|Everdoor: The Owl's Court|
Book two in the Everdoor saga by author & artist
Since I was a child, I've been fascinated by people with the ability to create realistic drawings, particularly of people and places. It's a skill I envy greatly, and one that I've long since accepted being devoid of, myself. I've found solace in my own array of talents, noting that there's always a trade-off: being able to write, to play music, and to create photography balances out my inability to draw. One cannot be greedy, nor can one expect to have all of the talents...
...or so I thought, until I made the acquaintance of Ms. Chauncy Felisz. Not only is Chauncy a ridiculously skilled artist, she is also an adept writer who is in the midst of fleshing out her incredible Everdoor saga. Her ability to craft incredibly vivid fantasy descriptions is eclipsed by only her ability to bring them to life through her traditional and digital art.
I had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Chauncy about everything from the roots of her artistic abilities to her love and appreciation for an N64 classic. Please enjoy the interview below!
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Chauncy! How about we begin with the basics. Where are you from?
I was born in the UK, in London. But I got dual nationality from my mother's side, so I've been able to bounce back and forth between the UK and US and have lived in various different places in both countries.
That's awesome! Does your dual nationality impact your sense of home? Do you feel an affinity for one place over the other, or do they each have their own place in your heart?
Home has been a difficult concept. Often, no matter which country I was in, I missed the other, but more and more, perhaps because I'm getting older, I find I desperately want to go back to the UK and settle down. I don't know what the future will hold.
I know that I want to live in England again, but I am also a bit of a wayward traveler and miss the world. I could also see myself settling down in some foreign country like Japan in my much later life. All I know is, right now I feel as though I need to go back to England, so I hope one day in the near future I can do so with my family.
So, you were one of the first people that I interacted with when I joined the Writing Community on Twitter. I was blown away by the art that you shared on Instagram and totally intrigued by the description of your debut novel--Everdoor: The Paradise-Purgatory. How did your younger experiences influence your writing and your art?
Here, my story takes a bit of a dark turn. There were some beautiful parts of my childhood, and certainly all the adventures with my granddad in the back garden, that felt more like another world than a little quarter acre plot of land in Harrow and Wealdstone. They had a positive influence on me, but there were some very bad elements in my childhood, too, so I would retreat into a fantasy world.
That was my escape and safe haven, and, because of that--because I would escape in my mind to this fantasy place that became Eclipse--it had to feel real. I had to create every detail--I couldn't just imagine a character sitting down to eat a meal when I was creating these little dramas in my head, I had to know what they were seasoning their food with, where everything came from, where there clothes came from, what was the climate like, on and on because it needed to be a believable place. So while the origins of Eclipse were born out of an unhappy time, that dedication to the details and having to really know what this world looked, and felt, and tasted, and smelled, and sounded like formed such a strong foundation for me to build off of when my continued building of the world came from the pleasure of doing so, rather than merely escaping from the bad things happening around me.
I feel like a lot of us can relate to that, unfortunately. It's like that creative catharsis is necessary for us as a means of sorting through our pasts, but it also serves as a conduit to our futures, in a way. I think that a lot of my best work comes from a dark place, personally, and it sounds like yours does, too.
You've clearly been a creative soul from very early on, but how did you wind up getting into the fields of art and writing, in particular?
Drawing went hand in hand with that early escapism, I think. I would picture the world so vividly that I desperately wanted to transcribe my vision into reality. When I was little, I remember feeling overwhelmed because I thought the world I envisioned was so beautiful, and I wanted so badly to show people the pretty pictures that were inside my head, I wanted it so badly that it hurt.
The things that I was feeling were perhaps too big for my young self to be able to actualise, or even know how to at the time. So I would create--I would draw and I would make languages and maps and even little paper models. I was compelled to create, and I was compelled to create stories. I would entertain myself with made up narratives that were often of a mythical, folklore type of tale. I would make up fables and creation myths, I would tell myself stories and lose myself in them.
I was a rather lonely child, I guess you could say, but I did not necessarily feel alone and I enjoyed my own company.
That's great that you were able to take that negativity and use it to produce something beautifully constructive rather than destructive. You have a natural talent for crafting fantasy imbued with supernatural and sci-fi elements. What would you say is your favorite genre to write?
Fantasy, by far. But, more specifically, I love to create god creatures, things of fables and legends--the types of creatures and characters that are saturated in that old world mysticism. Perhaps growing up in England, where the notion of faerie tales and celtic lore are still intrinsic to the land, helped nurture that. And I try to get an element of realism in my art as well. I try to make the lighting, the textures, believable.
I guess I'm still trying to put the pretty pictures in my mind on paper so everyone else can join in my world that has brought me so much joy and taught me so much. I just want to create art that lets people believe in magic again, even if it's only for a quiet moment.
So who are your favorite artists? What drew you to their work?
Peter Mohrbacher is one of my all-time favorite artists. He's created his own world with his majestic angels and he paints them with the kind of believability that I want to eventually attain in my own works. I don't remember exactly how I came across him--it was likely through Magic the Gathering, as he used to do art for them--but I remember that I became aware of him during the time I was doing my Bachelors.
Shameful as it might seem, I never really took note of artists before then. I just liked certain pictures but didn't pay attention to the artists. And on my social media I tend to collect artists for their art, but if you asked me to name them I wouldn't know where to begin. I remember their pictures more than their names.
But the type of art that draws me is a range. I love good graphic design, good line art, good realism, fantasy, surrealism—anything that grabs me and is designed and structured well.
I don't know much about art, but, as a photographer, I'm a sucker for lines and lighting. I love the interplay of shadow and light, and the way that good line art helps not merely to frame a scene, but, in many ways, to create it. That's an important element of video game design, too. Do you have any favorite games that served to influence you?
Well, I'll tell you that Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64 was mind-blowing to me. And it forever has a place in my heart. I was immediately enamored with the world. I would look at every detail, all the little peripheral things that the designers and modelers had plopped in to populate the world—pictures on the walls, little details in every dungeon, all the set dressing. Kokiri Forest certainly acted as an inspirational spark for a lot of Eclipse—how that place made me feel, so steeped in magic and mystery, it was an essence I wanted to capture and perpetuate throughout Eclipse.
There's been many experiences through games, music, life, movies, books, that influence my art and storytelling, but Ocarina of Time sowed some of those beginning seeds.
I will never forget my first encounter with a Moblin in Ocarina of Time! I had been a Zelda fan since the original came out on the NES, but Ocarina of Time was the moment where the game felt real, you know? I was able to forget that I was playing a game, and that I wasn't actually in Kokiri Forest!
I think that's what I love about writing, too. The best writers remove the barriers of the page and enable us to feel like we are truly transported to these places (like you did with Everdoor!) Do you have any favorite writers, in particular?
Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Peter V. Brett—Terry and Neil I was introduced to through friends and immediately fell in love with their work. The humor and the realness that worked so well together pulled me in. I try to bring that into my own work.
There is that touch of satire and self awareness in Everdoor. It's meant to be funny and tragic, and happy, and lonely all at once. And I feel that both Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman use humor so expertly that it renders the experiences of their worlds and their characters into something more real and relatable.
Life isn't one dimensional, and you have to be able to see the great irony of existence, of our experiences to grasp the fullness of life. I'm also an avid lover of thrillers and the horror genre in general, which Stephen King does so well. His stories and characters are compelling, you care about what happens to the people. Peter V. Brett I discovered in a book store one day many years ago. I just liked the cover, it seemed interesting, and when I began reading his first book, I was hooked on his world. He created something with a really fresh pacing, and a simple concept of man vs. demon but with a compelling edge.
With all these writers, they created worlds and characters that meant something to me--that highlighted some part of humanity that compelled me.
Absolutely! And do you feel like your unique writing voice was influenced by any of them, specifically?
I can't say if it was any one in particular, but I do think that I have a very British way of writing. It's something I've noticed, particularly in the writing community. Many American writers tend to be rather against flowery prose and adverbs. Admittedly, I think I could slim down on my use of adverbs as well, but I do think that how I structure sentences is still rather British, which can be difficult for some of my American readers to digest, as I've found.
The funny thing is, most the time when I speak, I sound American, it's just my internal dialogue that retained my mother tongue, as it were. What I will say though is that whenever I read something good, I like to pick apart why it's good, what I like, and how I can incorporate it into my own writing. My own writing voice is an amalgamation of many others, but I think that's how it's supposed to be.
What novels would you recommend? Any favorites that might have inspired you in one way or another?
The Thief of Time—Terry Pratchett
The Hannible series, all of them! —Thomas Harris
Good Omens—Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
The Warded Man— Peter V. Brett
My Life as a White Trash Zombie— Diana Rowland
The Dragon's Touchstone— Irene Radford
I could probably go on a while, I consume books!
It's amazing how many of my favorite writers cite Neil Gaiman as one of their favorites. I'm learning more about his creative process through his Masterclass right now, and I've read a lot about Stephen King's. How would you describe your own creative process, whether for art or writing?
Messy. If I have a clear vision, I'm almost possessed by the need to create and will grind away, whether it be art or writing. Sometimes I'm just muddling through, trying an idea that seemed enticing but wasn't fully fleshed out. Often those weaker concepts get scrapped but the core of what I was trying to do gets incorporated elsewhere.
There is a basic formula I follow—with art, I'll sketch out a very rough scene, refine, then do some base painting to see color and lighting, and then clean up and neatly render all the parts, adjust lighting and do some final passes. And, ideally, that's what happens, but sometimes there's drudgery and dragging feet, and I'll go back and fundamentally change the scene if needs be.
With writing, I tend to begin very linearly for as long as I can, and if I find myself stuck, I'll tend to plop in a little note about what the scene is supposed to be and skip ahead to a more interesting scene, then go back and flesh out all the pieces so that it all flows smoothly together. I tend to know the ending of the book when I begin, but getting to that point is a journey of discovery. Sometimes whole scenes get scrapped, and sometimes my characters surprise me and adjustments have to be made for the ending.
Do you prefer to create your art digitally or traditionally?
I started off as a traditional artist, and, while I adore digital art—there's so much you can do with it, and I do primarily work in digital—traditional art skills are vital. Any great digital artist will tell you how important it is to keep up those traditional skills.
There is nothing quite like putting an actual pen to paper or paint to canvas, so I do maintain my traditional skills as well, and I hope to bring my traditional painting skills up to the level of my digital skills at some point. But, for the sake of creating within a reasonable timeframe, I tend to work digital. It's just quicker and I'm more practiced in digital painting than traditional painting—for now, anyway.
Which method, do you feel, allows you to create your best work?
In regards to art, right now I do feel my digital pieces are superior to my traditional pieces—they're just a lot cleaner and more refined. However, doing monthly challenges like Drawtober and Mermay are great little artist boot camps to help elevate my traditional skills.
What is your favorite piece that you've ever created?
Currently, my favorite piece is Lehlune, Goddess of Intuition and Prophecy. I feel like she is a step towards that Peter Mohrbacher level of refinement that my other pieces lack. I've still a ways to go, but I'm really quite proud of that piece, and, as I've said, I love to create those epic god-creature-like pieces and Lehlune is, quite literally, larger than life!
As creative types, we're rarely influenced solely by our respective outlets. What other interests contribute to your creative output, or just making you who you are?
Games, movies, music—I am a big fan of each. I've been playing games since the SNES came out—and not just video games, I love board games and card games as well. I've adored movies since I can remember, and music is just fuel for the soul.
But I also like crafts—I enjoy making things with my hands. I'll make solid perfumes, and I love writing letters with my quill pen. I even have a wax sealing kit, and I send letters to my friends periodically just for the joy of it.
Because I tend to work a lot in digital mediums, those physical activities help ground me in reality. I've also read palms and tarot cards for nearly a decade. Witchcraft and divination interest me greatly. Whether or not you believe, I find it enjoyable to learn about and practice certain forms of these arcane arts.
That's awesome! I love the diversity there--especially the handwritten letters. Such an awesome personal touch that provides a sense of realism that nothing else can.
Actually, it's that element of realism that I loved the most about Everdoor--the fact that, despite the fantastic events and circumstances, there was little need to suspend disbelief. What, in particular, inspired you to write Everdoor?
In my early 20s, I spent half a year traveling around Europe by myself. It was a good soul-searching journey, and, at the time, I was writing a story which included an early form of what would become Jerro, but no Etcher. The original story I finished near the end of my travels, but I hated it. It was flat and lacking, and, for a few years after, I sort of abandoned writing.
Things happened--my grandma died barely a few months within my coming back to the US, and I was suddenly faced with homelessness. A good family friend helped me get into college and gave me a direction in life, and, during that time, I talked about my book but wasn't serious about it. Another friend back from when I lived in Edinburgh called me one day and we were simply chatting, and he very casually asked about my book—which was gathering cobwebs—and he told me not to give up on writing.
So I didn't. I went back to that original story and tore it down and kept only the good parts that I liked, and somewhere along the lines I came up with Etcher. I don't even remember how it happened. It felt like Etcher was always there in my mind, she was just waiting for me to look the right way.
Well, once Jerro and Etcher were paired, the dynamic was so much more compelling, so much more interesting. And I decided to make the story more reflective of my adventures and my life—it's why the first book starts in what would be Edinburgh on our Earth, but in Jerro's version of Earth is called Midgard.
I love that--when actual places inspire the creation of impossible realms like Eclipse. What are the creative influences behind it?
There are many influences, and I had mentioned one of them—being Ocarina of Time--but really, Eclipse has grown out of my experiences and wants and desires--feelings that I wanted to capture, and the early magic of my childhood. Sometimes, Eclipse just evolves on its own, and other times I'll see a movie or read a good book and I think, "Ah! I need something like that on Eclipse," or "Oh, how would Ecliptians handle that situation, I wonder?"
Eclipse is the Faerie reflection of my own life, the other world that stands back to back with my own.
Aside from painting an incredible tapestry of places, you've crafted some of the most memorable characters that I've ever read. Do you have a favorite?
In book 1, I would have to say Etcher, though I am very fond of Mr. Gribs because he is so much fun to write. And I love Jerro, but I think Etcher might take the cake in this one. As for later books, well... There's a few other favorites in book 2, but I don't want to give them away just yet.
I can already hear Mr. Gribs saying, "Oh dear" in anticipation! Do you have a favorite moment from book one that you can share?
One of my favorite moments in Everdoor: The Paradise-Purgatory is when Jerro is confronting Etcher for the first time in her shop. I just love Etcher's snarky replies to him, which make Jerro ball up with rage because he just can't argue with her calm logic. I think that scene shows such an interesting foundation to their dynamic. Etcher absolutely gets under Jerro's skin on numerous occasions, but you love to watch it unfold.
Totally! It's funny because, for as different as they are, I felt like they butted heads because of the similarities in their personalities. Suffice to say, I can't wait to continue their adventure in book two. How long do you envision the series being?
I'm aiming for 5 books for the Everdoor series, though it will either be slightly shorter or longer than that. I prefer shorter sequels. That's not to say that the characters of Etcher and Jerro can't be revisited in a different series, but I do believe everything should have a death clause, as it were.
I wouldn't want Everdoor to stretch on and on and get mutated in such a way that it lost touch with its core. And I have many more stories about Eclipse and that universe that I want to write. I'm actually working on a sci-fi series that loosely takes place in the same universe but is not related to Everdoor or Eclipse, and I'd like to have a lot of different series, instead of just staying within one.
With such a rich, visual tale at your disposal, would you ever consider expanding into the graphic novel realm?
Yes, and that is something I'm working on, though it's very early development and I've found that, while I love to paint my epic creatures and scenes, I'm a bit shite when it comes to comic art. I just can't get into it—I love graphic novels, but it isn't my forte, so that's something I would want to pitch to a team or production studio and would rather stay on as a creative director myself, than actually make the whole graphic novel myself and hate every second of it.
That's awesome to hear! It sounds like there is still quite a bit to come out of the realm of Eclipse--something that I am looking forward to a great deal! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about your art and your writing, Chauncy!
Where can readers and future fans find your work and interact with you?
No problem, Matt! Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me--it's been a pleasure! People can find my work and my social media accounts here: