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An Exclusive Interview with Andrew Peterson

Recently, Legendarium spoke with author Andrew Peterson about the Kickstarter launched to finance an animated series of his best-selling books The Wingfeather Saga.

 The series currently includes four books: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or Be Eaten, The Monster in the Hollows, and The Warden and the Wolf King. For more information, visit Wingfeather Saga and Andrew Peterson’s site.

Andrew, thanks so much for giving Legendarium an exclusive interview. For those who are new to Wingfeather (let’s call them “soon-to-be fans”), give us a brief synopsis of the series. What’s it about?

The Wingfeather Saga centers on three siblings, Janner, Kalmar, and their little sister Leeli. They live in a quiet little village with their mother and their ex-pirate grandfather in a land overrun with these creepy snake men called the Fangs of Dang. Eight years earlier, the Fangs won the Great War, and ever since, they’ve been hunting the world for the mysterious Lost Jewels of Anniera. When the children discover a hidden map that leads them to the Lost Jewels, they’re thrust into a perilous adventure that will change the world forever.

Many people know about your music and songwriting. What compelled you to write The Wingfeather Saga?

Before I ever picked up a guitar, I wanted to be an author. And I guess you could say that before I ever wanted to write books, stories fascinated me. I remember being curious about the feeling I had as a boy when I drew pictures or saw great movies or read great books. The same was true of music—when I heard something that moved me I wanted to know why. So I guess the songwriting is one spoke on the same wheel as the books and everything else. The moment that really made me stop talking about writing a book and get busy writing was reading the Narnia books to my children. I had read and loved those stories as a kid, but it wasn’t until I was an adult reading them to my children that I felt the true depth of their power, and was reminded of the power of a certain kind of story. I wanted to write the kind of book I would have wanted to read when I was ten—but also the kind of book I wanted to read right now.  

andrew peterson
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You have a wide and wonderful cast of characters and species in Wingfeather—fangs, ridgerunners, daggerfish, and toothy cows, just to name a few. What inspired you to invent such interesting creatures?

Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories” had a profound impact on me. He coined the word “subcreation” as a way of thinking about building imaginative worlds in the similar way that he understood God had built our world. Of course, one of the most fascinating and attractive things about Middle Earth is the massive amount of detail and history Tolkien created to undergird the stories. It seemed clear to me that the first step in writing a fantasy novel was to build the world, to say in essence to the blank piece of paper, “Let there be light.” Around the same time our family watched the BBC documentary Planet Earth (which is excellent), and I was blown away by the array of strange and creepy wonders in our world. I always think about one of the deep-sea episodes, where they show footage of—this is true—the “vampire squid of the deep,” whose tentacles have these evil-looking red glowing orbs on the tips. I realized that if I was the subcreator of Aerwiar, then I got to populate it with whatever I could think up. Hence, toothy cows.

I know this is probably a hard question, but which character of the series is your favorite?

P.S. I am definitely #TeamLeeli. 😉

Oh, I’m glad to hear that you love Leeli. Her character’s growth was a joy to explore. You probably suspected this answer, but it’s impossible to choose a favorite. All the main characters became dear to me over the years—and not just the three Igiby children. It’s a boring answer, but it’s true.

Who are your favorite authors?

Now you’re throwing me into the briar patch. Let’s see. Wendell Berry, Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Walter Wangerin, Annie Dillard, G. K. Chesterton, Kate DiCamillo, Leif Enger, to name a few. There’s also a host of writers in the Rabbit Room community whose work I admire: Jonathan Rogers, Douglas McKelvey, A.S. Peterson, Jennifer Trafton, N. D. Wilson, to name a few more. I’d better stop there or I’ll never shut up.

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Some of our readers are also writers. Talk about your creative process.

For me, routine is probably the biggest single requirement. Since I also tour and do music stuff, it’s really hard to get any real writing done until I have a long stretch of time at home. When I do have that time, it looks like this: after my morning reading and breakfast routine, I head to the coffeehouse down the road where I set up camp and answer whatever emails I need to. Then I turn on an app called Self Control, which blocks all the distracting websites for a set period of time. I usually set it for two hours. Then I write until I get at least two thousand words. By that time it’s usually lunch or a little after. Two thousand words a day means 10,000 a week, which gives you a terrible first draft in about three months. That’s the hardest part of the gig—once you have the first draft written, the fun part is editing.

With the success of Wingfeather, you are now working on an animated series. You currently have a Kickstarter to raise funds. Tell us more about that and how fans can contribute.

Oh, man! This is so exciting I can hardly stand it. I’ll try not to use too many exclamation points. After a ton of emails from readers asking about a Wingfeather movie, the wheels started turning. I never got too excited about the film idea because, frankly, I don’t have $100 million bucks and J. J. Abrams’s phone number. A low-budget attempt at the Wingfeather Saga would be the lamest thing ever. But then I wondered if we could animate it. I’ve always loved animation, and it was easy to imagine this story in that format. But then I got bummed at the thought of paring down book one into just 80 minutes. The books get more and more complex as they go, and you would have to cut out swaths of the story to make it short enough for a feature film. But then another option appeared on the horizon, one that got me really excited. I wondered about serial storytelling, similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender, which my kids loved. What if we could really stretch out and tell each book’s story over the course of a season? What if we got the thing picked up by something like Netflix, so families could watch it at night together and experience the full story? So we started the Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to develop the pilot, and in just 48 hours we raised $110,000! It keeps climbing and climbing, and now we’re on our way to raising enough to make the full pilot episode, and to make it really compelling from a visual standpoint. The fans’ support for this has been overwhelming, and we’re so curious to see where this will take us. This thing isn’t over yet, and there’s a lot of cool rewards and stuff that are still available to whoever can help us bring this thing to life. 


EXCLUSIVE UNTIL 3/22: You can read the first six chapters of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness for free by clicking here!

To purchase On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, click here.

You can’t order just the first book!!

Purchase North! Or Be Eaten.

Purchase The Monster in the Hollows.

Purchase The Warden and the Wolf King.

To contribute to the Wingfeather kickstarter, visit the kickstarter page and make a donation (preferably a big one!).

About Niklas Anderson