Finding success in the world of indie publishing can be difficult; Leland Myrick found it twice, in two separate genres. He worked his way to prominence as an artist, culminating in Feynman (2011), the No.1 New York Times best-selling graphic biography of the famed physicist Richard Feynman, which Myrick illustrated with a script by Jim Ottaviani. Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing called it “stupendous.” Like a lot of people, he said he’d “be shoving Feynman at everyone I can get to read it.”
Then came The Ten, the first volume in Myrick’s nonillustrated Kingdom of Graves fantasy series. “I just put my head down, did the work, polished it to the best of my abilities, and put it out there,” he says. The hard work paid off: The Ten earned a starred review from Kirkus and was named one of the Best Indie Books of 2012.
The novel, which Kirkus called “fluid and full of surprises,” follows the adventures of a small band of characters—foremost among them the seasoned warrior Jorophe—battling its way across Kingdom of Graves, a fantasy world teeming with sorcerers and priests. Jorophe becomes a frighteningly powerful warrior: “Armed with two ancient dark blades, he hunts down devils from the Abyss who threaten the provinces.” Myrick, the review said, “masterfully crafts vivid battle scenes and heart-pounding chases across oceans, over snow-peaked mountains and into city sewers,” and the book’s “final lines are likely to send shivers up readers’ spines.”
Readers had enthusiastically responded to his earlier efforts and to Feynman, but Myrick had to start over when he switched to fiction. “Even though I’m an established graphic novelist, that wasn’t enough to get me through the agent door and onto a publisher’s desk,” he says. He took advantage of going the indie route, though, especially in building a new, dedicated following. He takes particular enjoyment in connecting with fans and reaching out to new readers—a task made easier when the book is this good.
"I wanted the series to reflect the realities of our world in some ways,” Myrick says. “Religion moves armies and instructs governments, usually in a very dangerous and bloody way. As I began plotting the series, it seemed a natural place to go."
Also natural to Myrick, as a graphic-novel artist, was the visual element that’s so vital to the genre. He says he’s always considered himself a writer first and an artist second, but the two disciplines seem inextricably linked in his head, particularly when it comes to the almost operatic violence that keeps Kingdom of Graves ablaze. “Whenever I’m writing, I feel like I'm in another mind-place,” he says, “but in the fight scenes, I slip even deeper into it. Those especially feel in some way like I’m drawing them in my head as I’m writing them down.”
The combination has certainly worked so far. “I think it resonates with both hard-core fantasy readers and those who might be coming new to the genre through things like the Game of Thrones TV series and The Hobbit movies,” Myrick says. Best of all, he’s not done: The second book in the series, Mark of the Blooded, arrived earlier this year, and a third is on the way.