Sunday, April 07, 2019

Interview with Jack Heckel, author of The Mysterium Chronicles (and some other stuff)

Please welcome Jack Heckel to The Qwillery. The Darkest Lord, the 3rd novel, in the fabulous Mysterium Chronicles, was published in digital format on February 26th by Harper Voyager Impulse and on April 2nd in Mass Market Paperback.

TQWelcome again to The Qwillery. The eBook of the third and final novel in The Mysterium Chronicles, The Darkest Lord, was published on February 26th. First (and not most important) where is my T-shirt?

Seriously, what are your feelings on completing the Trilogy?


Seriously, the question is whether you want an Avery Lives t-shirt:

Or, a Mysterium University sweatshirt:

And, we mean that.

Seriously, which one?

Actually, we’d love to send you both, since you were the inspiration for them.

As for your secondary question, the overall feelings we have at finishing the trilogy is giddy relief marked by bouts of exuberant joy. This probably explains why the first thing we did is to make t-shirts and sweatshirts. We wanted to be able to celebrate with our readers (in a tangible way) the end of Avery’s story.

And, for readers of your blog, we want to extend an offer that if they graduate from Mysterium University (by reading and reviewing each of the three novels) they can get one of those snazzy sweatshirts or t-shirts (reader’s choice) sent to them by Jack himself.

[TQ's Note: No t-shirts or sweatshirts were harmed in the making of this interview.]

TQPlease explain to our readers how your collaboration works. Are you plotters, pantsers or hybrids?

JH:  Definitely a hybrid. Having two authors means some planning is essential, otherwise we would have the impossible task of sorting through multiple versions of text every step of the way. Having said that, we find that our carefully crafted outlines typically survive three chapters before breaking down under the strain of our collaboration. What happens, and we see this as a boon rather than a problem, is that we get stuck on some section of text, and then get on the phone together and suddenly the story takes about a dozen twists and turns. Figuring out how to take those creative moments and weave them into the story and the story around them is a challenge, but ultimately the best part of working together.

TQDescribe The Mysterium Chronicles using only 5 words.

JH:  Pratchett sends Potter to graduate school. Hmm… that was six. Can we have a bonus word?

TQIn The Mysterium Chronicles, was there a character who surprised you? Which character was the most difficult to write?

JH:  Sam surprised us the most. He was originally going to be a bit of a joke character. The silly, downtrodden and bemused sidekick. However, as the story progressed we discovered that the sidekick character is often the most human. As the novels have gone along his role has increased, and, not to give anything away, that culminates in The Darkest Lord.

The most difficult character was Avery. Hands down. We went into these stories wanting to poke very gentle fun at the often black and white nature of epic fantasy novels. To do that we knew we would need a character that lived in the many hues of gray between good and evil. Even though we love the guy, striking that balance in Avery was a never-ending source of writing stress.

TQThe Darker Lord (Book 2) took place 4 months after Avery returned to Mysterium. How soon after The Darker Lord does The Darkest Lord take place? And does time really matter where wizards are concerned?

JH:  About another six months to a year after The Darker Lord. We really wanted to pace these novels so they occurred in quick succession, but where enough time would have passed that some consequences from the previous books would have had time to accumulate.

As for whether time has meaning, we will only say that given the situation Avery finds himself in at the opening of The Darkest Lord every day counts!

TQWhich question about The Darkest Lord do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

JH:  We think the question we would love someone to ask is: “Does Avery actually live?” However, we only like this question because then we could raise an eyebrow, and answer, “Do any of us actually live?” Or something equally enigmatic and infuriating.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Darkest Lord.


This first just because it’s true:

“Semi-liches don’t get sore, Sam,” Drake said with exaggerated gravity. “They get evil.”

And this second because we love opening lines:

My name is Avery, and I wish I weren’t the Dark Lord.

It was a fervent wish. One that I repeated daily, but with no effect, because I was the Dark Lord, and the fact that I was—alongside a number of other regrettable life choices—probably explains why I was lying in a coffin listening to a voice, dry as death, calmly reciting my latest crimes against the multiverse.

TQWhat was (each of) your soundtrack for The Darkest Lord?

John:  I found an all Beatles channel and that was it. John, Paul, George and Ringo were my constant companions during this novel.

Harry:  I listened to a mix of classic rock and Doctor Who theme music.

TQTotal number of Easter Eggs in all 3 novels?

JH:  Aha! You think you can trick us into giving such crucial information away? We cannot be fooled so easily. In fact, to celebrate the upcoming launch of the paperback (April 2) we are asking people to point to their favorite Easter eggs and will have a bit of an Easter egg hunt? Not to pimp our website too much, but… if you check in at over the next week we will be providing further details. (Prizes will be available!)

TQIs there any chance that you may visit Mysterium and the subworlds again? Perhaps Eldrin's Trelari RPG wargame or Moregoth's Guide to Dress?

JH  Definitely. Of course, there are a lot of side stories we would love to explore, like Moregoth’s origin story, or a narrative written from Eldrin’s point of view. Beyond that, we’ve been thinking about a joke book from the demi-lich Gray, or Harold’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Mages? But our favorite concept is a daily calendar of inspirational quotes from Moregoth: “Today remember to embrace life… wrap your fingers around its throat and choke it to death.” Honestly, an RPG supplement or a Trelari wargame isn’t out of the question.

TQWhat are you working on next? (collectively or individually).

JH  Collectively we are going to return to Prince Charming. We have been wanting to write a third Charming Tales novel for some time. Individually, John is working on a novel based on the fairytale, The Seven Ravens, and Harry is revising a series of superhero novels, along with a fantasy project or two. Look for further details on all future projects on

TQThank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.

The Darkest Lord
The Mysterium Chronicles 3
Harper Voyager Impulse, February 26, 2019
     eBook, 384 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 2, 2019
     Mass Market Paperback, 528 pages

In the epic conclusion to Jack Heckel’s whimsical fantasy series, Dark Lord Avery Stewart must join the Company of the Fellowship in a frenzied war against Moregoth and the corrupt forces of Mysterium. . . and destroy the magical artifact fueling the interworld chaos

In The Darker Lord, Avery Stewart learned a terrible truth about Mysterium: the home of his beloved university and the reality-center of the multiverse is not the world he thought it was. The true Mysterians, innately endowed with the power to manipulate reality, were displaced eons ago by the subworlders with whom they shared their magical teachings, and written out of the reality pattern of their own world. For years they have lived in exile in the subworld of Trelari, shielded from the Mysterian pursuit led by Moregoth and the Sealers. That is, until Valdara, the warrior queen of Trelari, reopened the subworld to the rest of the multiverse and challenged the Mysterium to a final showdown.

One year later, a violent war of worlds drags on, and Avery can’t help feeling that all of this is his fault.

But the good news (if you can call it that) is that Avery might hold the key—literally, a key—to ending the suffering and saving Trelari. For Avery possesses the Reality Key, a magical artifact with the power to bend reality to one’s will, often to the immediate detriment of entire worlds. . . and, if it falls into the hands of the Mysterian forces, much more. To protect his friends, save Trelari, and bring order to Mysterium, Avery will need to do the unthinkable: travel to the heart of Mysterium, destroy the Key, and rewrite Mysterium’s reality pattern to restore balance to the multiverse, once and for all.


The Dark Lord
The Mysterium Chronicles 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, November 1, 2016
     eBook, 464 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, December 27, 2016
     Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages

In this hilarious parody of epic fantasy, a young man travels into a dark and magical world, where dwarves, elves, and sorcerers dwell, to restore the balance between good and evil

After spending years as an undercover, evil wizard in the enchanted world of Trelari, Avery hangs up the cloak he wore as the Dark Lord and returns to his studies at Mysterium University.

On the day of his homecoming, Avery drunkenly confides in a beautiful stranger, telling her everything about his travels. When Avery awakens, hungover and confused, he discovers that his worst nightmare has come true: the mysterious girl has gone to Trelari to rule as a Dark Queen.

Avery must travel back to the bewitched land and liberate the magical creatures . . . but in order to do so, he has to join forces with the very people who fought him as the Dark Lord.

The Darker Lord
The Mysterium Chronicles 2
Harper Voyager Impulse, July 24, 2018
     eBook, 464 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, September 4, 2018
     Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages

The second novel of Jack Heckel’s Mysterium series, The Darker Lord follows beleaguered former Dark Lord Avery Stewart as he is forced to take up his cloak and his Imp once again and travel the doors between realms in order to keep the fabric of the universe intact. More or less intact, anyway.

In The Dark Lord, Avery had an epiphany about the Mysterium. Only now he can’t remember what it was, no matter how much coffee he drinks or how many times he reads the novel published from his notes. What he does know is that he has become the most famous mage in the multiverse, and no one is happy with him. His fellow mages are upset at his rapid promotion, Dawn and Eldrin are tired of him spending his days on their couch watching bad TV, and Harold the Imp won’t talk to him.

Luckily, things can always get worse. And they do when the Administration’s enforcer, Moregoth, arrives at the first lecture of the semester to apprehend two of Avery’s new students for undoubtedly sinister reasons. In a fit of foolishness and heroism, Avery defies the university and flees with his friends into subworld. There, he reunites with his former allies from Trelari and thus begins a frantic race through the multiverse to escape Moregoth.

But as Avery’s amnesia begins to fade, he realizes his loss of memory is no accident, that he is caught in a conspiracy as terrifying as Mysterium University’s Student Records Building—and that his friends might not all be on his side.

About Jack Heckel

Harry Heckel
John Peck
Jack Heckel’s life is an open book. Actually, it’s the book you are in all hope holding right now (and if you are not holding it, he would like to tell you it can be purchased from any of your finest purveyors of the written word). Beyond that, Jack aspires to be either a witty, urbane world traveler who lives on his vintage yacht, The Clever Double Entendre, or a geographically illiterate professor of literature who spends his nonwriting time restoring an eighteenth-century lighthouse off a remote part of the Vermont coastline. Whatever you want to believe of him, he is without doubt the author of The Dark Lord. More than anything, Jack lives for his readers. Despite whatever Jack may claim, in reality, Jack Heckel is the pen name for John Peck and Harry Heckel.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @JackHeckel


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