A top Witchfinder must confront the very Church he serves when he learns of its dark past and twisted plans for the future
Today I’m excited to welcome author J. Todd Kingrea to the blog for a chat about all things writing and his newly released debut novel, The Witchfinder. Kingrea’sThe Deiparian Saga boasts a unique blend of a post-apocalyptic world and a Medieval setting, and filled with demons, sorcery, witches, and adventure – it’s sure to be an exciting story to be enjoyed by fans of the fantasy and horror genres alike. Keep scrolling to learn more about this dystopian tale of corruption and freedom, and check out the incredible interview to meet the author!
The Witchfinder is now available at your retailer of choice!
About the Book
In a post-apocalyptic world where tyranny and medieval torture reign supreme and witch burnings are an everyday occurrence, a top Witchfinder must confront the very Church he serves when he learns of its dark past and twisted plans for the future.
The Church of the Deiparous rules with an iron fist and its rising star, Witchfinder Imperator Malachi Thorne, is committed to leading its cause. Thorne is a man on the fast track to greater things so when a convicted traitor and heretic escapes his grip, he won’t tolerate it marring his perfect record.
As he pursues his quarry, he must confront demons, sorcery, and a cult of witches out for his blood. But when Thorne comes face to face with the Church’s dark past and its twisted present, his faith is tested to its limits. Now Thorne must decide who and what he believes in—and what he will do about it.
The Witchfinder by J. Todd Kingrea
SERIES: The Deiparian Saga (#1)
PUBLISHED: September 23, 2021 by BHC Press
GENRE: Dark Fantasy, Horror, Dystopian
Meet The Author
J. Todd Kingrea is the author of the Deiparian Saga. The Witchfinder is his debut novel.
An ordained pastor, he lives with his wife in Tennessee with their dogs, plenty of 80s metal, and an ever-expanding movie collection.
Thanks so much for stopping by for a chat, Todd. Since we already have your official bio, can we have the MC(s) from The Witchfinder introduce you in one sentence?
Malachi Thorne: Todd is someone who understands the ins and outs of the religious community, and that knowledge helps him create a real sense of place in the story.
Teska Vaun: Todd’s someone who may seem quiet on the surface but underneath, once you get to know him, enjoys talking about the important things in life.
Dario Darien: Todd likes to write and started out freelancing for the “Call of Cthulhu” role-playing game.
Tycho Hawkes: Man’s been a radio disc jockey, video store clerk and graphic artist before entering the ordained ministry full-time.
Solomon Warner: He’s the Boss of all of us is all I’m sayin’.
Give us an idea of how The Witchfinder came to fruition.
Storytelling always begins with “what if?”
What if the Nazis had won World War II? What if JFK hadn’t been assassinated? What if Frodo had kept the One Ring? The Witchfinder found its genesis the same way. The question I asked: what if the Inquisition of the Middle Ages became the basis for a whole society?
In the summer of 2010, my oldest son, Brett, and I were on a trip in the Czech Republic. One day we visited the charming town of Český Krumlov. The two of us stumbled upon a small museum just off the market square and inside were displays of medieval torture implements. As I looked at the various tools and mechanisms—used by men of the church to intimidate, wound, and in some cases, kill, those who had been accused of activities against the faith—I couldn’t help but wonder why. Why had men of faith seen fit to inflict such cruelty on others? How did they reconcile such actions with their Christian beliefs? And what would the world be like if that particular moment in history had continued—indeed, what if it had become the dominant worldview?
Upon returning home, I started to look for answers. I researched the Roman Catholic and Spanish Inquisitions, as well as the social, cultural, historic, and religious background of the Middle Ages. While reaaders may cringe at the tortures and tools described in The Witchfinder, I assure you that they are historically accurate (with the exception of the Hellcage, a little device of my own design).
My questions also fueled the idea of the book—a world where a monolithic church held supreme power over the lives of every person. Where torture, oppression, and control were commonly employed by church agents who viewed their work as holy, vital, and necessary. Just as it happened in real life.
I’ve always been a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, and knew I wanted to tell that kind of tale. I elected to use an unidentified time in the future, long after a calamity had reshaped the geography of the United States and the world—and in which humanity had rebuilt itself to a medieval level of social and technological achievement. I wanted to explore what might happen to someone born and raised in that kind of world, who suddenly had his entire existence upended—whose beliefs and identity were challenged to the core.
Can you share with us something about The Witchfinder that isn’t in the blurb?
The major cities of Deiparia are situation in and around the ancient ruins of American cities. Attagon, the capital of Deiparia is Chattanooga, Tennessee. Baymouth is Memphis, Tennessee. Talnat is Atlanta, Georgia. Rimlingham is Birmingham, Alabama. Last Chapel is St. Louis, Missouri. The new names came about as people resettled in those areas and found destroyed signage with missing letters.
I’m a huge fan of Italian horror director Dario Argento. His “Three Mothers” trilogy inspired me when creating the Three Witches. Argento took the idea for the witches in his movies Suspiria, Inferno, and Mother of Tears from the writings of Thomas De Quincy (1785-1859), most notably the section “Levana and Our Ladies of Sorrow” in his prose essay collection Suspiria de profundis.
The Witchfinder is not only about freedom; it’s also about how we confront new truths when they are presented to us—especially when those truths strike at the very heart of everything we have been taught or believed. It’s about wrestling with doubt.
Was there any specific research you’ve done or inspiration you’ve pulled from for this story of yours? If so, did you learn anything interesting?
Yes, a common misconception is that the Roman Catholic and Spanish Inquisitions of the Middle Ages were responsible for putting accused heretics to death. In actuality, the Church did not execute anyone. That was the responsibility of the secular authorities. While the Inquisitions did employ torture in order to extract confessions, once a person admitted their guilt they were remanded into the custody of civic authorities. Church representatives were present at executions but had no direct hand in them. Civil courts saw that sentences were carried out.
Inquisitional torture was carried out under a strict set of Church rules and laws and had several levels (or degrees) to it. The first degree involved stripping the victim and showing the accused the implements that would be used for the torture. In many cases this was enough to elicit confessions. The second degree involved the application of torture but only for as long as it took the inquisitor to recite one Ave Maria or Paternoster (or approximately one minute). The third degree (from which we get our term related to interrogation) lengthened the time a torture could be inflicted, usually for the duration it took to recite one Hail Mary or a Church creed. In the fourth degree, the torturer could increase the suffering by yanking on the ropes that held the victim in the air or by attaching weights to the ankles.
Persons who had committed various crimes were often publicly branded with specific letters, to alert others of their crimes. Rogues and vagabonds were marked with the letter ‘R.’ Thieves got a ‘T.’ A conviction of manslaughter resulted in the perpetrator being branded with an ‘M.’ Perjurers received a ‘P’ on the forehead.
What do you hope your readers take away from The Witchfinder?
It’s my hope that readers will be challenged to consider their own personal freedoms in the face of hierarchical bureaucracies and institutions. What does it mean to be “free”? What freedoms are we (as individuals, communities, states, provinces, or nations) willing to surrender, and for what reasons? I also hope readers realize that contrary to some religious teaching, it’s okay to ask questions of one’s faith. Doubts don’t have to be seen as bad or taboo. It’s in the search for answers to our doubts that faith can grow stronger.
What comes first, the plot or the characters?
For this book, the characters emerged first. I had an idea of how I wanted the main characters to look, think, and feel. The plot developed as I asked questions about them such as what they were looking for in life, how they would change over the course of the story, and what internal and external conflicts each one needed to deal with. I knew I wanted the world to be centered around and focused on the Church of the Deiparous, and it needed to have its own unique structure. In some instances, the characters found themselves in places or situations I hadn’t planned in my outline. I just let them move forward to see what would happen and how the story would evolve. At other times the plot was what propelled the characters along.
What do you think makes a good story?
I think a good story has something in it that most everyone can relate to in some way or other. It might be something we experienced in school, a relationship that did (or didn’t) go the way we wanted, a fear or desire that reflects something within us, or an ability to empathize with a character’s experiences, even if it’s in only one part of the story. We want to think that we would do something different if we were in the character’s situation, or we’ve been in such a situation and we’re curious to know if the character will make the same choices we made.
The story takes place in the realm of Deiparia, what was once the eastern part of the United States? Do we get to see anything beyond the borders of Deiparia? Do we find out how other nations and continents have survived?
In the second installment of the trilogy, we get to spend some time in the Tex’ahn lands and are introduced to two new characters there. I don’t know yet if we’ll see anything of the rest of the United States but it’s possible. There aren’t any plans at present to show what’s happened to other countries around the world.
Since the moon was destroyed, setting off the extinction-level event that became known as the Great Cataclysm, there are no longer any tides. Traveling across the oceans can only be done by sailing. Fishermen never venture beyond sight of land. Since everyone assumes that the world ends at the horizon, other nationalities would likely be as insular and self-sustaining as Deiparia.
Do you have a favorite scene in the book?
I’m particularly fond of the scene with the Vulanti’nacha, the flying spiders! I can still remember watching the movie The Kingdom of the Spiders on television as a child and the closing scene of the whole town webbed over. That image was in my mind as I wrote that scene. I also like the Hellcage scene near the end, and Thorne’s visit to his mentor’s memorial in Rimlingham.
Writing can be a stressful pursuit. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Just get the first draft written! Take that story that’s rattling around in your head and put it down on paper. It doesn’t matter how messy, ugly, incomplete, or lacking you feel it is. No one should see the first draft but you anyway, so it doesn’t matter what shape it’s in. Once you’ve gotten it out of your head and onto paper then you can start to tinker with it. Author Shannon Hale is quoted as saying “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” You can’t build a sandcastle without sand. You can’t edit a story in your head before it’s been committed to paper. Get it out and get it down. Then you can dive into the really hard part!
Have you read anything awesome lately?
I just finished C.J. Tudor’s The Burning Girls and Craig DeLouie’s The Children of Red Peak. Both are well done and definitely worth picking up!
Thank you again for taking the time have a chat, Todd. Tell us what lies ahead for you!
The second installment of The Deiparian Saga trilogy, titled The Crimson Fathers, is scheduled for release in November 2022 from BHC Press. They have also contracted for my horror novel With a Blighted Touch (working title) but no release date has been set. This past spring, I completed a suspense novel that I’ve called Only Angels Have Blue Eyes. And of course, I’ve got to wrap up the adventures of Malachi Thorne and Teska Vaun in the third installment of the Deiparian Saga!