I’m so excited to be a part of the book tour for They Met in a Tavern by Elijah Menchaca that is hosted by TBR and Beyond Tours. I was really excited to also be able to interview the author for this book!
Welcome! Thank you for being here! Can you start by introducing yourself?
Thanks for having me! My name is Elijah Menchaca, I was born and raised in Bakersfield, California, I’ve lived in two more states since then, and I’m the author of They Met in a Tavern.
I’ve been writing stories since grade school. Very first thing I ever wrote was a short picture book about a superhero called The Blue Guy, in first grade, which I read to all the kids at daycare for show and tell. And a bunch of the kids told me they liked it and thought it was cool, which gave me my first hit of a high I have been chasing ever since.
How would you describe They Met in a Tavern in one sentence?
A disbanded fantasy adventuring party is forced to reunite and relearn how to work together.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of They Met in a Tavern?
The main characters of They Met in a Tavern are the Starbreakers. They are, or were, a five person company of career adventurers who started young and saw years of incredible success until growing up started to drive them apart and one very bad day finally left them going their separate ways.
Each of them had their own role to play in the team, and within the story each of them have a very different view regarding the past that informs their relationships with each other now.
Phoenix is a spellforger, someone who creates magical devices instead of casting spells themselves, and he was the leader and smart guy of the group. He is one of the Starbreakers who has found the most happiness outside of the group, but he’s also undoubtedly the one who misses being an adventurer the most.
Brass is the finest swordsman you’ll ever meet, in the aesthetic sense if nothing else. He is a drinking, partying, hedonism machine of a person who never really moved on from the old adventuring days, so of course while everyone else has moved on and found new purpose, he’s just kept on as a solo act.
Snow used to be the group’s resident thief, but in a world without the team, she’s become the Cold Blooded Killer, an expert assassin burdened with incredibly powerful ice magic. Once upon a time, she and Phoenix were a couple, but their relationship breaking down was a microcosm of what soon followed for the rest of the group. Because of the hurt she endured, she views who she used to be as a weakness to be avoided.
Church was, big surprise, the priest and the healer of the team, as well as their moral center. He’s a kind hearted person who specializes in helping lost and uncertain people find their way forward in life, and out of all of the five is probably the one person you could argue has his stuff together. He has regrets and misgivings about the past, but he’s largely learned from them and moved past them. And all of that makes him something the others sorely need.
And finally, Angel was the undisputed powerhouse of the team. As a literal soldier from heaven reincarnated as a human, she was expected from birth to be a great and noble hero, and those expectations and her struggles to meet them have been a huge source of pain and grief for her over the years. So much so, she wants nothing to do with the adventuring hero game, or with any of her old teammates.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
By the time I am putting words on the page, I know how the book is going to end, give or take some ancillary details. My outlines can actually get really meticulous. Like, down to specific lines of dialogue, meticulous.
Where the characters tend to “have input” in the journey is during that outlining process. In the earliest stages, I’m often just trying to think of scenes that would be cool or fun, and that usually comes from me mixing characters together in a scene and giving them an opportunity to draw out different aspects of each other.
Just as an example, I knew Phoenix was a person who felt a sort of longing for the past, for the good old days, and I knew Church had a much less favorable opinion of those days that emphasized personal growth and learning from the mistakes of the past. Mistakes Phoenix’s rose colored glasses were maybe not acknowledging. So I knew I wanted a scene of them talking about that, and getting the chance to learn from each other.
And eventually, I’ve got a big collection of ideas for scenes like that, inspired by what I know about the characters and what I want to draw out of them, and I start fitting them together into the story I want to tell.
And there’s littler things where the character dictates the journey. Like, I knew Brass was going to be attacked, but where he was and the state he was in when it happened was entirely determined by who he is as a character.
But like, even then, I feel weird saying they decide. Because, you know, I made them who they were. I do think it’s possible for a writer who isn’t careful to write something out of character for a particular. I don’t think I can just say “Well I invented them, so if I write that they did something, then that’s in character for them.”
There are things Brass would and wouldn’t do, but like… I did still decide that. I decided what kind of person he would be knowing what kind of story I was telling and what role I wanted him to play in it.
I don’t know. I guess I’m like The One Who Remains. The characters think they have free will, but I already know everything they’re going to do because I know them. If that makes sense. Does that make sense to people who haven’t seen Loki?
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
I’ve got a different answer for every one of those.
Scene, 120%, no contest, is a scene with Snow towards the end of the book where she gets questioned over her actions in the rest of the book. I love everything about that scene. It was my favorite scene to write, it literally still elicits an actual, physical response from me when I read it, and it’s just everything about her character coming to a head in one scene.
But for just one moment, and I actually think I’m not alone in this, there’s a beat where a character who gets kind of quietly built up for the whole book finally gets to show off what they can do, and when they tear onto the scene, it’s just a real “Yeah! Finally! Kick his ass!” moment. I love that one.
…although having just said that, it occurs to me people might not be able to tell which moment I was talking about when they read it, because I think there’s arguably four or five moments like that in the book.
The last one of those. That’s my favorite one.
And then for just one quote, it varies. If I want to sound like a smart and sophisticated writer, I say that my favorite quote is the line from Church where someone tries to tell him, essentially, that if he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t have to take a certain course of action, and Church responds with “No choice. It’s the right thing to do.”
And I do really like that line, because it’s probably the most successful and succinct of all of the “character thesis” lines in the book—lines that really sum up who the characters are. Everybody gets something like them at various parts of the story, but that one for Church really is just him as a person in eight words. He’s a person for whom the right thing to do is compulsory. Every time I read that line, I feel like I’ve read his entire character bio.
But, if I think about what line sticks the most in my head, that I still makes me laugh everytime I read it, that in all honesty I expect to probably end up being known for… it’s when Phoenix hangs Brass out to dry early in the story, and Brass responds with “I hope your kid’s first word is c*nt!”
God, that’s so bad. Like, I can’t be known for that. But I just know I’m going to be.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed They Met in a Tavern?
Matt Colville’s Ratchers books. The first two, Priest and Thief, were massive, massive, massive inspirations for this book. And not just in vibe or themes or setting, but in prose. They blaze by you, those books, because they’re just so tightly written. Not an ounce of fat on them. If you like Tavern, I find it very likely you’ll get a kick out of those books.
Meddling Kids by Edgar Contero is basically They Met in a Tavern but with a Scooby-Doo style mystery crew instead of a fantasy adventuring party, and it’s the best. Absolutely check that out.
And this is gonna be a weird one, but we’re going to pretend we all agree graphic novels are also books: Umbrella Academy. It was another huge inspiration for Tavern, it’s got that “the characters were a team of heroes when they were younger but now they’re older and bitter about it” special sauce, and it also just throws all sorts of weird at you, which I really liked. Or hey, if you don’t want to read it, go watch it on Netflix. It’s not one to one, but its still a ton of fun and it’s got all the same energy.
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
Right now I’m working on the sequel to They Met in a Tavern, which is going to be titled They Split the Party. Which may be a sign of my premature hubris, since everyone knows you’re never supposed to split the party, but I guess we’ll see.
If Tavern is a story about the Starbreakers’ relationships with each other, Party is about their relationship with the rest of the world and the legacy they’ve left behind. So far it’s looking like a pretty big chance to give more page-time to characters who didn’t get as much last time around. It’s about a third of the way through its first draft, so I will be looking for beta readers for it by the end of the year.
Outside of books though, I’m still in the process of kicking off a YouTube channel. My first series is shaping up to be Unraveled but for D&D, and it’s been a ton of fun. I’m excited to keep exploring that space and hopefully branch out to some other adjacent ideas, but a lot of those are more in their infancy, so for now the channel is that one thing.
And that’s probably it for things worth sharing, at least for now. It’s what I’m actively working on, anyway. I’ve got plans and dreams, but those are very far off.
Some day though. Six seasons and a movie. It’s gonna happen.
ABOUT THE BOOK
The band is getting back together—and they really wish they weren’t.
The Starbreakers were your classic teenage heroes. Using their combined powers and skills, they were the most successful group of glintchasers in Corsar. But that all changed the day the city of Relgen died. The group went their separate ways, placing the blame on each other.
Brass carried on as a solo act. Snow found work as a notorious assassin. Church became a town’s spiritual leader. Angel was the owner of a bar and inn. And after overcoming his own guilt, Phoenix started a new life as a family man.
Years after their falling out, a new threat looms when bounty hunters attack the former heroes. Phoenix tries to reunite the Starbreakers before everything they have left is taken from them. But a lot can change in seven years. And if mending old wounds was easy, they would have done it a long time ago.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elijah Menchaca was born and raised in Bakersfield, California and has been writing and telling stories since he was five. After seeing his first short stories on his grade school classroom’s bookshelf, he knew he was destined for greatness. To chase that greatness (and a girl), he attended the University of Louisville where he minored in Creative Writing, discovered a love for Dungeons and Dragons, and got engaged.
Now, based in Ohio, when he isn’t exploring the world he’s created with more stories, he’s making new memories around the virtual table with his old friends, pondering the worlds of fantasy and superheroes on his YouTube channel, and playing the role of devoted partner to a woman far too good for him.
One person will win a signed finished copy of They Met in a Tavern. The giveaway starts on August 9, 2021 and ends on 15, 2021. To enter this giveaway, click here!