Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
Writing has been a passion since I was a child. In elementary school I was read The Hobbit by Tolkien in one of my English classes and the story opened my eyes to the fantasy world (and genre) in general.
That Christmas I received my own copy of The Hobbit from my uncle—and the basic box set of TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons game. My family started playing the game and from that time on, my love of all things sword and sorcery grew.
Over the years, I started to memorialize certain characters, campaigns, and unforgettable moments from my time as a player character and as a dungeon master in small, campaign-specific diaries. This collection of adventures and stories became the basis for many of the protagonists and villains in The Last Keeper—and make up various parts of the realm of Warminster.
What inspired you to write your book?
I started writing when I was very young. My uncle was paralyzed in the Vietnam War and when he returned home, my mother was his nurse. I practically grew up by his side and the kind of activities he could engage in were limited. But writing was something he could do, and so I started into creative writing and playing Dungeons & Dragons with him as a form of escapism from real life.
I eventually took some creative writing classes in high school and then again in college, but my focus was on government, so I ended up writing every day for a living. However, writing legislation, grants, and speeches tends to be a world away from crafting fiction. In many respects, I had to flip the switch and transition from non-fiction to fiction, so I struggled early with dialogue and story pacing. But I think my professional career prepared me to be a descriptive writer and to make sure the plot lines were buttoned up.
What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I find several themes run deep in my work including overcoming struggle and answering a call to duty. I think most people can identify with these themes in their own Well walk of life, whether it’s a physical struggle, and mental battle or even an emotional war.
In my book, The Last Keeper, some of the main characters face these same struggles in times of war, in a forbidden romance or two, and in the way people of mixed blood in the realm are treated.
My hope is that readers will recognize that sometimes answering a call to duty or service your community is greater than selfish needs. And of course, the characters in the Last Keeper grow to understand these virtues through their own personal struggles.
What drew you into this particular genre?
Shared experiences from my various Dungeons & Dragons campaigns have always been at the heart of my work. If you are a TTRPGer, I’m sure you get this. Playing D&D with friends and family scattered through several decades really generated a lot of ideas that I could mesh into The Last Keeper, but also allowed me to go off script and away from D&D, creating unique monsters like the Antlered Man.
The D&D modules of the Ravenloft series and The Vault of the Drow were player and DM favorites and inspired many fun nights and memories, including the creation of one of the villains in The Last Keeper, Incanus Dru’Waith.
If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
I think I would sit down with Sir Ritter of Valkeneer.
In truth, he’s based on an old Dungeons and Dragons character that I played to a high level and I modeled him after Aragorn from Lord of the Rings and mixed in more than a pinch of Salvatore’s dark elven ranger, Drizzt Do’Urden of the Dark Elf series.
I would want to know how he handled growing up in a society that looked at him as a “trollborn,” or aa person of mixed blood. Coupled with the fact that he’s also born a low noble, he does the unenviable task of defending a very dangerous borderland and yet he’s disrespected by both his human relatives and his relatives of elven blood.
What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
Twitter. The writing community there has been tremendously supportive and helpful. Most authors follow back and help with retweets, but and the marketplace for readers and buyers is very active. I receive advice, requests for autographed copies and opinions about my characters very frequently, including helpful constructive criticism from time to time. And if you have a thick skin and an open mind, most opinions and ideas are well intended.
What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
Even if it’s just an outline for a chapter or ideas that you’re memorializing in your notes. Making writing habitual by setting goals—no matter how small or large. You don’t want to fall off of pace and in this day and age of the marketplace, readers expect quicker turn-arounds and more releases than ever.
Also, remember this is supposed to be fun! People read for entertainment purposes and as a writer it shouldn’t be much different for you. Writing should be an outlet to funnel your creative spirit and ideas in the right direction, but you have to have fun with it. When you do, the product is so much better.
What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
Vorodin’s Lair is the second book in the Warminster series, a continuation of the story of Daemus Alaric, the low Keeper from the Cathedral of the Watchful Eye. It is due out in July or August of 2022, with the third book in the series due out around the holidays of 2022 or quarter one of 2023.
About the Author
Born of steel, fire and black wind, J.V. Hilliard was raised as a highlander in the foothills of a once-great mountain chain on the confluence of the three mighty rivers that forged his realm’s wealth and power for generations.
His father, a peasant twerg, toiled away in industries of honest labor and instilled in him a work ethic that would shape his destiny. His mother, a local healer, cared for his elders and his warrior uncle, who helped to raise him during his formative years. His genius brother, whose wizardly prowess allowed him to master the art of the abacus and his own quill, trained with him for battles on fields of green and sheets of ice.
Hilliard’s earliest education took place in his warrior uncle’s tower, where he learned his first words. HIs uncle helped him to learn the basics of life—and, most importantly, creative writing.
Hilliard’s training and education readied him to lift a quill that would scribe the tale of the realm of Warminster, filled with brave knights, harrowing adventure and legendary struggles. He lives in the city of silver cups, hypocycloids and golden triangles with his wife, a ranger of the diamond. They built their castle not far into the countryside, guarded by his own two horsehounds, Thor and MacLeod, and resides there to this day.