Today, author Sarah Black interviews our own guest reviewer and new author Feliz Faber on the release of her new story, Desert Falcon, from Dreamspinner Press. Let’s listen in as they talk travelling, falcons, reading and writing and what Feliz is up to next.
Sarah: Your new story, Desert Falcon, has such an exotic setting. Can you tell us about it? Do you have experience yourself in this region of the world?
Feliz: In a way, the setting came with the main character. When I first met Hunter, I went looking for a place where he could have become as devoted to falconry as he is, and the first thing that came to my mind was Arabia. Falconry is an integral part of the Arabian culture; the Saker falcon was the Prophet Mohammed’s favorite bird according to the Holy Qur’an. While researching for Desert Falcon, I chanced upon a female German veterinarian who leads a falcon clinic in Abu Dhabi, I think, and I knew immediately this was the place for Hunter. I thought about making him a veterinarian, but as it happens often with my characters, he put his foot down and refused, and thus became an ornithologist.
Sarah: He’s a strong character — very powerful and quite believable that he would put his foot down with you!
Feliz: As for my personal experience with this region of the world — no, I’ve never been there, although I’d really, really love to some day. Ever heard about Karl May? He was a German novelist in the late 18 hundreds, incredibly prolific (he wrote almost 80 full novels and countless short stories). He wrote “travel reports”, pretending he’d actually been to all the places he described; his books were pure fiction but so accurate some of his fans in the 1950 could actually use them as travel guides. Many of those books are set in the Middle East. I grew up with them, read them over and over, immersed myself in his worlds. A decade later, I met a friend, a Persian (he never said Iranian!) whose parents had fled with the Shah. Through him I gained deeper insight into this culture, which I’ve come to deeply respect and love since.
Sarah: And Karl May did all that without the internet! He must have been a great reader. I have been a big fan of Persian poetry, which is intensely romantic. I read on your blog that you’ve lived all over the world. What were some of your favorite places? What do you particularly like about travelling and moving?
Feliz: Persian poetry is fantastic! I always regret that I never learned Arabic writing, let alone Farsi. Well, I’ve lived and worked mostly in European countries — Switzerland, France, Denmark, and about ten or twelve different places in Germany. I’ve traveled all over Europe, though, to Turkey and Australia. What’s always the best thing about a new place is getting to know it, getting familiar with different people. A new place is full of immense opportunities, for everything — making new friends, learning something new, exploring new locations, habits, foods. My favorite places? Brittany, I think, especially Saint Malo and the Mount St. Michel. Such beauty! Brisbane — I didn’t want to leave. Mannheim — a down to earth, cosmopolitic city that grounded me in a way no other place did.
Sarah: The main characters, Hunter and Hamid, are both falconers. What do falconers do? How did you get interested in falcons?
Feliz: I met my first falcon at a birdwatch show when I was little, and I was hooked immediately. I never got round to have a falcon of my own, but there’s a professional falconer in my neighborhood who I can go hawking with, which I usually do once or twice a month in winter season.
Basically, Falconry is a way of hunting with tamed birds of prey. In the middle age, falconry was very common everywhere in the world; at times, even peasants got to hunt for fowl or rabbits with trained hawks. Modern falconers are mostly environmentalists, but falconry has a lot of uses even today, far beyond falconry shows or education. For example, falcons are used for biological pest control, keeping buildings free of doves, parks free of rabbits — and airport runways free of nuisance birds.
What do falconers do? Don’t get me started! Caring for the birds, keeping them clean, healthy and entertained is almost a full-time job. The reward, of course, is having a companion who’s with you all of her free will. They aren’t pets at all, they always remain wild. Feeling a falcon’s deadly claws on your wrist, and watching her fly — it’s a feeling beyond description when she comes back to you although she doesn’t need to.
Sarah: Is Desert Falcon your first story? What are your plans for your writing? Are you working on something now?
Feliz: Desert Falcon was the first story I had the nerve to publish, but it’s not my first story — I’ve got about a dozen tales sitting on my hard drive that better never, ever see the light.
Actually, Hunter is one of the two main characters in my first “real” novel, City Falcon, which is unpublished as of now (yet, I hope — I’ve submitted it for publication only recently). Desert Falcon is Hunter’s backstory, which turned into a Bittersweet Dreams short story almost on its own volition. As I said, Hunter is a rather strong-willed character; he quasi dictated his story to me during a single weekend, and I had to make very little alterations once I had written it down.
I’m currently working on the sequel to City Falcon (Hunter isn’t quite done with me, for which I’m deeply grateful), which I’ve almost finished outlining.
Sarah: I’ve had a few characters like that — they just have some things to say, and I’m their scribe!
Feliz: I have another unrelated project, a story about a gay horseracing jockey, which I hope to finish sometime this summer.
Sarah: That sounds interesting. I was a big fan of Dick Francis when I was younger. I loved that whole world of horse racing. This book is short. Do you have a particular fondness for short v. novel length fiction? What are your thoughts on this?
Feliz: I don’t have any preferences in regard to story length. Generally when I start writing something I have a vague notion what it’s going to be, but I must admit, I never know for sure until the outline is done. I don’t consciously plan to write a novel, a novella or a short story — the story lasts until it’s told.
Sarah: Tell me about you as a reader. Ebook vs paper? Any childhood favorites? What’s on your TBR pile right now?
Feliz: Oh, reading. Since I’m a voracious reader, I have bookshelves everywhere, my home office, my bedroom, the hallway, even the bathroom, all overflowing with books. Afraid to be buried alive under a bookalanche, my man applied the emergency brakes on my book addiction last year by giving me a Sony reader for my birthday. Which he bitterly regrets by now, though, since I haven’t let it out of my reach ever since.
This is my chatty way of saying I’ve turned to almost exclusively reading ebooks recently, although I still buy and read the odd print book on occasion. On my TBR is Eden Winter’s Settling the Score, Rick R. Reed’s How I Met My Man, Kris Jacen’s Wishing on a Blue Star, Ariel Tachna’s Alliance in Blood and about a dozen others. It grows constantly sigh
As for childhood favorites: see above. My all-time favorites are Bengtsson’s The Long Ships and Kipling’s Kim.
Sarah: I love Kipling, too, and because of him, I have an unrequited love of India. Like your guy Karl May, I love reading stories where the setting takes me to a place I haven’t been before. It’s so easy for us these days to travel to new places via books — and for us writers, to research a new place well enough we can smell it and taste it. When I’m writing about a new place, I always try to make their cooking at home- so the house smells right while I’m writing. Though I never mastered New Orleans pralines and shrimp. New Orleans may have too many layers! You have a couple of dogs at home. Will you tell us about them?
Feliz: They’re the joy of my heart. Sherry, the girl, is seven now, and Filou, the boy, is two. They’re real clowns, cute, stubborn and hoggish. They get my backside off the computer chair and make me laugh, and there’s no other creature that can love quite like they do. No matter how hard my day was, when I come home in the evening and they greet me with that unconditional, exuberant happiness — it’s catching, comforting and incredibly beautiful. It’s a pity I can’t take them when I ride my motorbike!