The Heartless by James Ticknor
Eighteen-year-old Menar Redfield, a gifted Healer apprentice, plans to settle in the city of Cajoi with his pregnant fiancée. However, his unexplained visions show him a secret war masked by the king’s political regime, placing them both in danger. When his visions come true, his fiancée is killed in the attack on Cajoi by the Heartless, a malicious raider cult.
In his body-strewn path of vengeance, Menar intercepts intelligence revealing the location of Crual, the Heartless’ sadistic combat commander and the one responsible for the death of his fiancée and unborn child. Menar vows to slaughter Crual and sabotage the Heartless’ insurrection. Yet the more blood he spills, the more a dark power grows within him.
If he can use this power to overcome Crual, end the war, and disband the Heartless, their increasing control over the debilitated country will be stopped. But he must hurry, because the dark power Menar possesses threatens to consume him.
Will Green: Tell us about your books that you have available.
James Ticknor: The Heartless is my debut novel, and it is the first in a trilogy. It is about a young man preparing to begin his life with his fiancée, but she is killed by a malicious raider cult. This atrocity makes him catapult himself into a clandestine war hidden by a political regime. As the story progresses through the book and the trilogy, his internal struggle fans the flames surrounding a corrupt political hierarchy and incites chaos among factions vying for control of the country. In this trilogy, I kept the action/palace intrigue of Game of Thrones in mind, and I also drew inspiration from the Eragon Cycle in the sense of magic. (Though, there are no dragons in this trilogy. It is light fantasy.)
Will Green: What can you tell us about your next project?
James Ticknor: Quite simply, my next project is going to be working on the second installment of this trilogy. This second novel should come much faster than The Heartless. For my audience, I promise that I will write it in six months. For myself, I promise to write it in three months. That way, I can surprise my readers if I finish early, but I can give myself some slack if I need to. In this second book, the political spectrum and factions are given a bigger spotlight, but I really wanted the first book to be focused on introducing and developing the characters. I know how to execute intrigue while still taking my time, something I admire George RR Martin for very much, and he’s played quite an influence in this trilogy.
Will Green: Where do you get the information for your book(s)?
James Ticknor: Well, at first it was Wikipedia. Then I realized researching was turning into an excuse. It also kind of sucked because I would read something about the era I’m writing in that I found astounding (such as impressing seals as signatures), and I would want to write all about how it’s done. Now, I only research on the edits, and skimp over what I don’t fully know in the first draft.
Will Green: What was the most surprising thing you’ve learned since you started writing?
James Ticknor: Without any shadow of uncertainty, I was immensely surprised that writing something could make me gasp and sting my eyes with tears. I am not an emotional man. I didn’t cry at The Notebook, Titanic, or even Forrest Gump. What I find amazing is that for most things, I kinda already knew what was going to happen. However, I remember when I was writing one part of the story and a character said something totally shocking and out-of-character for himself, and I didn’t gasp until after I had typed it- after he said it. I hold that as proof that characters act for themselves, and they can surprise you.
Will Green: How long does it take you to write a book?
James Ticknor: Oh, God. You know, Stephen King once said that writing a book should never take more than three months. This book took me…oh….nearly 5 years to write. I was writing on and off, because I joined the military and for about 2 years my writing suffered immensely with deployments overseas and training. During that time (before the military) I also experienced homeless and extreme poverty (I’m talking $5 a week to eat off of and nothing else). There were several other personal issues that I would never discuss, but the 5 years it took me to write this is poured with every emotion and influence of going through all this. I will never take so long to write a book again. 3-6 months is ideal, 1 year max. The thing that made it take so long aside from these is I was 16 at the time, and I’m 21 now. My writing style changed very much during that time, and the book was written by a different person in the beginning, middle, and end.
Will Green: Who or What inspires you to write?
James Ticknor: Sad songs inspire me. Seeing a couple kiss. Seeing a leaf fall. Squashing a spider in my house. Anything inspires me to write, because I will craft the craziest shit from the dumbest stuff. It’s easy to be inspired to write, but it’s practically impossible to maintain that inspiration. Inspiration is like an adrenaline shot, but it takes an Olympian writer to keep working after that boost.
Will Green: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
James Ticknor: You know, I had to think for a second before I answered this, and I actually have a good one for you. I’ve always treated my characters as if they were real. Occasionally, I will have them randomly engage in erotic behavior with one another, kill each other for no good reason, etc. Of course, I know I am going to delete this, but the characters are real, and I think they need a little release sometimes. If you’ve ever seen Monster In Law, you know what I mean.
Will Green: What book are you reading right now?
James Ticknor: I am reading two, actually. I am reading Under the Dome by Stephen King, and I am also reading A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin.
Will Green: Who is your favorite author and why?
James Ticknor: Stephen King! Oh God Stephen King! The guy is a freaking literary master, and he has proven it over and over again. He takes the most ordinary things and makes them outrageous, yet still believable. I love hearing how he comes up with stories. However, the main reason I am so enthusiastic about him is because of his interviews. A multi-million dollar entrepreneur, he walks into TV spotlight with blue jeans and a pocket T shirt that only my grandfather would wear. He cusses and engages with the population vocally in the same style of his writing. If I find out he voiced an audiobook of one of his books, I’d buy it and ask him to autograph it. I know it makes no sense, but I’m using “shut up and take my money” logic here.
Will Green: What kind of music do you listen to and why?
James Ticknor: Quite frequently, Evanescence. Although she said in an interview she doesn’t consider herself dark, I think she is. Nearly everything that I write is dark. I’ll otherwise listen to classical music. Songs can sometimes distract me.
Will Green: What do you watch on TV and why?
James Ticknor: I watch Netflix, not cable. On Netflix, I watch Futurama, Family Guy, American Dad, and American Horror Story. I love Disney movies too. I watch these comedy shows because comedy, in my firm belief, is the element of surprise, to get you to look at something in a new way that sparks sudden emotion and physical reaction. For American Horror Story, it’s because I like a long story, but still want to move on to other things at one point. For Disney, it’s just a good story. Also I like understanding the fucked up plots I didn’t understand before. My favorite Disney movie is The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I love looking back at it because I didn’t understand the religious intolerance, lust, and ethnic persecution when I watched it at 5 years old.
Will Green: What kind of advice could you give an aspiring writer?
James Ticknor: Get the fuck off the internet. That doesn’t mean go and watch TV or check your phone for “just one more text”. Electronic recreational devices or social media is the death of inspiration and writing. How many times have you been inspired from something you read on Facebook? Exactly. No, I’m serious. Don’t argue with me. Get. Off. It. On another note, live in doubt, but don’t let it cage you. Doubt makes us question all aspects of our writing, which is good. There’s going to be people who hate your writing. Listen to criticism, but be aware of who is speaking (Stephen King quote). I remember when I was in high school I wrote the worst, most profane literary piece to no one in particular. However, it got to the principal somehow. There was no violence, no threats or anything- just cuss words. In this public school where assault warranted 1-2 day suspension, I was initially suspended 10 days with recommendation for expulsion based on that writing piece. That is when the biggest critic of my life made me believe (from the amount of controversy and trouble it caused) that I was damned good writer. The message from that is even if someone hates your work, it can be because you are a very powerful writer.