Fearbreeders. We Interview Richard James – @thefantasynovel
Coming from an academic, copy and screenwriting background, I have always been involved with writing, both fiction and non-fiction in one capacity or another. The “Fearbreeders” series came out of my desire to combine my writing and other disciplines, including teaching and public speaking, to entertain and inform; I think of myself as a communicator first and foremost. Thus, as my fiction work continued to develop along with the digital revolution, I saw the possibility to write fiction stories that could act as a narrative web interface, giving context to the World Wide Web through a series of on-going evolving novels, short stories and other multi-media applications – all accessed through links on an eReader. In this way, the reader could become part of the story.
Where did the inspiration for Fearbreeders come from?
Creatively, Fearbreeders actually stems from a very simple conceptual idea: my view is most, if not all our fears are the products of our own minds/imaginations. This is not new. This notion is not only sound in terms of human evolution, and the way we deal with the world, but is actually the fundamental principle behind the creative process: writers create fictional evil characters to express the fears we all collectively share: zombies are an expression of our fear of what it is to be “human” (or otherwise); “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” expresses our fear that we have an uncontrollable “dark side”, etc. The Fearbreeders monsters, then, put simply, are the shapeshifting summation of all these fears. Whatever you fear, they become … and then they become even scarier, feeding off the fear that the forms they take generate: the fear you fuel them with. Does this situation sound familiar to you when you think about what you’re afraid of? Of course it does. It’s the human condition! Fearbreeders therefore challenges the reader: if your worst fears were made real, what would they look like and say to you; what would you say to them? Furthermore, if you cannot, or don’t want to answer the previous question, then you can’t actually guarantee that those things you fear are not Fearbreeders … a shapeless mass of terror you are giving power and form to by not facing up to them … Better read the book fast, if that’s the case, and save yourself the fate of the perpetually afraid, powerless and uninformed!
What is your biggest fear?
It’s ostensibly a good question, but after Fearbreeders, I think the question is, for me, moot (and I hope it will be for my readers). If you have to sit around defining primary emotions, of which fear is the biggie, then you should really be out in the world living these emotions; dealing with them Why so? Basically, emotions evolved to overcome logical thought and promote action; hence, a good way to do this, if you cannot do it through direct action is to do it vicariously through experiencing art and creative narratives: thus, my greatest fear is not enough people reading Fearbreeders and by doing so shaking off the shackles of fear in the way I have. I now offer others the chance to do so through the vicarious exploration and enjoyment of my work, and the creation of their own.
What do you hope people take away from reading the series?
I hope people will take the ideas and narrative “beyond the page”, as it were, and realise my stories are as much a comment on the creative process as what I have created using this process. How so? By taking my ideas on-board, readers can become creators: let’s face it “human fear” is pretty much an on-going “open source” project! Who’d deny that? Homer, Aesop and Aristotle certainly never did! Shakespeare and Chaucer didn’t even try! Why would they? Thus, I encourage readers to ask themselves: what is my darkest fear … then visualise it, picture it … and write about that, hence facing those fears. It’s fun and cathartic. And it doesn’t have to be genre fantasy. Far from it! Here, I’ll start you off: maybe you’re “afraid” that chocolate makes you fat, and you’re cutting down on sweets. So how would the conversation go if an attractive, delectable and desirable chocolate bar – your favourite brand (so embarrassing!) – walks into the room and says to you: “Why are you avoiding me? I get the feeling you don’t love me anymore … at least you don’t look at me the way you used to. Don’t tell me you’ve got together with that slim young health bar I’ve seen you hanging out with…” See, that allegory is funny because it’s true. I find it fairly profound.
You wrote an article about incorporating websites and online resources into digital novels. Tell us more about what you see happening in the future here?
Future’s now, really. Basically, novelists are missing the boat: fact is, the text for a novel for ePublication is a specialised website; an eReader is a specialist browser. So why not incorporate the ideas and information surrounding your novel and fiction universe by letting readers glimpse the inspiration behind it online through your text. Fearbreeders does this by offering an interactive multimedia experience, including websites, video, games, etc., all accessed through your eReader. In fact, I hope that after Fearbreeders readers will never again download an eBook text without demanding: “how long till we get to the next link to spice this story up with a game or video?” – and hence the reader gets greater value for his or her entertainment buck, as it were. Crucially, this also ties in with my “Fearbreeders as projected evil” thesis. Think about it: you could not have a more malleable form of potentially shapeless good or shapeless evil than online and the internet. (Just read any newspaper headline to see that this is true!) Hence, the creative idea that the internet is surely where you would find age-old evil lurking in the modern world … is, er, kinda, actually, well … true. Ultimately, then, my novel suggests that “Fearbreeders” – those things that you won’t admit to fearing most – may have found their natural home in that strange and unquantifiable “dimension” we call cyberspace … and are just waiting for you to open my eBook on your eReader to find them … before they – finally – find you.