Tag Archives: fairy

The fay can be tiny shining sprites or enormous, lumbering woodkin.

What makes The Fey Man a Faerie Tale?

So I’ve written a blog post about why The Fey Man is full of elfs and not elves (TL;DR the word ‘elf’ came first and it feels right). But a discerning reader on Twitter made an excellent point: in the very same post, I called the Fair Folk series a ‘Faerie tale’. Why didn’t I call it a fairy tale?

There are two possible explanations. The first is that there are no fairies in the Fair Folk series. They’re called ‘fay’ instead, and that’s because the word ‘fairy’ actually comes from the Latin word ‘fae’, the singular of ‘fata’ which means ‘the Fates’.

(This, by the way, is pretty well known to fantasy writers, so you’ll often see fairies called ‘fae’. However the spelling ‘fay’ comes from Middle English, and was also used as a word for ‘faith’, which I felt was rather fitting for the Fair Folk series.)

Faerie, on the other hand, is the land of the fay. Usually an otherworldly realm, it’s the place where the fay live. Much like England is the place where the English live, the words are similar, but not the same.

So why did I call The Fey Man, and the Fair Folk series as a whole, a Faerie tale? Well, I wanted to evoke fairy tales, largely because some of the inhabitants or stories themselves can be found in the series. It’s also a hint as to the focus of the series; there’s a lot going on in Tir, but some of it is more important than the rest.

And, last but not least, I thought it was cool. And one of the best things about being a writer is being able to write things I think are cool. Like conversations with dragons, a person with visions of the future, and forests haunted by tree spirits.

Creatures of Faerie: Herne

Herne is unique amongst the fay in that he doesn’t have two faces; he is the same both before and after Calgraef. He is also attendant to King Midhir and King Melwas, though Herne is a bestial creature more like the objects of his master’s hunts than the master himself. He crawls on all fours like a predator and has a horned hart’s skull for a head. Of all the fay, he is the most frightening.

Tom isn’t sure how much Kings Midhir and Melwas know about his relationship with the queens. But the kings know something and Herne is like any good servant: he wants to please his master. And he sees endangering Tom as a good way of earning the goodwill of the Faerie King.

* * *

Herne is known as the hunter in traditional folklore and is often said to lead the Wild Hunt. I wanted to keep the hunter’s spirit for my interpretation of Herne, but I also wanted a darker face to him. A lot of the fay in The Fey Man are sophisticated, so Herne was a great opportunity to create something more of a monster. A piece of art really inspired me: Elkhorn by Brom. That grubby, animalistic feel was just perfect for Herne.

The beautiful fay Glastyn turns into the grotestque Fenoderee.

Creatures of Faerie: Glastyn and Fenoderee

Glastyn is the first fay you meet in The Fey Man. He was exiled for some offence he is unwilling to discuss and sought out Thomas Rymour at Cairnagan. Tall, dark and beautiful, witty and charming, Glastyn seems to live for life at court. He thrives on the intrigue, the drama, and he enjoys seducing people’s wives. Where Tom flounders in Cairnagan, Glastyn is a perfect fit.

Glastyn’s darker face is his antithesis, a fay called Fenoderee. Fenoderee is ugly where Glastyn is handsome, plain of speech where Glastyn is witty, sombre where Glastyn is feckless. Fenoderee is a shambling mess, as if his limbs are being held together by moss and mould, and he stinks of rotten leaves. But he has Tom’s best interests at heart, whereas Glastyn’s motives are his own.

* * *

Both Glastyn and Fenoderee are fairies from folklore, though I’ve taken some liberties with tradition. Glastyn was tall and handsome, but could also transform into a horse and pulled young women underwater to drown them. Fenoderee was ugly and hairy, and this was punishment for missing a festival. He was also banished. The two seemed like they fit together, so I kept the broad strokes and blended them a little. The pair serve as perhaps the most prominent stereotype of the fay.

King Midhir of Faerie changes into King Melwas for the winter months.

Creatures of Faerie: King Midhir and Melwas

Midhir is the seeker of pleasure. He enjoys wine, food, dancing. He pursues mortal women, indulging in many affairs. He gambles and he drinks and he laughs. But do not be fooled by the simple wooden crown he wears. Though Midhir will choose laughter over any other reaction, he is still a king and demands the respect due to that title.

Melwas is the seeker of satisfaction. He enjoys duelling, hunting, combat. He leads the Wild Hunt, a pack of baying, flayed Faerie hounds, chasing down anything that takes his fancy, be it animal, man, woman or child. Melwas was also known as Malvis, the Black Knight that dogged King Emyr’s reign. Melwas had a particular obsession with Emyr’s wife, Eirwen, and once tricked him into losing her in a wager over a game of chess. The victory was short-lived as Emyr marched on Faerie and, with some help from the jealous Mab, took back his wife.

Thomas Rymour is very wary of the King of Faerie; because the fay share a mind, a thing known to a single fay is known to them all. And because Tom indulged in certain indiscretions with the Queen of Faerie, the King must know too. And he has yet to take his retribution.

* * *

Most people will think of Shakespeare’s Oberon and Titania when they think of fairy royalty. I wanted to distance The Fey Man from those mischievous fairies, though, and names were a big part of doing so.

Midhir and Melwas represent the two extremes of the stereotypical king, one surrounding himself with the joys and comforts of his position, the other obsessed with overtly masculine pursuits such as fighting and hunting. There’s no middle ground with the Faerie King, as Tom will find out to his cost.

Maev and Mab are the light and dark faces of the queen of Faerie

Creatures of Faerie: Queen Maev and Mab

Just as all the fay have two faces, so too does the Queen of Faerie. Unlike many fay, though, the physical differences between the two fay are subtle. The unwary might mistake one for the other, and that might prove a mortal’s undoing.

During the months of summer, Queen Maev rules over Faerie. Quick to anger but just as quick to forget, she takes her joy in simple things, seeking only comfort and pleasure. She is ready to laugh and ignores weightier matters in favour of frivolity.

Queen Mab, on the other hand, has more sinister thoughts. She makes no secret of the fact she enjoys her position over others. She sneers at simple pleasures, taking her joy in humiliation and control. Her smile is a rare thing and never pleasant to see, for it often preludes discomfort for the viewer.

Yet both Maev and Mab have one thing in common: they are manipulators. They are expert in working the will of others to their desires. Nowhere have their charms worked better than on Thomas Rymour, who is in love with both. It is for them, more than anything else, that he wants to go back to Faerie.

* * *

You may recognise Queen Mab from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, though the similarity is in name only. The name always seemed sinister to me, making it an easy choice for the queen’s dark face. Maev is an Irish name meaning “she who intoxicates”; perfect for the creature that seduced Tom away from mortal life.

The fay can be tiny shining sprites or enormous, lumbering woodkin.

Creatures of Faerie: the Fay

The people of Tir celebrate many festivals but the greatest are the festivals of Calmae and Calgraef. These are the spring and harvest festivals, celebrating the brightening and darkening of the days. And they have special significance to the fay.

Mortal understanding of the fay has always been limited due to the fact that no-one can see or hear the fay without the Second Sight. So few know that each fay has two faces; one for summer, one for winter.

The summer fay are more given to frivolity, their pranks innocent and their play merry. But after the festival of Calgraef, their appearance, their personality, even their name changes. Their pranks become vicious and they take joy in humiliation and suffering.

Some would take that to mean that the winter fay are dangerous whilst the summer fay are boon companions. But the truth is that a fay is dangerous whatever face they might wear. The fay are immortal and seek to fill their eternal days with entertainment, with no regard to morality and often at the expense of mortals.

* * *

The fay got their dual aspect as I was researching fairy folklore. Folklore is, by its nature, a messy affair. Traditions are appropriated and localised, creating multiple versions of the same creature. Sometimes the fairy simply has a different name, sometimes its entire personality is changed. In trying to create my own mythology of the fay, I found myself struggling to choose between different ideas for the same character, as well as a plethora of potential names.

There are references to the folklore to the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, troupes of fairies that are benevolent and malevolent respectively. It wasn’t much of a stretch to imagine it was the same troupe, interpreted differently. It was a simple step from there to a magical transformation. I tied that transformation into Halloween, as that was traditionally when darker spirits began to roam the Earth.

Every writer wants to put a spin on a trope or tradition when they use it in their writing. The hope is that spin will be original rather than gimmicky. I hope the two faces of the fay will be seen as the former rather than the latter.

Annah Wooten's incredible artwork for the cover of The Fey Man

Announcing The Fey Man

At the wizened old age of thirty, the journey to this point seems long. It started with childish stories often aped from the books and films I loved. It moved through a terrible science fiction trilogy. It grew through short stories. Now it feels like it’s about to hit the milestone I’ve always been travelling towards: in just two short months, you’ll be able to buy my first novel: The Fey Man.

The Fey Man is an epic fantasy about a man’s quest to return to Faerie and the war that keeps getting in his way.

It’s been inspired by Scottish folklore, fairy tales, Arthurian legends and the film Armageddon. Yes, you read that right. Click the link to find out more about The Fey Man.

I’ve been writing this book for about three years now and I can’t tell you how excited and scared I am that you’ll be able to read it soon. I hope you like it. I’ll be writing more about it in the coming weeks but, for now, I’ll leave you with Annah Wootten’s incredible cover art for the novel. Isn’t it great?

The cover of The Fey Man

Interview with Young Adult Authors M. Latimer-Ridley

Writing duos aren’t a rarity, but M. Latimer-Ridley are. Two writers with impeccable taste (after all, they follow me on Twitter) and an excellent sense of humour, I was very pleased to hear that they’d finally finished the novel they’d been talking about for so long. To celebrate the publication of Legend Unleashed, I shone a light in their eyes and subjected them to the third degree.

Congratulations on publishing Legend Unleashed!

Many thanks James!! We really appreciate the chance to answer your questions and visit your blog! It’s nice to be somewhere new instead our old blogging gaff *glances round, peering in behind the blogging curtain* Very nice. Pretty swanky place you have here! :D

Thanks. Please put that down. Now, tell us all about Legend Unleashed.

Well, it’s a young adult fantasy novel. Our main character, Temperance Levinthal is accidently swept up into a magical world by the handsome Alastair Byron. She’s really a very reluctant participant in their adventure, which would be nothing like us, as we’d be leaping in joy at the chance to see real magic. She’s not so impressed!

However, we’ll give you the blurb! It describes the book without giving too much away:

When an infamous criminal is unleashed from his prison, it has consequences for everyone in Carwick. Temperance Levinthal in particular…

Temperance is satisfied with her ordinary life. Dealing with her eccentric, childlike parents is all the excitement she needs. That changes when Alastair Byron returns home.

After a failed matchmaking attempt by her father, sparks fly between her and Alastair-just not the good kind.

They are forced together though, when they are implicated in a grisly murder. Their search for the truth leads them to a secret world beneath Carwick, filled with werewolves, wizards and other magical faey.

However, uncovering the truth is far more dangerous than they’d ever imagined.

There are secrets within secrets.

Even Alastair may be more than he seems…

Now tell us a little about yourselves. What made you want to be writers?

Ridley: Well…I know this is true for Latimer as for me but I’ve always loved to write. When I was younger I got unending encouragement from my parents and one English teacher in primary school in particular. She was fantastic. Plus my school was really brilliant about inviting Irish authors to visit (Gordon Snell-Maeve Binchey’s husband, Siobhan Parkinson, Don Conroy, Tom McCaughren, Martin Waddell, Michael Mullen all came in my time there), we were really spoilt, so from a very early age I was aware of what an author did. I remember in particular Marita Conlon McKenna visiting, I loved her famine novels. I brought a massive pile of books up to her to sign, she was so friendly and she wrote, ‘To Rachel. Another Bookworm! Lots of luck.” I remember thinking; I’d love to create worlds and characters, to make people love these imaginary places like she does, and so all down through the years I’ve tried to do just that.

Latimer: I didn’t read as much as Ridley when I was young. I did draw a lot of pictures though, and as I drew them I would think up stories for the person or creature I was drawing, to the point where I was actually talking to the character in the picture! In later years, I got really caught up in reading, particularly my brother’s high-fantasy books. I enjoyed coming up with stories and ideas. I don’t really know when I put pen to paper, but once I did I never stopped. When I get an idea, I just want to write about it! And meeting Ridley and striking up a friendship with her, really encouraged the ideas! Whenever I told people I was writing, no one ever said ‘that’s silly’- throughout my life everyone has been very supportive.

Having the support of your friends and family is so important. I suppose you’ve got support built into your partnership! How did that come about?

Ridley: Well, we’ve been friends for years and we have almost the exact same reading tastes, so we’ve always swopped books, giving our RSAs or LSAs (Ridley/Latimer Stamp of Approval) on the particularly brilliant ones. Many times after a book, we’d gossip about it, discussing what we would have changed or added and eventually we started to joke about writing a book together. We started to believe that we could put everything we’d ever wanted to see into it. Our main aim was and has always been to create a book, a real ‘find’ that would deserve an RSA or LSA.

Latimer: We can pinpoint the moment we decided to write a book. We were out for a walk one day, talking about books and we sort of stopped and said… ‘we could write one?… could we? We could… right?’ Then summer of that very year, we started work on a series – that had many incarnations until it reached the final plot! But it was fun, we worked on it in the library non-stop, annoying other people with our whispering and spending all day there! Pretty good fun, because during breaks Ridley took me around the library pulling out books going, ‘read this, and that’ and so on; I caught up on lots of books she read in her childhood!

What’s the writing process like? Do you have to make many compromises or are two heads better than one?

Ridley: No, there haven’t had to be many compromises I don’t think. No major ones anyway! We’re very respectful of the other’s ideas or dislikes. Two heads are definitely better than one, at least for us, we bounce ideas off each other and they build to even greater things than if we’d just thought things up alone. Plus it’s fun! :D We tend to have massive long tea breaks where we think up plots that usually start off with a particular character, or scene or following the words, ‘wouldn’t it be brilliant if…’, then we divide everything up into chapter summaries and we each get half of them. One of us starts the book and the other ends it. Simples.

Latimer: We’re lucky in that we can say, ‘no that idea’s not going to work’ or ‘hey how about this?’ I think it helps make our writing and ideas stronger and we’re very similar in terms of where we want to take characters. It is fun to see the idea grow and change into the finished product. All our ideas for books seem to start in a very different place to where they end up – but it’s definitely fun, because you are almost a reader yourself!

What are your influences?

Ridley: Anything and everything really, travelling, art, history, the discovery channel! In terms of reading I love fantasy, young adult and crime novels. Some of my favourite writers include Kelley Armstrong, Cassandra Clare, J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K Rowling. I also love animated films, the tales that Pixar, Aardman and Dreamworks tell are fantastic.

Latimer: I’m influenced by history and science; in little ways, like sometimes I read something and it sparks an idea. When I travel and see new things I often come back with new ideas. In terms of writers, I love Terry Pratchett’s humour and quirky characters; I love J.K Rowling’s world and J.R.R Tolkien is just a master storyteller.

Will either of you try a solo venture some day? Or are together until the end?

Ridley: Well, I’ve no plans for any. Latimer, you off to pastures greener? <(; _;)>

Latimer: I don’t think so. It’s M. Latimer-Ridley for the long haul. We have so many books yet to write, I doubt either of us will be going anywhere soon. I think a lot of ventures we have in mind fall under the M. Latimer-Ridley banner.

Ridley: We’re not against it, but either way, I think even if one of us went off to do a solo project, it would be as a side venture and it would never be completely by ourselves, we’d definitely seek the input and feedback about it from the other person.

Latimer: Yes, I think that would be the case. We’d never be 100% solo and M. Latimer-Ridley would always be around regardless.

I think our first interaction was you telling me how much you love dragons, yet your novel is about werewolves. What gives?

Funny thing is we have discussed dragons in the past and whether we could feature them in one of the books, but as much as we love them, they just never seem to fit in to any of our plots, well not the ones that we have so far…but one day perhaps! :D

You’ve mentioned that Legend Unleashed is your fourth novel. What happened to the first three?

Ridley: It’s the fifth book now; sometimes I forget there’s a fourth book written. We have a four book series already under our belts. These were the very first books we originally started writing together. They took us five and half years to finish. The plot for Legend Unleashed was fleshed out for about three years before we actually wrote it. We felt we really needed to get the characters of the series we were already working on and that world out of our systems before we could move on. They’re a different genre too, more like fantasy novels, and they need a lot of editing. I think over time we gradually gravitated towards the young adult genre and for the future books we have planned they definitely seem to be within that area.

Latimer: We’ll definitely be back to them one day, but they are our very hairy babies at the moment! They need a lot of work, but they’ll get it one day!

Do you think you’ll ever release this series?

Definitely, though we just haven’t included it on our publishing and writing schedule for the next year. There’s so much editing to do on it, four whole books, it’s a bit of a daunting task! But we really love the characters and series, so it will definitely see the light of day!

So the series was fantasy but Legend Unleashed is young adult? What drew you to YA?

Really, the fantasy series isn’t a proper epic fantasy, there are definitely more elements of YA than usually found in a pure fantasy novel. So I suppose it wasn’t so much that we switched genres, we just refined what we liked to write about. Fantasy, but with a young adult twist on it!

You’ve published Legend Unleashed through Cranmer Publishing. What led you to them rather than going it alone?

Cranmer Publishing is actually our business. We do consider it a separate joint venture however, to our co-authors status. So we’re business partners too. We’ve always set out to be as professional as possible in all aspects of our books. After long discussions, we decided we would establish Cranmer Publishing and eventually, when we feel it is the right time and we’ve gained enough insight and experience, we will begin to accept work from other authors. That day is certainly not within sight yet however. We’ve freelanced out a lot of the jobs in terms of cover design, structural editing, copy editing and formatting, so we’ve begun to build up a good team behind us.

What is it about publishing others’ work that appeals to you?

Oh, it’s that dreamy notion of finding that diamond in the rough! To be the first to set eyes on the next great book, isn’t that why most people go into the publishing industry? That future is a long way off for us though!

And what is a Cranmer?

It’s connected to our pen name. We both went to Oxford separately and we each discovered the story of the Oxford Martyrs, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. For some reason, it really stuck with us. However, there was also a third man that was connected to their story, and that was Thomas Cranmer. So we thought it would be a nice way to connect the three together again.

You created a book trailer which I’ve previously raved about. What led you to create an animated trailer?

Ridley: And we were chuffed you liked it so much!! We both love art, so it seemed natural to wander down that route when we were brainstorming ideas for the trailer. Animation is also another passion of mine. I love watching all of the Pixar and Dreamworks films, not to mention Aardman. That these lumps of clay or computer dolls (or ‘character rigs’) are manipulated with such skill to show emotion and movement that we cry and laugh as we follow their stories on screen; I just think that it’s amazing really, almost like magic. Good writing does the same; characters that never before existed, are now very real in our heads, all through the power of words. I wanted us to give animation a try as it was another facet of our world building, I had no doubt in my mind we could succeed in creating something and if we did, it would definitely be a unique trailer, though unique in a good way we’d hoped!! Plus as an added bonus, I got to combine two of my passions!

Latimer: The trailer was really Ridley’s hard work for sure! I merely whip-cracked! I think it was born out of passion and a desire to try something a bit different, which is what we like to do.

What does the “M” stand for?

I’m afraid it’s very boring. However, it shall remain our little secret and if we told you, we’d have to give you a potion to erase your memory. :D
OBLIVIATE! *ping*

Protego. What’s next for M. Latimer-Ridley?

Next will be the sequel for Legend Unleashed, which is nearly finished, that won’t be out until late 2013 though, sooner than that we also have a short story planned, featuring a young Temperance. Then we have many other plots and ideas bubbling away on the backburner, for example last weekend we were discussing ideas for a book that’s at the back of a queue of six others patiently waiting to be written. Sometimes, we get excited by a new character or plot and then realise with a sigh, we won’t get to it for another few years. (Together we really aren’t short of ideas!) Eventually, we’d also love to have our four book series edited and published but we know we need to be patient on that one!

Finally, what is it about dragons you love so much?

Ridley: How could you not love them? They’re terrifying and beautiful all at the same time! One of the best fantasy creatures ever! There really aren’t enough books out there with dragons featuring heavily in them! I can’t wait to see what Smaug looks like in the new film, The Hobbit!

Latimer: Could we make a werewolf-dragon? No, *thinking*… wait… that would basically be Falkor from The Neverending Story, wouldn’t it? Oh, I love him!

Buy Legend Unleashed nowYou can buy Legend Unleashed now from all major eretailers including:

Amazon US: ebook paperback

Amazon UK: ebook paperback

Smashwords: ebook

While you’re waiting for it to arrive, you can also check out M Latimer-Ridley’s blog and website.