Today I am very happy to be joining the Escapist Tours blog tour for the amazing new release The Legend of Black Jack by A.R. Witham with a guest post from the Emmy winning author himself. I read and reviewed this book recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can read my review here. There is an international giveaway later in this post – be sure to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of the fabulous The Legend of Black Jack!
Please also check out the posts from other contributors to the tour:
Now over to you Andy:
Storytelling with Uncle Andy by A.R. Witham
A lot of readers like to ask authors about worldbuilding.
How did you come up with this world? Did you develop it beforehand, or did you make it up as you go? Was it inspired by another story? These are the things I want to know. How did JK visualize Hogwarts? Did Narnia develop over a long time? How do they come up with a new planet for Doctor Who?
I wrote a portal fantasy called The Legend of Black Jack where I got to build a world out of nothing. And in doing so, I found out a couple of the answers. If you’d like to hear it, I’ll tell you.
Yes? Okay, let ol’ Uncle Andy pull up a chair, my back is killing me from playing ball with my dog, Bandit. I used to be young, I remember it well. But now I creak.
It starts with character.
The point of Jack’s story is to summon up the feelings you had when you were fourteen years old. Do you remember that time in your life? I do. I wasn’t a boy, I wasn’t a man, I didn’t know anything about girls, I didn’t know what I wanted to be and I didn’t have any particular skills other than a brain that worked okay. Everything was bigger than me, but I was expected to overcome it, to accomplish something, to compete.
During that time in your life, you’re not in control of much. You’re reliant on caregivers to feed and clothe you. You have no money and no means to get any. Everyone else is making decisions for you, telling you where to go, where to be, when to sit and stand. You’ve got nowhere to go, no agency of your own, no name for yourself, and no money. You can’t even drive a car to escape.
That’s the world I wanted.
A world where everything is beyond your control, where you’re forced into situations where you must succeed quickly or be controlled by someone else. A world where who you are supposed to be is still completely out of reach. A too-big world.
I started with monsters. I needed big monsters, unstoppable monsters, inhuman things that came in waves, so I made those. Then I made sure Jack was a total fish out of water, so I kidnapped him from our world to this new one. Jack has no special powers, he’s just like you or me, that’s the whole idea, he’s got no great strength or magical ability to combat these horrors—his only option is to outthink them or run.
Okay. Good start.
Next I made everyone stronger and more capable than Jack is. A master swordsman, a savvy archer, a magical beast, a fast-talking liar. Everyone but Jack has special skills. Majik isn’t unique to wizards in this world, it’s common as dragonflies, but Jack will never be able to cast a spell.
OK. Now we’re starting to get a world that makes me feel small and alone and a little bit scared. A bit like when I was fourteen. Good.
Now I need something important.
Back to character.
Jack’s story hinges on the fact that he’s asked to do the impossible. In a case of mistaken identity gone horribly, horribly wrong, Jack is forced into a position where he must save a life…or the guy on the table dies.
Now how do you set up that scene?
First of all, Jack has to be smart enough to possibly pull it off. Done. Second, there can be no other way for the guy on the table to live. None. So, what, I have to delete the entire concept of medical science from this world?
Um. That’s a tough one. Primitive peoples…that’s a little boring…let’s see…
Here’s an answer:
I’m going to call this world Keymark, and Keymark has always depended on majik to heal its people. Keymark never developed medical science because they never needed to. There are no doctors, no dentists, no antibiotics. If you’re sick, you go to the Agrat-ban-Nakane, the Great Bell of the West, to become healed.
Then, as a storyteller, you put on your Hitchcock pants and break the bell.
Excellent! Keymark has no healing magic and no medical science to fall back on. They’re over a barrel. Now my hero can get boxed into that nasty decision I’m looking for. Save the guy on the table or let him die. I need Jack to make that choice and suffer the consequences of it.
I’ve got him right where I want him. All done.
But one little thing remains: how did the Bells get broken?
That’s too much thinking. I need more coffee.
You can’t just say “the bells broke”. Did they crack? Why?
I don’t know.
Let’s go back to character.
Who would break a bell that can heal everything? Nobody, right?
Well…there’s a sorcerer. No, a dark prince. Maybe both. This prince is straight-up cruel and malicious, and he had to be put down by the Border Knights. When the prince was about to die, he called upon the majik of the Great Bells to stay the hand of the grim reaper. He didn’t heal himself, he used them to stop his death. And in doing so, he perverted the majik and destroyed the healing Bells.
So there’s your villain.
Cheating death has serious consequences, so let’s go ahead and scar Keymark with the moment the Great Bells were destroyed with a crack in the earth that splits the Breechline River in two. Let’s ruin everyone’s lives. Let’s spark war and famine and treachery and theft and death. Let’s burn the place to the ground. For a hundred years.
The Land of Keymark. At war, torn asunder, broken, and dying.
Now let’s drop our young, powerless, fourteen-year-old hero into this meat-grinder.
Let’s see what kind of character Jack has.
This should be a hoot.
If you’d like to hear the story of what happens in Keymark, and what happens to Jack, you can find out on Amazon. If you want a free novella set in the same world, you can get it by signing up at ARWitham.com. I’m going to go lie down, this crick in my back isn’t getting any better. Ah, to be fourteen again.
-A. R. Witham
The Legend of Black Jack by A.R. Witham
Genre: YA Fantasy
Intended Age Group: 12+
Published: May 17, 2022
Publisher: Nepenthe House (Self Published)
Thrilling fantasy adventure debut from Emmy-winner A. R. Witham.
Jack Swift can tell you every element on the periodic table, recite Treasure Island verbatim, and would remember in perfect detail every word you’d ever say to him. He has been alone for a long time, so he has buried himself in books, using them to plan his escape.
But no textbook could ever prepare him for the land of Keymark.
At 3:33 a.m. on his fourteenth birthday, Jack is kidnapped by a hideous monster to another sphere of existence. Now there are two moons in the sky, and he is surrounded by grotesque creatures and magical warriors training for battle. They want the impossible: Jack must use his abilities to save a life or be trapped in this bizarre world with no chance of rescue.
Jack doesn’t have secret magic, a great destiny, or any experience.
So why do they all expect him to become a legend?
Shown on page:
• Child abuse (foster mom hits main character)
• Child abduction (main character kidnapped by monster)
• Child neglect (foster mom ignores her wards)
Prize: An eBook or Physical Copy of The Legend of Black Jack!
Starts: May 19, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: May 25, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
Click here or on the image below to enter.
About the Author
A.R. Witham is a three-time Emmy-winning writer-producer and a great lover of adventure. He is the world’s foremost expert on the history of Keymark. He loves to talk with young people and adults who remember what young people know. He has written for film and television, canoed to the Arctic Circle, hiked the Appalachian Trail and been inside his house while it burned down. He lives in Indianapolis.
If you would like a sneak peek at his upcoming work or upcoming events, please reach out to him: