On Fantasy: SPFBO Guest Posts

All too often I have come across someone who wouldn’t touch a fantasy novel with a wizard’s wand, as if there’s some kind of stigma behind it. But some of the world’s most gifted authors–people such as Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Rowling, Martin, Jordan write the genre–not to mention the scores of unnamed storytellers who passed along the world’s treasured folklore. It is safe to say that fantasy is a culture and a very rich and rewarding one.

The fantasy genre is not beholden only to literature. Master artists throughout the ages have painted beautiful scenes from fantasy legends, myths and stories.

And filmmakers bring those dreams to life! Growing up when Walt Disney was in his prime re imagining California, I saw a countryside flourish with hopes and dreams fulfilled. If ever humanity needed a spark of life, tales of courage and honor offer to provide that very thing.

I’ve always believed that fantasy tales and fairytales are more like parables. They give you the human condition in a bite that we can swallow, and enlighten us to make a change to better our lives.

How could you not love the genre?

St. George and the Dragon 1889
Gustave Moreau was a leading figure in the French Symbolist movement. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/gustave-moreau-saint-george-and-the-dragon

In support of my activism to get readers to appreciate the fantasy genre, I posed several questions to some of the SPFBO authors.

David Stephenson

David suggests simply taking a trip away from everyday life is pleasure enough!

What does the fantasy genre do for your readers?

Pack your things, gather your clothes. Stuff in a sack, all troubles and woes.

Strong boots on your feet, firm staff in your hand

Step through the door, to an unexpected land.

Leaving

the sack behind.

A fantasy story takes you to another world, on a true holiday for the mind. Guided to the most interesting places, taking you somewhere wonderful. Away from the “real” world and all its woes, freeing your mind to wander, stroll, run at full strength. Unburdened by problems. Thinking freely in a fantastic world can reconnect you with your dreams – the deep ones, the true desires, not worldly wants and ambitions, but true heroic passions. Or, reading fantasy can simply be a delightful journey. Either way, its greatest strength is the willing suspension of disbelief – readers readily accept otherwise unbelievable creatures, happenings, magic. Technical explanations? Not required. Perhaps not desired, as you allow yourself to be completely carried away.

The Journey of Selvorne is concerned mostly with that adventure – taking the reader away to a wonderful land – and also with perception, that spell of illusion being cast continuously, by us all. Things are not always as they seem. Following Selvorne, you may realise he is missing clues. Enemies could be all about him, unnoticed for his own good nature – even embraced as allies. As he travels, his innocence unwinds. Will it darken his heart? Or will he acknowledge horrors – even embrace them, for a greater need?

Readers should feel they have truly been to another place, so richly experienced it is like another home. The characters, as friends – their hopes become your own, lightening your heart. My intention was to weave such a tale. There is mystery – but it is not a mystery story. Horrible things happen – it is not a horror story. There is romance, it is sweet. There is humour, it is not a comedy. There is magic – but it is hidden. And the true magic is the spell that is woven by a tale that will take you away to another world – returning with added enchantment in your life.

That is what fantasy can do.

David Stephenson author of Enemy Unknown, book one in a the completed twelve volume series Journey of Selvorne. A work inspired by a dream, thirty five years ago, woven into a tale over most of my life.

Krista Jain

A woman after my own heart, Krista is inspired by folklore and a song.

What is the value of your fantasy story?

A Rokian’s Curse.

If it weren’t for the love of obscure folklore, I wouldn’t have written my book. A Rokian’s Curse is a tribute to many elements in Scottish folklore. Namely, it’s inspired by an old ballad called “The Elfin Knight.” I took some of the elements and characters and made them uniquely my own. Both stories start with a mysterious but handsome elf standing on a hill and blowing a magical horn. This time, however, Blair Tripps must go on a quest to break the curse he places on her rather than immediately countering it like in the song.

A Rokian’s Curse is set in a fictional world, but the world, characters, and magic they encounter are all inspired heavily by Scotland. Some other pieces of folklore present in the story includes the selkie, two opposing forces of fairies, magical artifacts, kelpies, and the sort.

There’s no lack of originality either. In A Rokian’s Curse, Blair will encounter a forgotten history concerning two old feuding races, the vayen aray and the rokians. Long ago banished to another world, the rokians wish to break out and sent one among them to save them, even if it’s at the cost of Blair’s life.

A Rokian’s Curse and the future titles I plan to write is both a tribute to forgotten gems of culture and also a remix from my own imagination. I am not the first author out there to choose folklore as the main inspiration, but I still feel like my writing stands out from the particular choices in mythology as I try to scour for underrated subjects. Unicorns, trolls, and tricksters are very cool, but we’ve seen plenty of them in media, and yet I read about stories and creatures just as marvelous that I’ve never seen before as a lover of fantasy.

They need a chance in the spotlight as much as any of the others do. By writing my stories, I not only satisfy my own creativity, but I feel like I’m doing my part in keeping these wonderful elements of folklore alive in the modern world. I suppose you could say that is my overall mission as an author.

Krista Jain is the fantasy author of A Rokian’s Curse, a tale inspired by old folklore and new creativities. When she’s not living in her head, she’s researching timeless mythologies for the fun of it and wondering how to bring it to a fresh light either in a short story or another book.

Read more about Krista on her website.

K.R.R. (Kyle) Lockhaven

Kyle has touched on how fantasy can touch on the human condition and society’s flaws in a humorous way.

If you had one theme, message, or “lesson” of your book you’d want readers to walk away with, what would it be?

One great thing about the fantasy genre is that it gives you the ability to interweave several themes and messages into a story without being too preachy or on-the-nose. In a humorous fantasy, like my goofball book, the opportunities are seemingly endless. Terry Pratchett made a long, wonderful career out of satirizing our society through the lens of the Discworld. And while I am no Terry Pratchett, I have tried to use both humor and fantasy in order to weave in a stray theme or two.

I think the “lesson” of my book, if there is one, is that people should not take themselves too seriously. This is something that I, paradoxically, take pretty seriously. I have come to believe that many, if not most, of the problems we humans face can be traced back to this one thing. People who take themselves too seriously tend to think they’re always right. They tend to see things as their way, or the wrong way. And this black and white thinking in a clearly grey world tends to create strong divisions between serious people who think differently from one another. It is the killer of empathy, which I see as one of humanity’s  best traits. It’s our ability to live, laugh, and love that—god damnit, sorry, I’ve veered into home decor territory, here.

Anyway, I’m not saying the world isn’t chock full of serious problems. There are a shit-ton of serious problems that need to be taken seriously. Each person can and probably should take lots of stuff seriously, just not themselves. In my humble opinion, of course.

I realize that “too seriously” is a subjective term. So I have nominated myself as the arbiter of what is too serious, not quite serious enough, and just right. This is, of course, based on my inherent seriousness level and should be adhered to throughout the multiverse.

My book, The Conjuring of Zoth-Avarex: The Self-Proclaimed Greatest Dragon in the Multiverse, takes a satirical stab at some serious people and/or dragons. It will, hopefully, allow the reader to live, laugh, and love their way through a fun, frolicking adventure, and maybe even make them come to realize that “too-serious” is a thing that should usually be avoided (insert shrugging emoji here).

K.R.R. (Kyle Robert Redundant) Lockhaven is a writer/firefighter who lives in Washington State with his wife and two sons. His book, The Conjuring of Zoth-Avarex, has received a decent amount of critical acclaim, including the Kirkus Star, and is a contestant in SPFBO7

Marian L. Thorpe

Marian has insight as to the purpose of fantasy, science fiction, or speculative fiction using her novel Empire’s Daughter as an example.

You can find her novel here.

Why do you write speculative fiction?

Empire’s Daughter, my SPFBO7 entry, will not be considered fantasy by everyone, because it has no magic, no elves, no dragons, no monsters. I prefer to call it speculative fiction. What it does have is a world –  not a planet far, far away, or this world in a dystopic future, simply a different world – whose societal structures are very different than our own. One where women and men live entirely divided lives, except for two weeks a year – women farming, fishing, blacksmithing and building; men in the army. Until the day a soldier rides into my protagonist’s village, asking the unthinkable: that women learn to fight.

I am not young, and I grew up with the speculative fiction of authors like Ursula K LeGuin and Elizabeth Lynn, whose books asked questions about the nature of society, our assumptions about what was ‘normal’; who created fictional worlds where sexuality and hierarchies and power were different. It was – and is – (in my view) one of the purposes of speculative fiction, whether fantasy or science fiction: to challenge opinions and assumptions about society, but in a way that places them in a theoretical setting. By doing so, readers are exposed to ideas and arguments they just might turn away from if they were set in ‘the real world’. 

In the six books that make up the Empire’s Legacy series (the sixth, Empire’s Heir, releases August 30th), I examine the tension between love for an individual and love of country; I raise questions of betrayal, and if it is ever justified, and if the price of victory can be too high. I do this within a setting which is largely non-heteronormative, but like the structure of the army or the governance of the women’s villages, that’s just how this world is.

The monsters that confront my characters in the series are the monsters we all face: human cruelty; decisions of life and death; external forces we can’t control, and our own choices. In Empire’s Daughter, Lena, my protagonist, is eighteen – fully an adult in my world, used to danger in her life as a fisherwoman – but facing the possible destruction of everything she knows. She has very difficult choices to make, and choices come with consequences. By the end of the series, she’ll be a woman well into her fifties, still living with the consequences, good and bad. Because there is no magic to use to save the world; only her – and her co-protagonists’ – actions.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Because there is a magic, of sorts, and that’s the power of love, of understanding and forgiveness and of the generosity of the heart. It’s just not a love that always gets to speak its name in our 21st C world. But it does in mine.

Marian L Thorpe is the author of the award-winning series Empire’s Legacy, set in a world reminiscent of Europe after the decline of Rome. Following two careers as a scientist and an educator, Marian returned to her first love and began writing seriously, with her first novel published in 2015. 

Peter Blaisdell

Great question – and kind of daunting too: distilling a 370 page novel into one pithy take-away.

What is the theme or ‘lesson’ you want your readers to walk away with?

However, rushing in where angels fear to tread, I’d say the take-away is to confront the tricky balance between writing exactly what you want vs pleasing readers. If an author does this right, they’ve really accomplished something. Specifically, in fantasy, respect the genre’s tropes, but avoid its traps and clichés by working to develop an individual voice and trying to write as capably as you can – yes, I know, easier said than done. However, every author consciously or unconsciously confronts these choices.

So, for my SPFBO book (THE LORDS OF THE SUMMER SEASON), I set it during San Francisco’s ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967 because this was a time of real-life fantasy when the creative and musical scene was exploding and everything seemed limitless. Until it wasn’t. This era had a darker side, so there are scenes in the novel where creative forces run amok. The magical entities that are the novel’s villains represent this chaos. Even the protagonist – who’s a magician with a complicated backstory – sometimes gets carried away and unleashes powers he really can’t control.

I wanted to be ambitious about themes related to creativity and how the setting influences creativity, while also keeping the story firmly anchored in the fantasy genre – and writing a fast-moving story.

So if voice and theme are so important, why not just write main-stream? Because fantasy is more fun. And, interestingly, fantasy can – sometimes – be stretched to accommodate some pretty complex ideas while still having the protagonist flee for his/her life from all manner of magical entities. And there are plenty of chases in THE LORDS OF THE SUMMER SEASON.    

Author: Peter Blaisdell

Author Bio: My ‘day job’ is in the biotechnology field. I have a PhD in biochemistry. With this background, you’d expect I would write science fiction and I do like this genre. But I like fantasy as well, so my first three novels have been modern fantasies.

Amazon link: https://amzn.to/3jwvU7L

Bharat Krishnan

Bharat is right to suggest that most fulfilling fantasy includes politics, for in realty a good story is about the world and the condition of mankind. He addresses this in his guest post.

What is the value of fantasy?

Call it fantasy, mythology, folklore, or anything else. For as long as societies have existed, people have told stories of how they and their gods interacted. And these stories were used to shape culture, to determine the confines of a social contract to give birth to civilizations. Truly, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Buy Privilege here: https://amzn.to/3tczlmu

So, today, what is the value of fantasy? Faced with a once-in-a-century pandemic and the greatest social justice movement since the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s, it might seem strange to duck your head into a work of fiction. Should fantasy grab us by the head, force our eyes open, and make us glare at society’s ills? Or should it serve as an escape for us to forget the world’s troubles, if only for a moment? I think there is room for both to coexist, and that’s what I did with Privilege: A Trilogy. Life is full of endless joy and despair. You see it every day, in ways big and small. The ice cream cone you bought for your kid, that they then proceed to drop on the floor. A recent death in the family. Your wife lets you choose what to watch on TV tonight. You get a big promotion at work. Above all, life endures. We somehow continue to advance in both good times and bad. Resiliency is at the core of the human spirit, and we are able to be resilient because of our capacity to endure. The most resilient among us recognize both the need to shape society to better reflect our goodness and the need to sometimes step away for our own mental health

My trilogy is set against the backdrop of Congressional hearings to legalize a magical drug, and I made sure politics was present in every major conversation between the dozen-plus major characters in this ensemble thriller. Because politics has always been at the forefront of all great fantasy writing. Comic superheroes like the X-Men and Superman preached tolerance toward minorities, and did so in a way that was so subtle the message resonated with kids and adults alike. Harry Potter and The Hunger Games made loud statements about how a society should function and what the terms of a social contract should be. More recent additions to the genre, like Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Trilogy and J. Elle’s Wings of Ebony, use food and magic to explore how social activism shapes us all. All of these works recognize that “joy is resistance,” and that resistance leads to resilience. There are great battles in these books, but there is also unapologetic joy. The value of fantasy is to show us there’s a place for both of these things. That experiencing joy and sadness are not exclusive activities, but can reinforce each other and be utilized to create a better world.

Bharat calls himself a professional storyteller and amateur cook. Bharat is always looking to make a political statement with his writing because he knows politics seeps into every aspect of society and believes we can’t understand each other without a firm, constant understanding of how politics affects us in all ways.

Phillip Murrell

Often times fantasy stories will mirror reality, and the message comes through loud and clearn, and awakening as to the human condition with the sole purpose of being aware, and changing our hearts.

What is the message your fantasy novel conveys?

The message from Zombie Walkabout is that people will always find a way to profit off suffering.

Even if you believe there aren’t any victims, the odds are there are. Sam, my main character, just wants to raise his public profile as an MMA fighter. He chose to hunt zombies for fun in devastated Australia. Rich tourists from around the globe flock Down Under to enjoy that classic pastime of fighting the undead just for some selfies and memories.

Unfortunately, for this enterprise to exist, most of the Australian population had to be infected. The people who stayed behind, instead of fleeing their home, have to survive by entertaining tourists with the only thing they have, zombie safari. How would you feel taking rowdy customers out to your old neighborhoods to decimate your friends, family, and co-workers? That’s the question Sam has to wrestle with. Hopefully, readers walk away with the same conclusion he comes to. Just because you can find a silver lining, doesn’t mean you should.

That’s the great thing about Fantasy. It allows us to tell stories with human themes, but we also get zombies, elves, and magic (though only the first is in my submitted story). Also, many themes can easily be translated into modern terms. If you have a negative stance on gay rights, you may only see through that lens. However, if you use mutants with superpowers in lieu of gay characters, now you can change some opinions with people being none the wiser. They will root for the heroes, often against “normal” people, and not realize anything until they sit back and reflect or the creator lays it out for them. People say they have an open mind, but often Fantasy can get a foot in the door a little easier than non-fiction. At least, that’s what I believe.

Read about Zombie Walkabout on Goodreads

I am an active duty army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer. I have been married for fifteen years and have three children who are fourteen, twelve, and ten years old. I have an MBA and a BS degree in Recreation (true story). I love stories in all mediums, including books, comics, movies, and television. I also enjoy high adrenaline activities, such as skydiving, whitewater rafting, and roller coasters. Zombie Walkabout is the sixth of seven novels I’ve written. I also enjoy writing screenplays and teleplays.

C.D. Gallant-King

When reading fantasy, we look for events or characters we can relate to, someone or something that gives us introspection and worth as a person. C.D. addresses this question of value in his guest post.

What specific value in your fantasy work do you offer your readers ?

The Value of a Psycho Hose Beast Story

It’s said that we need fantasy as an escape, as a means to experience the battle of Good versus Evil in a safe manner, and have a reasonable chance of Good winning. As opposed to real life, where Good rarely comes in first. These stories are especially useful when the reader can relate to the protagonist, or the setting is familiar. It was this “familiar” setting that I really wanted to focus on in my story.

There’s been a major kick for 80s nostalgia as of late, and while I experienced that period and can relate it to, it was never “my” decade. I was born in 1980 and lived my teen years through the 90s, which makes that period far more influential for me. I wanted an adventure fantasy story set in the early 90s, with kids who were my age at the time, going through the same kind of stuff I did. And sure, most small towns are similar, but I especially wanted to set it in a town like mine: a small, coastal Canadian town, in the province of Newfoundland.

Newfoundland has a distinct culture and history, owed to centuries of conflict and hardship. It was one of the first European colonies in the New World, and yet the last to join Confederation with Canada. The island was shaped by Indigenous Beothuk and Mi’kmaq people, Norse Vikings, Basques Whalers, Dutch Pirates and English and French Settlers. Newfoundland is home to proud and stubborn people with a good sense of humour, and they deserve to have stories not only of their history, but of what could be, of what might have been.

The Gale Harbour series is set in Newfoundland and is for Newfoundlanders, but the themes of adolescence should be relatable to most people. So should the elements of fantasy and horror and humour. If you grew up as a kid in the 90s, reading comic books and Stephen King, playing Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, and watching Wayne’s World and Batman Returns, then these books are for you. If you ever wished that those stories were real, and that your small, boring hometown hid dark secrets and forgotten magic and monsters, then these books are REALLY for you.

Read more about C.D. by following these links.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54746956-psycho-hose-beast-from-outer-space
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08BY2XGBC
http://cdgallantking.ca

C.D. Gallant-King wrote his first story when he was five years old, and he made his baby-sitter look up how to spell “extra-terrestrial” in the dictionary. He now writes stories about un-heroic people doing generally hilarious things in horrifying worlds. A loving husband and proud father of two wonderful kids, C.D. was born and raised in Newfoundland and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario. There was also a ten-year period in between where he tried a Theatre career in Toronto, but we don’t talk about that.

C.D. has published three novels, most recently PSYCHO HOSE BEAST FROM OUTER SPACE in 2020. His short fiction has appeared in The Weird and Whatnot magazine, as well as multiple anthologies from Mystery and Horror, Inc and Dancing Lemur Press

Christopher Matson

I’ve often wondered where the dividing line between fiction and fantasy ends.

When does the fiction become fantasy?

Half Sword by Christopher Matson

I’d argue that all fiction is more or less fantasy. Look at Umberto Eco’s “Name of the Rose.” A medieval detective story centered on an ancient monastery. Interesting characters, inventive plot and setting, but there’s this twist near the end, the fabulous unworldly library housing the lost works of Socrates. It’s corridors and passages obey no laws of geometry or proportion. It is a world unto itself—it is a fantasy setting.

Even main-stream fiction has elements of fantasy. Take a look at this blurb for a Clive Cussler adventure[1]: “…Also there’s a mysterious 16th-century helmet, a search for the philosopher’s stone and an island of filthy, mutant cannibals.” Nope, no fantasy here. Then there is Ken Follett’s “Pillars of the Earth.” Historical fiction, yes—but with so much world-building, so many new social constructs, it has all the trappings of a fantasy novel save only the element of magic or mythical creatures. And film, what can I say, superheroes? Post-apocalyptic adventures? “Raiders of the Lost Ark?” Look at popular fiction and entertainment everywhere and you will find the fantasy.

Of course, because stories are, by their nature, fantasies. Every memorable story consists of an underlying premise, adventure, travel, intrigue, unrequited love, to name a few. What makes the story memorable is the transformative element that the author folds into the narrative.

I call that element the story’s Mystique. This mystique can take many forms, romance, adventure, drama, horror, and of course, fantasy. And I would maintain that a good solid story employs all five of these elements in varying proportions. It’s often been said that there are only a few basic story structures. That Shakespear retold stories that were ancient when first set to drama by the Greeks. That may be but it is the storyteller, the author who must add those magic sprinkles that makes her or his work new and intriguing.

This is where that Mystique comes in, the transformative power of Fantasy. The author can create a great premise, compelling characters, and a heart-stopping conclusion. It’s done all the time. But when that story is overlayed with Fantasy, it takes the readers to a whole new world and lets them explore it through the eyes of the protagonist.

Simply put, Fantasy is the most immersive of all the genres. Done well it forces the readers (and sometimes the author) to suspend judgement and submerge themselves in the story and the characters.

The author can paint his story with anything from a haunted painting to a magical ability that the protagonist must use, or else must contend against. The Mystique is what drives the story—it’s what brings the reader back, turning page after page. So, when you pick up that next book, settle into the story, embrace the main characters, and find the fantasy.


[1] Lost City, Copyright ©2007-2021 Clive Cussler

Christopher Matson is author of “Half Sword,” the first book in the “Tapestry” Series. He also writes action-adventure with David Wood under C.B. Matson. When he is not writing, Christopher is usually tinkering in his shop or “simply messing about in boats.”

Sherrie Cronin

She’s the One.

Oftentimes a fantasy story will mirror reality and offer solutions to an ever present problem. The world might well take note!

How does your work(s) correlate to today’s problems, issues, state of affairs, and could it help solve them?

The amazing dystopian worlds about which I’ve read drove me to create seven stories about a Utopia instead. I guess I like being contrary. Because Ilari has been hidden for centuries and surrounded by natural barriers, it was spared much of the war and strife of the middle ages. When my series begins, Ilarians live in a land blessed with natural resources and governed by a mostly benign royalty.

Don’t yawn yet, please.

Much of Ilari spends its time caught up in petty squabbles. Every group has found someone to look down upon. Tolerance only extends so far.

But that’s not their biggest problem. It’s the 1200’s, and the Mongols are moving westward. Whatever magic once hid them from others is gone and Ilari will soon need to defend itself against a foe it has no hope of beating.

My seven alternate history/historical fantasy stories involve the ways some Ilarians try to rise to the occasion. In their case, they turn to the vestiges of this old magic but it will take far more than that to save them. I don’t think I’ll give anything away by saying Ilari’s only hope ends up lying in learning to rise above the trivial disagreements and find ways to work together.

My own nation, indeed much of my world, isn’t so different from Ilari. So much wealth, talent, and resources are wasted every day on our internal arguments as one group hoards at the expense of another. Would we be able to pull together if we faced a larger threat from outside?

I’m a lifelong science fiction fan, too, and live just waiting for the real alien invasion, a rogue asteroid, AI take-over, or worldwide plague. Wait. We kind of had the last one. How’d we do?

Let’s say we were lucky it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.

I know dystopian novels offer a lot of food for thought on how we can solve today’s problems. I propose that an alternate approach, of considering that we could be living in a paradise if we weren’t our own worst enemies, also yields answers about our biggest issues.

“She’s the One Who Thinks Too Much” is the first novel in this series, called “The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters,” and it was released in November 2020. It is entered in SPFBO#7. Books two and three have also been released and book four will be out in August.

Sherrie Cronin lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina where she writes stories about people developing abilities they barely know they have. She made a lot of stops along the way to telling these tells — living in seven cities, visiting forty-six countries, and working as a waitress, technical writer, and geophysicist. Today she also answers a hot-line, plans the trips she’ll take someday, and checks her phone for messages from Captain Picard. She still hopes that one day he’ll need her to become his Chief Science Officer.

Joshua Mortimer

When a writer begins a story, he doesn’t always ‘plan’ a theme, a lesson or a message. But in the course of creation, one is often achieved.

Question: If you had one theme, message, or ‘lesson’ of your SPFBO book you’d want your readers to walk away with what would it be?

The message I want everyone to walk away from having read The Grey Guardian: Book of Sorothir is that heroes can come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t have to be the popular kid, the sporty kid or the computer whiz. I want to try and reach inside every person, both adults and kids, to remind them that we are all searching for our place in this world, and we all want our lives to mean something.

You can pick up The Grey Guardian by clicking this link.


I personally believe all good books start off with a single idea, which grow or take shape into an amazing story through the authors interests, experiences and imagination. Before I was a teenager I was badly bullied for being overweight, I was a misfit and very far from being in the popular group. In fact I only had one friend. I even write into The Grey Guardian at the start of the story, an experience that my protagonist had, which was in fact a real life experience that happened to me when the teacher left the class room. Even today 30 years later I still remember that day and it has shaped who I am and drive’s me every day. The problem is that we lock these experiences up, they then happen again to someone else. So when I started writing The Grey Guardian, I wanted it to be a Young Adult Fantasy book as that is the genre I can lose myself in, but I wanted to place some of myself into Rafe my protagonist. I wanted him to be like so many of us in our pre-teens, a misfit trying to find his place in the world and trying to give meaning to his life. And if I am honest with myself, even as a grown up with a job, a house, a wife and three kids, I am still a misfit trying to make my life mean something.

I received from Lancaster University a BA(Hons) degree in politics. I currently do Marketing Consultancy for two National and USA Today Bestseller Author’s, I am an Exhibition Manager for large media company, I am writing the Book of Sorothir series and I am a father to three adorable kids who keep me grounded.



E.L. Haines

Often, fantasy stories can be read as magnifications of today’s problems, or I like to call them “Parables” that mirror society today to show us how we are, how we act, and what we might do to make the world a more pleasant place to live.

Question: How does your work(s) correlate to today’s problems, issues, state of affairs, and could it help solve them?

Stranger Back Home is an exploration of how a fantasy culture, completely separated from our world, would react to the 2021 definitions of “racism,” and the unique and often illogical taboos and standards that our modern society is beginning to adopt.

The main character, Sparrow, is returning to his fantasy home after living for several years amongst us, in the real world. As the reader might imagine, Sparrow has become accustomed to the racial tensions in our society, and finds it hard to adjust to a world that doesn’t have the same conflict.

One of the most poignant illustrations of this is Sparrow’s resistance to blackface. While other stage performers (and also night-time burglars) naturally see the purpose of black make-up, Sparrow can’t bring himself to use it.

It takes a whole world of fantasy characters to convince Sparrow that blackface has no objective faults, that distant historical offenses should be forgiven so that both the dramatic arts and tactical camouflage can move forward, and that different cultures are meant to be shared and celebrated rather than hoarded and restricted.

The author hopes that this book will help readers learn to appreciate other cultures and races in our world on a new level. He hopes to remind us that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that perhaps wearing a kimono or a sombrero should be complimentary to those originating cultures, not offensive to them.

And above all, he hopes that we will discard these taboos and limitations on actors, and singers, and storytellers, and offer them all (regardless of race) the opportunities to tell stories from every different culture, color, and creed.

We sincerely hope that you will pick this book up and enjoy it. We hope that you gain a greater appreciation of the unique value of all the diverse peoples of our world. And we hope that you walk away with less apprehension and more celebration about sharing in their cultures and stories.

E.L. Haines reads all the time, and writes so that you can read. He travels the world, ignoring the usual boundaries of space and time, collecting stories, which he loves to tell almost as much as Sparrow himself does.

He has visited more than 25 countries in person, and perhaps more than a hundred in books.

He has also time-traveled to more than 40 different years in history. We won’t tell you exactly which ones.

Eva Sandor

So what is the purpose? Why explore worlds that aren’t known, why exercise our imaginations?

Why Fantasy?


Eva Sandor’s Fool’s Proof has just been released on Kindle Unlimited. Please enjoy the read!

It can’t be just for the sake of escape, for imagination— there are other ways to visit other worlds. History, Psychedelia, the straight-up absurd: all of them take us elsewhere.

So why fantasy?

I say it’s because in a world of news stories, we crave campfire stories— and the voice of humanity’s ancient heart, which brought us folktale, fairy tale, and myth, is alive and well and telling them to us in that language we know as fantasy. It’s a mood, a mode, a way of describing.

There are few other rules. Fantasy can be pure magic, filled with wonder, wholly alien; or it can be gritty, cynical, mundane. Under the flexible, elastic cover of its patchwork cloak, fantasy can smuggle anything and everything in. When a being from a tiny planet asks a downed pilot to draw him a sheep, that’s fantasy. When rabbits have a god, that’s fantasy. When a city arises out of nothing and vanishes
into nothing, when a soldier becomes unstuck in time, when wizards fight, when desert warriors riding giant worms rally behind a young duke in exile— those are fantasy too.

When I began my first novel, I wasn’t sure what I would write about, but I knew how I wanted it to feel. I was going for a mood. So, like the magpie that’s one of my main characters, I stole a little from this culture and era, a little from that; I brought my setting’s mosaic of inspirations together and bedded them into a mortar of word-craft, where even as I cracked modern jokes “Once Upon A Time” hovered written between the lines.

That’s fantasy. But why? I say we write it because we need it, you and I. From
time to time we have to look at the rest of culture’s iceberg and assure ourselves that, however little of it pokes above the surface to form “contemporary realism”, the rest is all still there, ready for us to chip and melt and drink from, gloriously
inexhaustible.

Keep an eye on this thread for more author’s take on fantasy.

5 Responses to On Fantasy: SPFBO Guest Posts

  1. Matt says:

    I love the work of Eva Sandor. Brilliantly creative.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cbmatson says:

    Thanks for the chance to share my thoughts, Dianne. I’ve enjoyed reading the other post as well. I completely agree with Ms. Sandor’s comments on Fantasy. I’ve read “Stranger,” and will say that E.L. Haines has a very interesting twist on the genre. “Gray” is on my list, but I haven’t read it yet. Same with “She’s,” but what makes this one interesting is that it seems Ms. Cronin is writing the same time period and similar events to my own series. That one’s gotta go on the list.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the campfire line and the iceberg analogy

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great idea, Dianne, and so special. I loved the post and descriptions of some much-loved titles. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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