By Kassie Parisi
CLIFTON PARK — Dragons, knights, and a damsel in distress have all returned to town.
Clifton Park resident Keith W. Willis, author of “Traitor Knight,” has returned to bookshelves with the sequel to his first book. The new book, “Desperate Knight,” follows Willis’s old characters, including a hiccupping dragon, through new struggles.
But Willis, a longtime town resident, is anything but the typical fantasy writer. Opting for a more lighthearted writing style, Willis has produced quick-paced books that feature old plots in a new way.
“I kind of wanted to turn the whole knights-vs.-dragon trope on its head a little bit, and have some fun with it,” Willis said.
His first book was published in September 2015. Willis said it was originally intended to be a fantasy novel, but eventually came to include elements of romance and comedy as well. Years ago, Willis didn’t have any idea where the series was going. All he had in his head was the first scene of the first book, and then he said that he allowed his characters to dictate their own paths to him.
The road to living out his lifelong dream of writing fantasy books has not been an easy one for Willis to walk, though. He works full-time managing a group of database content editors at an information technology company, and for a long time, writing fell to the wayside. Then, finally, Willis realized that he didn’t have unlimited time, and that if he wanted to write a book, he had to make it happen for himself.
“If I don’t do this now, I’m never going to do it,” Willis said, explaining that he had to force himself to sit down and start writing.
Even after facing mounting rejections from different publishers, Willis didn’t give up on his book.
“I felt like I had a good story to tell, and I really wanted to stick with it,” he said.
And his persistence finally paid off. After going through dozens of rejections, “Traitor Knight” was finally picked up by Champagne Books, a small, independent publisher.
Now, two years later, Willis has just published his second book, and is already working on his third. He remains undaunted by the fact that the fantasy genre is home to many already massively successful series, including “The Lord of the Rings,” which he listed as one of his favorite book series. He draws inspiration from every day activities, and said that he recently was introduced to a new character, a pirate, while he was mowing his lawn.
Willis acknowledges that lightheartedness of his books might not be what everyone is looking for, especially for people who take their fantasy seriously. But, he added, the most important thing is that his way of telling his story is unlike any other fantasy book. For example: the only reason Willis’s titular knight, Morgan McRobbie, doesn’t perish at the hands of the dragon in the beginning of the first book is because the dragon comes down with a case of the hiccups, crippling his fire-breathing abilities.
“I like to have fun with it,” he said. “There are only so many stories, but nobody else has ever told the story like I tell it. If you wrote a book, it would be in your voice, in your perspective, and I think that’s the difference.”