Friday, July 24, 2009

Author Interview: Caleb Fox

Today, it is my great pleasure to introduce novelist Caleb Fox, whose book, Zadayi Red, is the first in a series called "Spirit Flight," published by TOR. Caleb has a website and a blog attached to that site.

Welcome, Caleb! Tell us who you are and what you do.

I’m a kid from Arkansas with a lot of education (grad school at Columbia University, USC, etc.). After starting out as a music, theater, and movie reviewer for the major newspapers in Los Angeles, I quit honest work and turned to writing full time. I’ve published books (under more than one name) written eight movies, done innumerable newspaper and magazine articles, and have been a book editor. Writing is my great fun, and my wife Sarita (also a novelist), my great love. We live in the spectacular red rock country of the Navajo reservation and in the wine country of California.

What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?

I start with a lot of research and from that usually stumble on an idea for a story. I launch with a couple of pages of notes about where I may go, but I try to let the story fly free.

Do you write best at a certain time of the day?

All times, whenever. When I’m doing a book (and now I aim for two a year), I make a point of writing every day and recording the number of pages.

What food or snack keeps the words flowing?

None. I usually have to hold the words back.

What sparks a story?

A character’s strong desire for something. A teenager wants to do something to be recognized as a man, so he can marry the woman he fancies. A chief wants to expand his tribe’s lands to the sea, so his people can have access to the ocean’s foods. A trapper wants to find a place where his mixed-blood children can grow up and be accepted. A Lakota wants to keep his people from being overwhelmed by the emigrants. Whatever drives a character.

What was it about your genre that interested you enough to choose to write in it and not in another genre?

I want to explore the wild possibilities of fantasy, to let go of the boundaries of the earth we know, to tell more archetypal stories. I want to spin tales that, though not factual, have the large truths of myths.

Character you wish you had created?

You mean some other writer’s character? Huckleberry Finn.

What authors do you look to as a role model and inspiration?

Mark Twain (and I guess Samuel Clemens).

What's the best advice you ever received?

John Neihardt, the author of BLACK ELK SPEAKS, and a terrific teacher, inspired me to write to touch the lives of plain people like my parents and aunts and uncles, not for an intellectual elite.

I believe good writers read a lot. What do you use to mark your page when reading?

I do read a lot, and I just remember the page number.

What one thing do you like most about writing? Least?

I like playing in my imagination. The craft part, shaping sentences and paragraphs, is fun, but what really lights me up is dreaming my way into another world and playing around there. Dislike? The business that surrounds writing.

Your book is called ZADAYI RED, published by TOR Books this month. Tell us what the book is about and why you wrote it.

Since I found myself strongly attracted to Native magic and mysticism, I wanted to go further into that realm. The route I discovered was to go about two thousand years back in time, to prehistoric people. I chose to use the people who preceded my own ancestors, the Cherokee. Since we have very little firm information about that time, it had to be a fantasy. Yet it is a genuine effort to tell the truth about what those early cultures were like.

I also wanted to play with some of what they believed in—animal guides, shape-shifting, a world of Immortals....

Living in that imaginary world was a great experience, and the book has turned into a series called Spirit Flight. The second title will be SHADOWS IN THE CAVE, which uses ancient cave art as a principal theme.

Why should anyone part with their hard earned cash and precious time to read your book? Sell it to us!

ZADAYI RED is an epic and mythic story of the prehistoric ancestors of the Cherokee people.Dahzi feels cursed. His mother dallied with a man of the wrong tribe, and then died giving birth to him. His grandfather hates him. Yet he is, according to his adoptive mother, the child of prophecy who can save the tribe by getting a new Eagle Feather Cape.

Dahzi wants only to become a man so that he can marry the woman he wants. At the request of a medicine woman, he sets out on an adventure and is drawn into a quest of fantastic dangers. He goes deep into the strange, dark world of caves, far across mountain ranges, fights warriors sent to kill him, and finally crosses to the Land of Immortals, where he must pass tests to get the gods of gods, Thunderbird, to give him a cape.

Tony Hillerman said, "Caleb Fox is a major new writer. Adventure, drama, emotion, magic, imagination, mysticism, insight into prehistoric peoples—this book is an amazing ride into the unknown!"

Where can readers buy your book?

Basically everywhere. An easy way to get it, and one that would particularly help me, would be to get it at Barnes and Noble,

What is your next project?

The third book in this Spirit Flight series. Then, if my agent can sell it, I’ll write a big biography of a major American religious leader. (For now I’m keeping his identity a surprise.)

What advice would you pass along at this point in your career?

Write only if you truly love it, if it is your bliss. Don’t write for imagined rewards like money and fame—write only for the joys of creating shapes from words and telling stories. If you do decide you can’t live without writing, do it every day. Yes, every day.

Thank you for the interview, Caleb. Is there anything you'd like to add?

ZADAYI RED is Caleb Fox’s first book, and SHADOWS IN THE CAVE will be the second, but these are far from my last. Start a dialogue with me at


  1. Great interview. sounds like a good book, and I love fantasy:-)

  2. Christine11:00 AM

    Great interview, Marsha. I love the idea of creating stories based on ancient Native Americans, the possibilities and the challenges. The series sounds very captivating and Caleb sounds like a true creative.

  3. Enjoyed the Caleb Fox interview, even though I'm not a fan of fantasy.

  4. I enjoyed very much hearing about both how Mr. Fox works and what he has written. His enthusiasm is infectious. Thanks for the interview, Marsha.


I welcome your comments.

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