An Interview with Jesse Teller

Jesse Teller is the prolific author of many connected (but separate) works in the fantasy world of Perilisc, including the Manhunters trilogy and the standalone novels Liefdom, Chaste, and Mestlven. He has also written several short stories in this world across a span of time that goes back thousands of years. His latest work is Fate of Madness, the epic fourth and concluding book of The Madness Wars.

Jesse sat down with me and allowed me to pick his brain for a few minutes, to really dig deep and find out what it is that makes him tick as an author. I was very intrigued to get to the heart of the matter, as all the while I was reading through The Madness Wars, I found myself constantly being amazed at the depth and detail of this dark yet fascinating world. Read on for a fascinating perspective into the development of worlds through the author’s vision.

Q: I love how your books all tie together, though they’re each set as stand-alone. It’s cool to find the little Easter eggs that refer back to another work, though the story doesn’t depend on knowledge of previous books. Are all of these links clear in your head or do you need to map it all out to keep yourself straight?

I was fine until book twenty-nine. When I was writing the first twenty-eight books, it was pretty clear in my head. I needed a plot and a main character for the series, a basic but pretty undefined direction for the series to go, but I realized I was writing all my books in the same world and that it was pretty unrealistic that characters from one series would not in some way touch the others. So, I would take what I had, main character, idea for the series, and vague direction, and I’d ask myself, who will wander into this series from another series? The biggest example of this was the book Hemlock. It came out in 2018. Hemlock is the second book in The Manhunters series, and the main cast didn’t change, but Aaron the Marked was in that book. The book takes place after The Madness Wars, so at the time, Aaron in Hemlock is eighteen years old. Presented certain challenges. I had to predict changes he would go through during The Madness Wars and the years after. I had to predict what kind of man he would be and write that man in The Manhunters series. But in the end, it’s all a continuation of the series before it. And at the same time, it’s all backstory for books that have come ahead of it.

When you read Onslaught, you see Sai Sibbius Summerstone escaping captivity. His story goes forward, but why should I spend pages and pages explaining how he got into captivity and everything around that when it gets in the way of the book the reader is currently reading? If you want to know how he got into that captivity, you read Chaste and Mestlven. Those novels become backstory, but only for one character. The rest of the characters, and Sai, are at that point presently going through a story. A lot of novels get bogged down in backstory and info dumps, and I’m fiercely against that.

The Callden Collective is a force to be reckoned with in Crown, the third book of The Manhunters series, which also came out in 2018. But if you want to know their backstory, you read The Madness Wars. Writing, including all the Easter eggs and the jumps in time, becomes a game of “How did this character get to this place at this tim