Friday, 6 January 2017

Flax the Feral Fairy

Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. That's Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future. The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist. 

Flax the Feral Fairy (Post 6)

Flax the Feral Fairy (2006) is the first of the six-volume Little Horrors series. Way, way back, last century, I joined a writing site called Fanstory. It was fun and I have made some long-lasting cyber friendships there. It works using virtual dollars earned by reviewing on-site. These virtual dollars are then used to post works on the site and profile them so other members find them to review. It's a good place to store things, to compile short pieces and it's also a good place to get deadline-writing and contest-writing skills. Fanstory has a partner site called Fanart, which works in the same way, but for visual artists. Fanartists allow their work to be used as illustrations by Fanstorians, although the use is for these sites only. Sometimes a piece of artwork is used as a prompt for multiple writers in a contest. One such piece was a black and white picture of a bat-winged fairy perched in a tree. She had long red hair over her face; the only colour in the whole piece. I used the prompt to write a story called MANHUNT, in which a fairy with a taste for kidnapping made a nice living out of extortion. The story did well in the contest, and I entered it (sans picture, naturally) in a local contest too. It won. 

I had been doing some school workshops in NSW and I called an editor I knew, just to catch up. I told her about the fortunes of my red-headed fairy, because I thought she'd be amused. She asked if the story was suitable for children. "Not in the least," I said. She asked could it be? I thought it over and said, well, that story could not be, but the basic idea of a fairy who was pragmatically bad and who kidnapped folk for gain might be done as a kind of black comedy for younger readers. "Shoot me a proposal," she said, so I did.

Thus was born Flax the feral fairy, who stumps about in rat-heeled boots, accompanied by her critter-fae friend the dog-fae. Flax, miserably out of place in Miss Kisses' Academy of Sweetness is rescued when she is given the chance to win a Badge of Badness, which is in effect a scholarship entitling her to attend the Abademy instead. The Abademy is run by three displaced waterhags, Maggie Nabbie, Kirsty Breeks and Auld Anni who fear for the balance of the world.

The hags, accompanied wherever they go by bog water and the skirl of bagpipes, not to mention Kirsty's pet monster, came from a cycle of acrostic fantasy verse I wrote and stored at Fanstory. Again, it was not suitable for children, but still, I liked the hags and thought they had literary legs. 

In her bid to gain her badge, Flax kidnaps a child actress and hides her in a haunted house with an Irish ghost named Biddy Banshee. To Flax's annoyance, Biddy takes to the child and teaches her real acting, allowing her to progress beyond precocious child roles. Thus Flax's bad deed accidentally causes good effects. Her intentions were bad though, and sure enough she wins her place at the Abademy.

Just for fun, I invented a new pen name for this series, so the Little Horrors' stories are penned by Tiffany Mandrake, an eccentric who lives in a creepy cottage near the Abademy. She is friends with the hags, and thus learns all the tales. Tiff has an Egyptian Sphinx cat named Speedwell, and tends to gather herbs at night.

The series is illustrated by a pro with suitably naughty verve, but just for fun, before it actually happened, I commissioned a doll-maker to mould Flax from a verbal description. You can see her below. Next to her is a commissioned picture of the dog-fae. It's interesting, I think, to see the different interpretations between the pro illustrator's work and that of the unofficial eBay artists.

For other blog entries check out the links below, or choose from the menue to the right. 

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