Friday, March 18, 2011

Guest Blog by Mike Shevdon & Giveaway - March 18, 2011

Please welcome author Mike Shevdon to The Qwillery:

I was asked by Sally (Qwill) how 'Feyre' - as in the Courts of the Feyre - was pronounced. The answer is easy; I pronounce it the same way as 'fair', but you can pronounce it any way you want. But why Feyre? Why not Fae or Fey or Faerie? That question requires a longer answer.

It's been an issue of some controversy - several reviewers have commented that having the Courts of the Feyre wasn't true to mythology or consistent with other writers who wrote about faerie, fey, or fae, creatures. It seems like an obviously made up word and for some people that jars. There is even one notable rant on the subject on the web, though I suspect that is prompted by other motives related to the website owner's own work.

So why invent a word when other words already exist?

The idea for the Courts of the Feyre was prompted by a question. What if the creatures of English folklore really existed? A question like this prompts other questions: Why can't we see them, why don't we read about them in the newspapers? The answer to that is simple - they have magic that conceals them, but that sparks its own questions: What kind of magic? How does it work? It also spawns more subtle issues - what happens when these creatures die? Where is the evolutionary trail, the fossil record?

Some authors spend a huge amount of time world-building before they begin to write their stories. I guess they need a full picture of their world before they begin, but that's not how I approached it. I began with the ideas spawned by the questions and the rest of the world is consequences.

We can't see these creatures because they have magic.
If they have magic, why don't they rule the world?
There are too few, though they live a long time.
Why aren't there more of them?
Because they're dying out.
Why are they dying out?

There are a number of authors who use Celtic mythology in their stories, some in very innovative ways, and Celtic mythology has it's own stories and cycles, but that's not my background and not my heritage. I'm English - about as English as it gets. My family tree disappears into Anglo-Saxon, possibly Viking immigrants (bloody Danes, coming over here, stealing our jobs, what's the ninth century coming to?) - at least as far as anyone knows. So when I created my world I wanted an English, not a Celtic, mythos.

I also wanted a modern world - if possible our world - the one where we go to work, eat burgers, have iPods and mobile phones, where there are police and CCTV. Again, it went back to a question - what if English folk-lore had a basis in truth - not the literal truth, but stories based on a reality that was only partly visible in the first place? What if the source of those stories was still there?

If you read enough English folklore there are themes that emerge. Time is not constant. A man meets a group of people on the road and they invite him to a party. The party is under a hill, but he goes with them and enjoys a fine night of feasting and entertainment. The next day he emerges to discover that everyone thinks he's dead. His wife has re-married and his children don't recognise him. Years have passed.

Children are a recurring theme. A baby is switched for a child that looks the same, but its eyes are knowing in a way that speaks of something far older. A search for the real baby ensues. A deal is made, a bargain to retrieve what was lost. The fascination with children and the concept of deals and bargains are threaded all through English folklore. These themes feed into the answers:

Why the fascination with children?
Because they don't have many children of their own.
Why not?
Infertility has crept in and they are no longer able to reproduce.
Why are they infertile?
They breed slowly because they live a long time.
That wouldn't make them infertile, though, would it?
It would if they've been selectively breeding themselves.
Why would they do that?
To reinforce the magic, to bring out the traits that leads to power.

But if they were selectively breeding themselves, then that would imply governance, or at least a societal pressure to conform. Where would such a pressure come from? And how do you explain that these creatures are all different? There are hobs and goblins, boggarts and brownies, trolls and nixies. Surely this isn't one race of creatures, but many?

What if they're all the same creature in different forms?
How would they get to be different forms?
A small change in DNA, a specific mutation, will result in differences in appearance.
Wouldn't that even out in a population over time?
It would, unless that population deliberately segmented itself based on appearance.
Why would it do that?
Because the outward appearance is related to the power that goes with it. Different appearance, different abilities.

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, so if you had the power to change the world according to your will, wouldn't you eventually destroy yourselves? Isn't that what magic is - the power to change your world to suit yourself? But if many people have that power then surely they will come into conflict? There will be war, and that will destroy everyone.

Perhaps there was war, but so long ago that no-one remembers. They only remember what came from it, a division, a mechanism for peace and if not harmony, then separation. A population divided on their ability to manifest particular sorts of power, bent on strengthening and fostering that power, to the exclusion of all else. Seven Courts, established to provide peace and justice, and to prevent war.

For the name of these courts I looked first at Fey and Fae, but these words have connotations of flightiness and unreliability. My courts were about justice and judgement, and they made life and death decisions, so fae wasn't quite the right word. The idea of justice and judgement led to the phrase, The Fair Folk, a term used to describe faerie creatures, but the Courts of the Fair didn't quite work for my purposes, because they weren't always fair. Sometimes they were pragmatically unfair, even brutally so.

So I went back to the Middle English word 'fayerye', derived from the Old French 'faerie'. Not a pure French word, but one that was notably English in style and spelling. After all, no English dictionary existed until A Table Alphabeticall in 1604, produced by Robert Cawdrey: "A table alphabeticall conteyning and teaching the true writing, and vnderstanding of hard vsuall English wordes, borrowed from the Hebrew, Greeke, Latine, or French, &c.

From 'feyerye' I derive the Courts of the Feyre, a very English interpretation of mythical folklore in a modern setting. It's anachronistic, in the way that a creature that lives for a very long time would be.

In this world the themes from folklore are all there; lost children, deals and bargains, hidden worlds and lost time, but these are interpreted against a modern backdrop where ancient history is just below the surface and secrets and mysteries are hidden under our noses.

And for those who feel I have taken a liberty with the English language by creating a new word for creatures that have been part of English folklore for a very long time, I would ask your indulgence and for you to bear in mind that for the majority of that time, the spelling of words has been somewhat variable, and my spelling may not be as original as it seems.

About Mike's Books
Sixty-One Nails
Courts of the Feyre 1
(US - August 31, 2010)
There is a secret war raging beneath the streets of London. A dark magic will be unleashed by the Untained… unless a new hero can be found.
Neverwhere’s faster, smarter brother has arrived. The immense SIXTY-ONE NAILS follows Niall Petersen, from a suspected heart attack on the London Underground, into the hidden world of the Feyre, an uncanny place of legend that lurks just beyond the surface of everyday life. The Untainted, the darkest of the Seven Courts, have made their play for power, and unless Niall can recreate the ritual of the Sixty-One Nails, their dark dominion will enslave all of the Feyre, and all of humankind too.

Urban Fantasy [Hidden War / Ancient Legend / Secret History / Deadly Duel]

The Road to Bedlam
Courts of the Feyre 2
(US - October 26, 2010)
There’s been an accident. It’s your daughter. These are the words no parent ever wants to hear.

Learning to cope with the loss of a child is only the beginning of the new challenges facing Niall Petersen. An old enemy has returned and Niall already knows it’s not a social call. As the new Warder of the Seven Courts he will be forced to choose between love and honour, duty and responsibility. Those choices will lead him to discover dark secrets at the core of the realm, where the people in power have their own designs.

Urban Fantasy [Hidden War / Ancient Legend / Secret History / Deadly Duel]

About Mike

Photo courtesy of Mark Lewis Photography
Mike Shevdon lives in Bedfordshire, England with his wife and son, where he combines his various interests of writing, cookery and technology with the study of martial arts, particularly archery.

His blend of real history and folklore was launched on an unsuspecting world last year with his debut novel, Sixty-One Nails, published by Angry Robot Books. It interleaves forgotten legends and faerie tales with real history and ancient rituals that are still performed at the core of the realm to this day. A refreshingly different take on Urban Fantasy, The Courts of the Feyre is a series exploring humanity's relationship with the creatures that inspired the oldest of stories, weaving a modern faerie-tale into the fabric of reality. The sequel, The Road to Bedlam, was published in Autumn 2010, revealing more of the relationship between the everyday world and the secret world of magic and darkness beneath.

Mike's books are available in good bookshops around the world as well as online and as eBooks.

The Giveaway


What:   One commenter will win Mass Market Paperback copies of Sixty-One Nails and The Road to Bedlam by Mike Shevdon.

How:   Leave a comment answering this question: What do you imagine lurks beneath the surface of your city or town? Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1) Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2) Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3) Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Friday, March 25, 2011. Void where prohibited by law.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

All views in guest blogs are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of this blog or blog owner.


  1. Great Interview!

    Kraken lives below. Why else would you need Fire Hydrants every 250 feet?!/zoombievampire/status/48735387325177856

    Qwillery follower.

  2. I never understand when people get so het up about things like that. Like you say - the word has connections way back anyway but... it's not like you are saying this is FACT. It's a work of fiction so even if it is a made up word... isn't that kind of the point?

    Anyway - as just a humble reader whpo loves ANYTHING like this, these books look AMAZING!

    As for what do I think lurk beneath our streets? Oh blimey - many a nightmare has been had there... from mutant rats to shadowy child snatchers to dripping bogey men to yes, vampires, fairies/faeries/feyreys :) Oh and don't forget the ghosties and ghoulies and zombies. Mwaaaaaar!

    I'm a follower...

    I've tweeted :)!/craftywhoopidoo/status/48744334522200064

    And I will link you up on my sidebar

    Thanks so much for the chance to win... these are definitely going on my wishlist :)

  3. I always find it irritating when people start complaining about a particular author's vision. There is a reason why these books are under "Fiction" - author has the right to change words or make them up.

    What lurks beneath my city ...well, of course all creatures come and go, but a particular emphasis on shapeshifters, vampires, even some fairies and such - not the happy kind, but more the evil ones. Cities are good for predators. So many people to prey upon

    I have tweeted @DollyGarland

    And follower of The Quillery

  4. Great interview!

    Kraken lives beneath by town how else do you explain a fire hydrant every 250 feet.!/zoombievampire/status/48735387325177856

    Qwillery follower

    beatrixtroels AT gmx DOT com

  5. This reminded me of what Avram Davidson wrote about dragons, or rather how rabid could dragon-lovers be about the beasts SHOULD look like or behave like yet have no clue whatsoever about what a wombat is.

    I will not play because I already have both books.

    As for what lurks underneath my city... Well. I live in Rome, where underground treasures and legends lurk. When the earth rumble, you can still hear the Etruscan gods laugh in their radioactive graves. They know some things that we fail to see.

  6. Loved reading the 'why's' and 'wherefore's' of "Feyre". Thanks, Mike!

    And underground my city, I'd like to think there's the happy, beneficial-type fairies... But with my luck, it's malevolent monsters lurking! ;p

    +3: comment, follower, retweet.


  7. Hmmm, I try not to think about what could lurk beneath. But my guess? Molepeople.

    I'm a gfc follower.


  8. Isn't Mike great? You don't need to enter me into the giveaway, but I wanted to say what a great post!!

    Kristin@ My Bookish Ways

  9. Very large alligators that live in the sewers. Nothing paranormal, because why would they live there!!
    +1 comment
    +1 follower

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  10. Rats, soil, sewage.
    I'm not sure if I believe in ley lines though my teacher has tried to persuade me.

  11. Great blog post. I'm with the other posters on the whole matter, it's just rediculous to start a discussion about what should or shouldn't be in a work of fiction.

    I'm all for creativity and whilst other waste their time fussing, I'll enjoy my books, whether it's about the Feyre, fae, fairies or falala's :)

    As for the question, beneath the streets of our city lurks something hideous. An ancient evil which sleeps all year long, except for three days. In those three days, it needs to feed on drunken laughter, the smell of fastfood and gore and filth.
    To get its way, it poisons the mind of many and lures them to the city for three days to do just the things that can satisfy his hunger.
    For those three days, it's carnaval.
    *cold chill*

    *blog follower*


  12. I love fantasy. I enjoyed your answers and description of the fae world. I remember years ago when I was in junior high, I asked endless questions that lead me onto my own discoveries in myth and fables.
    A wonderful teacher told me once that if you have to argue over every single concept's about imagination and individual perceptions
    Use your mind and image anothers POV. You just might learn something new....he was great teacher. *S*

    +Follower of Qwillery already...*S*

    Thank you for the great interview!

    pommawolf @ hotmail dot come

  13. Great Interview!

    Kraken lived down below my town, at least thats is why I believe the city government has put in fire hydrants ever 250 feet on Main Street.

    I am a Qwill follower.!/zoombievampire/status/48735387325177856

  14. Well the Ninja Turtles of course!

    +1 comment
    +1 follower

    Stephanie- thegirlonfire
    thgirlonfire27 at gmail dot com

  15. (+1) I live in a Wales valley where they used to dump garbage in. That was years and years ago. The local authorities had reclaimed the land since then. Covered the garbage with thick layer of soil. Built houses, schools and churches. So it's not a valley anymore, it is now a flat area but people still call it a valley. That is also why when you buy a house here, they advise you not to plant potatoes. So, what do I think lurks underneath our town? A pocket of explosive, overheated nitrous gas.

    (+1) Follower. My GFC name is Cherry.

    Re-posted your contest at:

    (+1) Twitted:



    (+1) Blog sidebar:

    Cherry Mischievous
    chericenter-warrior2 [at] yahoo [dot] com

  16. What lurks beneath the surface of my city? Good question... I guess sewage and animals, creatures and insects that live there...

    +1 GFC follower


  17. Ohh, these books sounds amazing!
    Anyway...what may be lurking beneth the surface of my town?
    My town has Etruscan origin so I guess that there are lots of Etruscan things down there, but let's be fictional...there may be some ancient Etrucan gods forced to live beneath the surface after their civilization disappered!

    Old and loyal follower

    aliasgirl at libero dot it

  18. Well this is an interesting blog/post/giveaway, that I've just stumbled on from!

    I would tend to say on the "faery" etc question: Matter of fact, I believe that "the fae" *do* in fact exist in RL, in some form that impinges on us possibly marginally, possibly more so: people do occasionally report seeing them: see reports/personal accounts on . Really I suppose the most logical hypothesis would be not that they live somewhere "hidden" on our world; but that they inhabit a different dimension(s) that in some way interpenetrates our own.

    Who is it that objects to/tries to dictate what "fairy system" is used in a work of fiction, though? Do they go around bothering Neil Gaiman, or the people that wrote that BBC Radio 4 serial, if you know the one I mean..

    Personally I'd like to know why they are sometimes called Grey Folk. (I've never read anything saying they are grey in colour!)

    As for who/what lives underneath our towns &cities.. how abt teenage mutant ninja pixies?

  19. (And as for who OUGHT to live there, in a sewer.. maybe disgraced politicians?!)

    As for under my neck of the woods - I don't live in a town! Maybe a semi-isolated fairy underground base?

    Or no, no: the seaside resort of Newquay is 3 miles down the road. Let's have a monster both Cornish and maritime - Morgawr!

    (Sorry I've had to split this into two: I've only got a mobile!)
    Anyway. Hope this qualifies as entries. I've followed both this blog and its Twitter feed; didn't know which you meant! I've retweeted and put it on Google Buzz; also emailed a friend. I might put a link on one of my blogspots, if I can find one suitable for literary competitions! If I win anything perhaps you can tweet me up on @oneoflokis ; I shouldn't bother about DMs! &I never put my email address on line. Thanks!

  20. What do you imagine lurks beneath the surface of your city or town?

    All kinds of creatures mankind has forgotten about.

    (+1) Follower