Winner of the May Challenge, Caitlin Easter, chats to us about her brilliant winning entry, Blue Sky!

This May we set the WEbook community a slightly different challenge... we asked you to develop a story based on an image. But while this may seem like an easy ask, we decided to make it a little trickier by asking you to do this without utilising the obvious connotations that you would usually associate with the style of image we supplied as a writing prompt.

We wanted you to think outside the... um, door... so to speak...

As usual, no matter how hard we try to test your writing prowess and flummox you into pushing the limits of your usual writing comfort zones, you all still manage to wow us with a wide variety of brilliant entries that our judges were battling over picking our final six. 

However, having said that... we had no battle over the winner! Caitlin Easter's, Blue Skywas picked unanimously for it's brilliance as a stand alone piece and also because, man, were we desperate to read more! Hint, hint Caitlin...

As per our usual monthly routine, we sat down with Caitlin and had a chat with her about her winning entry, how she came up with the idea and some other titbits.

So, without further ado... 

WEbook: First of all, congratulations Caitlin on being crowned as the winner of our May Challenge! Could you tell us a bit about your winning entry, Blue Sky.

Caitlin Easter: Blue Sky is an ancient history prequel to my ongoing book series, The Ark of Traeadon, which takes place in our far future. Fae and the Faerinnian (’fer-än-ēən) race have played an important role in my work for more than twenty years. This glimpse of ancient Fae was conceived entirely for this challenge and it was a very satisfying giant leap back in time. 

 WB: When writing, where do you draw inspiration from to develop such a rich narrative?

The door to the soul...
CE: My narrative is primarily inspired by my character’s perspective. Rather than beginning with where the story is placed, I focus on who is there and why. I find that environs become most tangible as fully experienced through an intricate personality. My process involves being a character ‘medium’. I become them, one and all, internalizing who they are at that moment and then I decide how they fit in, what they will do and reveal. I interpret what they see, hear, smell, taste, feel and intuit. Their distinctive personalities have insights that insist I enlist suitably unique language. I don’t expect a reader to necessarily care what some high-rise hallway looks like, so my goal is always to first engage some emotional interest. I try to marry anything that I find tedious with a suffusion of attitude. From there I build the physical environment. It is very often peppered in later when found ‘missing’—wait, where are we?  

WB: Your story refers to hierarchy and governing bodies, was it your intention to question power and dominance through the character Tineka who challenges the Councillor?

CE: I took this story a bit further (3,000+ words) before realizing the can of worms it truly is. I might write the book, but after my current ongoing arc-line is finished. The limited continuation did reveal quite a bit more of these characters and their relationship. The short version seriously required imaginative extrapolation. 

Rather than wax overboard here about this race, I’ll speak directly to the question: Nope. 

And now to the relationship: 

Tineka is a model exception in a crowd of faereys. This is why Atlan expects a lot and must be mindful of tolerance; her emotional ‘failings’ are quite normal. Tineka has an intelligent, independent streak, but is not rebellious. Actually, she is soon to graduate with honors from the Diplomatic Corps (mentored for early admission by the Orrend himself, as favor to her father, his distant cousin).  The challenging and/or disgruntled tone of this relationship is instead mildly playful.

The stoicism that is adopted as the respectable norm for an elder is a behavior, and so does not necessarily authentically represent an elder’s emotional state. The tradition of the Kron (stoicism) is employed to learn control over the emotional upheaval that accompanies the physical change to elder.  Most have no trouble regaining a moderate degree of most emotions, though they are usually exhibited privately. Tineka has no intention of parading the stoic show that she deems farcical. There is a bit of arrogance in that, sure, but she highly respects the Orrend. Her teasing with willful spark comes from a hopeful place. She simply wishes to encourage his hidden levity.

Typical faereys are dynamically emotional and willfully fickle. They are curious little people and mischief often follows, but there is not much cause for civil unrest. The faerey stage of life is, in a way, an extended mature childhood. They do not rebel against the elder hierarchy because it provides them with fair, socialist support and education. They are aware of the grander opportunities that will also be afforded them in elder-hood. At the time of this story, although Fae was once overseen by a monarch, the royal bloodline has no preeminent power. This council of thirteen is an executive ministry, elected to represent each of the bloodlines equitably.

Why, yes, I think that is some wax that got all over the board…

WB: The story uses powerful imagery of pollution, you mention the ‘acrid residue’ and the ‘putrid, greenish smog’ - what does the Smog represent?

CE: The first Faerinnian home world was over populated and rendered uninhabitable by waste and pollution. The space trekking survival mission of this advanced race was to find and colonize New Fae. Eventually, the colonists had been forced to settle for a star system with many passably sustainable orbs, none of which were optimal. They’d left ruin in search of another Eden, only to find similar greenhouse worlds. Now, for millennia they’ve been managing the gasses and mapping the heavens for a new mission.

Given the background, obviously, the smog portrays a grim irony of technological advancement that is not tempered with foresight for ecological responsibility. In the ‘short’ I hoped it would serve as a symbolic parallel for Earth, that it might remind our calling to be vigilant caretakers of our own precious ecology.  

WB: In life, I suppose it is fair to say, that we all have something that represents the Blue Sky in your story. What does the Blue Sky represent for you.

CE: Blue sky reminds me to be reverent.  On a cosmic scale, it represents intelligent life as one cog in natural alignment. We evolved into this intricate balance of nature, beneath this blue sky. I belong to the cycle with this precious life, right here, right now.

WB:  Can you give us a teaser as to the future of the portal - does it eventually vanish like previous portals you mention in the story?

CE: I can promise that it lasts long enough for Atlan of Orrend’s clandestine delegation (including Tineka, of course!) to strike a beneficial allegiance with one spiritually and technologically advanced society of ancient earth. The alliance educates both cultures in potentially transformative magnitude. They discover there is a time variance between the planes. Time always passes more slowly in Fae, though unfortunately with no predictable relativity—which does create some trouble for diplomatic race relations.

FINAL SPOILER: The portal itself will outlast its purpose. Tineka and her new friend, an eminent priestess, will study the force within the gateway threshold. They discover that the energy can be mimicked; it can be sourced from one’s own life-force. It can be used to manifest temporary travel portals for ‘curtaining’ with one’s spark at will—a valued talent that is still employed in the future!

Thank you, WEbook, for the interest and for rewarding me with my first-time-ever writing win! The invitation to talk in depth about my work is a rare and decadent indulgence. My motivation to publish has been fully recharged!

WB: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Caitlin, we really enjoyed reading Blue Sky and look forwards to reading more of it as you post to your project page on WEbook! 

As ever, we would like to thank all of our members who took the time to enter the May Challenge, well done to you all on your fantastic entries. 

Don't forget that the July Challenge, How it Feels to be Free, is now open to submissions... 

The WEbook Team

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