Thursday, February 21, 2013

Opposing the First Emperor of China with Magic: An interview with historical fantasy author Troy Jackson

1) Please tell us about your book.

My novel, The Elementals, finds actual events that occurred some 2200 years ago in ancient China colliding with a supernatural twist. The First Emperor of China, Qin Shí Huangdi (pronounced CHIN-SHHR-HWANG-DEE) has united a region of the world that has not known peace for many hundreds of years. Some viewed him as a savior, but many saw him as a tyrant bent on furthering his own power. Upon the backs of those he conquered he began numerous projects, including the first Great Wall, the Linqu Canal, a standardized system of writing and money, and a highway system of roads. Overtaxed and overburdened, the citizens were powerless to stand up to the Emperor. However, a handful of brave men and women rose up in an effort to overthrow him. One such group is the Dragon’s Spite who must gather their strength before confronting what they view as the forces of pure evil. But first they must locate three young teenagers who hold vast supernatural powers that could bring balance to the region. Can they do so before the agents of the Emperor capture them, thus ensuring total victory?

2) Please tell us a bit about your main characters.

Unfortunately I cannot tell you much more than what I have below, or I may give away too much!


Cai – a young orphan who has bounced from town to town most of her life
Shí Lin – eldest daughter of a prominent merchant
Jiao Ai – the third teenage girl who travels around with her reckless, uncaring parents
Li Jun – co-leader of the Dragon’s Spite tasked to find the three anomalies and keep them away from the Emperor


Qin Shí Huangdi – the First Emperor of China who views himself as the Son of Heaven and righteous ruler of all
Li Si – the Emperor’s Prime Minister; the force behind the strict code of Legalism and many of the efforts to standardize everything in life
The Triad – three brothers, Meng Na, Meng Fei, and Meng Wen, who have declared their allegiance to the Emperor and will defend him to the death

3) What got you interested in writing a centered around China in the time of Qin Shi Huang?

I have always enjoyed history, even as a child. So it was no surprise that I latched on to it in college and received a degree in it. I have read many books and watched numerous movies and shows regarding various periods in history. But I always found myself engrossed in Chinese history. It is one of the oldest and most fascinating cultures that have ever existed on this Earth. I remember hearing about the First Emperor during a class in college and I never forgot about him. When the idea first popped in my head years ago about writing a book I thought back to a period of history that it would fit well in. Not to give too much away, but during the reign of the First Emperor, he and his Prime Minister (Li Si) hated and feared free-thinking, believing that it could lead citizens to rise up against the Qin Empire. And so they mercilessly cracked down on those they viewed as a threat, including Confucian scholars. They also burned nearly all texts that existed during that time period, and is why there is very little actually in print about the reign of the First Emperor. As a writer, it gave me a lot of “wiggle room” to implement my own twist to the story.

4) Many of the elements that Western people associate with China, even ancient China, are associated with somewhat later eras in Chinese history such as the Tang and Qing Eras. Did you have any concerns about setting accessibility when developing this title?

It is true that when most people think of ancient times, they think of the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, and generally not the Chinese. Throughout writing The Elementals I viewed it as a way of introducing Chinese history to the readership. Very little is actually known about them except maybe in the last 1,000 years, and I found it as a unique challenge to not only better educate people but to do so in an entertaining fashion.

5) What sort of research did you do when writing this book? Is your formal history background in ancient Chinese history? Was there anything particular fascinating you learned that challenged your preconceptions about this era?

In preparing to write this novel (and the subsequent novels that will hopefully be out in the next couple of years) I did a great deal of research. I’d conservatively say I put in 100-150 hours of research, including midnight shows on the History channel, seeking any website I could find on the time period, and reading several novels (including Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian, Tales of Emperor Qin Shihuang by Yuan Yang and Xiao Ding, and The First Emperor of China: The Greatest Archeological Find Of Our Time by Arthur Cotterell).

I received a Bachelor’s Degree in History, but there was no specific time period that I focused on. That is typically done for higher degrees in History.

As I read more and more about the First Emperor and events during that time it read to me like a TV mini-series. It had everything that today’s shows include and what audiences demand, from political intrigue to betrayals to a grand sense of good versus evil.

6) Do you have any links to any excerpts you'd like to share?

If by excerpts you mean from my book, I would direct anyone to Amazon or Barnes and Noble, where they can view the first eight chapters of The Elementals to get a taste and feel for it.

7) Please tell us about your other projects.

Currently I am plodding along in writing book two of The Elementals. It progresses the story and sets things up for the climatic conclusion set for the third and final book. I am hoping to have book two out by the end of 2013 or early 2014, and book three by the end of 2014 or early 2015.

I am also getting the word out on The Elementals. As a new author I am starting from the very beginning and having to really work to get my name and my work out there for people to see. Hopefully enough will enjoy it and spread the word. After seeing reviews on it I can say, “So far, so good!”

Finally, I am busily working on my website, Tempest Works (, which is meant to not only introduce people to The Elementals, but all of my future works, and also keep readers in tune with the publishing world. Since I first launched it last year I have posted a great many interviews on my blog for people to check out.

Thank you for your time!


The Elementals can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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