Q&A/COMMENTS ON THE DECEIVER
(If you have been reading these blogs on the Windfallow books and have read the introduction before, you can skip down to THE DECEIVER, first chapter.)
Swanson: I’ve had Melynda Leak, owner and operator of the Williamsport Day School and a Master educator, read this series and give her questions and comments. I will use these as a starting point for discussing my books.
First, let me give some background for the series.
Windfallow is a small world, created at the same time as Earth. It is totally fictitious but rules are in place – as they must be in any realistic work of fiction – and are followed throughout. At one time Earth and Windfallow were connected by easily accessible gates or openings from one world to the other. But when the first humans disobeyed their God and allowed sin to enter their world, it set in motion changes that took the humans farther and farther away from the innocence of Windfallow. Gradually, that difference created such a chasm between the worlds, that Windfallow closed the gates and no longer allowed interaction with humans.
Windfallow is close enough to the eternal plane, as they call it, that time is of little consequence. Therefore, what might pass as days or weeks on Earth would be reckoned in lifetimes on Windfallow. Fallowfolk and especially the Alari or Angels can manipulate time which is quite convenient in special events.
Some have likened Windfallow to Eden or Paradise. This may or may not be the case; the author never explains that theory. Some things are best left to the imagination of the reader.
Three species of humanoids inhabit Windfallow. The Fallowfolk are the equivalent of humans on Earth. They enjoy long life, but not eternal life. Their speech is like chiming music, but they ‘mindspeak’ to humans so their speech sounds normal in any language. They have a limited ability to time travel which grows stronger as they age.
The second species of inhabitants are Alari or the Earth equivalent of Angels. They are ageless, having been created at the beginning and given immortality. They can change size at will and are visible only to those who have the Maker’s (God’s) Spirit within them. Their most noticeable characteristic are wings, feathered and barred like those of a bird. They wear slim leggings and tunics of iridescent fabric, like the Fallowfolk, but are capable of changing into the glorious beings they actually are if necessary and during the annual Festival of the Bells.
The third species is called Mindless. These are a subspecies of fallowfolk who live in tunnels beneath the Barrier Wood that circles Windfallow at its equator. They are slow of thought, and degraded in mind and spirit from living too close to humans. Eventually, they are sealed into their tunnels and no longer allowed in Windfallow.
The most famous characteristic of Windfallow’s geography is its gemstone. Where Earth’s rocks are granite, flint, sandstone, etc., in Windfallow they are ruby, sapphire, emerald, diamond, etc. This has been used as a tool of the demons to lure humans into Windfallow trying to seduce it.
There are no oceans on Windfallow, so there is plenty of land for the population. Two great rivers encircle the globe, each in its own hemisphere. The Barrier Wood, the second most prominent feature of the landscape, encircles the equator and is impenetrable to all but the Alari who open paths through it for the Fallowfolk when needed.
Now to the Questions and comments.
LEAK: Wow! Excellent first chapter! These books get better and better! How do figure out where to begin a book? And where does the plot come from?
SWANSON: Plot first. When I finished book one, The Great Bell, I thought I was done. It had been fun, the story was told, end of discussion. Then, I got to wondering what would happen if they needed Zach again. Why would they need him? How would they find him? The answers to those questions formed the beginning of book 2, Of Rocks and Gold. When I thought of the third book, Deceiver, those questions had been answered. But, what if the demon had not been destroyed, but only his host? What if he escaped the volcano? How would he find another host? And what means would he use to once again invade Windfallow? Armed with these questions I began to craft the third book.
As an artist stands before a blank canvas, so a writer sits before a blank page. One can only begin with a stroke of the brush or the keys. The artist and the writer both have in mind the general theme of their work. But, just as some artists make detailed sketches and fill them in while others play with color and movement letting the creation itself determine the direction taken; so some writers work from a detailed outline with every plot twist and scene written down before beginning and others allow the play of characters and situations to lead them into what the book will be. My work falls into the second category.
LEAK: Do you think having the kids playing video games might date the book?
SWANSON: Probably. But all novels must be set in some time frame; especially if they contain humans. If it were a total fantasy such as the Hobbit, there would be nothing to date. However, in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books the children are definitely set in a specific time frame.
LEAK: This seems like a lot of kids to be telling about Windfallow. Isn’t there a chance it will be leaked?
SWANSON: Well, these kids are Christians and they’ve just taken an oath to tell no one. Also at the end of the book, the Thomas’ are taken back to BEFORE the discovery of the video game. Time runs differently in Windfallow.
LEAK: It just came to mind how much Focus on the Family needs to see these books and publish them. Maybe a radio program?
SWANSON: I’ve sent a brochure to Dr. Dobson asking that he look it over and see if FOF might be interested. So far I’ve only heard from an associate saying he’s been on a writing sabbatical and will be given the packet on his return. There are many paths these books might take. All I can do is write the best book I can, make it available to the public and let God take it from there.
LEAK: What does Angari think of eating food?
SWANSON: Obviously the Alari eat food on Windfallow for there are scenes where they are dining with Fallowfolk. However, Angari pretty much gives away his aversion to the taste of earth food in this chapter! I’m sure the Alari need no food to live, but God gives us the sense of taste as He gives all senses for us to enjoy. There is one instance at least in the Bible where angels ate food. In Genesis 18, Abraham fixes food for the three mysterious visitors who turn out to be angels.
LEAK: I’m thinking, “Will the fallowfolk be able to resist the evil or will they succumb like earth? What is to be the outcome of Windfallow and evil?
SWANSON: Ah, yes. This is the point of conflict in each of the books; because the Fallowfolk have freedom of choice, just as did Adam and Eve. There is always the possibility of the Jackal winning. And, since it only takes one sin to give him entry, the odds should be in his favor. Aren’t we glad that with God we are always in a majority?
LEAK: How did you come up with the sound of wind chimes for the speech of Windfallow?
SWANSON; I’ve always thought the language of Heaven would be something like music for music is understood even when speech is not. If you play Beethoven’s Fifth in Russia a Russian will understand it even though he may not understand your language. We are told many times in the Bible about angels singing around the throne, and those in the throne room as well. The birth of Christ was announced by choirs of angels praising God. Since praise, for me anyway, is expressed best in music, it was a logical choice for me to make here. Being closer to Heaven than those on earth, it stands to reason their language would be closer as well.
LEAK: I love the idea of real moss and flowers on the floor. How did you think of it?
SWANSON: I didn’t think of it in the first book. Maybe because Zach didn’t notice. But, it seemed like a nice idea with everything else being so natural. I may delve into the technological advances made by the fallowfolk in a later book.
LEAK It’s hard to imagine gemstone of that depth and size. Don’t you think it is pushing reality a little?
SWANSON: Well, let’s take a look at John’s description in Revelation of the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. Its gates were each of one pearl. The foundations of the City were pure gemstone i.e. 1, Jasper; 2, sapphire; 3, a chalcedony; 4, an emerald; 5, sardonyx; 6, sardius; 7, chrysolite; 8, beryl; 9, a topaz; 10, chrysoprasus; 11, jacinth; 12, an amethyst. That sounds like a city built of transparent gold on top of twelve layers of precious stone. If God can make gemstone like that for Heaven, why not a planet? Windfallow is not Heaven, but neither has sin touched it. We don’t know what God might have planned for Earth if it had not broken the relationship with its Creator/Maker.
LEAK: I like that explanation. Now, how did you come up with the play of light on the gemstone cliffs?
SWANSON: Can you think of a better description? They say diamonds disappear in clear water, so the light must act differently on gemstone. There is nothing to impede its penetration and just as light falls through the walls of Windfallow’s buildings, so it must fall through and into the cliffs.
LEAK: You don’t spend much time on the technology of the drills, the wagons, etc. do you.
SWANSON: No, you can lay the blame for that on my lack of techy knowledge. I address it somewhat in Carnivore, but here, it just is. I probably haven’t put enough emphasis on the fact that the intellect and intelligence of the fallowfolk had never been ‘turned down’. They are a people using their full faculties. The geniuses of our world never used more than ten percent of their brain capacity. These people use one hundred percent!
LEAK: I don’t think you have enough time to write all the books that answer engenders!
LEAK: I sure would like to have the recipe for dewbread! What do you think it tastes like?
SWANSON; I don’t know, but it must certainly taste good. I talk about it more in A CURIOUS LIGHT, but there’s never a recipe given.
LEAK; Why is Sarah Thomas so taken in by the figures and the fallowfolk are not?
SWANSON: You will see later that the words put into the figurines are in Galactic Standard which the demon assumes the people speak. But the fallowfolk only ‘hear’ the speech of the humans in their minds. Something in the figures breaks that connection and the fallowfolk do not understand the words. Sarah, of course, does. And she quickly falls under the enticing spell of her wolf cub. Do you think it ironic that she chooses a wolf cub?
LEAK: Yes, I did catch that.
LEAK: Why do the crooks always use the Barrier Wood for their camp?
SWANSON: This is the only area where gates can open between the worlds. I never gave an explanation in the books. However, there must be limit to where the Jackal or any other demon can encroach upon the planet. The Wood is mysterious in that it is impenetrable by fallowfolk traveling to or from Upper or Lower Windfallow. Only the Alari can create paths through it. There are tunnels running under it where the Mindless of Windfallow live. The gates may have remained open long enough for the Mindless to remain under the influence of evil from earth. This may also be why the fallowfolk themselves are not allowed to enter it without an Alari present to guard them. This would be a good area for discussion wouldn’t it.
LEAK: You changed the wolf to a dog. Why?
SWANSON: I thought a dog would be more easily trained. A wolf would have had to be controlled by the demon and could not have come so far into Windfallow proper.
LEAK: Wow. Angari has a way of making his point!
SWANSON: Yes. He certainly does! It emphasizes the fact that evil cannot be allowed in Windfallow. He doesn’t have to say a word; just the reminder of who he is and what he is is enough to get the point across.
LEAK: I like the way Angari comforts Sarah. It reminds me of God’s forgiveness when we are sorry for what we did.
SWANSON: I tried to keep in mind the mindset of the fallowfolk and the Alari. They are not vengeful or easily angered.
LEAK: Zach is quick to remember what happened with the amulet, isn’t he.
SWANSON: Yes, that would be a hard incident to forget, wouldn’t it. He is more afraid of the demon than Angari even though he has seen the power of the Alari.
LEAK: The Alari and fallowfolk praying reminds me that I’ve never read about a Church service or prayer meeting on Windfallow. Why?
SWANSON: Why would they need one? The Maker is always with them, they need make no sacrifices for sin, and they are very much attuned to one another so they do not need a special service for fellowship. Perhaps their daily lives are a real illustration of the scripture, “pray without ceasing”.
LEAK: I love the wedding ceremony! How did you think of it?
SWANSON: I wanted it to special and different from an earthly wedding. I remembered a scene in the book “Escape From the Twisted Planet” that described a wedding on an innocent world. This is different but it also gives an aura of mysticism to the occasion.
LEAK: Why do you think the Thomas’ could live in Windfallow so long without introducing sin?
SWANSON: I tried to reassure readers by describing the special gathering where the Maker’s protection was asked for regarding this. The fact that the Thomas family were all devout Christians would have helped.
LEAK I like how you bring up another character from the first book. Do you have any trouble keeping all the names straight from book to book?
SWANSON: Do I! That’s where the computer comes in very handy! If I think I have misnamed a town or a person in a later book, I can bring up the earlier book and do a word search to see if it’s there. Then, if I have misnamed it, I can just replace it throughout the book in question!
LEAK: OK, how do plants grow if everything is pure gemstone? Where’s the dirt?
SWANSON: Hmm, that’s a good question. Of course, since there are trees, plants, etc., there would be humus. Guess that’s one the Maker will have to answer on the Eternal Plane!
LEAK: They sure are good at keeping their cool in a situation they must never have seen before.
SWANSON: I guess that’s because they are by nature a calm and collected people. They can have great fun but they can also take in and assess a situation with great seriousness.
LEAK: I’ll bet parents would like to know the song Violet sang that made everyone drowsy! Some lullaby! I think I’m as disappointed as the Thomas’ at not getting a closer look at the falls. What would they have seen had they gotten closer?
SWANSON: They would probably have had to blindfold the Thomas’ until they got into the shadow of the falls then, blindfolds removed, they would have been immersed in the rainbows that arched over and around the falls. Remember also they could have seen INTO the stones.
LEAK: Moving on to the man found in Lower Windfallow. Why is it always Angari who is called to help?
SWANSON: He seems to have become the head Alari on Windfallow. I’ve never given him a title, but then Gabriel was never given a title either as I recall. Michael is called an archangel, though. Perhaps in a later book Angari’s status will become apparent.
LEAK: These two are showing more and more characteristics of crooks, aren’t they. Rex especially is a bad apple. I’m glad Angari told the fallowfolk not to read his mind!
SWANSON: Yes, they have the ability to read a mind or ignore it. If you recall, God/Maker caused some other mindless to ‘forget’ their captives. Rex’s attempt to make a pass at a fallowmaid is treated in the same manner.
LEAK: You wrote of transparent walls before so how can Rex and Nora be in a room that can’t be seen by everyone?
SWANSON: It is only at night the walls become transparent. Also, the physical attributes of the planet can be manipulated by the fallowfolk if need be as can time.
LEAK: It sounds like Nora is beginning to see the real beauty of Windfallow.
SWANSON: Yes, but you notice she only sees the physical beauty and richness of the planet, not the beauty of its innocence. In the next book, a pawn of the demon will actually make a choice between harming Windfallow and protecting it.
LEAK: I like the explanation given by King Mikal as to why Rex and Nora could never stay in Windfallow. It says a lot about the environment in which people are raised.
How could an accident happen in Windfallow? I thought it was a perfect world.
SWANSON: A nearly perfect world but not Heaven. Only there will no death, illness or accident be allowed.
LEAK: So the fallowfolk actually can be afraid of something. It makes them more believable to see them hesitate in the face of danger. And Terah has to be strengthened by the Alari. Interesting. Just like we need extra measures of spiritual strength at times. But Nora/Marigold – yuck! She gets more loathsome all the time! I can see that her desire to stay was only motivated by greed at what she saw there.
SWANSON: It mirrors that side of human nature that seeks to do good from a totally selfish motive. She is completely centered on herself and sees all through her own warped senses.
LEAK: Why can Terah and the other two go into the Barrier Wood without an Alari?
SWANSON: You caught that, huh. It may be that the Wood is penetrable to a certain extent but not all the way through. The crooks who camped in the tunnels under the wood were able to go out one side or the other. Anyone have another explanation?
LEAK: I’m finding that those who are enslaved by the Jackal obey him only through duress. They do not honor him or revere him unless they are forced to do so.
SWANSON: Quite a difference between that attitude and the fallowfolk’s attitude of worship and praise isn’t it. We serve because we love and are loved. They serve at first out of greed and then because they are coerced by their master.
LEAK: I love the title of this chapter, “Sing Me Home”! Where did you come up with the concept?
SWANSON: Well, let’s see… I didn’t want death to be the same on Windfallow as it is on earth, for the fallowfolk have no fear of death. For them, it is simply a translation from one plane of existence to another. The story of Elijah taken to Heaven in a chariot of fire probably played through my mind, as well as Enoch taken by God without having to die. And, since the Alari or angels were already there, what better way to go “Home” than carried in the arms of an Alari? However, I was reading Max Lucado’s book, “Traveling Light” where he talks about God being powerfully present at death. So I changed the narrative slightly, having Angari and the other Alari flying into ‘clouds of light’: and in A Curious Light, there is a strong presence of the unseen God and the scene is repeated.
LEAK: Oh, we have got to have a movie for this! What a scene when Angari leaps from the table and summons earth and Windfallow angels to him!
SWANSON: I tried to convey the righteous anger Angari felt at the moment. And the inherent power of the Alari. You can see here a reflection of God’s anger against evil and the harming of an innocent life.
LEAK: I wonder if this is the first time Sarah Thomas has noticed the absence of cemeteries on Windfallow?
SWANSON: She may have noticed that fact in the two years they lived on the planet, but this is the first time it has been brought home to her so powerfully. It would be a wonderful event to have witnessed.
LEAK: I would like to have seen more interplay between Jake and Dawn. We’re only given a glimpse or two of an attraction between them. Have you thought about expanding the book here?
SWANSON: That might be a good idea. I’ll think about it.
LEAK: Wow! What a sense of anticipation to know Angari will witness the Christmas pageant. I can hardly wait!
SWANSON: This gives me a chance to view the Nativity through another POV. Even those of us who know the Bible stories by heart can be moved by the testimony of a new Believer or by seeing it through poetry, etc.
LEAK: I see now why you didn’t spend any time writing about what happened to those left at home when the Thomas’ disappeared. No problem with too many knowing about it, either.
SWANSON: Told you not to worry.
LEAK: The Thomas’ really have to grapple with the secret of Windfallow, don’t they. I’m glad there’s more of an ‘after story’ to this book.
SWANSON: Yes, it didn’t seem right just to end it like the others. I really wanted to show Angari’s POV at the Nativity.
LEAK: A familiar scene to Christians and to Sarah but oh, so different now! What were you thinking about as you wrote this?
SWANSON: Would you believe I can’t even read it now without tears? To see all the emotions that well up in Angari – to see him remembering what he’s read in the Bible John gave to the fallowfolk – and to feel with him that horrified amazement that we could do violence to this innocent and magnificent gift is to feel them in myself. Just for a moment. Just a moment before the world slips between again. Oh, how I hope those who read these books will have moments like that!