‘The Farmer and the Fald’ with J.R. Leach

Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien will appreciate the tale of The Farmer and the Fald!

(Brother) Greenjack Jorkins tells the tale of Farmer Bundon. Set in a vibrant world of a post-crusade kingdom where the unlucky Farmer Bundon finds him at once the master of a fald’s egg and the widowed father of a spirited daughter. The farmer and his daughter Tyr’Dalka then find themselves at odds in a mission of their own with the cowardly fald as companion.

Jenn: How did your journey as a writer begin?

J.R.: I’ve always had a passion for telling stories, my mum is a playwright and I was raised on my dad’s bedtime readings; The Hobbit, Harry Potter, The Little Prince, Treasure Island. I wrote my first ‘book’ when I was nine. It was a retelling of the Arthurian legend… The Knife Bearer, which was two parts Disney’s The Sword in the Stone and one part murder mystery, as for reasons best known to my young self, Merlin was randomly murdered partway through.

Through my teens and early twenties I was already adapting the fantasy world within which The Farmer and the Fald is set. In my adult life I started writing primarily for children’s theatre, small-scale musicals and puppet shows which saw some life at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

But it wasn’t until 2020, with the closure of theatres and theatre companies that I finally went back to the fantasy world I started cultivating in my teens and early twenties and decided to use this sudden influx of free time to write my first entry in the world of fantasy fiction; The Farmer and the Fald, which I had originally written as a play for the theatre company I co-run.

What was meant to be a fifty-page short story grew and grew in the telling, and, as most writers describe… the story suddenly had a will all its own, and I merely had to decipher it from wherever these ideas and characters were coming from.

Jenn: Where did the inspiration for ‘The Farmer and the Fald’ come from? And would you explain what a “fald” is for the readers?

J.R.: When I first started crafting the fantasy world of Tyr-na-Dalka I was around twelve years old, and had just seen Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, I was completely blown away by it. Especially upon seeing the behind-the-scenes documentaries that accompanied the Extended Editions. Seeing the concept artists work their magic in creating visual representations of the cultures and creatures was all the inspiration my young self needed. So I got to work straight away.

The fald is one of those early creations, which has not changed (much) since its first inception. I liked the idea of dragons, like butterflies, having an ‘ugly’ counterpart. The fald is very much the moth to a dragon’s butterfly.

They lack the ugly pride and greed of dragon’s, and are thus much more in-tune with the natural order of things, but still harbouring that innate connection to the more ancient, primordial magic of the world.

The inspiration for the book itself came from a wish to write a standalone tale that merely hints at the much larger, living, breathing world within which it’s set. I saw Tolkien’s journey, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion… and felt that I was ready to write my ‘Hobbit’, a story primarily for younger readers to act as a welcome mat at the door of this new world.

Or “the same world, but in a different stage of imagination.” As the professor would say.

Jenn: A delightful surprise upon opening the book was the presence of a map, calendar, and illustrations. What was it like working with an illustrator to bring your vision to life?

J.R.: I was extremely blessed to work alongside my illustrator, who, like myself, suddenly found themselves with more free time than ever before. Hilary James worked with me literally chapter by chapter, sharing the story as it developed with her two teenage sons whose positive feedback really helped spur me on and finish it.

She also did all this work for free, her only stipulation being: “If you ever make it big, we’ll talk finances.” So yes, I was VERY lucky. And her passion and enthusiasm for the project really humbled me.

Jenn: Do you have any advice for other authors who want to collaborate with an illustrator as well?

J.R.: Don’t settle, and don’t go to one of these “We’ll do it for $5” sites, like Fiverr, or People Per Hour. I have never had a positive experience from them, either as a freelancer (I also work as a graphic designer) or as a client.

Find someone you know, preferably, or approach someone you admire. Illustration, more so than graphic design, is quite an intimate process, and it can’t be rushed nor done on the cheap.

But then, I can’t overstate how lucky I was to have found an illustrator who was ready and willing to work with me for nothing. So, I’m very aware, it’s very easy for me to be all “don’t settle for less!”

Jenn: After only a few chapters into The Farmer and the Fald, it was very evident that this is an author who loves Tolkien. Which of Tolkien’s characters do you relate to most and why?

J.R.: Oh, certainly Boromir. And Gollum. But I try to live like a Sam, with a little Gandalf for good measure.

I think I feel Boromir’s and Gollum’s journeys and temptations most strongly, which, I’m sure was the Professor’s intention. Boromir’s honour, and the honour he wishes to bring to Gondor, for his brother, his father and his country… he ultimately fails the fellowship, but realises his own folly and attempts to make it right. Which is all one should do in the face of one’s own folly and mistakes, but it takes a person of great character to actually do it.

And Gollum, of course, as a cautionary tale. A view of what a wretched creature one can become if one so willingly lays themselves at the mercy of addiction and malevolence. It’s good to have an inner monologue with yourself, whenever you’re acting in a way you know you shouldn’t, especially if you find yourself making excuses for your actions.

Things never get easier for Gollum, he had a chance at redemption, but the road was too tricky for him, made all the harder by Sam’s (very reasonable) suspicion. So before every cigarette now, I try to think “Do I want this or does my Gollum want this”…

Jenn: How do you think that these characters would get along with Farmer Bundon and Tyr’Dalka in your world?

J.R.: Bundon and Sam would be fast friends, I’m sure. I think both Bundon and Tyr would find great solace in the Shire, where they’d be relieved to hear there hasn’t been a dragon for a thousand years!

Bundon would admire Boromir’s honour and chivalry, as he is one to doff his cap to his betters. Tyr’Dalka would not. But that is why trouble finds her so readily.

I think they’d both recoil at the sight of Gollum, but as the guardsman says to Tyr: “No one is beneath your mercy, are they?” I think she would try and help him, but most likely only to be robbed and cursed as “trusting foolses”.

Jenn: How did you decide to take the independent publishing route?

J.R.: I sat with the finished book for a few months, wondering what the best route would be. I even made a shortlist of publishers and agents I intended to contact. But something about the self-publishing route really spoke to me, as a graphic designer I knew I was able to take care of my own marketing, and something about building up an audience from scratch felt more in-keeping with the tone and morals of the story.

Granted I’m working alongside Amazon, arguably the biggest, meanest, most prideful dragon of them all. But Bilbo puts Smaug’s gold to good use when he returns to the Shire, and I plan on doing the same.

Jenn: What are you working on now and what can we expect next?

J.R.: Next up is a little more about the writer of the foreword, our own Brother Greenjack, who has many tales of his own to tell. We’ll find out more about the gentry of The Eastern Kingdom, a little more about the late Good King Doryn and the intrigue, betrayal and chaos that the matter of his succession brings.

I am also working on some illustrations of my own to accompany a book of lost Elven poetry, these poems detail the pantheon of gods the faerfolk used to (and in some cases, still) worship. This will be named: The Faerfolk’s Edda, and it should be getting released this summer.

Jenn: What book(s) are you reading right now?

J.R.: I fancied being inspired by some real-world GreenJack Jorkins; scholars and theologians through the ages who gave a quick-witted commentary on the absurdity of life. I just finished reading “In Praise of Folly” by the 16th century philosopher Erasmus, and am looking for more of the same.

But I always return to Tolkien if I’m in need of comfort. Andy Serkis recently released the whole of The Lord of the Rings trilogy as an audiobook, and I’ve been listening to that almost everywhere I go.

Jenn: Is there another Indie Author whose work you’d like to plug?

J.R.: Yes! I have a good friend who is also walking a very similar path to me, Danny Dowling, his fantasy book just good published by Austin McCauley, The Tales of the Turnip Knight, so he’s not technically indie, but he’s a standup chap and the story is a fun one.

Okay, that’s all for now. Be sure to check out The Farmer and the Fald and have a wonderful day!

Published by Jenn R

I write stuff and pretend to be good at crafting. Check out my first novel on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3nAxiZ4

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