story a chance. To set aside their paradigms about biblical elements and themes. I think you’d agree, this is NOT a bible story. Like Emery said in A Portion of Malice, “Consider this backstory.” There is just no way to tell this tale without the backstory, the biblical themes, the history.
Now, as to the series end: it’s mind-blowing, just unguessable, just unpredictable. It’s all worked out but not yet written. But I simply can’t wait to get there and write it. It’s truly awesome. As for the rest, they come to me in parts and I jot down little notes and let the soup simmer for a bit until that epiphany hits. After that, it’s all just details.
FQ: The covers for both of the books are excellent. Did you design those yourself or did they come from someone else? (It’s the eyes on the coves that really strike me.) If from someone else, how did you work with them to convey what you wanted in those covers?
JEFFRIES: Cover art is by a very talented designer: Jerry Todd. We swatted ideas back and forth until we came up with something that I thought represented the book’s themes. Those eyes struck me too, and I love the idea of a reader looking at the newest cover and trying to guess whose eyes they are. For A Portion of Malice, the eyes give that fierceness, the feeling of power, that slick edge of madness and malice. They take you in and grasp your soul. They say, “this isn’t your ordinary thriller.” I love that. For A Measure of Rhyme, those eyes glow, resonate, embrace the feminine while adding a touch of vulnerability and perhaps apprehension. Not one to shy away, they present a certain power that was very important to capture when writing the whirlwind that is Rhyme Carter.
FQ: Can you tell readers (especially me!), how many books will be in the entire Ages of Malice series and what is in store for the characters in book 3?
JEFFRIES: LOL, that makes me laugh. I’m encouraged and grateful for the number of readers who ask me to give them hints about what’s next. I love it and try not to disappoint. First, I have no idea how many books this series will be, although I can’t see it being more than eight or so. I can say that this series has a definite end and after it’s done, there will be no more from Lloyd Jeffries on the topic. I do not like endless series. I believe good stories have a beginning and an end, and that’s what I set out to write—a damn good story.
As for book 3. It’s complete, ready to go and I could publish it tomorrow. Same for book four, now that I think about it. So, here’s the big reveal: Book III of Ages of Malice is titled: Embers of Shadow. In it, you’ll find the same gripping characters facing ever-insurmountable odds. There’s even some new characters and the events that unfold are completely unpredictable yet organic to the tale. You’ll get a better look at our hippie, Bill, our man Crispy, Jonas, Ishmael, Sebastian, Igneus, Longinus, Cain, and of course, Rhyme and Emery. The events that transpire you won’t see coming. It’s as good as anything I’ve ever written, and I considered it my best book to date until...
Book IV, Ages of Malice. Title: The Tempests of Time. I consider this the best book I’ve ever written. Starting as thought experiment, it bloomed into something for which the word powerful would be considered an understatement. It’s fresh, bold, captivating and explores themes that are bold, disturbing, provocative and mind-blowing. You’ll never guess where this book takes you or where this journey leads (and believe me, many have tried).
FQ: You mention in your bio that you want to write books that, in part, “inspire thought.” I’d say you’ve achieved this with A Measure of Rhyme. What do you hope readers will take away from the novel? Thoughts about redemption? God? Spirituality?
JEFFRIES: First, I want to entertain. I want to offer an escape for my readers such that they are thoroughly absorbed and titillated. Second, what’s better than contemplation? I want to push readers out of their comfort zones. I want to raise questions that challenge their own belief systems. I want them to understand that, like a diamond, humanity is a single unit with many facets. That all we’ve been taught or told has been rote and mostly fails to stand against logical thought or scientific query. That’s not to say none of it’s true. But I can’t see a single religion as the “right” one. I can’t imagine God allowing the world events of today. There must be another explanation. There has to be another way. Through Ages of Malice, I set out to show how all those things come together in a believable way. I mean to change the conversation about God and religion. To start a discourse on humanity and what it is we do, or don’t do, for each other. I want to shift paradigms and get the world to see that a series of tribes cannot stand and is counterproductive and harmful. I want readers to leave my work chilled, yet with their minds on fire. If I can inflame the brain, the heart and soul can’t help but be warmed.
FQ: Can you share with us any ideas you have about what comes next for Lloyd Jeffries after this series is finished?
JEFFRIES: I have many ideas for what’s next after Ages of Malice, but I think the one that rises to the top is the Rhyme Carter series. I’m interested in her journey from small town librarian to where we find her in Ages of Malice. So, I think that’s next, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to a series about Longinus from lad to titan and a series about Cain’s rise as Constantine the Great. Now, having said that, and if you’ve read any of my short stories (free at LloydJeffries.com), you’ll see I don’t like genres, I like stories. I don’t want to be the writer who constantly writes about the same stuff. However, the Rhyme Carter series is one of those things that won’t tamp down, so I think that may be next. I may ask some other writers to join my world and write some of these stories: Longinus, Igneus, Cain. I’d love to see what others do with my characters and what direction these tales would take. I mean what’s better for a writer? With Ages you have an unlimited timeline and all history to play with. I see some incredible things coming from that, so we’ll have to see how it all evolves.
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