This week, I interviewed a regular fixture within the blogging community; the very talented Charles Edward Yallowitz. Though I have been all too certain Charles and I would cross paths eventually due to our mutual love of the fantasy genre, the chance to finally grill him is an exciting one. Charles is a fantasy author from Long Island who published the first book in his Legends of Windemere series at the start of this year, ‘Beginning of a Hero‘, which I am happy to say I recently added to my Kindle reading list. Charles also maintains a dedicated blog, featuring updates on the Legends of Windemere series aswell as tales about his trials and tribulations as an author.
A gifted story-teller, enigmatic blogger and esoteric imaginator; here are a few words from the fantastic Mr. Charles Yallowitz.
What first made you want to become a writer?
“At the age of 7, it sounded like it would help get women and free drinks. Seriously though, it really was a spontaneous spark that I couldn’t get out of my head. I still haven’t got it out of my head. I was 15 and I had just finished reading the first volume of Fred Saberhagen’s ‘Book of Lost Swords’. The idea that I could write popped into my head and I started designing characters for a book. I began writing short stories and excerpts for my English classes which got praise and it kept rolling from there.
“I think… it just kind of happened, and I found that it made me very happy. The idea of entertaining and inspiring someone with a story really connects with me. I’ve escaped into books since I was a child, so maybe part of me thinks this is a way to continue that tradition… the spark got set off in my brain and took over.”
Why appeals to you most about fantasy as a genre?
“The fantasy genre has a lot of standards, but a lot of flexibility. There are the traditions of swords, magic, dragons, and various other races. It’s a very time-tested genre. Yet, you can get away with more awe-inspiring moments than in other genres. A character diving into shadows as a mode of transportation is easier to explain through magic than technology. We have technology in our world, so you have people trying to figure out the physics. When you use magic, people are more willing to suspend disbelief.
“In terms of the flexibility, you can get away with changing the standards. In my world, I made orcs different than the wild marauders that most worlds use them for. They’re civilized even though they live in the wild and their species has a beauty and the beast thing going on. The males are ugly, brutish, powerful beings and their women are gorgeous Valkyrie-like beings. In a fantasy world, you can get away with altering stuff like this because there is nothing in the real-world for people to compare it to. If you try to have a human fly around space without a suit then you need to know your science and explain everything. People are a lot more critical of genres that take place anywhere near our reality.”
What do you think is the most important or defining aspect of a good fantasy novel?
“I’ve actually written and deleted so many things here because I can’t think of a defining aspect of fantasy. Typically, fantasy is a story that takes place with magic, or at least in a medieval-type setting. When you get into the future and technology, it becomes science-fiction. Unless it’s Star Wars, because the Force (essentially) turns that into fantasy… but (truthfully), I think it’s just in a genre all its own.
“I think the sign of a good fantasy novel are the heroes. Not so much that the heroes are brave and noble, but believable. A pitfall of fantasy is that you’re working in the genre that is the farthest removed from our reality. The heroes are the bridge between the reader and the world you’ve created. They need to feel relatable to the reader or you won’t draw them into the world. This can be done with flaws, quirks, and anything that makes the character more human. For example, Luke Callindor is cocky and brave, which makes sense for a new hero. To make him believable, I rarely let him get out of a situation unscathed. He screws up a lot, which has led to many readers telling me that he’s a character they can stand behind. The hero doesn’t have to be infallible for the story to be good. In fact, a character like that tends to hurt the story because the reader feels like there’s no risk of failure, so the ending is predetermined.”
As genre definitions continue to blur together, and it becomes increasingly popular to blend traditional fiction categories together (such as science fiction and horror, etc), where do you see the future of the fantasy genre heading?
“Fantasy has blurred with other genres for a long time, so I think it’s going to stay the course. You already see a lot of technology slipping into fantasy with the use of airships and lanterns appearing. The alteration of these objects is that they are powered by magic, so it’s more of a magi-tech society. It could lead to a sub-genre of magi-tech books within the overall genre. The sub-genre trend is probably going to be the big change. Some people don’t even realize when they’re crossing genres now. For example, having a cowboy in a fantasy setting isn’t far-fetched thanks to Stephen King’s ‘Dark Tower’. The same is going for zombies appearing in fantasy.”
You have to fight Luke Callindor (the main character from the ‘Legends of Windemere’ series) to the death, armed only with whatever you have in your pockets right now. Go.
“*looks down at pajamas* Well . . . I guess I’d run until I could find something to fight back with. Luke’s dual saber, flipping, jumping style isn’t easy to predict, so I’d probably keep tossing stuff at him. Try to keep him on the defensive with whatever I could get my hands on. I could throw him off his game by yelling secrets or see if I can rework him in my head to change him. You know, get rid of a leg or turn his swords into a pair of live eels that slip away. I wouldn’t win, but I’d like to think the moment Luke kills me, he’d blink out of existence too. Kill your creator and you go down with him.”
Charles’ blog can be found here – Legends of Windemere
And the first book in the Legends of Windemere series is available for purchase here (on sale for $2.99) – Beginning of a Hero – Book 1 of Legends of Windemere