The forests of Northern Michigan were an ideal setting for Jeff Pryor’s childhood. He developed a love and respect of nature at an early age, before moving to the more populated metro Detroit area in his teens. Spending formative years in both urban and rural environments contributes strongly to his stories.
Jeff began telling stories as a young child. Reading and writing were early passions, but Dungeons and Dragons was what eventually led him to fantasy. Many years of telling his stories around the gaming table eventually stirred his writing passion. ‘Chosen of Trees and of Talons’ was published in 2016, followed by his first poetry collection, ‘Whispers of a Broken World’, the following year. ‘Strings of Chance’ begins a new story, with many more still to come.
Jeff still lives in Michigan, the place where people point at their hand to show where they’re from. He lives with his adult (whether she wants to admit it or not) daughter and their two pets, a senior husky named Valdor (from one of those stories yet to come), and a jerk of a cat named Tarot. Northern Michigan is a second home, with the call of the forest always in Jeff’s ear…and his stories.
1.Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
I started telling stories as a young child. I think much of it came from growing up in a rural area. I had forests, fields, lakes, and streams at every turn. With few other children living nearby and me having four sisters, my imagination created many of my early friends. These friends all had stories that I wanted to tell.
This jerk named Edson Pye showed up in my brain during the summer of 2017, demanding that I tell his tale. He was loud and persistent, which led to me attempting to write his life story just to shut him up. I soon learned how much of a mess that was. Strings of Chance wasn’t a story so much as a mixed bundle of misadventures and craziness with no common theme. I wrote him into a jail cell to keep him quiet, and set it all aside.
A little over a year later, I was cataloging my projects and stumbled into my notes and work on this. That allowed Edson to claw his way back into my head. This time, it was no longer random events in his life…it was focused and was now a story! I had been planning a second attempt at Michael Moorcock’s method of writing a book in three days, so I decided to make this the story I would write. I didn’t quite finish the rough draft over the holiday weekend, but did over fifty thousand words in three days! Take that, NaNoWriMo Winners!
2.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
My love of fantasy also began as a young child. When my parents divorced, my father married a woman with four children. While I gained three more sisters, I also finally had a brother! He was older, and was a huge fan of Dungeons and Dragons. I took one look at his collection of painted miniatures and was hooked.
Gaming later led me to reading fantasy. My storytelling naturally followed the same path. For me, it’s the magic and the ideals that typically come in a fantasy story. The thought of manipulating some hidden energy for our own use is appealing. Using that power to make the world a better place adds to that appeal.
3.Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
I love that it’s a story based strongly around music. While writing has always been something I wanted to do, there was a long period of time where I had a stronger desire to be a musician. In particular, I wanted to be a rock star! This story gave me a chance to explore this lifestyle and mix it with the fantasy settings I love so much.
4.If I were stuck in a room with your main character, what would we be doing?
Drinking wine and probably singing a song. Other than himself, Edson Pye loves three things: wine, women, and music. He’d probably manage to cheat you out of anything of value you were carrying, drink you into unconsciousness, and find a way to escape while you were out.
5.Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds them back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
If I’m not careful, I tend to jump around a bit. Most of my stories feature multiple points of view, and many characters and subplots. I sometimes become so focused on the big picture that I forget to include the small details that make a story truly come to life. In this story, I forced myself to concentrate on Edson and really gave each chapter a specific purpose. I did more plotting than I have in the past as well, which seemed to help, even when Edson took the story off course a time or two. The Eagles of Eldara series will continue to be told from multiple points of view, but moving forward I plan to make an effort to follow and expand on the methods I’ve been using in A Ballad of Bards and Bastards.
6.You’re going to go back and visit yourself when you first started writing, at whatever age it was, and you can give yourself one piece of advice. What would it be?
Finish the story before trying to fix the story. I started and stopped writing the same story for over twenty years. Each time, I would go back and fix what I had done before, often making drastic changes. In the end, I hated it. The best thing I ever did was let go of that and start another story. With that one, I blazed through two books and part of a third before stopping to edit. It was a mess, but it was finished. Once fixed, the first book became Chosen of Trees and of Talons.
If I had only done the same thing with my first attempt at a book, I would’ve completed the story while it was fresh in my head instead of altering and adapting it many times over more than two decades. I’d likely have a lot more books written by now as well.
7.Let’s talk about tools. Do you have a word processor that you would tell us to use? Is there a certain computer that has become your favorite? What do you look for in a keyboard? What would you absolutely have to have if you were to sit down and write your next book?
Scrivener is the best tool I’ve found. I do most of my writing with that. I use my laptop for the most part, though I sometimes write myself notes, either on paper or in my phone. I also use spreadsheets for plotting, managing timelines, world building, and more. I really only need my laptop, a comfortable chair, and a coffeemaker. Maybe a pinch of bourbon from time to time.
It’s not exactly a tool, but I can’t say enough about Michael Moorcock’s three-day method of writing a book. I don’t think it would work with every story, but it was great for Strings of Chance, allowing me to get totally immersed in Edson Pye’s character. I lived and breathed the story for three days. In the end, I grew to know Edson better than any character I’ve ever written, including those who I wrote about off and on for over twenty years.
8.If you could live anywhere other than where you are, where would it be?
Anywhere that features a forest untouched by man. Growing up in Northern Michigan gave me a real love of nature, especially forests. Trees have always been magical to me, which is reflected through the Eldara Trees in the Eagles of Eldara series. A secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere would be paradise to me.
9.Now that you have published your first book, do you have any dreams you have not reached? Goals for new books, series beyond this publication, or anything else that can tantalize the fantasy public?
I have a few goals and dreams. Financially, my goal from writing has always been to avoid having to work at McDonald’s or WalMart when I retire from my day job. I lead a simple life and don’t need much to be happy.
Finishing both series I have going is a priority. The second book of the Eagles of Eldara is ready for an editor. With the rights to the first book held by a publisher, finding a home for this one has been difficult. I’m reviewing my options and will make a decision on how to proceed soon. A Ballad of Bards and Bastards kicks off with Strings of Chance, with the second book in progress. I’m planning to repeat the Michael Moorcock three-day method again this Easter, and hope to finish that book in the process. Then it’s off to editing.
I mentioned the book that took me over twenty years to write. While I don’t like the end result of that book, there’s a story there I hope to pursue someday. I’ve found another angle to it that is really promising, though I’m a little afraid of jumping down that hole again. A Ballad of Bards and Bastards leads into that story in many ways. Both stories take place in the same world, and some of the events in A Ballad of Bards and Bastards serve as the genesis of the events in this story.
There is another massive story that I’m just beginning to plot out. It actually combines four story ideas I had been pursuing, telling a much bigger tale. I won’t start writing it until I finish up a few loose ends though. Included in the loose ends are two prequels to the Eagles of Eldara series and a retelling of the Robin Hood legend, with Prince John as the protagonist. All three of these books are written and at various stages of editing.
This might be one of those, I have a problem moments…I have just under sixty writing projects in the works at this time. Many of these will likely never be finished, and some are barely even started. Some examples of these projects are a couple children’s stories I have in the works, an idea for a story set in the American wild west plotted out, a collection of short stories started, and a few half-written books. That doesn’t even include poetry. I would guess that I have a few hundred unfinished poems, along with another hundred or more that haven’t been published.
10.If we reach beyond the written word into visual media, and you could choose how your story is consumed, would you want a television show, a movie series, or anime to tell the story of the book and the world it takes place in?
For the Ballad of Bards and Bastards, movies would be perfect. The story moves quickly and would be told well in that format. The Eagles of Eldara would be better on television though. It has a huge cast and follows multiple plot lines across what will be five books, not counting the prequels. Trying to fit it into a movie, or even a series of movies, would be difficult. I also envisioned Lackland, which is my Robin Hood retelling, as a movie. Hollywood seems to kick out stories of Sherwood Forest on a fairly regular basis, so why not?
One of my children’s stories I have in the works is a Christmas tale that I would love to see animated. Another is more of a collection of stories, based on a recurring dream I had as a child, and would make a great animated series.
11.Can we expect an audio book from you, and if you had the ability to choose anyone to narrate it, is there someone in particular you would hire?
Strings of Chance would present a unique challenge as an audio book. As a traveling bard, Edson is performing repeatedly throughout the story. To do the story justice, an audio book would require a lot of accompanying music. It’s something I hope to explore, but won’t do it unless it can be done the right way. I don’t know who I would consider for this. It would require multiple voices, as Edson isn’t the only singer who performs in the book, with even more coming in for the second book.
I’d also love to have the Eagles of Eldara series done in audio books, but this is somewhat out of my control. As I move forward with some of my other projects, audio books will be part of the equation. I haven’t really tried listening to audio books yet. I plan to soon, but couldn’t name a single narrator at this point.
12.You are forced to pick a fist fight with one of the characters in your book. Who would you choose and why?
I first thought of Edson. He’s a lot of things, but a fighter isn’t one of them. I had my share of scraps as a child, but that was long ago. I would have a size and reach advantage over him though. Add on the fact that he’s drunk much of the time and I think I’d be okay.
Instead, my pick would be Kodran Novius. Not only would I win the fight, I would probably thoroughly enjoy the experience.
13.Do you share any vices or habits with any characters in your book? If so, what are they?
Beyond a love of music, not really. Edson continues on with that love further than I did. I sold my guitars and amplifiers when my daughter was a baby and we needed diapers and food. Though I later replaced them, my drive to play was gone. Neither of my guitars have left their cases for over five years now. Edson would never be able to put them down.
There was a time when I drank a bit, but wine was never really my thing. It’s an addiction for Edson. I heavily explore vices in this story, including addiction. This isn’t something I’ve dealt with myself, but it has played a big role in my life. I’ve lost numerous friends and family members to the evils of addiction. Others are still here, still coping with the need for whatever their vice is…still blowing through the lives of those around them with the destructive force of a hurricane. Some of that comes out in this story. Despite that, it’s mostly a fun ride. Edson Pye is a character who is hard to love, but equally hard to ignore.
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