Author Interview

J. Kyle McNeal (Birthrights)

A few months ago I was contacted by an author with the request to read his book. I’m very glad I accepted, since his debut novel is one heck of an adventure. Here is the interview with the author of the epic novel Birthrights, J. Kyle McNeal.

What inspired the storyline of “Birthrights” and its title?

The true inspiration for the series is the ending of book 4. I didn’t want to write yet another adventure where all the characters miraculously survive—where they save the day, good triumphs over evil, and everyone lives happily ever after. I wanted to write an ending as nuanced as the characters. I can’t wait to write the end I’m planning.Why two characters with completely different lives and perspectives? I’ve used multiple POV’s in the book in order to give a broad feel for the peoples and cultures. Having the two main protagonists in Birthrights come from varying backgrounds enables me to show the world of the Lost Land from different perspectives. I actually wanted to include a third main POV, but had to cut her from Birthrights. Kakati, however, appears in Broken Oaths (Book 2) as an important character.

How do you develop your characters?

Are they based on people you know or do they come straight from your imagination?The characters are all totally from my imagination.

What real-life inspirations did you draw from to build the world of “Birthrights”?

While the ending of the series has remained constant throughout my travels, the paths the characters must tread to reach that ending has changed dramatically from the story I started two decades ago while in college. I’ve visited more than 40 countries, absorbing cultures and religions from each. Although none of the peoples and religions in the Lost Land are based directly on another culture, I’ve tried to make them believable by incorporating the aspects I’ve witnessed during my travels.

What inspired you to create the villain(s) of the story?

Although some of my favorite classics (here’s to you, Tolkien) pit obviously good against obviously evil, I most enjoy reading books where the characters’ classifications are murky. Tyrion, from George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, is one of my all-time favorites. He’s horrible and heroic.Although I’ve not attempted the same degree of change as Martin did with Tyrion, I’ve tried to create villains with a backstory that makes their actions sensible—even justifiable.

What is the message you wanted your readers to grasp? Do you feel it got through?

First and foremost, I wanted to tell a story readers would enjoy. However, the concept that each person’s and each culture’s “truth” depends upon perspective is woven throughout the story. As far as whether that message has been received, I’ll have to defer this answer to my readers.If you could be part of your book as a character, who would you be and why.None of the characters in Birthrights have a particularly easy time of it in this first book. I wouldn’t raise my hand to volunteer to be any of them. If I had to choose, though, I’d be Quint. His privileged background gives him a broader perspective that Whym must learn after growing up in RatsNet.

When did you realize you wanted to become an author?

I’ve wanted to write since an early age. In fact, I started writing this 4-book series more than 20 years ago. Three years ago, when I returned to the US after a decade working in China, I determined to make my dream a reality by writing full-time.

What was your first reaction and thought when you learned your book was been published?

It was truly an overwhelming experience to hold Birthrights in my hands. I spent two years writing full-time to reach that point, so it marked the realization of a long-held dream.

Do you have a writing quirk? If yes, what is it?

I often speak out loud to myself as I write, particularly dialogue. And when I’m not articulating the words, I tend to almost hum them.

What are your future projects?

I’m currently finishing up edits on Broken Oaths, book 2 of the Revisions to the Truth series, to be released June 1, 2018.I’m also querying Judges by Jij, a YA Paranormal Suspense novel.In the future, I have two more books to finish the series, and I hope to squeeze in a middle-grade book—with dragons—for my daughter.

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