On 31st December, we will publishing Kevin M. Folliard’s new novella Tower Of Raven – a fantasy / horror novella (cover by Adrian Baldwin; ebook available now for pre-sales). Kevin is part of the DEMAIN family having published his Short Sharp Shocks earlier in the year (Candy Corn). Recently Dean and Kevin sat down and talked about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Great to work with you again Kevin, glad that you’re well and safe. Let’s talk Tower Of Raven which we enjoyed immensely. What was your first introduction to the horror / fantasy genre?
KEVIN M. FOLLIARD: And happy to be back working with DEMAIN. One of my earliest memories of opening a book was my Mom’s illustrated hardcover copy of The Hobbit, which had stylish maps and illustrations of characters like Smaug the Dragon. The Hobbit would become my favourite book as I got older, and it made me very interested in world-building and adventure. I first became interested in horror through Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark anthologies. Again, I loved the illustrations, as well as the chilling, bare-bones accounts of folklore and urban legends.
DP: Ha – my grandfather leant me his copy of The Hobbit – if I remember it was a white covered paperback copy and yeah, it was full of maps / illustrations too – great memories. So – Tower Of Raven…
KMF: Tower of Raven is on its surface a re-imagining of the Maiden in the Tower/Rapunzel fairy tale. I had a vision of a raven-haired beauty who was a darker version of Rapunzel, and used that as my premise, but the story ended up taking on a life of its own. It became more about the Prince—which maybe was my way of rebelling against the cardboard cut-out prince characters in older Disney films! Tower of Raven explores nature vs. nurture through a classic fairy tale premise. It answers the question: If an evil witch kidnapped a princess and raised her in seclusion, would that princess be inherently good? Or would she end up as evil as her adopted mother. The story is about Prince Cedrick coming of age and struggling into adulthood. Cedrick rebels against a path that was set for him by his royal birth, and as a result, becomes entwined with Raven’s fate. Both characters had big decisions about their lives made for them by others at a young age. In many ways, Raven and Cedrick are opposite sides of the same coin, which makes for a powerful and volatile attraction.
DP: It definitely does. In writing your novella did you have to do much research? And what do you do to research?
KMF: For this story, I did refresh myself on the Maiden in the Tower lore, so as I was exploring the story and letting it go in its own direction, I had the tropes and story beats of classic Rapunzel tales in the back of my head. I wanted to try to keep core architypes of the story present, but in fresh or unexpected ways. Like Rapunzel, Raven’s story involves a garden of greens, being locked in a tower, a princely saviour, the birth of twins, blindness, and other elements, but the focus ultimately remains on Prince Cedrick and Raven, who they are, how they came to be, and what happens when their dreams are at odds.
DP: So would you say you found it difficult to write?
KMF: I think the hardest part about writing is staying motivated and forcing yourself to do it. I’m almost never “in the mood” or inspired to write, and I have to think of it as work. If I force myself to sit down and create prose—and don’t hold unreasonable standards of perfection on that rough draft—then the story comes. You can always go back and fix your prose, so being disciplined is harder than the actual writing process for me, which is often very time-consuming, but doable. I am most productive when I set goals, such as one chapter a week or X number of words per day. Having writer friends who you can check in with on a weekly basis for accountability is very helpful to me, and I’ve been doing that lately with my friends from the La Grange Writers Group. It’s made a big difference in helping me generate new material. The writers groups I attend definitely made the process of writing Tower of Raven easier, because they were critiquing older chapters as I was drafting new ones, so I was motivated to keep working so I had something new to submit.
DP: That’s a good way to keep the momentum going…though you originally wrote Tower Of Raven prior to Covid, do you feel that it can now be read as a metaphor for the pandemic?
KMF: I hadn’t thought about that! Interesting question! So, yes, it certainly was drafted well beforehand, so there was no “Covid influence” in the writing of the story. However, I can see how people might relate to Raven, locked in her tower by herself. Those of us who are quarantined in isolation face many challenges in staying connected with others, and isolation absolutely can have a toxic impact on people.
DP: Exactly. Kevin – what is your biggest creative success to date would you say?
KMF: I have a number of upcoming projects that I’m excited about, but as far as published works I’m most proud of, I’ll have to call it a tie on a few of my favourites:
KMF: Sci-fi, fantasy, and horror are the “what if” genres, and people like them because they allow us to explore otherworldly possibilities vicariously through the characters. In the case of horror, they allow us to confront danger from the cozy safety of a favorite reading spot. I think most readers of these genres are simultaneously looking to escape, while exploring their own humanity in “how and why” people react to extreme situations in certain ways. In my opinion, the fantastical part of these genres (which is so much fun!) is just a vehicle to explore very real human emotions and behavior.
DP: Would you say then that the horror / fantasy genre affected by world events? Do you ever put world events in your work?
KMF: There is a strong dynamic relationship between world events and fiction, including fantasy and horror. Fantasy in particular allows a lot of social or political problems to play out filtered through the lens of another world—just look at Game of Thrones, for example! I think that happens naturally when world building and thinking about who is in charge in this world, what are their motives, and what naturally happens as a result. I don’t often insert specific world events or historical landmarks into my stories, but I’ve certainly seen it done very effectively.
DP: Your dead right about Game Of Thrones – a great way of teaching history to people without them realising it ha ha. Is there a horror / fantasy book / film that you’re particularly looking forward to?
KMF: I’m excited for almost any new movies we get in the next year, and I look forward to hopefully seeing some big ones on the big screen when it’s safe for everyone to do so. I’m particularly excited to check out Wonder Woman 1984 and the new Candyman movie that keeps getting pushed back.
DP: Yes, I know what you mean about Candyman…have to stick with the original(s) for now then! Kevin – is writing a short or long term career for you…
KMF: Long-term. Writing is very time-consuming, and most of the time it doesn’t feel like you get much return on your investment. So in that regard, it’s tempting to think I can just retire from it and enjoy other things, but it’s more of a personality drive than a goal for me. I probably will always circle back to write a short story or come up with a novel I have to “get out” of me, even if it sounds more fun and relaxing to do other things. I’d feel unproductive if I didn’t have some kind of creative outlet.
DP: And finally then Kevin – the lockdown(s) – what were your routines? How did you get through it?
KMF: I was lucky that for my 9-5 job working in higher education, I was already working remote for an online writing center. In that regard, the lockdown wasn’t a big adjustment for me, but I did branch out and watch a lot of new movies. I saw drive-in movies, played video games, and customized action figures, in addition to working on fiction writing. The hard part for me was finding ways to get out and break up the routine of standing in front of computers and devices, so taking a lot of walks was key too.
Yes – me too (walking that is!). Great speaking to you again Kevin – the best of luck with Tower Of Raven.
If you’d like to connect with Kevin direct:
Author Website: http://www.kevinfolliard.com/
Christmas Terror Tales on FB: https://www.facebook.com/#%21/pages/Christmas-Terror-Tales/204731106257625
Dean M. Drinkel