Set sail on a Fantastic Journey through the waters of speculative fiction and fantasy
Have you ever wondered how authors create our favorite books? Where do these incredible fictional worlds originate? What journey must our heroines go on to succeed? And how do we find the hidden gems in a sea of narratives that continue to conform to the world’s standards and teachings?
Azalea Dabill dives headfirst into these deep, vast genres, breaking down each category — from character building to the writer’s imagination — and taking readers on a voyage into the wide-open sea. With each discovery, we will also get a taste for clean fantasy/speculative fiction novels that could be your next favorite read.
While this book is a great tool for writers looking to produce a fantasy or speculative fiction novel or for those who love these genres and wish to know how their beloved books are constructed, Fantastic Journey is not a pleasure read. Don’t get me wrong, this is an elegantly written book, but it isn’t one you can read in a few sittings (at least I couldn’t); it is a reference book that requires a highlighter for notes and enough time to savor every moment. While I enjoyed each chapter’s breakdown, the quick start and stops tended to make me feel seasick, and the excerpts of the books oftentimes left me confused since I didn’t know the novel’s premise beforehand.
While this is not a book I would normally choose to read, Fantastic Journey is just what I needed to read before writing my first speculative fiction novel. I commend Azalea Dabill for plunging into this topic and publishing this work. I hope that people will read it and find inspiration within the pages of this treasure trove. With so much to glean, no one will be left unsatisfied with the journey. Writers, get ready to build your prose. Readers, get out your notebooks to write down the amazing titles to be found within the pages of Fantastic Journey! Bon Voyage!
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Exclusive interview with the author, Azalea Dabill
Hi Azalea, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions, and providing readers with more insight into your latest release, Fantastic Journey.
This book was unlike anything I’ve read before. Taking me on the trip of a lifetime, Fantastic Journey allowed me to dive into the depths of fantasy and speculative fiction, a place I had never explored until now. You poured a lot of time and energy into this publication, and I want to commend you for creating such a brilliant outline for readers and writers to glean from. I believe this book will be an excellent tool for those looking to learn more about the genre, along with being a source of clean books to tickle our fantasy cravings without compromising our faith in God.
I’m excited to hear more about your process and reasons behind writing this book, so if you’re ready, let’s go!
Q. Fantastic Journey is not your ordinary book. As you lead readers on a journey through the different themes found within speculative fiction/fantasy, you include many references, quotes, and scenes from clean books that highlight the subject matter; how did you go about choosing which book or section to include in the chapters?
I approached it from a couple of different viewpoints.
First, I used my favorite books from my personal library because I know them best, and they are great stories with a sense of beauty, mystery, and adventure, which is the whole point of reading fantasy.
Second, I chose quotes from each book that fit the chapter and section title and demonstrated whatever was under discussion, such as in Chapter 10, Special Powers in Fantasy – Are They a Talent, Gift, or Magic, where I picked excerpts from authors Morgan Busse, Chuck Black, Alton Gansky, Deborah Chester, Dennis McKiernan, Rachel Neumeier, Donita K Paul, Kathy Tyers, and Chris Walley to show how we can tell the difference between powers in a given story.
Third, I chose each section or dive into the sea of fantasy based on questions or problems I saw on my own reading journey over the years, and I thought would interest imaginative fiction geeks and aficionados or help dabblers who want to know more.
Q. What inspired you to write about the ins and outs of speculative fiction?
I have always loved imaginative fiction and what it portrays best – the beauty, mystery, and adventure of life in our world and beyond. Imaginative fiction is not afraid of exploring the big questions of why we are here and where we fit in our world and our universe. I’ve been troubled for a while by the flood of stories that promote despair in answer, that say there is no purpose, and hence no beauty, no mystery, and no adventure. I’m calling my fellow readers to challenge those beliefs, to take a look at truth, a sure hope, and the purpose that keeps our hearts beating.
Q. How do you want people to read Fantastic Journey?
That’s a hard question. They may read it any way they like, whatever suits their needs best. You can approach the book as someone looking for new authors and wonderful books (there is a list of 80 or so authors in the back matter), or as a writer who wants a deeper look at the underlying beliefs that make imaginative fiction a jewel of value or false glass, or you can step onto a road that will introduce you to worlds of wonder. And only you can find out how far it will take you. Every reader embarks on a unique journey when they read, following a quest created by their inner mindscape, the lodestone of truth, and their will. Here, they interact in the spiritual arena, impact the wide world of ideas, and eventually influence the sphere we breathe in.
Q. Is there something you hope readers will take away from reading this book?
Definitely. I hope they experience the beauty of hope, the value of truth, and the grand call of adventure and catch a glimpse of the Author of it all. If they feel that thrill of the heart that goodness and greatness give and follow it into further stories I have not seen, that would be all I could ask.
Q. You mention at the beginning of Fantastic Journey that the chapters are a compilation of blogs you have written over the years; what was your writing process like? Was it challenging to create a cohesive storyline as you combined the posts into one book?
Yes, it was very challenging. Fantastic Journey began as a combination blog-to-book project idea I got from Nina Amir’s book on the subject and a “100 blog posts in 100 days” idea from Derek Murphy of CreativIndie. First, I aimed to write the posts and worked on a cohesive group of possible titles and themes to write toward. But I ended up writing the book first and only published a few bits of it on my blog. I found out that I have a difficult time writing short posts; mine tended to be longer than 500 words, and if I did shorten them, dividing good points between the blog and the book ended up shortchanging both of them, which didn’t serve either purpose well. So you got the book instead. It did take time to find the common threads of each chapter and bind their thoughts into a working whole, but it was very rewarding when they finally came together.
Q. What advice would you give writers looking to venture into the world of fantasy and speculative fiction? How do you hope Fantastic Journey will inspire them?
The most important thing when we create a new world of any sort is that we have a clear view of what we believe and how that impacts what we do and what should be done. Then we have a solid base to work from when we are dealing with characters who are either for or against those beliefs of what is true about ourselves, the universe, and our place in it. A base like that will not break and drop us into the abyss of vague generalities or waffling contradictions. Unless, of course, this is part of a character’s weakness. But even that will not be clear unless we have a strong baseline belief we measure the weakness against. I hope Fantastic Journey encourages every writer who cares about inspiring their readers that truth or its lack in a book is of paramount importance. I hope we are all inspired not to compromise with immorality or witchcraft or gratuitous violence – for the sake of truth, for the sake of our readers, and for our own sake.
Q. Was there a specific book or a number of books that ignited your love for speculative fiction/fantasy?
I’m not really sure which story sparked my love of imaginative fiction. I’ve loved books since I can remember. Maybe The Princess and the Goblin when my Dad read it to me? But thinking deeper, I believe I just love a certain kind of story, where there is a sense of newness about the world, where there is beauty and bravery, sacrifice and adventure, and goodness shines through. I think this just tends to happen more often in fantasy, sci-fi, and speculative fiction, and so I’ve gravitated to those genres. Certain books I know increased my love of imaginative fiction – the fantasy classics by Lewis and Tolkien, of course, but also Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, Kathy Tyer’s Firebird trilogy, Elizabeth Moon’s Deed of Paksenarrion, CJ Cherryh’s Chanur saga, and more recently, S.D. Smith’s The Green Ember series, Andrew Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga, and Chris Walley’s Lamb Among the Stars trilogy.
Q. How did you become a writer?
I started to write my first YA medieval fantasy, Falcon Heart, because I was so disturbed and discouraged by the popular books coming out about 15 years ago. The immorality and despair, and self-centeredness got to me. I go into this more in-depth in Fantastic Journey’s prologue.
Q. Your debut novel was Falcon Heart, Book I of the Falcon Chronicles. Would you tell us a bit about the book/series for those who don’t know about it?
The first two books of the Falcon Chronicles are about medieval first-daughter Kyrin Cieri, kidnapped from Britannia. In Falcon Heart, she is enslaved in Araby with a peasant girl who is a sister closer than blood. They are joined by an exile from early Korea who knows the way of the blade, and caught between the Caliph and his court, Kyrin must overcome her fear of the sword, use wit and wile, and fight dagger against sword to save her companions from a fate worse than death. In Falcon Flight, they escape but are forced to part, her sister and her second-father to the desert sands in the companion novella Lance and Quill, while Kyrin must continue alone on the quest the Caliph’s Wazir commands or be hunted down with those she loves. Besides fulfilling her enemy’s request, her stronghold is under siege in Britannia, a traitor unknown threatens her father and a new family, and an unexpected love may unravel all. Throughout her journey over sand and sea, from slave to her place as first daughter, a captive falcon and a stalking tiger haunt her dreams. Will she overcome the falcon or fall to the tiger’s claws?
Currently, I’m working on Falcon Dagger, the third and last book of novellas that completes the Falcon Chronicle series. The first novella of that companion book, Kingdom’s Fall, is in rough draft, with beginning outlines of the last two.
Q. It’s so easy to compromise our beliefs for the sake of reading a good book, so how do you hope Fantastic Journey will elicit a new excitement for books that are not as popular as, say, Outlander, The Mortal Instruments, Red Queen, or Song of Ice and Fire?
I know, you’re so right, I’ve been there myself for a long time. All I can say is I’ve learned that a well-written book does not make up for the bad in it if despair and evil are its main points. This is not always clear at first. With me, the sense that reading books like this was not right and was damaging grew on me slowly. Over time I realized what God says about our thoughts, our friends, and renewing our minds are all true, and not following His direction was changing the way I looked at Him, at myself, and at everything around me – and not in a good way. There are so many great stories to be read, so much filth you will be glad you haven’t set running around in your head, and so much goodness and beauty and adventure to look forward to – it’s worth waiting for, worth the effort to find, and worth the sacrifice of a little boredom at first. Hone your taste for great books, and be true to goodness – you won’t be sorry!
Q. Is there a quote from Fantastic Journey that exhibits the theme of the book?
Do not despise small beginnings. Great fantasies pull us toward change, build inside us what inspires us, what we will die for, and what we will live for. Every jewel of fantasy story we gather becomes part of us in some small way—or large.
The pure ruby of The Bonemender’s Oath may encourage the greatest romance, tried and true; the diamond of The Broken Blade may shape a life of courage; the jade of The Wingfeather Saga may draw us down a path of enriching mystery. – Fantastic Journey, pg. 263.
Q. Now that you’ve released Fantastic Journey, what’s next for you? Can you give us a little exclusive peek into your upcoming release?
Yes, Kingdom’s Fall, the first novella of Book III of the Falcon Chronicle, is in rough draft, and I’m writing scene ideas for the last two novellas while I work on the audiobook of Fantastic Journey. I’ll give you an excerpt from chapter one of Kingdom’s Fall. This is a story of a Christian warrior in the established church who finds grace on a journey he never imagined, and the fantastic with a first daughter named a heretic. Together they face a kingdom’s fall and bring salvation or its doom.
With a dark scowl, Brother Rolf hunted bright fall leaves blown in from the road off the church stoop. He swept fiercely. The wooden broom handle nestled in his grip, heavy as his old spear shaft. The wide entry-stone under his feet stretched two chill lengths into the walled court under the warmth of a new sun that peered over the walls of Bolton Abbey and streamed past the open gate. His breath shot in a thin cloud above the lowest step of the north transept tower.
A shiver raised his freckled skin where his thick wool sleeves did not protect him. The chill of the stone beneath the edge of his black habit pierced his bare toes. He moved faster, chasing an errant leaf, red as his hair, vibrant as the dew spangled dawn.
If a leader did not soon rise from the Northumbrian mists, icy stones sister-kin to the glistering dark granite beneath his feet would mark the last resting places of his people. The kingdom was weakening.
Brigands harried the strongholds north of the Humber River as he did the leaves. With few to stay them while the king lay ill, such raiders grew ever bolder. Even Lord Dain Cieri of Cierheld, leading the north lords from his stronghold walls of uncommon stone, did not have enough armsmen to guard every hold between the ancient Roman Eagles’ great North Wall and the Humber. The brigands melted like frost when chased, yet seemed always to know where to strike. And with talk growing in the north against the south lords, the unrest in Britannia might mean more than brigands. It might mean war.
Turning, Rolf swept the last crimson beech leaf from the side door with a vicious stroke. Though the brigands had not yet struck near Bolton Abbey, it was their nature to hunt the vulnerable. Even though, unlike some church holdings, his brothers of the abbey had little in the way of riches. Even their dedicated church utensils were not of gold, but bronze. Abbot Alton would not keep gold when their people were hungry. Rolf smiled a little, then his scowl crept back. He was slipping indeed, not to have suggested to Abbot Alton the looming possibility of attack.
A thudding of small hooves and a soft, heavy step against the dirt of the courtyard rang loud at his back. Rolf swung around, continuing the swift motion of his broom in a level stroke.
A man leading a donkey ducked the twiggy end coming for his head and swung in return, the blur of a long weapon coming at Rolf from the left. His heart in his throat, Rolf sprang to the edge of the step to soften the full blow, bringing his broom across his body in both hands. Blade struck wood with a dull thud. Rolf blinked. The weapon did not bite, for it was sheathed in leather. And the face beyond it . . .
Under Rolf’s scrutiny, Seldon lifted his chin, unflinching.
There would be a scar on his neck, under the cloak. A scar of murderous intent. Rolf shivered. How dare they bring his failure here, where he sought only the strength to face his demons, to forget his shame? He turned a glare on Lester. “You—”
Kilden smiled, a humorous quirk across his thin face, and broke in, “Why, you’re wonderin’ how we found ‘em? Truth is, he came to us. Lester had naught to do with it. Seldon was huntin’ you.” …
It’s been amazing to read your answers and understand more about Fantastic Journey. I wish you all the best with this new release and pray that you will receive a lot of feedback to push you further along in your publication and writing journey! All the best!
Thank you, Hannah, for the great questions. I’ve enjoyed our conversation, and I’m so glad you’ve found Fantastic Journey helpful. Thank you for the privilege!