Interview with Keberly, winner of the May Challenge: Believe


Folklore can be many things, but it's usually a traditional piece of art, literature, song, dance, or knowledge, that has been passed down through oral and visual communication. Over time, many of the tales that inspired the modern versions we know have been softened, manipulated, or changed to suit various ends (Hi, Disney 👋🏼).

Yet, it is through the popularisation of these tales that many of our own interests in literature and storytelling evolved and, in many cases, formed the basis of the writers we are today. Say what you will about Disney; in reality many of the 'classic' tales we know were bastardised way before Walt had his wicked way with them. No doubt they'll be churned up, reformed and rewritten countless times, by countless authors, to suit various ends, for ever after - happy or not. 

For our May Challenge: Believe, we asked WEbook to delve in to the world of folklore and use this as their basis for composing a challenge entry. The criteria for 'folklore' was deliberately left wide open, allowing the judges to accept entries either in the form of an original retelling of a classic piece of folklore, or something original. The only criteria was that the folklore had to have a meaningful basis to it - whether this be a lesson, a moral or perhaps a revelation, was up to the author to decide.

The winner of the May Challenge: Believe was Keberly with her fantastic entry, 'All that Glitters'

Keberly was kind enough to take the time to have a chat with us and answer a few questions about her winning entry, her writing process and her involvement with WEbook. 

Read on for the full interview...

Photo Credit: Brian Froud

WEbook: Hi Keberly. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, and congratulations of course on your winning entry! 

What was it that drew you towards the use of Irish folklore and fairies in particular when planning your story?

Keberly: Both Greek mythology and European folklore, Irish in particular, have always fascinated me. When I was about fourteen, I discovered a book of illustrations by Brian Froud and Alan Lee titled Faeries

Accompanying these amazing drawings were descriptions of the different types of fairies and their characteristics. I thumbed through those pages for hours, and when I got to the end I promptly began again. I couldn’t get enough. When I read the challenge for May involved folklore, that book and those drawings immediately came to mind. A girl in a tree house mistaking a shimmering green light for a firefly popped in there next, and the rest is All That Glitters.

WB: 'All that Glitters', relies on the reader not guessing the outcome of the story before the final reveal. Using fairies, this was a bit of a gamble as you’re hedging your bets that the average reader will rely on the mainstream depictions of fairies, rather than their traditional portrayal as sinister, mischievous, and/or manipulative beings. 

Did you actively try to mitigate this risk, or was it not something that concerned you when writing and how do you think this type of issue can be handled by authors?

Keberly: I knew there would be a chance that some readers would be familiar with fairy ring folklore, so I did actively try to keep readers from guessing the outcome. My first goal was to make them seem congenial rather than mischievous. I felt like the more Disney-like the fairies appeared, the less likely the reader would be to focus on their traditionally selfish nature.

My second goal was to purposely keep readers inside Kat’s head. I wanted to keep them engrossed in what she was experiencing rather than whether the fairies were real or not. I wanted readers to believe what was happening wasn’t possible because Kat didn’t believe it. I also banked on the more readers liking Kat, the more shocked they would be when things didn’t turn out so happily ever after. I wasn’t sure it would work, but it seems the luck of the Irish was on my side for this one.

Actively using common perception to sway readers away from guessing the outcome is a technique writers commonly use. Whether it works or not depends on several factors, the most important of which, in my opinion, are: Pointing them in the direction of the expected, clearing the path of least resistance for them to follow and surprising them with a twist they didn’t anticipate.

WB: You’ve utilised the ‘waking from a dream’ motif in your story, which has come to be a bit of a cliché. However, in your story, you’ve used this in a very non-cliché way, subverting the literary crutch of ‘It’ll all be alright in the end… it was only a dream’, for something much more grizzly! 

Did you actively attempt to use a subversion of the ‘waking from a dream’ motif like this to trick, and ultimately surprise your reader?

Keberly: There’s definitely an undertone of the “it was only a dream” motif in All That Glitters, and I wonder if perhaps this particular bit of folklore lends some amount of credence to the dream trope. Ponderous thoughts aside, I think this story’s path to becoming cliché was subverted by the fact that, in the end, Kat discovers—in a very real and finite way—her dance with the fairies was not a dream. I also think staying true to the folklore, even if it meant an untimely (timely?) demise for Kat, helped me come out on the winning side of leaning on a literary crutch versus using it to create the desired response.

WB: Your use of colloquial speaking patterns in your entry is very effective. It really gives a great edge to the development of your character’s personality. 

Do you find it easy to write dialogue in this type of style, and, do you have any tips for others looking to try it out?

Keberly: I tend to gravitate toward informal dialogue to begin with, so I don’t find colloquial speaking patterns particularly difficult. One of my favorite parts of writing is character development, and the way characters speak is often a big part of their believability. Kat’s voice came through loud and clear from the get go, with her burgeoning use of cuss words clanging just as loudly behind. Luckily, I had the Internet at my disposal and was able to make the way she spoke as accurate to the time and place of the story as possible.

Writing natural sounding dialogue can be challenging. What we think people say and what people actually say doesn't always translate well from our heads to the page.

If your character has a certain speaking pattern or accent, try searching online for audio or video to ensure the most accurate pronunciations. Also, a few well-placed, phonetically spelled words are all it takes for reader to get the gist. They can do the rest in their head. In my experience, going overboard only tends to bog down the story and frustrate the reader.

WB: What are you reading at the moment?

Keberly: I’ve just finished Game of Thrones in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin and am now reading A Clash of Kings. I have my theories about who Azor Ahai is… Now I just have to go back through the intricately laid trail of breadcrumbs and massively intertwined branches of family trees to see if I can't prove some of them correct.

WB: What are your favourite projects on WEbook at the moment?

Keberly: I don't currently have a favorite project, but I am fond of the WEbook monthly challenges. My participation has been lacking as of late, but whenever I do enter a submission, I'm happy to say the feedback I receive is some of the most honest, insightful, thorough and helpful I've gotten anywhere online. WEbook is the truest definition of an online writing community I've found, with members who offer constructive criticism and objective advice because they genuinely want to help other writers hone their skills. Plus, the witty banter of the monthly challenge's "usual suspects" never disappoints.

WB: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Keberly and for giving us such brilliant and at times refreshing insights in to the way that you approach your writing. 

If you'd like to read through Keberly's winning entry, All that Glitters you can do so by checking out the challenge page for May's Challenge: Believe. If you like what you read, why not let us know by leaving a comment right here on the blog?

Fancy getting involved? There are always writing challenges going on on WEbook. Head over to the homepage to check out what challenges you could get involved with. No matter your experience level, the WEbook challenge is open to writers of all ages, talents and experience.

Happy writing and good luck :)

- Hannah from the WEbook Team

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