Guest Interview: Jim Galford and Feanne

Today I have the pleasure of having Jim Galford, author of In Wilder Lands: The Fall of Eldvar here with me to do an interview, and he brought Feanne along with him!

For those of you who haven’t heard/read this wonderful book yet, In Wilder Lands is an epic fantasy novel that follows Estin, a wildling, as he endeavors to just be left alone, find shelter and food, and live to a nice old age. When he meets Feanne, she changes his whole outlook on life. For more, check out my review.

And now, because you don’t want to make her mad by forcing her to wait, here’s Feanne.

Author’s note:

This tidbit was presented in the form of a list of questions for a character. As character reactions are meaningless without context, I’ve taken the questions and integrated them into a scene that does not occur in the book, but has a place in the timeline. All interviewer questions for the character are merged into this story scene.

The room was dimly lit, aside from a small lantern sitting on the table that was the only furniture, other than the simple wooden chair where Feanne sat. She shifted as she woke, making a jingling sound as she disturbed the chains wrapped around her wrists and ankles. The metal coils dug deep into the black fur of her limbs, keeping her from moving more than a few inches.

A flash of feral panic and rage passed over her animalistic features, but she took a long breath and appeared to calm herself. Pale brown eyes that gleamed slightly white in the dim light searched the room for any indication of her captors as her white-tipped red tail wagged slowly, stuck out through the back of the chair.

“We don’t see many of your kind come through from Altis. Most are escaped slaves,” stated the human sitting on the table, alongside the lantern. “We see even fewer that break into our farms and threaten the workers…not for food, but for information. That’s a new one.”

Feanne’s fox-like head turned to one side, then the other, as her ears twitched. She seemed to be evaluating the room and everything in it before looking back to the man who sat in front of her.

“Is there a reason you have me chained like a wild animal?” she inquired softly, rattling the chains for emphasis.

“Six trained solders with claw wounds and one more who looks like a wolf bit him. I’d call the chains a requirement for my safety.”

Feanne smiled slightly, exposing her sharp teeth.

“If you answer my questions…honestly…I will see what we can do to get you out of here. You’ll still face a trial for attacking the soldiers, but it will be a lot easier on you if you cooperate.”

She cocked her head slightly, giving the impression that she was curious. Again, the rattle of the chains as she tested them.

“Ask your questions and I will answer if I know the answer and desire to let you know that,” Feanne answered eventually, relaxing her shoulders.

No longer testing the chains at her wrists, Feanne twisted her legs slightly, her bare paw-like feet digging into the dirt floor in an attempt to pull free of the chains that held her ankles. Those held as well. Even as she checked each chain, her eyes never left the human interrogator.

The man cleared his throat, eyeing the chains nervously.

“My men tell me that you were snooping around the farm, asking the workers about another wildling…not a fox-breed like you, but something else. Black, white, and grey. Long tail. One of the others you were with called him a ‘hoppy tree-monkey.’ I’m not familiar with the breed.”

Feanne stared coolly at him.

“Why are you looking for him?”

“Do I need a reason?”

“From the description, he’s not a predatory breed. I thought wildlings kept to their own kind for the most part. What did he do that was so significant that you would come all the way to Lantonne from Altis?”

“His breed is prey. Perhaps I was hungry.”

The man chuckled and shook his head.

“Not believing that. You went to a lot of effort here. I’m guessing he was part of your tribe, pack, herd, whatever your kind call it.”

Feanne’s eyes glittered and she nodded slightly, answering, “My father was more liberal than most. Our pack allowed all breeds. He was a part of our pack. I am trying to bring him back by any means.”

“You had a dwarf with you. Stubborn little monster. He eluded my soldiers and escaped. Who is he?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” she answered, smiling. “Why would a wildling work with a dwarf?”

“My question exactly. We saw you two traveling together. My men have identified him as a fugitive wanted for murder named Osrinne Finth. Why would you travel with a killer, unless you are a fugitive as well.”

“We all kill,” she answered cryptically. “It is the reason we kill that determines who we are. Some kill for food, others for sport, and still others out of a need to dominate their own kind. Perhaps the dwarf now knows why he killed and has learned who he truly is?”

Sighing, the human got up from the table and paced the room.

“Philosophy from a tribal wildling,” he grumbled, watching Feanne as he circled the room. “This is not what I expected. I’m starting to think you were raised in a city. You’re too well-educated to be one of the tribesmen.”

Feanne laughed openly at that.

“My father is…was…a story-teller. I know of your people and the stories of the cities. Just because I have no use for the cities does not mean I have no understanding of their ways. Never have I lived in one, nor will I, if I have my way. What did you expect a wildling to be like?”

“The ones who live here in Lantonne are not much different than any human. A little furrier perhaps. Plus, some wear shoes,” he noted, pointing at Feanne’s bare feet. “As for what I expect your people to be like, I would have expected you to be far less eloquent. I’m just not sure I believe that you lived in the wild lands, even with the way you tore up my soldiers.”

“You expected what precisely? Grunting answers to your questions? Perhaps you were just expecting me to be larger and more intimidating? Wearing a dead animal over my shoulder? I do wear animal hides, so that should count for something. Shall I growl and bark to make you more comfortable?

“I was born and raised in the wilderness, human. Make no mistake on that. I have slept in the snow and fought off animals that would tear me apart. I hunt my food and I do kill when I must. I have avoided hunters who look down on us the same way you now look down on me since I was old enough to walk. I do not need to be large or work to intimidate others.

“Judge me by my actions, not my appearance. I may be smaller than you, with fur and a tail, and choose to wear no armor, but I am a soldier for my pack as surely as those men I fought.”

“Do you think living in the wilderness makes you a better warrior than my men?”

Leaning forward, Feanne smiled again, this time her mouth curling with wry humor.

“Seven of them are bloodied and it took more than ten to capture me. Make your own judgments. If you wish me to teach them like I teach our pack’s children, just ask.”

“So you’re a warrior for your…pack?”

Feanne settled back into the chair and shook her head, saying, “I was supposed to be a healer. Then I became a warrior. Now, I lead my pack.”

“Not from here you won’t lead anything. If you’re found guilty of acting on behalf of Altis against our citizens…which is likely for foreigners during wartime…you will be sent to a farm camp until you work off your debt to Lantonne and earn your citizenship.”

Shrugging, Feanne said nothing, her eyes going distant. Again the chains rattled slightly in the otherwise quiet room.

“Back to the questions that the judges will need answered,” the man continued. “What is the job of the one you’re looking for…this, Entin.”

“Estin,” Feanne corrected instantly. “He is our healer and was my friend. Regardless of his failures, he is a part of my pack and I will bring him home.”

“I have a few more questions,” noted the man, pulling out a list from his pocket, consulted it, then put it away again. “Starting with…”

“I have a question of my own,” cut in Feanne, sitting upright. “Why do you not use ropes to hold your prisoners?”

The man smiled back at her and answered, “We saw what you could do with your claws. I’m not stupid. I figured it was only a matter of time before you cut the ropes and got free.”

“Clever man.”

Feanne tugged her arms free, breaking the back of the wooden chair apart. Deep gouges from her claws marred the wood where she pulled the chains through it, as though she had been tearing at the wood with her claws during the entire discussion. It had likely taken far longer than cutting through rope, but her claws were sharp enough to slowly destroy the chair itself.

With a kick, the fox-woman shattered the remaining parts of the chair, freeing her legs.

“But not clever enough,” she mused, strong fingers locking onto the human’s neck, driving him back against the table.

“They’ll kill you when they catch you,” gasped the man, trying desperately to pull her hand away. “You won’t get away.”

“I can and I will. You only captured me because I wanted to see if someone with more authority knew where Estin was. You do not.”

Suddenly, Feanne and the grip on the man’s neck were gone. Only the wisp of white at the tip of her tail slipping out the door gave any indication of where she went.

“I don’t get paid nearly enough for this,” muttered the man, flopping back onto the table. He rubbed at the bleeding scratches along the sides of his neck. “Not nearly enough.”

Art by Susan Van Camp

How sweet was that! And that’s just like Feanne to bust out before all the questions are answered.

Now, a few questions for Jim himself.

TK: Where did you get the idea behind In Wilder Lands? 

Jim: In Wilder Lands was a weird story in the making. I’d actually been thinking on a fantasy world for a roleplaying game and found myself expanding my ideas well beyond what I had intended. Tidbits of world history gradually became aspects of the world of Eldvar and the cities that dominate the first book.

For months as the world grew in the back of my mind, I’d had a little picture in my head of an anthropomorphic character sadly watching his lost love from atop a hillside. That single image bloomed into the entire epic story-arc, with a focus on me figuring out the relationship between the main characters.

Once I found a start—and decided on who and what the main voice of the story was—the tale sort of built itself.

TK: What made you choose the animals that you did for the wildlings?

Jim: That was a lot harder to figure out than the actual story plot, oddly enough.

Right off the bat, I sat down and figured out what animals exist in the mountains, since the story is set mostly in the mountains of Altis. Once I had that list, I tweaked a good bit for what might work out well as an anthropomorphized character.

Feanne I knew was going to be a fox-halfbreed from day one. The personality and role of the character fit all too well with the red foxes I’d observed here in Colorado. They are incredibly independent, but violently defensive of their family. A fox will play with you when in a playful mood, or rip your face off if it thinks you’re a threat. That is entirely what Feanne is.

Estin was really hard for me. Initially, he was going to be a fox as well. My plan was to build on the difference of upbringing, rather than racial/breed differences. I rewrote some of the early bits of the story with Estin maybe a dozen times, trying to get the right feel for how I envisioned him.

Finally, after some soul-searching, I decided to go with an animal that is near and dear to my heart for Estin. The ringtailed-lemur was perfect in my mind for this character. It also gave me a very passive creature to build off of, making the evolution of his personality that much clearer. He is the only wildling not appropriate to the mountain setting, which makes him even more of an outsider. The fact that lemurs are endangered also adds to the flavor of his fear of having lost his family and people.

Sohan was an external representation of Estin’s immature state at the beginning of the story. Ghohar was actually chosen as a contrast to Olis near the end of the book, to show how breed isn’t everything, as I realized along the way that people could get the (mistaken) impression that all foxes are tricksy, all wolves are loyal, etc.

Other characters were pretty much obligatory, based on the storyline or relationships with others. Insrin, Lihuan, the kits, and a few others fit into this category.

Every other wildling was based on the list of mountain animals. Bears were represented by Ulra and her mate. Deer/elk were represented by Alafa and her large family. Rabbits were mentioned briefly, though they didn’t take part in the story. Mountain lions appear a few times, though they got a really bad reputation in the book.

I think the only mountain animals I didn’t find a way to slip in there were birds. Bird wildlings I think may be different enough that they wouldn’t integrate well, so I had to set them aside for now.

TK: How long did it take to write? To polish?

Jim: It took me eight months of staring at one scene in my mind before I started writing. Once I did start, I finished the entire first draft in under 30 days and a editor-ready version by 42 days.

I’ve never written like that before in my life. I was writing almost fourteen hours a day. Even when I did stop, I could picture the scenes clearly, giving me ideas for the next part or the next conversation. If I wasn’t writing, I was scribbling notes for myself so I wouldn’t forget anything.

Once the first draft was done, the editors had their way with it. I kept hearing “you’re at 200k words…we’ll cut it down to about 150k.” No one really had anything they could find to cut. It was already the story it needed to be with no fluff, even at 200k words. There were a lot of changes, but the story remained the same through all edits.

I think beginning to end, the editing process was about another 30 days. The whole things was a whirlwind tour of publishing, taking me from having nothing on paper, to having a final manuscript with cover art in under 90 days total.

TK: Because I want more, will there be more? Side stories?

Jim: In Wilder Lands was meant to be a singular book for these characters. My original plan was that there would be 3-4 books in The Fall of Eldvar series, all dealing with different people, places, and times within the war. Each of these books would then give a different view of the world during the craziness that was seen in In Wilder Lands.

Plans have changed somewhat.

As a result of incredible support for In Wilder Lands, I’m working on a follow-up book that will go more into the lives of the kits.

There is a side story, but that will likely only be released as a convention bonus. At this time, I have no intention of officially releasing the side story. That story—just for reference—is about Lihuan and Asrahn.

I still intend to do the other books, but real life is getting in the way a lot lately. Once the second book is done, hopefully then I can dedicate some time to the dwarves, elves, and other interesting races that fill Eldvar.

TK: Where can we reach you &/or order your book?

Jim: I can be reached a few different ways.

You can email me directly at: publishing@corelarp.com

You can message me on GoodReads. Just search for my name (Jim Galford) and it will bring up both my author page and the book’s page. This is often the best way to reach me, since I’m on GoodReads a lot lately.

The book itself is available from Amazon in both print and ebook formats (links below). Additionally, if you are after a print edition and want to be nice to the author, the CreateSpace link actually gives the author a much better cut of the profits than Amazon.

Ebook: http://www.amazon.com/Wilder-Lands-Fall-Eldvar-ebook/dp/B005GM2I9I/

Print: http://www.amazon.com/Wilder-Lands-Fall-Eldvar/dp/1463789653

CreateSpace: https://www.createspace.com/3664927

http://www.corelarp.com is the website for the game system built around the world of Eldvar. It doesn’t deal with the books directly, but it does belong on the list here.

I will also be attending a few conventions this year, but as the list is still in flux, I can’t list them out just yet.

Thanks for stopping by Jim, and for crafting that story for a teaser. I know I’ll be looking forward to seeing what other stories you come up with – I can’t wait! I highly recommend you pick this book up – you won’t be disappointed!

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