Author Interview: Jonathan Maberry

Today I am interviewing NY Times bestseller and 5-time Bram Stoker Award-winner and Inkpot Awardwinner, Jonathan Maberry, author of the new epic fantasy novel, Kagen the Damned, first book in the Kagen the Damned series

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DJ: Hi Jonathan! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Jonathan Maberry: I’m a NY Times bestselling author in a number of different genres —horror, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, mystery and others. I write for adults and teens, and I write comics for Marvel, Dark Horse, and IDW. I’m also the editor of WEIRD TALES Magazine. I’ve written 45 novels so far, about 135 short stories, 20 runs of comic books, edited 20 anthologies, and before that sold over 1200 magazine feature articles and a dozen non-fiction books on topics ranging from martial arts to supernatural folklore.

DJ: What is Kagen the Damned about?

Jonathan: The story deals with the return of magic to a world where it has been forced out of existence for a thousand years. The Witch-king brings it back and uses the magic to conquer the Silver Empire. Kagen Vale, captain of the palace guard was oath-bound to protect the imperial children but fails in a bloody and spectacular way. His own gods turn their back on him for his failure, damning his soul. Now Kagen wants to tear down the Witch-king…for revenge and to save his own soul. Things do not go as planned and he is embroiled with wild magic, mercenaries hunting him, love with a sorceress, and constant battles. It’s the first of a new series, and the second book, SON OF THE POISON ROSE, will be out in January.

DJ: What were some of your influences for Kagen the Damned and the series? 

Jonathan: I grew up reading what was called swords and sorcery back in the 60s and 70s. I read every Conan the Barbarian story, as well as the Eternal Champion novels by Michael Moorcock, the Kane stories by the late Karl Edward Wagner; as well as Tolkien, Stephen R. Donaldson and others. More recently I’ve devoured everything by Joe Abercrombie, George R.R. Martin, Andrezi Sapkowski, Robin Hobb, James A. Moore, and others whose books have evolved the genre in marvelous ways.

DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?

Jonathan: Kagen is a good guy who wants to do the right thing, but he is a victim of terrible circumstances. He’s a very tough fighter, and possibly the second toughest warrior of his age. In an odd twist, the more dangerous and feared fighter of the age is his mother, known as the Poison Rose. When she dies in the attack on the empire (it happens at the beginning of the book, so that’s not a spoiler), Kagen inherits her matched daggers and uses them instead of relying on a sword. He is an ‘in-fighter’, someone who prefers close-quarters combat; and he relies on high skill and a lot of speed rather than brawn. Kagen is a torn apart emotionally from what happens to the Silver Empire, his own family, and the children he was sworn to protect. During the novel he has to rediscover his own strength, rebuild himself from the person crushed and damned during the invasion and into a fighter and leader of warriors who may be the best chance of overthrowing the Witch-king. He has no magic powers, he is not the ‘chosen one’, and no one expects him to be the hero…but that’s the nature of heroism. As the saying goes, a hero is no braver than anyone else, but they are braver five minutes longer. This is Kagen’s five minutes.

DJ: Aside from the main characters in the story, who is a favorite side character or a character with a smaller role in the story? Why?

Jonathan: Kagen gains two companions along the way, and they’ll be with him throughout the series. One is Tuke, a towering giant of a man who is tough as nails and very funny. Tuke loves life and sees teaming up with Kagen as pathway to a life lived on the edge. And Tuke has some secrets as well. The other character, Filia, is Kagen’s former lover. She’s a caravan guide and mercenary warrior. She’s very pragmatic and straightforward, though —like Tuke— has her own secrets. She and Tuke become a couple, which is something that Kagen has to deal with.

And Kagen also has a stranger group of companions…flocks of dark birds —crows, cormorants, starlings, and grackles— who begin following him moments after he is damned by the gods. Their role in the Kagen novels is critical but mysterious.

DJ: What is the world and setting of the Kagen the Damned series like?

Jonathan: Kagen takes place 50,000 years from now. Our entire civilization has long since collapsed because of war, climate catastrophes, and a new ice age. Humanity collapsed down to primitive barbarism and have begun climbing up. The novels are set in an era where they’ve reached a level of technology about that of Ancient Greece/Early Rome. Nothing is remembered about our era except in odd and very rare instances (and those ARE spoilers). As the series unfolds, some darker elements of the old world will come into play, but not in the way readers might expect.

DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Kagen the Damned? 

Jonathan: Without exaggeration I loved every bit of the process. From building and expanding upon the original concept; crafting complex characters, all of whom are in some version of the moral gray area; to world building; to writing the action sequences, which are always a favorite of mine, given my lifelong involvement with martial arts. I’m in the Action Karate International Martial Arts Hall of Fame as well as a former bodyguard, so when I write fight scene —even in fantasy— it makes solid logical sense.

DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?

Jonathan: From the folks who have already read it, it’s clear that they really dig Filia, Tuke, and Kagen. But they also love the Witch-king, and they enjoyed trying to figure how his secrets. Also, the novel has some fun little ‘Easter eggs’ built into it, including reference to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, Robert Chambers’ The King in Yellow, Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Lady of Shallot, and John Keats’ La Delle Dame Sans Merci.

In terms of specific topics, I think people will talk about the bizarre family dynamic of the Vale family (Kagen and his siblings), because there are some real twists there. And they’ll likely debate the motivations of the Witch-king, which are not at all black and white.

DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began the Kagen the Damned series? Kagen the Damned is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?

Jonathan: I wanted to write the novel that I’ve always wanted to read. That’s what makes it most fun for me, and it echoes something Ray Bradbury told me when I was 12. He said that the secret is to “write the novel you would go out of your way to hunt down and buy”. He also said that I should write from a place of joy and passion, even if the subject matter is dark, because that love of writing will shine through.

Also, I dislike violent fiction that is violent for its own sake. There is plenty of violence in Kagen, but that’s not something I celebrate. Even when Kagen fights and kills, there is both a reason and a cost.

DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Kagen the Damned that you can share with us?

Jonathan: Well, there are some fun one-liners —most of which are given to Tuke— but he has a rather unique way if expression astonishment or dismay. It involves various animal testicles and are probably best left for inside the reading experience! LOL!

DJ: Now that Kagen the Damned is released, what is next for you?

Jonathan: I am a very busy writer. I’ve already written the second Kagen novel, SON OF THE POISON ROSE. Next up is the 13th novel in my bestselling Joe Ledger series. This one, CAVE 13, deals with the Dead Sea scrolls, weaponized mycotoxins, and a terrorist group trying to discover workable magic. I also edit Weird Tales Magazine, so we have a number of issues coming out this year, including a Swords and Sorcery issue, which will feature an excerpt of Michael Moorcock’ slated Elric novel; poetry by Jane Yolen, and more. And I’m doing projects in the genres of military science fiction, cosmic horror, and straight mystery.

DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?  
DJ: What other things have you written?

Jonathan: I broke into fiction with three horror novels, The Pine Deep Trilogy (Ghost Road Blues, Dead Man’s Song, and Bad Moon Rising). Netflix did a show, V-WARS, based on my vampire apocalypse novels. I write the Joe Ledger weird-science thrillers; the Dead of Night zombie apocalypse novels; The Nightsiders middle-grade science fiction; the multi-award-winning Rot & Ruin series of post-apocalyptic novels for teens; the Sleepersseries (with Weston Ochse) of military science fiction; as well as standalone novels like The Wolfman, Ink, Glimpse, Mars One, Ghostwalkers: A Deadlands Novel, and X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate. I’ve edited anthologies of all kinds, including Aliens: Bug Hunt, Aliens vs Predator: Ultimate Prey, three X-Files volumes, Hardboiled Horror, Don’t Turn Out the Lights: The Official Tribute to Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark; and others. And my comic book work includes Captain America: Hail Hydra, Black Panther: DoomWar, Marvel Universe vs The Punisher, Marvel Universe vs Wolverine, Marvel Universe vs The Avengers, Bad Blood, Pandemica, Rot & Ruin: Warrior Smart, V-Wars, Road of the Dead: Highway to Hell, Marvel Zombies Return, and more.

DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Kagen the Damned and the Kagen the Damned series that we haven’t talked about yet?

Jonathan: Despite some grim and very dark elements, Kagen the Damned is a fun read. There’s something for every reader; there are strong female as well as male characters; it deals with the clash of ideologies, so that even the villains are not pure evil —they believe themselves to be the heroes of their own tales, and think that what they are doing is justified.

DJ: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Jonathan: I’m really looking forward to diving deeper into the epic fantasy/high fantasy world. One of the real joys of being a multi-genre writer is that I am constantly encountering dedicated fans of new genres, and that allows me to make more friends and geek out with my fellow book nerds. There is no downside to that.

DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions! 

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***Kagen the Damned is published by St. Martin’s Press and is available TODAY!!!***

Buy the Book: 

Amazon | Goodreads

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About the Book:

Sworn by Oath
Kagen Vale is the trusted and feared captain of the place guard, charged with protection the royal children of the Silver Empire. But one night, Kagen is drugged and the entire imperial family is killed, leaving the empire in ruins.

Abandoned by the Gods
Haunted and broken, Kagen is abandoned by his gods and damned forever. He becomes a wanderer, trying to take down as many of his enemies as possible while plotting to assassinate the usurper–the deadly Witch-king of Hakkia. While all around him magic–long banished from the world—returns in strange and terrifying ways.

Fueled by Rage
To find the royal children and exact his vengeance, Kagen must venture into strange lands, battle bizarre and terrifying creatures, and gather allies for a suicide mission into the heart of the Witch-king’s empire.

Kings and gods will fear him.

Kagen the Damned

About the Author:

JONATHAN MABERRY is a New York Times bestselling author, 5-time Bram Stoker Award- winner, and comic book writer. His vampire apocalypse book series, V-WARS, is in production as a Netflix original series, starring Ian Somerhalder (LOST, VAMPIRE DIARIES) and will debut in early 2019. He writes in multiple genres including suspense, thriller, horror, science fiction, fantasy, and action; and he writes for adults, teens and middle grade. His works include the Joe Ledger thrillers, Glimpse, the Rot & Ruin series, the Dead of Night series, Glimpse, The Wolfman, X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate, Mars One, and many others. Several of his works are in development for film and TV. He is the editor of high-profile anthologies including The X- Files, Aliens: Bug Hunt, Out of Tune, New Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Baker Street Irregulars, Nights of the Living Dead, and others. His comics include Black Panther: DoomWar, The Punisher: Naked Kills and Bad Blood. He is a board member of the Horror Writers Association and the president of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. He lives in Del Mar, California. Find him online at

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