John is a long time supporter and commentator of the CH blog and during a discussion concerning elves he mentioned his version of elves (albeit peripheral to his storyline) in his Children of Khetar series. I ended up ordering a copy after I found out the book was set among the Hittites in the mists of prehistory.
I’ll admit up front, and some positive reviews to include a 5 star review on Amazon agree, the story is slow in getting started. I found the first couple of chapters hard going as every paragraph served to build the back story and book’s universe. The reader that plows through, takes the information onboard, and gets to the adventure will be well rewarded. When interviewing John I mentioned my initial difficulty and the Q&A on the next page will reveal there reasons behind the detailed opening chapters.
By the way, if you are interested in elves, John reveals that they will play a prominent role in the third book.
Q&A on the next page.
Scott Cole: Are you following historical themes or is the Queen’s Heir universe mostly a John Boyle creation?
John Boyle: My fantasy stories are set in an alternate Earth where Plato’s story of Atlantis is true, which used to be fairly common backstory material. Queen’s Heir is set in Khetar (the Egyptian name for the Hittite homeland in what is now Turkey) and begins the story of how a band of faithful followers helped King Mursilith (or Mursili) I to his throne. The protagonist of most of the books in the series is Joran Kingsword, one of the leaders of this band and eventually King Mursillith’s right-hand man. The historical King Mursillith I reigned between 1556-1526 BC and had enough military muscle to sack Babylon. He shows up as the character Silmurth Sharpspear in the first book. To give you a point of reference, 1500 BC is about 100 years before the birth of Moses; not only is there no Christianity, there isn’t even any Mosaic Law and this world is a very dark place in many ways.
There is powerful magic in this world, and beings who pass themselves off as deities (they’re not) but as time goes by the use of iron and the spread of humanity will force the world to change. Around the time of the Siege of Troy (circa 1250 BC) there will be a big war between the elder races that uses magic powerful enough to change the face of Europe and kill most of the non-human races or force them to flee through magic gates to other worlds. By the time the world recovers, it looks much like we know it did by about 700 BC but in 1550 BC it is still a very strange and dangerous place. The glaciers haven’t finished melting, so the sea levels are lower, magic has enabled the presence of dragons and dinosaurs but worst of all there are some very powerful magics in the hands of some very ambitious people, both human and non-human, and it doesn’t bode well.
So, in answer to your question: No, but eventually Yes.
SC: I noted the strong female characters, to include many fighters that were influential in Joren’s early life. Are the female warriors written for modern sensibilities or a call back to the Amazon legends or even the earth goddess mysteries?.
JB: This started out as a game-related influence; when I started writing the stories that became the basis for my books, it was the early 80’s and people made game systems that didn’t recognize the differences between male and female physiques. It was dumb, but that is the way it was then and there are gatekeepers looking to enforce that policy today; so this wasn’t a sop, it was what was expected. However, that didn’t mean that I can’t use my own ideas to explain it. Much of what you see in the matriarchies on the human side DOES come from my knowledge of pre-historic earth goddess cults, ie The Great Mother: Maiden-Matron-Crone, the use of axes (labyrs), giant snakes as temple guardians and so forth.
On an individual basis, none of my female human characters are going to be as good or better a warrior than a man without paying a hefty price. The women of the Red Hunters aren’t human anymore, human warrior women who are as big and as strong as a man are the subject/victims of enchantments that either drive them insane or reduce their fertility to almost 0% and kill them outright if they give birth or reach the age of 40. .
SC: Any game influences to look out for like D&D?
JB: You asked about the possible influence of D&D or other games; well, I don’t really know much about Dungeons & Dragons, but I was heavily influenced by the work of Greg Stafford and Steve Perrin after meeting them in the late 70’s and Sandy Petersen as well. I did some writing for Chaosium Inc., small pieces for the RuneQuest and Stormbringer game systems and the influence of Stafford’s Glorantha runs through Queen’s Heir. I took the idea for the general framework of my world from a book called The Sword of Rhiannon, by Leigh Brackett. When I went looking for a society to hang from that framework, I remembered something Greg Stafford once wrote about the Hittites and I looked them over and was drawn by the phrase “The Thousand Gods of the Hittites” (some sources say 10,000, the Hittites mention gods everywhere and often give nothing more than their names).
The Hittite nation was located between Babylon and what would later become Greece, and was a military rival to Egypt; it was influenced by all three cultures and any story I told in that setting could draw upon a wealth of sources: perfect. The Hittite deities were a mix of godlings; some were much like greek gods from classical mythology, some were very babylonian and others seemed unique. That was a great fit for the stories I wanted to tell and I choose the Hittites as the background nation for much of what happens in The Children of Khetar series. So if anyone is looking for a game that has influenced my novels, they should think in terms of RuneQuest rather than Dungeons & Dragons.
SC: How do you describe your approach to fantasy writing in this book?
JB: Hmm. I just wanted to write a story that entertains my readers without rubbing SEX in their faces. I was born in the 1950’s and it seems like what I remember of my childhood and youth happened in a different world. I remember reading books by the authors listed in Gygax’s Appendix N as a simple matter of course, everyone did. I was also influenced by artists who drew the great serials that were published in the Sunday papers: Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon), Burne Hogarth (Tarzan of the Apes) and especially Hal Foster (Prince Valiant). Those artists and authors such as Tolkien, Howard, Burroughs, Merritt, Mundy and Brackett have all influenced the books I’ve written (and hopefully will write on down the line) and they managed to entertain people without the use of rape or sex acts on every other page.
The most common criticism of my books is that there is no sex; considering that the first two books are stories told by a grandfather to one of his granddaughters, I’m going to continue to disappoint some people.
SC: I understand that originally, you wrote this as a short story but had to significantly expand it before you could get anyone interested in publishing it.
JB: Yes, I had written a short story that was published by Issaries Inc in the game Hero Wars back around 2000. It got enough positive feedback that Greg Stafford (who passed away in October of 2018) made me an offer to turn the short story into a novel. Greg was getting out of the business of publishing fiction, so I was to write the novel, have it reviewed by him for accuracy and then I was to shop it to a publisher. This was at the end of 2001 or beginning of 2002 and when I did a survey of a few publishers I found that they were looking for a minimum of 100,000 words for manuscripts from an unknown like me. It’s one thing to write a short story of 15k words; it’s something else to stretch that into a 100k word plus novel. It took me longer than I expected.
SC: I have a question on Byzantium mentioned in your book. I’m guessing it is a precursor from the time before the great upheaval to the small Greek colony (circus 600 something BC) that eventually grew into Constantinople?
JB: Yes, if you are familiar with Greek myth, you will remember that King Minos is served by a brilliant inventor, Daedalus. I mentioned him in the first book and he returns in the third book. It was he who designed many of the wonders of my version of Byzantium and it is Daedalus who hides copies of his blueprints in secret caches so that the Dark Age he foresees does not destroy the city he loves forever. He has a workshop/office atop the great statue of Byzan that dominates the harbor of Byzantium in my world. Daedalus makes an appearance in the third book in the series: Dragon’s Kiss.
SC: What can the reader expect in Part II and how far along are you with Part III?
JB: Part II is the novel Raven’s Blood, which I published in January of 2019 through Amazon. It follows Joran in his flight from the city of Byzantium and his adventures among the peoples at the western end of the Great Sea: the daughter colonies of Phoenicia, the fabled kingdom of Tartessos in western Iberia and the feudal lords and sorcerers who dominate what will become Gaul and Britannia. He learns a great deal about waging war, knowledge he will need to drive the Empire of the White Sun from his homeland. There is more action than in the first book, everything from alley fights to pitched battles, and brushes with sirrush dragons, ghouls and the Lupaku, the wolf people who have a blood feud with Joran’s family. He also learns that there is something about him that attracts supernatural creatures, up to and including Vitharr, the Norse god of Vengeance.
Part III is titled Dragon’s Kiss and is about 10% done; I hope to have it published by the end of the year. It includes Joran peripherally, but puts the focus on Belkara and her efforts to build up a base of power for her and her mate while laying the groundwork for putting the rightful king of Khetar on his throne. There will be a lot of politics and magic to go with the fighting in this book with most of the book taking place in Byzantium. That is the book where the elves of my fictional world will make their appearance; rather than the soulless creatures you find in traditional literature, they have more in common with the Tuatha De Danann of Irish Myth.
Scott, I would like to thank you, not only for giving me time and space to talk about my books, but also for the work you do for Wargame Wednesday at the Castalia House blog. There is always something of interest; that link you posted for Obscure Battles website was a great idea!
SC: Thank you and I think I can speak for all CH bloggers in that we appreciate the readers and those that provide comments, feedback and criticism.