Mountlake Terrace teacher launches Kickstarter campaign for his new book

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Stephen Merlino
Stephen Merlino

While writing a fantasy trilogy can be a stressful challenge unto itself, Mountlake Terrace High School English teacher Stephen Merlino soon learned that it can be just the start of the anxiety a writer can face.

The first book in Merlino’s trilogy, The Jack of Souls, comes out next month, due in part to an internet effort to find investors to help pay for various aspects to get the series ready for publication and distribution.

Merlino launched a Kickstarter campaign last week to fund production of his fantasy trilogy, but was worried that money wouldn’t come in. “What if it doesn’t fund, and I wasted all those hours of designing and filming this thing,” he said. Turns out his worries were for nothing; within an hour of launch Merlino learned Kickstarter had featured his campaign as a “Staff Pick” on their front page. In less than a day, backers from all over the world funded it past his conservative funding floor of $2,450.

“My jaw hit the floor,” Merlino said. “I’m still stunned. They completely funded book one.”

Now backer investments have doubled, funding book two as well. “I am so grateful,” said Merlino, shaking his head in amazement. “It’s not like I could fund this on my own. And the campaign won’t end for two more weeks. We might fund book three.”

Character from Merlino fantasy trilogy (By Amanda Castoe)
Character from Merlino fantasy trilogy, by Amanda Castoe.

The Jack of Souls is scheduled to ship to those who have ordered first copies before Christmas; it’s available for pre-order on Amazon or for as little as an $8 pledge through Kickstarter. Merlino hopes to have books two and three, titled The Knave of Souls and The Prince of Souls, finished and ready for readers in 2015.

Three former Mountlake Terrace students helped Merlino with the Kickstarter campaign. Artist Amanda Castoe, a 2005 graduate, created original art for the promotion; Grant Gilkeson, a 2006 graduate and current filmmaker at Future Human Productions, managed video production; freelance designer, artist and animator Luke Shea, a 2005 graduate, created an original animated trailer and logo.

“All of their work is on the Kickstarter page,” said Merlino, “except Luke’s animation. We unlock that in December as a kind of “Thank you” to the backers. If you Facebook me, you’ll know when it’s out.”

Merlino finds it difficult to describe what the series is about in a few words. “Hard to sum up an epic fantasy, but here’s my best one-line answer for The Jack of Souls: ‘A trickster rogue must break a curse put on his fate, or die on his next birthday,’” he said.

Excerpts from the series have already won awards from two writers association for fantasy writing. For a look at the cover art, cover blurb, and a humorous mini- video about the fantasy trilogy, click https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1760448500/the-jack-of-souls-an-epic-fantasy-novel?ref=category.

Merlino is in his 15th year as a teacher at Mountlake Terrace High School.

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