Interview with Claudia Newcorn
Crossover: Krisálys Chronicles of Féyree: Scroll 1
Outskirts Press (2007)
Reviewed by for Reader Views (1/08)
Today, Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is pleased to be joined by Claudia Newcorn, who is here to talk about her new fantasy novel, “Crossover: Krisálys Chronicles of Féyree: Scroll 1.”
Claudia Newcorn has been described by some friends as somewhat like the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland—never-endingly curious, enjoys thought-provoking discussions, a big smile, and prone to taking off without warning. She is a former private helicopter pilot, holds an MBA in Marketing & International business, a BA in English & Psychology, and has earned certification in a variety of holistic modalities.
From the start, Claudia has enjoyed an unusual life. She moved 36 times as a child and lived in six countries in Europe, Asia and Central America. Exploring each country’s past was part of her family’s weekend activities, giving her the joy of a childhood prowling maze-like castles, Roman ruins, Aztec pyramids, and numerous other places of legend and history. Without the distraction of television, she devoured books, especially fairy tales and later, fantasy and science fiction.
Early on, she began writing her own stories and poems that often won school contests. After earning her MBA, Claudia’s writing focused on marketing, and she later launched her own marketing and communications firm, Acorn Enterprises. Today, she is a busy freelance writer, with a focus on travel articles (which allows her to continue her adventures), as well as marketing materials. She has had several short stories published and writes for several magazines, as well as her regional newspaper.
Claudia lives in California, and is writing the second novel of the “Krisálys Chronicles of Féyree” trilogy. She collects antique fairy tale books, attempts to garden, is taking courses in herbology and aromatherapy, and is passionate about hiking, animals, and the environment.
Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Claudia. I’m very impressed when I get to speak to fantasy authors who have the imagination to create an entire new world. To begin, will you tell me what the “Krisálys Chronicles” refers to?
Claudia: The initial idea for the book came from a simple question: what if fairies aren’t born with their wings but have to earn them? How would they actually receive their wings? I envisioned a ceremony—that would come as the culmination of a series of Rites—in which the sprytes (young, unwinged fairies) had to survive being cocooned in a chrysalis.
To add authenticity to the story, I developed sub-languages for the book. For example, Féyree evolved out of “Fey” —old Scottish for “visionary” or “otherworldly”, and “Ree”—British dialect meaning, “to riddle”. Similarly, “Krisálys” was adapted from Chrysalis—a butterfly’s cocoon symbolizing change and rebirth—a central theme to both this book and the whole trilogy.
When I first started writing, I thought I had a short story. But as I wrote, I realized it was bigger than just a single story, and that the Rites were actually the starting point of a realm-changing series of events that had been prophesied—but were forgotten—over 1000 years past.
“Chronicles” refers to the experiences of these Rites, and what happened going forward beyond the Rites. Conceptually, it’s as if you’re reading history written (chronicled) by people who lived at the time of these realm re-defining events.
It also describes my experiences with this story as the writer—I become so involved that I feel as if I am actually there in Lampion, chronicling the activities going on around me, as opposed to inventing them. It’s a wonderful experience, and other authors I have spoken with say it’s one of the high points of writing.
Tyler: Since this novel is the start of a series, in the subtitle, why did you decide to label it as “Scroll 1” rather than just book one?
Claudia: “Scroll” better ties back to the word “Chronicles” as a more archaic word, which fits with the pastoral, non-industrialized realm of Lampion. It also ties into the story’s important background mythology that describes the Scrolls of Atonement, written by the Twins. These two féyree gathered all their folks’ magical lore, and established new ways of living and protecting the féyree folk after the devastating Battle of Sagád and the Days of Dimness. Scrolls are the Fey Folk’s way of keeping records, and each Guild is responsible for protecting, maintaining and amending them, as approved by the Guild Master. The most ancient of scrolls are kept at Revelstoke, the high seat of Féyree, and only with the permission of the Lord and Lady can they be reviewed.
Tyler: What is the general theme of “Crossover”?
Claudia: “Crossover” is an exciting adventure that’s filled with humor and unexpected twists and twitches, and puts a creative and contemporary spin on familiar fantasy characters, challenging them to overcome emotional and cultural problems that in many ways parallel those faced by people and society today. From “coming of age” issues, to life and death decisions, to generational differences and the clash between traditional and “new ways” of thinking, the characters struggle with determining what are the “right” choices—and the answers are not at all easy.
Tyler: Will you tell us about the fantasy world of Féyree?
Claudia: The Féyree live in the realm of Lampion, a pastoral realm of woods, meadows, and mountains laced with rivers in which numerous folk peacefully co-exist. In Lampion can be found not only the Féyree, but also the Ael (elves) and Troîch (gem dwarves), as well as other denizens of fantasy. Each group has their own lore, legends, and traditions—but always with twist.
A distinguishing and unique aspect of the book is that although it is fantasy, with many traditional figures, I have deliberately put a back spin on the characters in my book to make them both contemporary and unpredictable. For example, contrary to popular perceptions of moonglow winged flitting creatures, the fairies in this book are “real.” They struggle with difficult decisions, make dumb mistakes, forget to activate their warming spells when they’re cold, conjecture on traditions and their validity. These character twists and turns are part of what readers have told me they enjoy.
In a parallel dimension—of which there are many—is the realm of Nonetre. The home of the fire daemiani and their unwilling thralls, this realm of the twin suns is desiccated, parched, a land of fire, volcanoes and smoke. Ruled by the Tvashtar Firelord, it has depleted itself over the ages. As you can imagine, Lampion looks incredibly appealing to these demons. But demons have been magically barred from Lampion for 1000 years...until now.
Tyler: Where did you come up with the idea for Lampion, and what do you feel separates it from fantasy worlds created by other authors?
Claudia: I’m an outdoor nut. There is an indescribable pleasure in experiencing the many textures of nature—whether in the fragrant silence of Alaska as one shivers in the icy air that shrouds a creaking glacier, or in the soaring, shadowy granite of Yosemite National Park, or simply wandering a wildflower-freckled field on a warm spring day. Combine this with my love of fantasy and an admittedly hyper-active imagination, and creating the believable world of Féyree was easy.
Readers have told me that I have indelibly captured the fairy perspective, making it so “real” they think they are there. That is part of my fantasy realm’s distinction—and it took a lot of work. What intrigued me, once I had imagined Lampion, was how much more attentive I had to become to details at several levels. I had to “think” and “see” from a three-inch perspective—which meant a lot of getting down on my stomach to look at things in order to capture the texture and experience of being a fairy.
Another factor is the believability of both realms’ environments, which required both book and in-the-field research. I have visited active volcanic vents (what a smell!), prowled caves, and stood beneath a waterfall—all of which I import into Lampion and Nonetre. Plus I had to bring into play my eclectic background in chemistry, biology, flying, herbology, and more in order to bring “reality” to their world. For example, it took algebra to calculate how far a spryte could walk in a day. My experiences as a pilot and the flexibility of my helicopter allow me to better portray what it’s like to fly.
My goal—and readers have told me I have successfully accomplished this—is to transition a reader into the fairy perspective, experiencing life just as my characters do. That viewpoint is unique to “Crossover.”
Tyler: The novel centers around Danaí, who is a young fairy trying to earn her wings, and who must undergo nine coming of age rites. Will you tell us about that process and what those difficult tasks involve?
Claudia: Among the Fey folk, their culture has evolved beyond survivalist to one of small villages, guilds, and interaction between all of them—much like the medieval times of Europe. At the same time, while Lampion is pastoral, it is also a wild untamed land, and a fairy is a tasty tidbit to any carnivore. The Rites serve to provide a young fairy with essential knowledge and skills to survive and flourish in Lampion, culminating in the final Rite of Krisálys.
Without revealing too much of the book, these Rites are a formalized series of nine rituals, among them the Hunted Rite, the Hidden Ones, and the Night of the Wraiths. The Rites are interlaced with other teachings, such as survival training, weapons making, and First Tier spellcasting (basic magics), that transpire over six moons. Because the Rites occur interactively with the environment – it’s not a dress rehearsal—errors of judgment can be—and for some are—deadly.
As the Rites progress, the individual personality traits and flaws of each character are revealed, and each becomes a distinctive individual.
Tyler: Why did you choose to write a coming of age story with an initiation required? Do you feel such rituals are important and lacking in our culture today?
Claudia: Even in our world, all creatures—four-footed, winged, or two-footed, naturally undergo coming of age rituals—both societal and survival. They change and evolve with each generation. But as examples, consider learning to walk, getting one’s driver’s permit, having a child, marriage. These are all rites of passage. They give structure to our society as well as creating a sense of “connectivity” among each other, because one can share common experiences.
It is this connectivity, this shared experience, which I felt would help readers to relate to the characters, who in turn would share their own learning, discoveries and experiences—for better or for worse—with the readers. I want readers to ask themselves, “what would I do?” in this situation.
For example, Pook is tempted by power. Danaí struggles with shyness and self doubt. Joson loves to eat, and can be overly cautious. Tátia is too worried about relationships. The High Loremaster Dolmen sees itself as the penultimate judge. The Nyad Lady Argentyne reluctantly interacts with féyree—and withholds the key to their future and past. Mentor Melarna fails to teach an important part of fire magic, and is subjected to a life-threatening punishment.
So often, life is all about the choices we make—I believe whether fairy, dwarf, elf, or human, the outcome of our lives is largely determined by ourselves.
Tyler: As you mention your characters, I am fascinated by their names. Did you just make them up or did you combine other words as you did to create Féyree? Also, why did you choose all the names with accent marks on them? Were you trying almost to create a new language?
Claudia: The names—both character and place—are a combination of invented and real. I find it amazing how many interesting names are laying around if you just start paying attention—on billboards, road signs, articles, etc. So I keep a notepad handy and jot any names or ideas for names I see—for example I often will reverse a name, or jumble the letters to see if it comes up as an interesting combination of sounds. Danaí’s name came from an old western dance hall I passed for years that had a fading “billboard” painted on the bricks with the name Dania.
The languages are a conglomerate. I also speak French, Spanish and smatterings of German and Italian. Plus I love the cadence of Gaelic. So to invent words and a working language structure is more an iterative process of tracing the grammar and syntax of those tongues I know and grafting a new language on it.
This also is part of the reasons for accents—most of the languages I know use accents to help readers and speakers differentiate tenses, increase emphasis, even identify genders. So it was natural for me to do the same thing in creating my names and languages. It also adds a cadence to the respective tongues. For example the place names of Nonetre are often harsh and guttural; the language of the dwarves blends glottal with Gaelic; the féyree tongue has more of a romance language rootstock.
Tyler: As Danaí tries to accomplish her tasks, I understand a long-forgotten prophecy becomes important. Are you able to tell us about that prophecy without giving away the story?
The Teaching Skalds are required to teach every youngling the following rhyme:
Silver, silver, green.
In youth remains unseen.
Wingéd, changes brings
future that has been.
Over the years, the message behind the rhyme has been lost, but tradition requires it be taught. What has been forgotten is that the rhyme prophesies the future of Lampion—that someone, unnoticed in their youth, will bring changes to the Fey folk once they become fully-fledged féyree. And that future is tied to the past. Two of the sprytes will unwittingly make this prophecy terribly real, precipitating almost unbearable upheaval.
Tyler: Since Danaí’s story is about coming of age, do you think it appeals to young readers, or do you think you have a broader audience?
Claudia: Oh, much broader! I tell people it’s for ages 12-120. Coming of age is not restricted to young people—I think that’s a cliché. There are passages through many levels of age. 18 is not 30 is not 50, and the experiences that accompany those “stages of life” are all part of coming of different ages.
I also think the coming of age aspect is only one story line in the book. From a more macro perspective, it’s also about rites of passage (which occur throughout one’s life), lifestyle choices, philosophy—one could say it’s really about life’s journey and all the experiences that are a part of it.
As a result, the book was written to connect with any age. My youngest reader is 8 years old (her Mom and she are reading it together). My oldest is 81. And no matter what the age, they all are finding things in it they connect with. The interactions between the characters, and the changes the characters undergo as a result, are something people can relate to, understand, perhaps even garner some tidbits of wisdom from, as they share in these adventures.
I also think it’s a book that can be re-read many times, because as one grows older, one’s perspective naturally shifts, so what they learn and understand about the underlying messages in the story is likewise going to change. I think that’s a hallmark of all good books – they can be read and re-read, and appreciated at any age, and provide new insights with each read.
Tyler: What about Danaí do you like and do you think readers will like?
Claudia: Danaí doesn’t fit in—something many people can relate to, including myself. She’s shy, nervous about the unknown, doubts herself a lot. She makes mistakes, loses her temper, falls in love. She is also a tomboy. But she has an inner core of strength, stubbornness and determination that the Rites help her to discover. And they will be absolutely vital to her survival as the Chronicles unfold. I wanted her to be a strong and distinctive individual with a personality to appeal to any gender, so I gave her foibles, strengths and weaknesses to achieve this.
Other characters capture personality traits and have critical roles to balance the book so that it is really appeals to guys or gals. I’ve had a number of men tell me they were initially dismissive about a fairy book, but once they got into the book, they couldn’t put it down. You could say it really is a “gender neutral” book.
What readers have told me they like a lot about the characters is how well they’ve been developed and portrayed. Readers have different favorites, and have no qualms telling me what they do—or don’t like—about other characters.
Tyler: What about other characters? Are there any villains?
Claudia: Not in the conventional sense, where a character is introduced as “the bad guy.” Instead, they develop, and through their choices, select options that lead them down dark paths until they become a danger. Yet I have made them each complex, with layers of good and bad, because I want readers to appreciate that there are many different sides to a situation.
Take Pook, Danaí’s best friend. Bright, energetic, creative. The changes he undergoes are very typical for a young lad—but a combination of circumstances and his impatience with the traditions of his folk make him the perfect target for trouble. And he embraces it.
Or the Dolmen. One reader declared “he’s become the bad guy I despise most—even over Darth Vader!” For hundreds of years, the Dolmen has been the Highest Loremaster of Féyree. His word is law—but is his word always right?
Tyler: What about creating your own fantasy world do you most enjoy? Do you ever feel like god as you are creating, or do you like to be able to create a world where things can work out the way you want them to?
Claudia: Actually neither of the above. I feel it is a privilege to be able to do and a gift I can share with others to create a world that can become so believable and real that readers would like to be able to go there. The realms are the proverbial stage for the story, and they must support, enhance, complement everything that transpires. I’ve got reams of notes, photos and clippings of things that help me create both Lampion and Nonetre, as well as personal experiences.
And the surprising thing is that actually events haven’t worked out the way I expected or want them to. For example, there is one scene I didn’t want to have happen—but no matter how many times I rewrote it, the storyline insisted it belonged. As an author, it was my first epiphany on the power of a story to takeover and write itself. It’s an amazing experience.
Tyler: I mentioned above that you are a great fan of fairy tales. What stories would you say have influenced you the most in your writing?
Claudia: I actually collect fairy tales and folklore books from around the world—literally. My collection includes Irish, Japanese, Baltic, French, Arabian, Russian...the list goes on. I have all the “common” ones—Andrew Lang, Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson. I have read hundreds of fairy tales and one might say the rhythm of them is very, very deeply rooted in my psyche. I have also study the mythology of numerous cultures, because it is another essential aspect of folklore. Readers can see such influences in the dwarf Shamarig’s haunting tale of Curbarig and Aelvina, or Tlarg’s history of the Tuíl Mór—where I create my own folklore.
I think that often readers may not realize that fairy tales and folklore really aren’t lighthearted nursery rhymes, but remarkable insights onto different peoples. There are common themes and concepts, uniquely garbed in the language, culture, and perceptions of the respective peoples. What makes them extra special is that they are like mosaics—they are stories cobbled out of fragments of older stories, in turn cobbled out of bits of even older stories. For example in the Russian Wonder Tales, you see traces of the ancient powerful gods, humanized as heroes, and then Christianized with associated symbols and morals. Much has been lost to time, and one can only guess at the original story—which is what makes them so magical to me.
I’m also an avid reader. I consider Ann McCaffrey to be the doyenne of fantasy fiction writers, and delight in her Dragon Riders of Pern series. I enjoy Andre Norton’s Dragon Magic books. No surprise, I have read J.R.R Tolkien’s collected works numerous times—he is the grand master of high fantasy. Piers Anthony, Ray Bradbury, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Vonda McIntyre... and that’s just that genre.
I love the classics – both adult and children’s. Jane Austen’s subtle way of creating characters through dialogue. Ernest Hemingway’s spartanism is fascinating. Charles Dickens’ depth of portrayal. Frances Hodgson Burnett’s genteel moralism...I think every book they read has a degree of influence on an author—it helps you refine your own style, determine what you do and don’t like, and learn different techniques to create a believable story.
Tyler: That’s quite a list, Claudia. What would you say is your all-time favorite fairytale?
Claudia: I honestly couldn’t select one fairy tale. There’s just too many to choose from. Instead, I would say that J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” is one of my favorite fantasy books, followed by Andre Norton’s “Dragon Magic.”
Tyler: Claudia, will you give us a hint about what will happen in the second book?
Claudia: Actually, all three books have been outlined, and I’m working away on Scroll 2. I don’t want to give away what’s going to happen, but here are some tidbits.
There are three principal threads to this next book that interweave to culminate in the second Battle of Sagád. The fire demon realm of Nonetre becomes a major theme. The young fairy, newly assigned to their guilds and having to adapt to that—while urgently aware that some impending disaster is looming over Lampion—is another. And the struggle between Loremasters and older féyree, as well as dwarves and elves is the third. The resulting tapestry I am creating will, I believe, be even more exciting.
Perhaps one of my favorite reader complaints – and one I have received a lot of is—“so, when is the next book coming out?” They want to know, what happens next? What greater compliment could an author ask for?
Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Claudia. Before we go, will you tell us about your website and what additional information can be found there about the “Krisálys Chronicles of Féyree”?
Claudia: At my website, claudianewcorn.com, I have a blog which features Writing advice, updates on what’s going on with my books, book signings and more. Readers can email me there—I always answer. There are two sample chapters, as well as copies of articles and reviews my book has received. I also invite people to send me their own reviews, so I can add them to the website, and encourage feedback, questions, and ideas. People can order an autographed copy with a personalized inscription, and there are direct links to our pages on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Borders.
Tyler: Thank you, Claudia. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you today and I wish you many more happy hours in your own Fairyland.