It's a busy day here at My Bookshelf! I'm also on tour this week with author Jonathan Rogers and his wonderful fantasy series. "The Bark of the Bog Owl" is the first novel in The Wilderking Trilogy, and it is a wonderful reading experience.
I was privileged to catch up with Jonathan via email for an interview...and here it is for your reading pleasure!
1) I've always been fascinated by the creative names found in fantasy fiction, and the names in your books are no exception. How do you come up with the names of creatures/creations/people and locations for your books?
This is a fun question to answer: I'm glad you asked. I put a lot of thought into names--both place names and people names. Even though the Wilderking is technically a fantasy story--set in an imaginary place and time--I wanted to tell the story in my native tongue. So a lot of the names are names that might be found in Georgia or Florida. A lot of place names down there derive from the language of the Creek Indians, which has a lot of ee's and eechee's--Chattahoochee, Ocmulgee, Eecheconnee, Kinchafoonee, Okefenokee, Ogeechee, etc. The name "feechie" for the tribe of wild people in Corenwald is sort of a nod to those Creek place names...the feechies after all, were like the Creeks in that they were the forest dwellers who found themselves pushed out when the "civilizers" from over the sea showed up. I actually ran across some version of the word "feechie" in a glossary of Scottish dialect--I think it means "slippery" or "nasty." When I saw that, I knew I had the name for my swamp people. I changed it a little to get that Creek-sounding "eechie" (I think maybe the original was "feeshy").
As for the feechiefolks' names, because they are very physical, action-oriented people, their last names are based on feats accomplished. Dobro Turtlebane comes from a clan of turtle hunters; Theto Elbogator's father slew an alligator in the elbow of the river; the Timberbeaver family made a name for themselves by training beavers to cut down timber. It comes out in Book Two that a feechie who has never accomplished anything (or whose ancestors have never accomplished anything) is stuck with the last name of Sands. It's a shameful thing to be named "Sands"--it means, in effect, that you are as unremarkable as dirt.
Civilizers' surnames, on the other hand, derive from their parents' names. Errol's five sons have the last name of Errolson, but Errol's last name is actually Finlayson, because his father's first name was Finlay. As for first names, there's a kind of name that country people in places like Georgia and Alabama have that strikes me as surprisingly formal or British--Cuthbert, Hazel, Augustus, Maynard, etc. I borrowed a lot of those for first names. A lot of the names of minor civilizers came from rosters for Southeastern Conference football teams--Herschel, Jasper, Terence, etc.
Place names were fun too. Most of the place names in the Feechiefen Swamp are variations (or straight borrowings) of place names in the Okefinokee Swamp in Georgia: Bug Neck, Scoggin Mound, Bearhouse Island. The Bonifay Plain is named for Bonifay, Florida. I love the way that word sounds...it also means "good faith," which didn't hurt. Two famously mean little towns in South Georgia are Rhine and Milan, so when Aidan and Dobro find themselves in a mean little town in Book Three, it's called Ryelan.
More than you wanted to know, but that's what I mean when I say I chose names that came from my native tongue.
2) I sensed a hint of the story of King David's selection as king from the Old Testament in "The Bark of the Bog Owl". Do we find shadows of Biblical stories in The Wilderking trilogy?
Yes, there's a lot of the David story in the Wilderking. It's more obvious in The Bark of the Bog Owl, but it's there in the other two books as well. I've always been interested in what it must have been like for David to live in that gap between knowing he's going to be king and actually being king. Even people who don't know anything about the Bible know about David and Goliath, but beyond that episode, there's so much to the David story. It was a rich place to mine for story.
3) What kinds of books did you read growing up, and what genre do you enjoy most as an adult?
I read a lot of animal encyclopedias when I was little, lots of Childcraft books and things like that. I read some fiction, certainly, but I don't remember being quite as much of a bookworm as some kids are. Now that I'm grown up, I read a lot of periodicals, a good bit of history and other non-fiction. I have pretty eclectic tastes in fiction. I love Wendell Berry and my reigning favorite novel is Marilynne Robinson's Gilead. I don't read much fantasy, to tell you the truth.
4) The Wilderking Trilogy is marked as juvenile or young teen fiction. Any projects in the works for adults, or are you staying with the young teen age group?
I would love to continue the Wilderking series someday. I don't have other juvenile fiction brewing. I have started a grown-up novel that may or may not ever see the light of day.
5) What do you have on your iPod/stereo right now?
Podcasts. I love podcasts--short story readings, NPR radio shows, sermons. Music on my iPod includes Andrew Peterson, Allison Krauss, Jars of Clay, and Over the Rhine...but I listen to podcasts more than I listen to music.
And there you have it! We'll be on tour all this week with "The Bark of the Bog Owl"...be watching for my review tomorrow, and my final post will be my view of fantasy and children, which will appear on Wednesday!
Don't miss out on a moment...visit some of the other blogs on tour with us this week:
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Merrie Destefano or Alien Dream
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Daniel I. Weaver