Friday 1 June 2012

Friday Fantastic Feature: John R. Phythyon, Jr.

Today I'm really glad to have John R. Phythyon Jr hanging out with me, the author of State Of Grace. A Wolf Dasher Adventure Story.

Cece: I am so excited to have you here with us today, John.  Please tell us a little about yourself.

John:   Thanks for having me, Cecilia.

I’m an independent author from Lawrence KS – home of the Jayhawks! I spent eight years working in the hobby games industry, both as a marketer and as a game designer. After leaving that business, I spent seven more years in marketing and fundraising, both as a freelancer and as an employee for various companies. Three of those years I worked as the principal development officer for my local community theater. That was pretty fulfilling.
But I’ve dreamed of being a novelist for a very long time – at least since high school. Last year, I decided it was time to really pursue that dream. I’d written several novels and gone the traditional route of seeking an agent with no success. I was getting ready to do it again when I read how e-readers had completely changed the publishing business. I believed in my book, and I’d worked in publishing before, so I decided I could do this on my own. So far, it’s been an amazing journey.

Cece: What book title are you currently promoting?

John:   STATE OF GRACE, a Wolf Dasher adventure novel.

Cece: What genre does it belong to?

John:  It’s a fantasy-thriller mashup. Basically, I take all the elements of a classic espionage novel and set them in a traditional fantasy world. A human agent is murdered in the elf nation of Alfar. Before she dies, she names the ambassador from Alfar to her country, Urland, as her killer. But he couldn’t have done it, because he was out of the country at the time. So Urland sends Wolf Dasher to Alfar to find out who did it and why. In the course of his investigation, he uncovers a plot by a terrorist group to effect a coup that will topple the government, ignite a war, and change the balance of power in the world.

 Cece: What is STATE OF GRACE all about?
John: It’s really about faith and patriotism. Religion is a huge theme running through the book. In STATE OF GRACE, elves are the most devout people on Earth. They believe the prophet Frey gave them God’s message of love and leadership. According to Frey, elves are the greatest of God’s creatures and they must therefore shepherd the other races. They are naturally more adept at magic than humans, and they see this as evidence of their more-divine nature.

They disagree sharply, though, on what shepherding other races means. The moderate Freyalans believe they should live in friendship with others, while the conservative Shendalis feel they should have limited contact with the other races, especially humans. This has led to a schism that caused a civil war. Shendali fundamentalists are waging a terrorist campaign against Alfar to stop it from trading with Urland, particularly magic.

The socio-political landscape of Alfar is one of religious struggle. Strongly differing ideas of faith collide in a nation that is tearing itself apart.

Similarly, many of the characters in the novel consider themselves patriots, but they all seem to have a different definition of what they means. The villain in particular is willing to murder thousands of his countrymen and ally himself with the people he hates to do what he thinks is saving his country. Is that patriotic? 

STATE OF GRACE looks at these ideas, which drive so much policy worldwide, and asks what the right thing is. I tried to offer as many points of view as possible, so readers can think about what they believe is right.

Cece: Let’s talk about the main character in STATE OF GRACE. Tell us about Wolf Dasher.

John: Wolf is a Shadow. He’s a human being, who has been infected with dark energy from a strange tear in the fabric of reality known as The Rift. Shadows are used by every country as spies. They have innate magical abilities that enable them to work as espionage agents and assassins. Wolf can vanish when he’s standing in a shadow, he can see magical energy, and he has postcognitive vision that allows him to “see” how an object was used in the past.
As part of Urland’s Shadow Service, he travels abroad to solve problems. 

In STATE OF GRACE, he’s sent to Alfar to find out who killed his friend, another Shadow named Sara Wensely-James. He’s never been to Alfar before, and, worse, he’s sent undercover as Urland’s new ambassador. Wolf knows nothing about diplomacy, and he’s not very politic. He’s a fish out of water trying to do his best and making a mess of it.
Like many Shadows, Wolf is estranged from his family. Something about the dark, magical energy flowing through them makes Shadows harder for normal people to get along with. Wolf was disowned by his family when he was 15, right after his powers manifested. They are aristocrats and feared having a Shadow in the family would hurt their position at court. Thus, the Shadow Service is the only family he really has, and he’s bitter about it.

But he, like many of the characters in the novel, is a patriot. He serves Urland and wants to do the right thing. Upon arriving in Alfar, he becomes caught up in its struggle. Not only does he want to advance Urland’s interests there, he is also concerned with preserving Alfar and making sure it doesn’t fall to terrorists, and his motivations for that are purely altruistic. He finds beauty in elves and their way of life.

Cece: I love his name. I like his character even better. :) Are you working on other projects at this time?

John: I’m just finishing the first draft of the sequel to STATE OF GRACE. Wolf is still in Alfar and is trying to track down the leader of the principal terrorist cell. He’s also involved with the captain of Alfar’s Elite Guard, whom he met and worked with in STATE OF GRACE. The two have fallen in love, but they are separated when Wolf takes a dangerous mission behind enemy lines. When he disappears, she has to go looking for him.

Where STATE OF GRACE is about faith and patriotism, the sequel, RED DRAGON FIVE, is about love and family. And, of course, there’s lots of action and political maneuvering bound up in the story too.

Cece: What book are you currently reading?

John: Well, at the moment, I’m reading a proof for the print version of STATE OF GRACE. It’s available now as an eBook, and I’m trying to get a print version out too.

Before that showed up in the mail, I was reading THE INDIE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE by Jeff Bennington on my Kindle and ASTRO CITY: LIFE IN THE BIG CITY by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson in print. I’ll get back to them as soon as I get the proof taken care of.

Cece: Is STATE OF GRACE a different genre than you are used to writing? If so, what genres do you usually read and write?

John: I write adventure stories in multiple genres. Ever since college I’ve really wanted to write a great literary novel, but all the stories I create seem to have magic or monsters in them. I just love that element of the fantastic.

As far as reading, I’ll read a lot of different things. I like thrillers a lot. I used to read a lot of fantasy, but I’ve become picky about what I want in that genre. I read horror, and I adore a good literary novel. Any well written book makes me happy. I’ve enjoyed chick lit just as much as Stephen King.

Cece: Where can readers find you online?

John: Lots of places!

Twitter: @JohnRPhythyonJr 
They can download the first three chapters of STATE OF GRACE for free at:
And, of course, they can buy it at any of the following online retailers:

Barnes & Noble:

Happy reading and Writing :)