Meet FSF Net Author, KC Herbel


Jester of Kindness, by KC Herbel

Jester of Kindness, by KC Herbel


Today on Meet the Author, please join us for an interview with Fantasy Science Fiction Network (FSFN) member, KC Herbel, author of the Jester King Series. Fellow FSFN member, Kasper Beaumont interviewed KC, and I was happy to provide the cyberspace!


Which scene from your book do you like best and why?


My favourite scene in Jester is when the main character, Billy is chased by a forest dragon into a cave under a waterfall. The dragon “plays” with him, similarly to a cat playing with its prey, until Sir Hugh comes to the rescue. Hugh and Billy, who are strangers, must help each other in order to survive the encounter. This one scene sets up a chain of events that tie Billy and Hugh’s fates together in ways they cannot foresee. I like this scene, in part, because it is very real to me, but also because it is the scene on which my readers most frequently comment. I get excited when I can stir up emotions in the reader through my words – sort of an in print (Vulcan) mind-meld. Even an action scene has the potential to connect emotionally.


What’s the story behind your book title?


With a Jester of Kindness” is a play on words from a key phrase in the book, which is the way Billy and Hugh express the special bond between them. One of them could perform the most death-defying and heroic feat in order to save the other, but would then shrug it off as a “gesture of kindness” between friends. However, it means much more to them. They are strangely aware of their bond, even though they don’t understand it.


In recent years, I have frequently contemplated changing the name to something snappier. A shorter name would certainly save me a lot of time explaining. And explaining that I know how to spell “gesture”. Perhaps in a future edition, I will change it.


Oh! I almost forgot: Billy is a kind of jester in part of the story and this cemented the “Jester” in the title. (See what I mean about explaining?)


Which book character are you most like and why?


Wow! That’s a tough call. I have a lot in common with Billy, but I would have to say I share more personality facets with Sir Hugh. Hugh strongly believes in loyalty, honor, and duty. This has caused him heartache in the past. He feels he is under a great deal of scrutiny by everyone. He tries to be perfect, which of course is impossible, and when he fails, he feels he is letting everybody down, including his late father.


I think you’ll find that is a thread running through these books: relationships with our parents and their effect on our lives – especially fathers. There is a lot of complicated emotion tied to fathers, whether they are supportive, absent, adoptive, biological, dead, etc. I feel a strong, supportive father (or father figure) in a child’s life is quintessential to understanding your proper role in the universe. For boys, it’s mostly about how they should behave; for girls a father should demonstrate how they should be treated – which is well.


Who would you choose to read your audiobook?


I like Patrick Stewart’s voice, and in parts (of the books), I think he would be great, but I would truly love to have John Hurt voice my books. I am a big fan. I just love his voice, and I can think of few who bring as much character and expression to their voice. This is probably because I am currently working on a new fantasy novel (Deepwood, if it’s okay to say), in which I hear his voice narrating. That is, I am telling the story, but I put on my actor hat and tell it in a voice I think belongs to John Hurt, or rather one of his characters. This is the first time I have put so much effort into the narrator’s voice; the first time that I feel the narrator as a sort of character, and he’s not even a character in the story – it’s not first person. The way I see this narrator, he’s a medieval travelling storyteller with a more modern vocabulary. This is exciting to me. It helps me stay excited about the work.


What are you working on now?


I am working on finishing the sequel, Spellbinder and getting it out to market. The manuscript is finished, but I need to get it into the hands of a professional editor to help me polish it. Spellbinder should be out by end of this summer (2014).


I am also very excited about my work on a new fantasy novel, with a strong female protagonist, that involves magic and time travel. I don’t want to say any more because I don’t want to “jinx” it. I find that talking about a project too much, before it’s finished (first draft), takes off the shine and makes it difficult for me to finish.


Who are your favourite authors?


Paulo Coelho, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Raymond E. Feist, Janny Wurts, J.R.R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, Terry Pratchett, Michael Moorcock, Larry Niven, Roger Zelazny, Terry Goodkind, Arthur Conan Doyle, Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, and Neil Gaiman (not necessarily in that order). There are others whom I enjoy and whose work I admire, but these are the ones that pop into my head.


What do you write about in your blog,


I write about science fiction, fantasy, books, movies, TV (rarely), writing, my own stories and stuff. The “stuff” doesn’t usually become public because I try to keep the blog/site focused on fantasy and science fiction. The thing I’m really missing over there is interaction with visitors. Either it’s too hard to leave comments, in which case I need to be told, so I can make it simpler (somebody?), or my visitors aren’t that interested in communicating. I think many of my visitors may be ninja robots or extraterrestrials that have evolved beyond using a keyboard, though they could be dragons and faeries trying to keep a low profile. I’m hoping it’s the latter.


If applicable – what’s your experience of the fantasy sci-fi network? Where do you see the fantasy sci-fi network in 5 years?


I’m still relatively new to the network, but I see a lot of potential! My interaction with the other members has been very positive. I am happy to be a part of this group. I would like to see us continue to grow and remain a vibrant community that supports each member and perhaps create some collaborative projects together. These could take in the form of collections of short stories or some other creative endeavour, perhaps a comic book. I think the folks here are very imaginative and could really blow the socks of our readers with something unique.


What’s your favourite line from a book?


That’s a tough question, simply because there are so many. However, I will leave you with this, from a very quotable book:


“Fairy tales had been her first experience of the magical universe, and more than once she had wondered why people ended up distancing themselves from that world, knowing the immense joy that childhood had brought to their lives.”

–Paulo Coelho, Brida


Synopsis of With a Jester of Kindness (The Jester King: Book One):


As a peasant boy from a remote valley of Lyonesse, Billy could only dream of the adventures found outside his little corner of the kingdom. He believed he would spend his entire life in the Valley of the Yew, never having an adventure, never truly knowing excitement or danger, and never seeing any of the wonders of Lyonesse. That is until the night his destiny caught up with him. Shrouded in a sinister past, it lures Billy to the courts of the highborn. However, the path to unravel the mystery of his life is guarded by malevolent forces and the deadliest court intrigues. To prevail, he must learn to trust an unfathomable magic gift and come to grips with the disturbing truth about his place in the world, for his life and the fate of a kingdom hang in the balance.


Excerpt from With a Jester of Kindness:



A Running Start


The silence of the forest was shattered by the thunder of horse hooves churning up the black earth of the King’s Road. Two cloaked riders whipped their galloping mounts in a race against the setting sun.

As they passed a deserted crossroads, the larger of the two looked over his shoulder. “Hurry,” he shouted, “the sun is almost down. We must reach shelter before nightfall.”

Suddenly the tired mare under him slipped and stumbled. Its legs collapsed, and it rolled to the ground, hurling its rider further up the road. The second rider pulled up on the reins and turned around.

The fallen man grudgingly got to his feet and straightened the sword at his waist before shambling over to his downed horse. He looked back at his companion who pushed back the hood of his cloak, to reveal the smudged, sparsely bearded face of a youth.

“Go on, go on. I’m well,” said the man, spitting the dirt from his teeth.

The youth urged his jumpy, lathered horse forward. His large eyes danced from side to side above his quivering lips. “Are you quite sure?” he asked in a thin voice.

“I’ve taken harder falls in the lists.”

“Yes, an old warrior like you must be quite used to it by now, but what of your mount?”

“She will survive . . . Old warrior? I am not an old . . . ” The large man stopped and grinned then said, “Go on, I will follow immediately.”

As the smirking youth turned his horse back up the road, the warrior brought the mare to its feet and quickly inspected its legs. “Confound it,” he muttered.

The youth again stopped his horse. The grin had escaped his face. “What is it? Is she lame?”

“What, this old battle-nag?” said the large man. “Too stubborn for that, but she is wounded and look . . . she’s spilled our provisions.”

He immediately tied a cloth around the mare’s injured foreleg and bent to pick up the bread, fruit, and gold coins scattered across the road. He put a handful of coins into a purse and was reaching for a small loaf of bread when the cry of an infant erupted from his companion.

The dismounted warrior shot a fretful look to the younger man and then glanced about nervously. As he eyed the woods, his free hand drifted on to the hilt of his sword. “Confound, it’s nearly dark!”

The youth shifted in the saddle and pushed aside his grey cloak to reveal a very young, very small baby. “There, there, my little prince,” he cooed maternally. “What’s the matter?”

At that moment, the youth caught sight of movement down the road they had just covered. All happiness drained from his face, and his back stiffened. Instantly his mount reared up, pawing the air with its forelegs.

The warrior’s mare leapt into the air, kicking and snorting. Her master crouched low in the road with one hand solidly gripping the reins. The man’s sharp green eyes searched the shadowy curtain of the forest beyond the naked blade of his sword.

The youth skillfully forced his startled mount back to the ground then pointed down the road and screamed, “He’s found us! Run!” Immediately he dug his heels into his horse and charged up the road, cradling the baby.

The man hunkered on the road looked past his bucking mount in the direction the youth had pointed. His eyes fell upon the nameless crossroads, where a low, foglike darkness crept through the trees. It billowed into view like black ink poured into clear, still water and hovered in the intersection. Thin, wispy tendrils probed in front of it, and into the woods on either side of the road, before melting back into the main body of darkness. Without warning, it shifted and started up the road in the direction of the two riders.

“God save us,” pleaded the warrior under his breath. He then yanked on the reins of his horse, demanding her obedience to his control. He put his foot in the stirrup, but the beast circled away from him. After a few hurried attempts, he managed to throw himself into the saddle. The frightened creature spun round and round beneath him as he paused to eye the gold coins still littering the road.

“Hurry!” shouted the youth over his shoulder.

“But the gold!”

“Leave it!”

“But we will need . . . ”

“Leave it! Only the child matters!”

Without another moment’s hesitation, the large man swatted the mare’s rump with the flat of his sword and galloped up the road.

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About KC Herbel, in his own words!


I grew up in desert of the American Southwest. My father was a well-respected research scientist and my mother, an artist, clothing designer, and amateur creative writer. Dad was German, Mom’s Irish; so you could say I have fighting and drinking down to an art and a science. The storyteller in my family was Grandpa (Dad’s dad), who brought the oral tradition from his childhood in the Fatherland. He was able to resite poems he had learned as a child up into his 90’s, and had a lively way of telling his life in stories. One of my favourites – as a boy – was the time he snuck out the back window of his school to go see the Kaiser who was visiting a nearby region.

The reason I bring this up is to explain that my earliest influences were my mother, father and grandfather, who all were good at telling stories or explaining highly technical things. They also instilled in me a curiosity about nearly everything – something that has led me down an interesting path to get here.

My interest in writing started in junior high. Like many boys, I hated writing assignments and my first creative writing assignment was no different. After some hair pulling, teeth grinding and finally encouragement from Mom, I sat down and wrote a short story for my English teacher, who up until that point had seemed like a stick in the mud – a stern stick in some intractable mud. Much to my surprise, she praised my efforts and genuinely liked my story.

This experience made me realize that a common language to express ideas and tell our stories around the fire, even if it only started as a means to improve the tribe-member to sabre tooth loss ratio, wasn’t such a bad idea after all, but I was still a long way from throwing myself in front of the writing bus. If you had asked me, I was headed for pigskin glory under stadium lights. This positive writing experience was only a seed. After all, I still hated reading.

I learned to love reading (and push past my reading disability) when I picked up an old paperback of The Hobbit, my sister had left behind. It was such a wonderful adventure. I still remember reading it and thinking, “Wow! So this is what the hullabaloo is about.” I began to read fantasy and science fiction books wherever I found them. Eventually, I began to read off menu and branched out, but fantasy and science fiction remain my favourite.

In high school, I had another English teacher who encouraged me to write more, but I was too distracted by sports and girls. It was also during this time that I became interested in theatre.

It wasn’t until college (as an engineering major), that I really caught the fever. Having my screenplay selected for production on the main stage was a heady experience and one that I wanted to repeat. My intention was to go to graduate school and study stage/screenwriting. I was encouraged by my college professor/mentor to go to UCLA. But then life happened.

I did move to Los Angeles, but while I was trying to become a California resident and earn some money for school, I got an interesting job building animatronics (robots) for theme park attractions. I bought my first word processor and wrote evenings and weekends, when I wasn’t too busy with my new best girl. Years passed and my UCLA admissions book grew thick with dust. I bought a house and got engaged. The year I got married, was the year I got my “big” break into motion pictures. Stan Winston Studio called me up and wanted me to work on their upcoming Jurassic picture – building dinosaurs. Well, one picture led to another and another, lots of hard yet rewarding work happened, and then I published my first novel – a product of years of double-ended candle burning.

My wife’s mother became ill and my brother-in-law and his wife were having trouble taking care of her, so we moved to Virginia and took in my mother-in-law. This wasn’t the sacrifice you might think. I was burned-out from the years of long hours and stress and we were both tired of California, so we sold our house and moved, bringing all our dogs and some of our family with us. For the first couple of years I commuted between VA and LA, working on movies, until I landed a technical writing job in Richmond. I’ve been doing that kind of work to pay the bills ever since.

That pretty much catches you up to date, except to say that since I started writing in and after college, my desire to write good fiction has only increased. I can’t imagine a better job than storyteller.


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Spellbinder, by KC Herbel

Spellbinder, by KC Herbel

KC Herbel, Fantasy Author

KC Herbel, Fantasy Author

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