Fantasy, Science Fiction and Literary Heroes in our Society – Thaddeus White

Today I am pleased to welcome back Thaddeus White, fantasy author for a guest post on my feature for 2015.  Here are his views on fantasy in society, and its influences.

Name: Thaddeus White

Location (as I am wondering if it is regional)? England

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be? I think that this is definitely the case. Superheroes are utterly dominating cinema and are starting to make headway on TV as well. The Lord of the Rings/Hobbit films (and Harry Potter) have enjoyed immense success, as has (and will) Star Wars. Game of Thrones is hugely popular as well. Sci-fi and fantasy aren’t niche anymore, they’re mainstream.

I think the shift has occurred for several reasons. CGI allows a truer rendition on-screen of what happens in books, and there’s increasing awareness that fantasy isn’t necessarily fairytales and elves (the rise of grimdark). This means that those into gritty and grim stuff can find much to enjoy in fantasy. As geeks have inherited the earth, it’s helped to make science fiction cooler.

There’s also a natural ebb and flow to what happens to be ‘in’. Right now, sci-fi and fantasy are doing well, but sooner or later fashion will shift.

It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?There are many fantasy tropes, but this isn’t limited to this one genre. The flood myth and dragons are commonplace in religion and old legends, and how often is a spy also a ladies man? Tropes can be overused to make something boring and generic, but they can also be handy pegs, shorthand to let readers know something without having to detail it (eg dwarf = short, probably bearded, may well have an axe, likes a drink).

Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case. Do you have any experience of this? [Disclaimer: I am a chap]. I think it’s far less the case than it was, and it’s important to note that other genres are female-oriented (romantic fiction, for example). A potential issue with fantasy, set either in a medieval or a largely realistic medievalish world, is that there wasn’t gender equality, so the stories are often male-dominated. Women can of course have roles in commerce, religion and magic, but (keeping to medieval norms) it’s hard to give them common roles in warfare or political power. It’s impossible to impose modern gender norms on a world aspiring to be the equivalent of, say, 14th century England.

Sci-fi’s an entirely different kettle of fish, because you can make a sci-fi society credibly equal, or even matriarchal in nature. Shifting Starbuck from a male to a female character in Battlestar Galactica was a credible change.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable? I think internal consistency is critical to credibility. People will suspend disbelief for magic or advanced technology beyond anything possible today, but they will never believe a world or universe where the author contradicts his own tenets. So long as an author adheres to the rules that are established, there’s no problem.

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most?  What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers? It’s interesting you mention those, because one of the biggest influences on me was the videogame Vagrant Story (came out about a decade and a half ago now). It had a phenomenally good translation to English (it was originally in Japanese), and Alexander O. Smith deserves huge credit for the translation. It’s almost Shakespearean, and, (as well as English), French, German and Latin are mingled together to give the city of Lea Monde, and the wider world, a deeper sense of history. It was an inspiration for me when I was doing the extensive world-building behind my first book, Bane of Souls.

Another major influence, albeit in a smaller way, was the BBC adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia. There’s one specific moment I shan’t spoil that, as a young child, made me realise just how exciting fantasy could be.

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Fantasy and literary heroes in our society guest post – Joe Bonadonna

Hello, everyone! My name is Joe Bonadonna, and I dwell in the Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders . . . Chicago, IL, USA.

So far I’ve published three books: the heroic fantasy collection, Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, published by iUniverse; the space opera, Three Against The Stars, published by Airship 27 Productions; and Waters of Darkness, a sword and sorcery pirate adventure, written in collaboration with David C. Smith, and published by Damnation Books. I have stories appearing in Heathen Oracle’s Azieran: Artifacts and Relics; GRIOTS 2: Sisters of the Spear, from author Milton C. Davis’ MVmedia; and Janet Morris’ Poets in Hell, from Perseid Press. I have also written a number of articles and book reviews for the online version of Black Gate Magazine.

My Amazon Author page:

My blogspot:

How do YOU define fantasy/science fiction/heroism?

I’m old school, so I’ve always defined science fiction as inhabiting a post-industrialized world, with theoretical and practical advances in fields such as technology, genetics, and even psychology at its core. You know, the usual . . . spaceships, time travel, cloning, aliens, and such, and usually set in the future, although that alone is not always a qualifier.

As for fantasy, there are all kinds: all fiction, one can say, is fantasy; someone dreamed up the story, imagined the world in which the story takes place, even if it takes place in the real world of here and now. But we’re talking Heroic Fantasy here, so I’ll go with that. Heroic Fantasy to me is always set in a pre-industrialized society — no electricity, no planes, trains or automobiles — and that covers a lot of territory, from the prehistoric to the 16th or 17th century. When it comes to Heroic Fantasy, I’m pretty set in my ways. It has to follow certain rules and guidelines, and follow the Homeric tradition; I don’t go in for a lot of cross-breeding with other genres of fiction, such as paranormal romances, horror stories, vampires, werewolves and other supernatural genres — although elements of each often play roles in HF. I do not consider pulp fiction characters such as The Shadow, The Phantom, Green Hornet and such to be Heroic Fantasy: heroic fiction, to be sure, but those characters and that genre or style belong in another discussion for another day. When I discuss Heroic Fantasy, I discuss fiction that is not set in the real or modern world. You may disagree, but I’m just saying, is all.

Heroic Fantasy is very specific, in my opinion, and does not need to be world-spanning, world-in-jeopardy in plot, which I consider to be Epic Fantasy. For instance, Game of Thrones I view as Epic Fantasy because of its multi-cultural approach and world-spanning events, but since I have not found many truly unselfish heroes in the Homeric tradition, I don’t consider it Heroic Fantasy. Lord of the Rings crosses into both epic and heroic fields by nature of its world-building and memorable characters. The characters in Janet and Chris Morris’ stories and novels of The Sacred Band are firmly rooted in the Homeric tradition of Heroic Fantasy, with the added touch of drawing upon myth, legend and history.

Some other novels I consider Heroic Fantasy are Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword, E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros, H.R. Haggard’s The Saga of Eric Brighteyes, Parke Godwin’s The Last Rainbow, T.C. Rypel’s The Deathwind Trilogy, and novels by such authors as Evangeline Walton, David Eddings, and Guy Gavriel Kay, to name a few. However, these are just my opinions, based on my personal preferences, and in no way are absolutes. At one time, 30 and 40 years ago, the genres of “fantasy” and sword and sorcery were much smaller, more confined, and far more easily tagged with labels. Now, take the Harry Potter novels, for instance . . . they are fantasy, to be sure — but are they Epic? Heroic? I would say they lean more toward Heroic Fantasy because of the selflessness of Harry, his willingness to sacrifice himself to save his friends and destroy Voldemort. He stands up to evil, faces odds greater than he may be able to thwart, and goes about it with no ulterior motives, such as wealth and power. He is very much an Everyman, in spite of his magical powers.

And this brings us to your next question: How do I define Heroism?

Heroes to me are those who will stand up for what they believe is right, without thinking of themselves or their personal gain; and they could be good guys fighting on the wrong side, simply warriors fighting for their country. They fight for the underdog, the lost cause — and as I once heard in a film whose title I cannot remember, “Lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.” Heroism is about selflessness, doing right by others, fighting for a cause greater than oneself. True heroes are not concerned about wealth or power, their only concern is to help people, to defend those too weak to defend themselves. They strive to right an injustice, and fight for that in which they believe, with no selfish or personal motives other than to save the lives of family, friends and fellow countrymen: they fight for king and country. And what always struck me as truly heroic (and of course, fatalistic) are the actions of those who know they are fighting against overwhelming odds, who know they will die in the final battle.

As for my own work . . . I consider Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, to be Heroic Fantasy, due to the nature of Dorgo, my main character; there are elements of horror and the supernatural inherent in his adventures, which owe a great deal to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and film noir. My space opera, Three Against The Stars, features four main characters I consider to be heroes in the Homeric tradition: Marines defending their planet. Waters of Darkness, my collaboration with David C. Smith, is pure, old-school pulp fiction sword and sorcery, with a large element of horror as the centerpiece of this pirate novel, which is set in 17th century Madagascar. My short stories and novellas published in various anthologies range from Sword and Soul fantasy, to Heroic Fantasy, to straight horror.

I do not put comic book superheroes in the Heroic Fantasy genre. They are part of something else. I am not putting them down, because they belong in a class all their own. The motives of the superheroes may be pure, noble and unselfish, but they are superheroes — not the ordinary, Everyman that constitutes most of Heroic Fantasy. Due to their very nature, the origins on their becoming endowed with superpowers, I would class them more as Heroic Science Fiction, or even Science-Fantasy, to use a very old-school term. Technology, chemistry, genetics, scientific experiments gone awry — these are more often than not what gave superheroes their superpowers, in the first place.

And now, for the sub-genre of Sword and Sorcery:

In my eyes, Sword and Sorcery is to Heroic Fantasy what film noir is to murder mysteries and crime/detective stories. In S & S, the main character is not always heroic, in the Homeric tradition: he/she can be a rogue — a thief, a mercenary, an assassin — whose motives are often (but not always) self-centered, based on greed, revenge, power. The beauty of S & S lies in the use of the anti-hero, as in the best of film noir. Conan was not always the pure hero: his goals were not always selfless, not always altruistic. He was a rogue, a killer, a survivalist, and yet, as subtly written by Robert E. Howard, he often rose above his baser instincts to become a true Hero. That is the magic of Howard’s original concept, of his vision. He created Conan to be all things, to fit whatever role the nature of the story called for. While I prefer the characters of King Kull and Solomon Kane, Conan was truly a character written “for all seasons.”

Another difference I see between Sword and Sorcery, and Heroic Fantasy, especially Epic Fantasy, is that the stories, by tradition, are more intimate, more confined. I’m talking old-school S & S here — much of Howard, Leiber, Jakes, de Camp, and Fox — in their stories, their worlds were not often at stake, although cities and kingdoms were usually in jeopardy. These are like the western genre in films and books: small-scale stories set against a larger canvas, but not always integral to that canvas. The American Civil War may be going full throttle, but someone could be seeking a lost Spanish treasure the Arizona or California territories that will have no bearing on the war or its outcome. The best S & S tales to me were always the novellas of Howard, and the short, 60- and 70-K word novels of other writers. In my opinion, it was Michael Moorcock who took the genre into new territory, setting his Elric, Corum, and Dorian Hawkmoon stories and novels against a wider canvas and adding the world-in-jeopardy theme. His sword and sorcery tales gradually grew into more thoughtful, thematic and expansive Heroic Fantasy. I won’t go into titles and authors here, but I will say that there are many novels, many multi-volume sagas published nowadays and promoted as Heroic Fantasy that I consider more in the sub-genre of Sword and Sorcery. And quite a lot of comic books and science-fiction novels are being considered by fans and authors alike to be Heroic Fantasy; but I would say they are more Heroic Fiction. Semantics? Perhaps. The tomato and potato thing? Maybe. But like everything related to all forms of art . . . it’s all a matter of personal opinion and taste.


How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today? Why do you think this is?

I left the fantasy and science fiction scenes back in the mid-80s because I wanted to explore other genres of fiction, such as some 19th century literature, horror and crime novels, British mysteries, WWII thrillers, and the great writers who were published in Black Mask magazine. I also wanted to and did write screenplays, as well as needing a long and healthy break from fantasy and sci-fi. I never really returned to reading science fiction because what I liked to read was no longer fashionable. But I did return to fantasy around 2000, and found a whole new ball game, a whole new set of rules, and a publishing industry at the start of a sea change, with indie/self and small press publications. Besides the overwhelming number of books being published, and the ever-increasing number of authors, both films and television were jumping on the fantasy and science fiction bandwagons, inundating the market where their own brand of original stories or those based upon published novels. Graphic novels such as Sin City and Watchmen hit the theater screens, while The Walking Dead took the small screen by storm. DC Comics, and to a much greater degree and success, Marvel Comics, changed the course of films based on comic books. With the success of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia, fantasy is everywhere these days — films, and network and cable television. And science fiction in films, while somewhat lagging behind, is starting to make waves again with films like Interstellar. In short, the B- and C-grade films of the 1950s and 1960s became the A-list projects of today.

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be?

Short answer: yes, indeed so.

What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life?

Not really. It all depends on the writer and the nature of the character and the story. In real life, as in fiction, there are all sorts of heroes. Take Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, for instance: truly a heroic character because of his convictions and what he stands up for, fights for in his daily life. History and fiction, in both literature and films, are what have always inspired me. And more often than not, Heroes die fighting for what they believe in and stand for. The 300 Spartans, The Alamo, Spartacus, Wake Island, Bataan, Beau Geste, Masada, Bridge on the River Kwai, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Gunga Din . . . these are some of the historical events and fictional stories in books and cinema that have worked on my heart and soul. Most if not all the characters — both real and fictitious — die in these stories. That always affected me, especially since at the age of seven I was exposed to the death of 92 children in a grade school fire, and at the same time had already started becoming familiar with the above films, and then later, the novels and poems. So I have always connected with stories of this kind, no matter when or where they took place. And when people tell me that killing off main characters or the entire “cast” is the easy way out, I must disagree: history has shown us that this is quite often the case. And if the events in a story, the need to end the tale in the deaths of one or more characters demands it, then go for it. For instance: had Frodo fallen into the Crack of Doom with Gollum, had Harry Potter died in the final battle, the poignancy level for me would have been amped up by a factor of ten. Nothing hits me harder than the death of a beloved and memorable character: Sidney Carton, from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, remains to this day my favorite of all heroic fictional characters. He was no warrior — he was a drunk who gave his life unselfishly for the woman he loved, to save her husband from the guillotine. A totally unselfish act. What is more heroic than that?

If you could pick a couple of characters from literature as ‘heroes’ who would it be and why?

You mean, pick them to write about? If that’s the case, I’d like to write Sidney Carton’s story before we meet him in A Tale of Two Cities. He is a tragic and heroic figure who really appeals to me. For Janet Morris’ Heroes in Hell shared-universe, I have written about Victor and Adam Frankenstein, Galatea, Lemuel Gulliver, and Quasimodo — not that they were all very heroic characters, but I can give them that heroic gravitas. I’ve also had the opportunity to write about real, historic figures, like Mary Shelley, Aristotle, and da Vinci, and will hopefully be exploring even more real-life characters in the near future.

If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books?

By the plot, the mystery to be solved, the people in jeopardy who must be saved, and by the villains that must be overcome and defeated. What are the stakes involved? What does the hero stand to gain or lose? Does he undertake the case, the quest, the mission for money? For love? For justice? For revenge? Dorgo the Dowser would like to profit from some of the cases he takes on, he hopes to make a profit, but more often than not, he doesn’t. And most of the time, his cases involve helping a friend, seeking justice, or he just gets embroiled in something because basically, he’s a good guy who always strives to do what’s right. Except for the pirates in Waters of Darkness, who are mercenary by nature but are also the good guys, my heroes are unselfish, and they will risk their lives doing what they believe is the right thing to do, and expect nothing in return, save the personal satisfaction of doing good.

It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?

To my mind, every genre has its tropes, and the job of the writer is to use these in new and different ways, to turn them inside-out, to turn them on their heads, or avoid them altogether. Dragons, elves, dwarves, vampires, werewolves, zombies, the king returning to claim his rightful crown, the evil sorcerer . . . all these and more have been used for decades. The trick is, if you’re going to use them, add a twist to their story, and put a new spin on these characters. Avoid the cliché and make them your own. In my stories of Dorgo the Dowser, I use mythical creatures, mostly from Greek mythology. What I try to do is give them each their own culture, society, and religion, with personalities that run the gamut of human qualities. One of the things I’ve done is to portray certain mythological creatures — I call them “Muthologians” — as characters in 1930s Warner Brothers’ gangster films.

Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case. Do you have any experience of this?

No, I see it changing. Quickly changing. When I was cutting my teeth on sci-fi and fantasy, most writers were male. I grew up with Catherine (C.L.) Moore, Leigh Brackett, Mary (Andre) Norton, Anne McCaffrey, and later Janet Morris, Marian Zimmer Bradley, Ursula K. Leguin, C.J. Cherryh, Tanith Lee, Evangeline Walton, and many others. Now I’ve met many female authors, such as you, Alex Butcher, as well as Diana Wicker, Catherine Stovall, Deborah Koren, Nancy Asire, Beth Patterson, and Valjeanne Jeffers. . . And let’s not forget Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Myers, and Laurel K. Hamilton.

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable?

If I wrote hard science fiction, I’d make sure to get my facts straight. In my space opera, in my sword and sorcery, heroic fantasy and horror stories, I strive to make elements and plot points as plausible as I can.

How has science fiction changed from the days of Mary Shelley and Jules Verne?

Of course. SF has changed simply by virtue of the advances in biology, psychology, medicine, technology, etc. In the days of Shelley, Welles and Verne, things like quantum physics and wormholes and strong-theory were unknown. We are pretty much living today in the science fiction they imagined.

What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most? What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers?

Since I do not write real science fiction, I’ll forego that part, although my space opera was influenced by E.R. Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, Edmund Hamilton, Alex Raymond, and Marian Zimmer Bradley. My first influences in fantasy and sword & sorcery were Greek mythology, Tolkien, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, and R.E. Howard’s Solomon Kane and King Kull; later I encountered Janet and Chris Morris, Tanith Lee, Guy Gavriel Kay, Charles Saunders, and Ted (T.C.) Rypel.

As far as film-makers go . . . I grew up on writers Curt Siodmak, Rod Serling, Joseph Stefano and his original The Outer Limits, and director Jack Arnold. My cinematic influences are mostly non-genre writers and directors: Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh, William Wellman, Michael Curtiz, and John Ford.

Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold?

I say very important. Our myths and legends and folklore define us, shape us, and even influence us on so many levels. Religion does the same thing. You can learn a lot about a country and its people, about a nationality by studying their myths and religions, as well as their history, which may be the most important factor in learning about other cultures.

What are some in YOUR society/cultural identity, how are they perceived and why are they important? Why have they endured?

I come from a predominantly Sicilian-Irish, Catholic background. So right there we have the Roman versions of the original Greek myths, as well as the ancient Celtic lore and Gaelic legends. Throw in the Catholicism in which I was raised and taught for nine years, and that also sums up a lot of what I write. For instance, the main religion in Dorgo’s world is monotheistic; Judeo-Christian in tradition — but it’s not the only religion. I have a number of others that are polytheistic and pagan in origin. I use these to give depth to many of my characters: some live and breathe and act by their religious convictions. And not all “priests” are holy men, and not all rogues are irreligious. I strive to make my characters as real as possible, and as relatable to our own world as I can make them. What endures is because in all religions, in all cultures, there is a common thread, a common element of truth. And truth, in real life as well as in fiction, will always endure. When you write for and from the heart, it’s the most honest writing you can do.

Thank you for having me, Alex. It has been a pleasure.


Character Interview Number Twenty-Nine – Bellaria

Tell Us About Yourself

Name:  I have had many names, and I won’t tell you my true one. For now, you may call me Bellaria.

Age: Now, that is a rude question to ask a lady. But, suffice it to say, I have been around long enough to wish myself younger.

Please tell us a little about yourself: Where to start? I am a Queen and a ruler, above all I require absolute loyalty from my followers. I love power and will do anything to get it. I am a witch, and not one of those sappy hedge witches preaching love and “harm none” nonsense. If I was back home, we would not be talking like this. You wouldn’t dare look me in the face the way you are now.

Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? We all have moral codes, some more practical than others. I would have to say mine falls on the more practical side, as in practically anything is fair game as long as it gets me where I want to go. If you want to know if there is anything I wouldn’t do, that’s another question? If there was, I certainly wouldn’t tell you. Knowledge is power, and certain knowledge can worm its way in and find cracks in even the most solid stone. I choose not to hand my enemies any tool that can be used against me.

Would you kill for those you love? Love?? Silly human…love is for the weak. Love is something to be used and to use others with. Now, manipulating others to kill for love?? That has been a useful tool in the past.

Do you have a family? Tell us about them. I had a husband. Several of them in fact. Of course, I have had to remove the resident wife a couple of times in order to get them, but that is of no matter. Rohanna is my step-daughter by marriage, but she is an impertinent thing. So much promise, and very little motivation to use the gifts she has been handed. Since she met Alexandria, she has found her backbone and ruined many a plan of mine.


Tell Us About Your World

I am stuck here, for now…in this accursed little hovel of a world.
Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? If so do you follow one of them? Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour. Religion?? Faith is for the weak. I come from a place where the one’s you call Gods ruled. They eat and piss and argue as bad as Human’s do, despite all their power.


Does your world have magic? If so how is it viewed in your world? Yes, there is magic everywhere behind the veil. Those with the most power have the most power, does that make sense? Kings and Queens did not last long if they are weak, whether it be weak in magic or weak of mind. Your technology has come far to replicate what we can do with magic, but it still cannot surpass it.


What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.) There are many courts and many rulers. Everyone scrambling for their little piece of a small world. The strongest bring together the weaker beneath them, and those who have to beg for protection from their betters are at the mercy of those who can protect them. Those in charge think they are better than all the rest. When they can come together, their rule is law…it is they who sent me to this place and it is with them that I will have my revenge.


Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another? There are many peoples. I was surprised to find some here, still hidden and surviving through subterfuge. Hiding in plain sight, you would call it. The Greater Fae have no respect for the lesser Fae, and in turn there is no love lost between the two groups. In some cases, the lesser Fae are treated more like servants or bondsman than other Fae. Those with human blood fare even worse. I should be happy about that, the disaffected are easily manipulated into thinking their lot would be better if they chose another side. My side. It is how I amass so many followers.


Author notes: Bellaria is a character found in Ladysmith.

Ladysmith can be found at, Barnes & Nobles and Kobo.

It can also be found at Sapphire Books @



Author name


Rhavensfyre is the collaborative pen name used by two east coast writers, Roxanne and KL, who have been partners since 2000 and were finally legally married in Washington, D.C. in 2012. They have a small farm where they raise and breed horses with their two dogs and several cats in tow. In their spare time, they try to keep an organic garden and enjoy the fact that their farm is also home to several owls, a pair of hawks, and one annoying woodpecker. In addition to the living creatures, KL and Roxanne enjoy cycling various East Coast trails as well as hiking the Appalachian Trail. Both ladies enjoy photography and love to share images from their frequent trips through the scenic countryside.


In addition to Ladysmith, Rhavensfyre has published Switching Gears, a novel, and two novellas, Life is not a Country Song, and Love is not a Romance Novel. Additionally, they have published the first of a series of Passionate Romance/Erotica shorts called Elemental Passions which emphasizes the magical aspects of passion and romance.


Website/Blog/Author pages etc.

Like us at CharactersofRhavensfyre on Facebook.

Author Interview Sixty-Five – Victoria Zigler – Fantasy/Children/Animal Stories

Welcome to Victorria Zigler, or Tori, if you prefer.

Where are you from and where do you live now? I live in the UK.  I was born and raised in a valley near the Black Mountains in South Wales, but now live in a town by the sea in the South-East of England.

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I write some poetry, but mostly I write children’s stories, which are either fictional or semi-fictional.

My “Toby’s Tales” series, for example, is a semi-fictionalized series based on my own struggles to adapt after sight loss.  And my “Kero’s World” series is a semi-fictionalized series about the life of my dog, who we lost in August of this year.  But my “Magical Chapters” trilogy is entirely fictional.

As for actual genres… Mostly I write animal stories or fantasy/fairy tales.  But I do have a few stories planned in other genres (still aimed at children though).  For example, I have a story called “Vinnie The Vegetarian Zombie” due out in October, which is about a little girl’s encounter with a vegetarian turned zombie while waiting in hiding for her parents’ return during a zombie apocalypse.

I won’t list all the titles here, because I’ve published more than 30 books; five of them are short poetry collections, the rest are children’s stories.  If you want a full list of titles, you can find them all listed on my website, Goodreads profile, etc.

Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration pretty much everywhere: in conversations I hear while out and about, in my own random musings about whatever pops in to my head, in things people say to me, in things I hear on the radio or see on TV, in questioning how something I read would have gone if some crucial plot point had been different, and in dreams.

Do you have a favourite character? If so why? I have two favourite characters: Kero from my “Kero’s World” series, and Daisy from my “Magical Chapters” trilogy.  Kero because he was my beloved dog; my most loyal friend for a little over 10 years.  Daisy because she’s the sweetest and kindest dragon you could ever meet, and I’d love to have a dragon friend like her.

Do you have a character you dislike? If so why? Hmmm… This one is more difficult, since I like most of my characters.  If I had to pick one though, I think I’d probably have to go with Rith from “Snowball The Oddball Kobold”.  Rith is a kobold brawler who delights in making Snowball’s life miserable just because Snowball happens to be a different colour to the rest of the tribe, and I hate bullies like him.

Are your characters based on real people? I think there’s always something of the people or animals we know in our characters, as well as ourselves; whether we want there to be or not.  But some of the characters I have are actually based on real people intentionally: Toby from my “Toby’s Tales” series is based on a combination of myself and my brother, Carl (who is also blind).  And Toby’s little sister is based on a little girl who’s almost like family.  Jacob, Jasper, Jenks and Joshua from my “Degu Days” series are based on my own degus, and Kero from the “Kero’s World” series is based on my own dog.  Also, Cubby the polar bear from “Cubby And The Beanstalk” is based on the same dog, who I often called “my little polar bear cub” or “Cubby” when he was alive.  Plus, there’s a Westie in the book I’m writing at the moment – he’s the main character, actually – who is also based on the same dog.  But where the “Kero’s World” books are semi-fictionalized accounts of Kero’s real life experiences as I think they might have been seen through his eyes, this new book – which is called “Yua And The Great Wizard Hunt” if you’re interested – is complete fiction, but just happens to have a dog based on my own Westie as a main character.

Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? Not yet.  It does sound like a tempting idea though… *Grins evily*

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I don’t need to do that much research, but I do some anyway.

So far most of my research has been on the known facts of animals and fantasy creatures, as well as the medicinal properties of plants and herbs.  Since I love animals – real or fantasy – and have an interest in the medicinal properties of plants and herbs, this means that the research has been just as much fun for me as the writing.  Some of the facts I already knew and just needed to verify, others were new facts I discovered while verifying things, which I enjoyed learning.  Mostly I’m just checking up on things I want to be sure I’m getting right, or checking on things I plan to do differently to make sure I’m aware of what I’m changing.  After all, if you’re going to break a rule, you need to know what the rule is, right?

As for my sources… Various websites, online encyclopedias, and the rulebooks of the Pathfinder roleplaying system have been my main sources so far.  If it was from Pathfinder I’ll check the rulebook, or the information I’ve gathered on the different races and classes for the system, otherwise I generally just type in a web search for what I want to know, find what I need, and make notes in documents (which are on my computer and backed up on a memory stick) so I can find them easier next time I need the information.

I actually have a folder called “research” which is full of such information (about creatures I’ve already written about, about creatures I plan to write about, and about creatures I found while looking for others and thought looked cool so grabbed the information in case I want to write about them later).

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? Many of my stories have a message in them, but I don’t feel it’s essential to have one.  I’ve been working a lot with the theme of accepting differences and disabilities, though not exclusively, so acceptance is a common theme in many of my books: from Frank the ogre finding a place where he can belong without having to pretend to be something he’s not, to Snowball the kobold proving everyone has a role to play in society; regardless of the colour of their skin (or scales).

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? My books are currently only available as ebooks.  They’re available from many ebook retailers, but not Amazon (before anyone asks).

I have considered making them available in print, but lack of skill, and lack of funds to pay someone to sort it for me, means I’ve abandoned the idea of doing the books in print for the time being.  I did also consider audio, but lack of funds prevents me from being able to pay someone to read them for me, and there’s no way I’d do the reading myself as I hate my voice on recordings.  I know there are options available where you can do a royalty share, but I’m not too happy with the contracts, so I’m reluctant to do that too.  I did also consider having them in Braille – the “Toby’s Tales” series especially – but the only way I know to do that is via the RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) and when I contacted them they wouldn’t even give my books a glance, since they’ve never heard of me, and I don’t have the backing of a known publisher.  So, for the time being at least, my books will stay as just ebooks.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? Yes, I self-edit.  I do this because I don’t see the point in paying an editor when I can do it myself for free.  Even the best editor can miss typos; the mistakes you find in even traditionally published books these days proves that.  So, since I can do it myself with a bit of time, I don’t see any reason to pay someone else.

As for whether I think books suffer for not being professionally edited… I can honestly say that I’ve read professionally edited books with more typos than some of my first drafts (which are awful, let me tell you) and I’ve read self-edited books where I’ve failed to find a single typo.  So, no, I don’t think a book suffers for not being professionally edited.  I do, however, think a book suffers for being published before it’s been edited at all, just because the author is too eager to wait for it to be ready.

Do you read work by self-published authors? Yes, quite often.  Some of it is excellent, some not so good.  But that’s the same regardless of the method of publication.

When buying a book do you read the reviews? I only read the reviews if I’m on the fence about buying a book and want some opinions on it to help me make up my mind.  But this doesn’t happen often, to be honest, and I’ll sometimes buy a book with bad reviews if the reasons given for the negative comments and low rating are ones I think are probably just people being petty.  I just use the reviews to get some opinions, then make up my own mind based on the synopsis and reviews.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? Simple: read, write, and edit! All three of these apply whether you plan to use a traditional publisher or self-publish.

Firstly, if you don’t read, you’ll never make a good writer, because you won’t know what kinds of things make for a good book.  So, both before you begin writing and afterwards, read as much as you can; especially in the genre you hope to write in.

Secondly, if you want to write, just sit down and do it; don’t make excuses.  Too many people claim not to have the time to write.  Sure, OK, you may have a job and a family that both need your attention, and that’s fine; those are valid claims.  But if you really want to write then you’ll find the time.  Even five minutes here and there are enough; those five minute writing sessions all add up!

Thirdly, even if you plan to have a professional editor look at your work, make sure you do some editing yourself; a poorly edited manuscript doesn’t look very good for you.  A traditional publisher is more likely to take a proper look at your work if typos aren’t jumping out at him or her every couple of words, and people won’t come back for more from a self-published author who can’t take the time to do a bit of editing.  Like I said, even the best editor can miss things, so the more typos you catch yourself, the less your editor will need to find, and the more chance you’ll end up with a mistake-free project at the end of it.  And, if you’re your own editor, then it’s even more important to edit, edit, and edit again!

Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I’m currently working my way through the books in Barbara G.Tarn’s “Books Of The Immortals” series, which I’m really enjoying; despite it being in a genre I don’t read much.

Can you name your favourite traditionally published author? And your favourite indie/self-published author? What? Just one of each? Hmmm… I think this is the most difficult question of the entire interview! I love so many authors – traditionally published and self-published alike!

If I had to pick just one of each though… Well… It would have to be David Estes for the self-published author, and Hans Christian Anderson for the traditionally published author.  David Estes has an amazing young adult series made up of two sister series, and Hans Christian Anderson wrote the best fairy tales.  If you haven’t read David Estes’ “Dwellers” and “Country” sagas, then you’re missing out on a great set of books! And I don’t think I need to tell you how good Hans Christian Anderson is!

What are your views on authors offering free books? I think it’s strange when an author has all their books free, but free books can often be good promotional tools, and having one free as an option for people to use as a risk free way to try your work can be a good idea.  It can be kind of frustrating when people grab the free book, say they loved it, but don’t come back to buy your other books though.

On the subject of free books… I have a book called “Frank The Friendly Ogre” which is free all the time as a sample of my work.  Plus, to celebrate being author of the month on the “Smashwords Authors” group on Goodreads, I’ve got some books on sale on Smashwords throughout September – 6 free ones, 2 half price ones.  Details can be found on my blog.

Do you have any pets? I have four degus and 2 gerbils; all male.  The degus are called Jacob, Jasper, Jenks and Joshua, and are the stars of my “Degu Days Duo” books, and the gerbils are called Bilbo and Baggins.  Bilbo and Baggins don’t have their own book… Not yet, anyway!

Book links, website/blog and author links:








Book Review – The Lore of the Land

The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends, from Spring-heeled Jack to the Witches of Warboys  by Westwood and Simpson

This is a fascinating book covering every county in England. Tales of ghosts, giants, heroes, villains, monsters, place-names, kings, witches and so much more. England has a very rich history of folklore – some of it very strange indeed! The accounts are about a paragraph or so each, interspersed with longer two-page spreads, images and at 900 or so pages is a hefty read. This is a must for any fan of English history, folk-lore, fairy tales, ghost stories, and the general oddness of folk.

Many of the counties had similar beliefs, some now seeming strange to us and some of the accounts are sad, some funny, and some just plain weird. Most are from the fairly recent or more distant past – when science was in its infancy and religion accounted for most people’s knowledge of the world. Yet it wasn’t clear cut as belief in god went hand in hand with belief in fairies, giants and dragons.  You’d be surprised how many churches were moved; how often the Devil tried to drown/bury or otherwise play havoc with a town; how many dragons and giants stride the land and how many ghosts, headless horses and boggarts haunt us.  This is a book which shows us the mythic past of England.

The book is long but a great resource, and a great book to dip into.