Interview with J.V. Hilliard
Happy Tuesday, everybody! As always, a new author interview is in store for you! Today, we’re hearing from J.V. Hilliard. J.V. is the perfect example of why I wanted to run my interviews differently from other blogs. I work to understand the author I’m speaking with as a person and a writer. Without doing so, I would probably not have learned that J.V. is much more than a fantasy author. He also works in D.C. How crazy is that? I never in a million years thought that I’d meet a lobbyist while conducting these interviews. J.V. never shied away from my questions. He even was kind enough to jumpstart my newly found obsession with R.A. Salvatore. He’s also a big Bram Stoker fan which earns him brownie points with me. Not that he needs them, his writing speaks for itself. When you pick up a book by J.V. Hilliard you can expect to be dead to the world until you turn that last page. Honestly, his story is so well written that I almost couldn’t believe it was his debut. So, after reading all about J.V. Hilliard, clear your schedules and check out his debut book, The Last Keeper!
How did your writing career begin?
I began officially down the path of becoming an author when the first wave of COVID struck. My professional work had ground to a halt, and I found myself with an inordinate amount of time at home. My wife encouraged me to use this time productively and writing a book had always been a dream of mine.
So, I hunkered down in my den and used the time I would have spent in meetings or traveling to create the first book, The Last Keeper, which then quickly grew into a series of novels to be published this year and next.
If you could choose to be any supernatural species, which would you pick?
I am a huge vampire fan, so I’d have to say some form of vampire. Although I am called to a Bela Lagosi or Bram Stoker type (the classic vampire), I am likely more of a Nosferatu (think Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot).
One of these days, I want to write a vampire novel, and I already have the outline for it. I need to get through the Warminster series first, but I am passionate about the “species.”
How did you choose the genre you wanted to write in?
Epic fantasy has been a passion since I was a child. In elementary school I was read The Hobbit by Tolkien in one of my English classes and the story opened my eyes to the fantasy world (and genre) in general.
That Christmas I received my own copy of The Hobbit from my uncle—and the basic box set of TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons game. My family started playing the game and from that time on, my love of all things sword and sorcery grew.
Over the years, I started to memorialize certain characters, campaigns, and unforgettable moments from my time as a player character and as a dungeon master in small, campaign-specific diaries. This collection of adventures and stories became the basis for many of the protagonists and villains in The Last Keeper—and make up various parts of the realm of Warminster.
What is something you’ve done that you would never do again?
I can’t say I’d ever been asked that. The concept runs against my personality a bit, as I am a risk tolerant person. I have been bungee jumping, skydiving, spelunking, snowmobiling, skiing, bobsledding, adventure hiking and many other extreme sports but none of which have I said I wouldn’t do again.
However, in the spirit of the question, I would say I would not ever get caught volunteering to be in a hot dog eating contest again. I did that once for charity and let’s just say in my personal battle against a tray of hot dogs, I lost.
What is your writing schedule?
I try and write every day, even if it is one chapter, one page or even outlining a future project. I find it a bit of escapism from the travails of my professional career as a DC lobbyist—where there is enough realism for all of us.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I am a sucker for vampire novels, movies or even corny vampire content like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I’ve been known to watch tweener vamp shows (I won’t name names) and I try to explain my obsession away to others as “research for my future project” but in truth I will watch or read ANYTHING that has a vampire in it.
In your opinion, what does a book have to have to be successful?
It has to entertain. I don’t care how many books are sold or what accolades are awarded, but if a book entertained you, it served its purpose. For those moments, you get to live through someone else’s eyes, experience a new life, and live in a new world between the covers of a good novel.
What is your favorite memory?
I started writing when I was very young. My uncle was paralyzed in the Vietnam War and when he returned home, my mother was his nurse. I practically grew up by his side and the kind of activities he could engage in were limited. But writing was something he could do, and so I started into creative writing and playing Dungeons & Dragons with him as a form of escapism from real life. Those days were some of my favorite memories.
What is something every writer has to have? Every writer needs to have a thick skin. Constructive criticism is needed to become a better author, so appreciate those reviews and comments from those that read your work and are offering legitimate ideas, edits or concerns. Learn from them and get better. Don’t let them bother you.
How do you think your friends would describe you?
I hope they would say that I am a good storyteller. To be a successful author, the story is the bones of the novel with the characters and style being the meat on the bone.
I am plotter/planner, so I literally have a wall-long whiteboard in my den that has notes, outlines, character arcs and intersections, etc., scrawled upon it. I never start a story or even a chapter without knowing the end and direction it is going, so I tend to write backward, reverse engineering the story to ensure every detail is considered.
What is a mistake you made early on in your writing career? How did you grow from it?
I should have spent more time learning about the industry of writing than I did. Publishers, agents, promotions, marketing, critics/reviews, exposure, outreach, signings, conventions, blog tours, etc., all have a place in helping—or hurting your chances for success. I saw my writing as more altruistic, being done to share a good story but in order to be “read” you have to think and act like an entrepreneur.
Once I recognized that, I turned myself into a business owner, one whose product was the story and branding of the Warminster series.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Even if it's just an outline for a chapter or ideas that you're memorializing in your notes. Making writing habitual by setting goals—no matter how small or large. You don't want to fall off of pace and in this day and age of the marketplace, readers expect quicker turnarounds and more releases than ever.
Also, remember this is supposed to be fun! People read for entertainment purposes and as a writer it shouldn't be much different for you. Writing should be an outlet to funnel your creative spirit and ideas in the right direction, but you have to have fun with it. When you do, the product is so much better.
Born of steel, fire and black wind, J.V. Hilliard was raised as a highlander in the foothills of a once-great mountain chain on the confluence of the three mighty rivers that forged his realm’s wealth and power for generations.
His father, a peasant twerg, toiled away in industries of honest labor and instilled in him a work ethic that would shape his destiny. His mother, a local healer, cared for his elders and his warrior uncle, who helped to raise him during his formative years. His genius brother, whose wizardly prowess allowed him to master the art of the abacus and his own quill, trained with him for battles on fields of green and sheets of ice.
Hilliard’s earliest education took place in his warrior uncle’s tower, where he learned his first words. HIs uncle helped him to learn the basics of life—and, most importantly, creative writing.
Hilliard’s training and education readied him to lift a quill that would scribe the tale of the realm of Warminster, filled with brave knights, harrowing adventure and legendary struggles. He lives in the city of silver cups, hypocycloids and golden triangles with his wife, a ranger of the diamond. They built their castle not far into the countryside, guarded by his own two horsehounds, Thor and MacLeod, and resides there to this day.
J.V. Hilliard is an imaginative voice arriving on the fantasy adventure scene with The Last Keeper, the first in his epic Warminster series.
Daemus Alaric, a young boy with the gift of prophetic Sight is plagued by nightmarish visions that threaten his sect, the enigmatic Keepers of the Forbidden. When Graytorris the Mad, a fallen Keeper, returns to Warminster, the other Keepers begin to lose their Sight, but Daemus’ powers remain. It’s up to him to foil Graytorris’ plans.
Daemus’ quest joins his destiny with Princess Addilyn Elspeth of the Vermilion elves, who received an ominous message during her journey to the human capital of Castleshire. So begins J.V. Hilliard’s epic new series with book one, The Last Keeper. Hilliard’s gripping fantasy winds through the mystical land of Warminster and beyond, with magic, dragons, and heart-pounding adventure that are sure to grip the attention of readers.
The depth of Hilliard’s characters and the vividness of his world-building began when he was young, playing role-playing games and immersing himself in the worlds of his favorite fantasy adventure novels.
“The Last Keeper represents the memorialization of shared storytelling, reaped from decades of table-top roleplaying,” Hilliard said. “I brought heroes and villains from many campaigns with friends and family to life, offering a fresh spin on the plots and the characters themselves that will surely shock even them.”
“As a first-time author, I can’t be prouder of The Last Keeper. Book two is in editing and book three is being written as The Last Keeper goes live,” Hilliard commented. The only question is, will it be fast enough for readers after they find themselves absorbed by the incredible, mystical world of Warminster and Daemus’ journey to save it and himself?
The Last Keeper is available through most major distributors including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books. It’s published by Dragon Moon Press.
For more information be sure to visit https://www.jvhilliard.com/ and to follow Hilliard’s social media accounts: Twitter and Instagram (@jvhilliardbooks) and Facebook (J.V. Hilliard).