Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tyrants and Traitors, a new novel from Joshua Miller

Tyrants and Traitors, 
a New Novel from Joshua Miller
Brad R. Cook

Joshua Miller takes the reader back to into history with his latest epic, the first novel in The Lion's Dynasty. I had the honor of being in a critique group with him several years ago, an excellent author, he now has a new book and I wanted to share Tyrants and Traitors with you.  

Tyrants and Traitors by Joshua McHenry Miller
Book One of the Lion’s Dynasty
An Epic Inspired by the Original Giant Slayer

“Find the traitor hiding within Israel,” the seer warns Niklas, “or our nation will be enslaved and your hometown slaughtered.” So, no pressure. Niklas, a fifteen-year-old shepherd, spent his whole life dreaming of revolt against the hygiene-adverse Philistines, but when the all-but-impossible mission is thrust upon him, he starts to rethink the whole hero business. What chance does the daring schemer have when lions, the Mad King, and a literal giant stand in his way? As Niklas races to uncover the hidden traitor, conspiracies and armies converge on the nation—with his hometown directly in the crossfire.

I fired off some questions and we met up for a few minutes when he came in town.

What brings your writing into focus, the characters, the stories, or the love of crafting words?
I am enamored with the process of story craft. For almost ten years, I’ve studied from some of my favorite authors and screenwriters, and I’ve learned that all three components are essential. All that said, I find an acute delight in seeing scenes well executed in a story’s plot. Christopher Nolan is masterful in this, and I’m always reminded of the first words of his movie The Prestige. “Are you watching closely. Every magic trick consists of three parts. The magician (or the writer) shows you something ordinary… The second act is called the turn. The magician (or the writer) takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary... Finally, there is the third act, called the prestige, where you bring it all back to the beginning.” Brilliant!
Great movie! And I like that, the show, the turn, and the prestige. I’ll have to look for them in my own writing.

With Tyrants and Traitors set in the past, how much fact is in your fiction?
So, my story is a fantastical retelling of the original giant slayer (with a large emphasis on the fantastical), but given my educational background, I knew a lot more about the ancient middle-east culture than your typical gent or lady. So, there’s a lot of historical nuggets in the story that ended up in the final manuscript.

Tell us about your writing style--do you work from an outline or wait to see where the characters lead you?
One of my all time favorite authors is Jim Butcher,
Me too. Of course, the Dresden Files, but I loved the first of his steampunk series, The Aeronaut's Windlass.
and he was kind enough to post his process for writing a story via a live journal. He is a huge advocate for the architect approach toward writing, and while he (nor I for that matter) would never say there is only one way to write a story, it worked out pretty well for him, so I decided to follow suit. I plot out each beat of the story before I ever put my fingers to the keyboard, and it’s been tremendously helpful in my own efforts.

Do you feel writers benefit from belonging to industry associations or guilds?
Absolutely! So much of the publishing industry today is about networking, and the more opportunities you have to rub elbows and collaborate with other professionals the better! The Saint Louis Writers Guild did wonders for me while I was in the area, and I’m always looking for new partnership, networks, and guilds to join. My one caveat is to be wary of group think. Today’s industry is a bit like the wild west, and we’re all trying to find the right map to the buried treasure. However, at the end of the day, focus your efforts on connecting with readers, especially in your target audience. It’s been the primary working method for generations, and it will be for generations to come.

What are the top three pieces of advice you'd like to give new writers?
A great piece of advice for writing (as well as in life), is to find people you want to be like and stick with them. For me, that’s meant targeting my top five or six authors, and mirroring my own writing and career after their own. Obviously, each circumstance is different, but there are always tricks you can apply in your own efforts.
So true, I have done the same, learning from the master and emulating them. That was one, do you have another?
Second, focus most of your time on writing a good story. Many authors are too enthralled with the idea of getting a book published, and the quality of their book suffers for it.
The story is the most important part of the book. And third…
Finally, enjoy the journey. At the end of the day, whether you sell one hundred copies or one hundred thousand copies, you’re doing something most people only dream of. It’s a difficult ride, but it’s also a glorious one!

Okay, let’s get a little personal. What's your favorite way to interact with fans/readers?
Coffee or fermented beverages. I’m a huge fan of networking and meeting new people, so whenever I have the opportunity to sit down with a reader and discuss why I made certain choices, how the story made them feel, and their insight into what could have been done better, I consider it a joy and an honor. However, I also have a ton of fun over on twitter, where pithy banter rules supreme! Say hi @talesofascribe.

Thanks for letting us into your mind, but one last question. Which line did you struggle with more, the first or the last?
I struggled with the first line of Tyrants and Traitors something fierce. My book is equal parts adventure and snark, and finding the right cadence to start off took me through two rounds of edits. They were literally the last words I wrote. I kept submitting thoughts to my editor (the amazing Sophie B. Thomas) who would shake her head and simply write back, it’s not quite right yet. In the end though, I thought we captured the feel of the book pretty well. ‘This was the first step toward revolution; an adventure bards would retell for generations. It was also, technically, stealing.’
Cool. Good beginning.

Thanks for talking with us here at the Writers’ Lens.
To learn more about Joshua Miller check out his website, 

Joshua McHenry Miller
Most people use vacation days to take actual vacations. Author Joshua McHenry Miller saves them for when JK Rowling releases a new Harry Potter book.

A nerd long before the world realized it was awesome to be geeky, he’s loved superheros, dragon slayers, and jedi knights as long as he can remember. Eventually, he wanted to do more than simply consume adventure stories; he wanted to create them.

For the last ten years he’s studied story craft, and the fruit of his work has culminated in YA novel Tyrants and Traitors. It’s a fantastical retelling of history’s King David. If you imagine a snarky love child between The Chronicles of Narnia and the Percy Jackson series, you’re on the right track.

When he’s not writing till his fingers turn white (he has poor blood circulation), he’s starting a church and working as a community developer in south-central Madison, WI. He’s also a huge Marvel fanboy, enjoys gaming (both the tabletop and video game variety), and would spend every day in open water if it were possible. He also loves connecting with his readers, so stop by his website at or say hi on twitter @talesofascribe!

Brad R. Cook, author of the YA steampunk series, The Iron Chronicles. Iron Horsemen -, Iron Zulu -, and Iron Lotus  A member of SCBWI, he currently serves as Historian of St. Louis Writers Guild after three and half years as its President. Learn more at, on Twitter @bradrcook, or on his blog Thoughts from Midnight on tumblr

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