THE WINDFALLOW CHRONICLES Q&A
BOOK I: The Great Bell
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.
Book I: The Great Bell
LEAK: “Oh, they used to know it, but I guess they let the knowledge die out.” Will someone from Earth still know it?
Swanson: This is in reference to the gates that opened from Earth to Windfallow. At the time of Zach’s entrance, all knowledge of the gates was supposedly lost. It is not explained how the demon, Jackal, learned of the planet. That may be a subject for a later book. Zach’s entrance into Windfallow was ‘accidental’ to Zach, but the Queen tells him later that an accident in one place may be by design in another.
LEAK: Angari is an angel. What is Stilts?
Swanson: Stilts is a fallowman, an elder whose powers have grown as he aged.
LEAK: What makes them get small or grow taller? A universal law?
Swanson: This has not been explained in the books and I thought about removing it since the first book actually began as a fairytale. However, it becomes a major part of the plot later, so I’ve had to leave it in. The powers the Jackal uses in his dealings with Windfallow are never addressed. Maybe someone who reads the books will come up with an idea.
LEAK: Where does the Queen come from and why does her skin change color?
Swanson: The Kings and Queens are ordained by the Maker and can be from any of the countries on Windfallow. When they are chosen, their skins change from whatever it was in their native country to one that incorporates all the skin tones of Windfallow; especially, the Queen’s hair, which turns to snowy white, a true blend of all colors of the spectrum. The children’s skin tones remain as they were. The citizens of Windfallow have differing skin tones, similar to earth, but slightly different.
LEAK: “The Magic” Rules. Will we find out soon?
Swanson: Since I began writing this book as a fairytale, the word magic for the powers of the fallowfolk is somewhat ill conceived. I may take this term out of future versions of the book. I have already indicated that what the humans mistook as ‘magic’ was actually the inherent powers of the uncontaminated fallowfolk.
LEAK: You’ve referred to beginning this work as a fairytale. Can you explain?
SWANSON: When I began writing the Great Bell, I was simply doing an assignment I’d seen in Writer’s Digest where they suggested taking something you’d written as a dated piece and ‘bringing it into the 21st century’. I had written a standard fairytale titled, “Peter and the Enchanted Castle”. I decided to update that work. However, as I wrote, the 1500 word story became longer and more involved until I was stuck with a 15,000 word novel. It was so much fun to write that I almost immediately began on the second book, “Of Rocks and Gold”. As the books progressed, it became more and clearer to me as the author, that these stories were much more than fairytales. A mindset and rules of behavior were becoming clear and they were not fairytales, but fantasy. Fantasy based on a conflict between good and evil.
I do not write from an outline. I have something of a plot in mind as I begin and certain situations that will take place; but as I write, the characters – the world itself – begin to shape the story. I do not hold to the theory that some ‘entity’ takes over my mind and writes the story. But I do believe that we invent as we go along and the texture of the narrative holds true to the ‘rules’ we have instilled in that narrative.
LEAK: The shower/pool is really cool! How did you come up with it?
SWANSON: Well, I think the germ of the idea was planted from a book I read years ago called “No Man in Eden”, later titled “Escape from the Twisted Planet”. It described a universe where man had never sinned. Creativity had never been ‘dimmed down’ and there were all kinds of inventions. There was not a shower/pool, but my mind took a note from that book and others, such as “The Chronicles of Narnia”, the “Hobbit” books and a lot of scifi. I believe a writer has an extra capacity for taking in and storing information, ideas, experiences both personal and observed. Then when writing, that ‘mix’ swirls in a kind of holding tank and bits are retrieved and reworked, almost subconsciously, to make up a new story. Then as the words put on the page are read, the reader sifts them through his own life experiences and ‘makes up his story’.
LEAK: Where did you come up with the rule about sleeping and the bed that puts Zach to sleep?
SWANSON: As usual, I have no idea where that came from, although the time spent is again, the phenomenon of time in Windfallow. I think some of it comes from the truth we learn about God’s timelessness, ie. He has time to listen to each prayer as though it were the only one prayed; time to walk with each of us as if we were the only person on earth. In Windfallow, time serves fallowfolk, not the other way round.
LEAK: What does Sparrow look like?
SWANSON: This was not addressed in the first version. I have since added a description. // The man had a kindly appearance but also one of great strength. His chiseled features and curly black hair were more like a movie star than an alien. // this might be enlarged later.
LEAK: Are there ‘mindless’ on earth?
SWANSON: Mindless is a term used by fallowfolk to denote persons who do not have the Maker’s Spirit within them. Zach and Sparrow pick up on it and label crooks from earth with the same name.
LEAK: Who else went to earth and ‘did not return’?
SWANSON: Another one of those questions unanswered in the book. Perhaps another version or a later book will deal with it.
LEAK: We need a map of Windfallow to which we can refer. We also need pictures of all the characters.
SWANSON: I have put maps in the ebooks, but I’m not really satisfied with them yet. They are hard to read as they are now. I may take them back to black and white and take out the lines marking the countries – something like Tolkien did in Lord of the Rings. As for pictures of the main characters; some I’ve worked on, most I’m not satisfied with. I can draw anything but people. Anyone out there want to help?
LEAK: I’m seeing the whole chapter in my mind! Wow! I can smell the horses and the soft breezes. Bravo! Want to know more! How do you write so descriptively?
SWANSON: I don’t know about other writers, but I can only describe the ‘things’ I see in my mind. Though the words come out in black and white, I am actually seeing a ‘video’ of the scenes in my head. The real work comes in trying to accurately describe those pictures.
LEAK: King Andrew rules Lower Windfallow?
SWANSON: Yes. They will rule separately until Prince Robin is married and can rule either Upper or Lower Windfallow.
LEAK; How do the gemlights work?
SWANSON: Not being a physicist I’ve never had a scientific-sounding answer to that one! I suppose it might have something to do with kinetic energy? Anyone out there have a better answer?
LEAK: Mindtalking. That’s neat.
SWANSON: I thought so! Since we will learn later that the Windfallow citizens talk with the humans by projecting their thoughts and forming them in their own language, this would be just a continuation of that theme.
LEAK: I like the way Zach gets to tell his parents and ask permission to continue the journey. How different this is from most of today’s literature for young people.
SWANSON: I didn’t start out actually writing for young people or with any set ‘rules of engagement’. When I write, the values I hold as important automatically emerge in the narrative. All writing whether it be fiction, non-fiction or journalistic, is done within the framework of a particular mindset. The truths or untruths we hold to in the deepest part of our being will color what we write. This is easily seen by reading accounts of the same incident in papers or journals with different points of view i.e. Conservative or Liberal; Republican or Democrat; Christian or Secular.
My background and milieu is Christian, therefore, when I write about family, I write with the Christian cultural bias. Zach does not hesitate to involve his family in his decisions and respects their right to judge his actions.
LEAK: How did you come up with the ‘time warp’?
SWANSON: Well, there had to be a reason why the crooks stole the Great Bell. Somehow they were told what would happen if it was rung in this dimension and prepared for that phenomenon by being in place near Fort Knox when it was rung. (This bit of info comes in the next book.) I had to determine what the effect of its ringing would be. If time is a different entity in Windfallow, then it stands to reason that time might be distorted in this one. You know, it might be fun to explore just what effect the bells really have on the fallowfolk. We know they promote a feeling of peace and fellowship, but they also must have other powers. Good heavens, more books!
LEAK: Why had Sparrow and Stilts never seen Angari in the form he appeared to the Thomas’?
SWANSON: I don’t know why I had him appear like this when I first wrote the book. But as I look at the ‘rules’ of the books, I rather think he would automatically appear differently on Earth than on Windfallow. Not in his ‘glorified’ state as he would at the Festival of the Bells but in a more majestic state as sometimes the angels appear in scripture. At this time when Stilts asks why they never see him like this, he explains that if the Alari were to remain in this form, the fallowfolk would try to worship them and their reason for existence would be compromised. As all angels do, they eternally point to Creator/Maker as the only One worthy of worship.
LEAK: I love this chapter! Were you worried about introducing Archangels that are actually mentioned in the Bible?
SWANSON: As a matter of fact, I was. I never want to put anything in my books that might distort Scripture. I tried to be careful not to give a more detailed description of them than could be found there. To put them in the books in small doses perhaps piques the curiosity of the reader to find out more about them.
LEAK: You leave out a lot of back story on the car trip John Thomas’ family takes to get to Oklahoma. Don’t you think that would add to the tension?
SWANSON: It might. On the other hand it might also slow the story down and describe things the reader can supply on his own. I hope I gave enough material to let the reader fill in his own details, implying in the remarks made by John Thomas and the others who came that they were somehow ‘directed’ to this place.
LEAK: I noticed, too, that one of those who arrived to pray was a priest. Could you give a bit of explanation of why you do not denominations or Churches in this series?
SWANSON: I did not purposely withhold information about the denominational backgrounds, but it became a ‘rule’ of the books that Christians were Christians regardless of their denominational affiliation if any. I believe that God looks at the hearts of all believers and it us up to Him to judge their level of obedience. Above all, I do not want to be ‘preachy’. Living or writing an example of life lived in obedience to God is my idea of witnessing.
LEAK: Great! Very complete ending! I can hear the sweetness of the bells as I read. Makes me wonder if the Alari must always live on Windfallow or if they can go back and forth to Heaven like the Earth angels do?
SWANSON: Thanks. I’ve added a few paragraphs to the new version, bringing the Thomas’ back in again. Hmmmm, you bring up a good thought. Evidently they have a limited access to Heaven. They can communicate with the angels from earth, and in a later book Angari carries a fallowman, who was killed by earth crooks, to the Eternal Plane or what we know as Heaven. So there is interaction between them. But it would appear from the response of the Alari t the Festival of the Bells, that their glorified state is a surprise to them as well as the fallowfolk. Perhaps they gave up their glory to become servants, as the Maker’s Son did on Earth. Thanks for making me think of that!
I’m glad you enjoyed the first book of the Windfallow Chronicles. See you in the next! Enjoy.