My friend Rob McClellan, founder of Thirdscribe, made a cool little jpg about the $0.99 promo deal for The Three Feathers that’s going on right now. So I looked up the classic definition of a “fable” in the dictionary this morning. It says there: “Fable = a short story, typically with animals as characters, conveying a moral.” I didn’t think The Three Feathers quite fit into that category. It’s not short and it doesn’t convey a moral in the traditional sense. Then I looked up “Fairy Tale.” “A children’s story about magical and imaginary beings and lands.” Well, yes and no because The Three Feathers is not a children’s story per se. It can be read as an adventure but that’s certainly not all it is meant to be.
If I could create a new book category on Amazon, I’d come up with Tales of Hope. Does it really matter if a story is based in a science fiction or fantasy or literary fiction if its basic message is one of hope? I have a feeling that if a reader would like to read a hopeful story, she would cross over to another genre if she knew she’d find it there.
So, The Three Feathers is a story of hope. And hope comes to the protagonist through unlikely friendships. A wolf, a warhorse, a Pegasus and others. In case you haven’t read the book, the protagonist is a young rooster. “A Rooster? Really?” you might ask. “Why not, Mr. Author, if you’re staying within the animal kingdom, have a smart dog, a cat, a lion or another more powerful and… likable hero?” I’m biased, of course :-). But let me tell you why I think, a young rooster as a protagonist is perfect: Roosters are very limited. Joshua, our not-yet-so-heroic friend can’t fly – neither very high nor very long. He can’t run very fast either. His beak isn’t sharp really. He has, however, a very good sense of time and he can crow really really loud. And he protects his flock against predators.
But here’s the difference between Joshua and many other roosters. Joshua realizes one day that whatever he does in his life, does not fulfill him anymore. He knows, albeit vague and not quite accessible to his conscious mind, that there must be more to him than he recognizes. He has a longing inside him – a longing that keeps him up at night. He longs for… adventure? Friends? That part of him that is much more capable than he thinks he is at the time? So, one day, he collects all the courage he can muster, forgets for one moment that he is not really equipped to follow his dreams, and jumps the pen. His adventure begins.
The rest is, at its core, a story about overcoming the most devastating of enemies: doubt in oneself. Now, this isn’t the Disney version of the tale of finding out who you are. This is the more gritty, The Walking Dead meets Watership Down in a Lord of the Rings setting version of the classic hero’s journey. It’s not cute. It’s not nice. It’s sad and haunting (those are reviewer’s words, not mine) but most of all it’s hopeful. The hope lies in the notion that whatever our limits are, we can overcome them. We can follow our dreams and prevail. We might be in danger of giving up on every page of our journey. We might be broken and tired and seemingly unable to hold on. But we can do it. Because there is always hope.
The hope lies in who we are. If we long for something greater, we do so because part of us knows it’s there. There is always reason for hope. It’s the most reasonable thing there is, despite what hopelessness might tell us.