There is a beautiful story behind how this fairy tale came to life. As a teacher and a father, author Dames Handsome hears so many wonderful and unique stories daily, and he’s here to share. Dames tells us how his Fairy Knights series help show the kids to deal with serious issues like social awkwardness, social anxiety, and other deep feelings of jealousy or anger. Want to find out how the heroes of his fairy world found their way into the Fairy Knights books? Here’s how:
What inspired you to write the Fairy Knights book series?
The entire series started with a tabletop RPG game I made to play with my family. All three of us sat down at the table, and my wife and my son both made a fairy character, and they got to choose different powers from a list that I made. And then the two of them went out to become heroes in the fairy world! The quests that they went on were drawn from the numerous fairy tale books that I have in my library, from countries all over the world. And when we finished playing, it had been so spectacular that I wrote down everything that had happened. Then I turned my notes into a book for my son, which I read to him at night before he slept. And then it just sat there on my computer. Afterward, I occasionally shared the story with various people, and all of them loved it, so half a year after it was written, I decided that I should publish it. Then that first book got such a great reception that I decided I should write more.
Tell us about the knights. What makes each one of them special?
The Fairy Knights started out as the duo Ching Goo and Oma Bell, characterized respectively by my son and my wife. Ching is an impulsive 10-year-old who doesn’t always think things through enough and likes to goof off and have fun. His truly special power is that he can shape-change since he goes to Sheepie Elementary School and he has some other more minor Powers as well. He is creative and quite sensitive. It is through his eyes that the series often investigates and addresses real social problems that kids this age deal with at school and on the bus.
Oma Bell is the responsible one, the Fairy Knight who keeps Ching in check. She is studious rather than carefree, and her plans minimize danger but don’t always have that extra special edge that a Ching-Oma collaboration has. She is very magical, and her Squirrie Elementary School teaches her to have access to a lot of spells and abilities.
Hamster Rick is the muscle of the Fairy Knights. He started off in the series as Ching Goo’s very special animal friend, and his awesome heroics on the team earned him a place in hero history. He doesn’t have any magic, but he can level up, and he tends to put all of his Essentials into strength. That might seem stupid at first, but his arch-nemesis Chipmunk Chuck does the same thing, and so they are in a constant struggle to be stronger than each other. But I tend to think that Hamster Rick’s real unique strength is his undying loyalty and friendship to Oma and Ching.
The last notable Fairy Knight is their teacher Dames Handsome. He is an older hero in his 40s, and he served a lot of time doing quests for the good of the world. He is a mentor to the Fairy Knights and he often takes charge of Fairy Village defenses when things go awry.
How does their friendship evolve throughout the first three books in the series?
At the very beginning, they are just Fairy Kids and their hamster, hanging out and playing chess or doing games in the woods. It is a very idyllic existence. But the two of them have something that many kids do not — they are channelers. That means that they can channel very positive energy or very negative energy into themselves to make themselves stronger. The fairies call this leveling up. Because they have this rather unique power, Oma Bell decides on her birthday that she wants them all to go and try to be heroes. And so, in the first book, they are still figuring things out and facing up against self-doubt.
In the second, they have proven themselves, and so they are more confident in their stride. But Ching faces Jealousy when he finds that Hamster Rick is much more popular than he is in new places and with new people. They come to a new understanding after Ching breaks off and gets himself into trouble, and the Knights end the book stronger than ever.
In Swamp Thingy, Ching finds himself split into a version of himself that is “left-brained” and one that is “right-brained.” It is in that one that his friends have to convince him that he is great as who he is and that people love him as he is.
And in each of the situations, they get closer, better at their heroing, and more understanding of the world around them.
How do Ching Go, Oma Bell, and Hamster Rick transform from one book to another?
At the end of each book, they level, which means they will start the next one stronger. But they also go back to regular school life. We see them progress and get older in each prologue, we hear about their achievements, and we get a feel for how they are growing up. Oma Bell becomes the class president of Squirrie Elementary. Ching turns his bad grades around and becomes a good student. Hamster Rick gets admitted to Boogie Elementary School and becomes a student there. It is wonderful to see them grow and a little sad, too, because it means that someday they will be all grown up and their kid adventures through the Strawberry Woods will have to come to an end. But that won’t be happening anytime soon. As my ten-year-old son told me, “No matter what, you can’t stop writing these. They are so good and so funny.”
Let’s not forget about Dames Handsome, the Fairy Knights’ close friend. He reminds us of D’Artagnan from “The Three Musketeers.” Why did you create Dames as a separate character and not part of the Fairy Knights group?
Dames is mostly retired. He spent a lot of his time adventuring, and the moment he hears of the Fairy Knights’ victory over the boglin he knows they are something special. He knows that he and the few other channelers of Fairy Village can’t be their heroes forever, and he stands back to allow them to take up the roles that eventually can no longer be fulfilled by people like himself. In a lot of ways, he is like Yoda, or perhaps Dumbledore.
But in truth, when I wrote it for my son, he was the stand-in for myself and my own want to do everything for my son to make his life easy, and the need to stand back and let him grow and learn. Like Dames with the Fairy Knights, I, too, could easily accomplish many of the quests that my son faces in everyday life. But it makes him stronger if I instead stand back and have him do it while educating him on how and advising him when he needs it.
The Fairy Village, the setting of your book series, is a very special place. Tell us a little about it. Why would children love to live there?
Fairy Village is a cute little place nestled in the center of a beautiful sylvan forest that exists in its own pocket dimension between space and time. It means that, with the right spells or friends, when you leave the forest you can go to any time or place. But for many, the village itself is perfect because all around them grow fruits and vegetables of every sort, just waiting to be picked. The food of the fairies is magnificent, as are their games, and the fairy folk is a very happy and friendly lot. They would love to play with children who came to visit or live there, and children would get to learn the magic of the fairies at any one of the four elementary schools, Squirrie, Broonie, Sheepie, or Boogie. It would be quite a happy life, and I know I myself would love to live there.
You are a teacher and a father. How did your students and your son inspire you in writing the characters and coming up with the twist plots?
Children are naturally creative, naturally anxious, and not wise to the world yet. As a teacher and a father, I hear so many wonderful and unique stories, listen to so many problems with social awkwardness and social anxiety, counsel children through strong feelings of jealousy or anger, and try to show them how we adults deal with it all. And that all comes together in my books. The big baddies aren’t the monsters. The big baddies are the anxieties and fears that kids normally experience all throughout their elementary and middle school years.
You believe that every book has a lesson. Why is that? What is the most profound lesson you’ve learned from books?
When authors write, they have a message they want to tell. And that message is the lesson of their story, something that they’ve learned themselves over their years on this planet. Without that message, there is no conflict, and it just becomes people doing stuff for no reason. Lessons and conflict are the fabric that stories are made of. And the most profound lesson that I have learned from all the books that I’ve read is that no matter how hard things seem at times, there is always someone else who has it harder, and they aren’t giving up. Truly understanding that helped me become who I am today. Without that lesson, I doubt I’d be doing this interview!
What are the lessons children will learn from the Fairy Knights book series?
They will learn to deal with crises common to their age group. So far, I have dealt with feelings of jealousy, anger, sadness, imposter syndrome, and self-esteem issues. I plan to continue in that vein. They will also learn to, as one little fan told me, “be good so I can level up and be a hero.”
The fourth book in the series, Trees’ n Tricks, just released in November. Without giving us any spoilers, what should the readers expect?
Get ready for the Land of Halloween! This one has a mashup of spooky creatures doing wacky things, a rather serious high stakes clash, and fairy tale weave-ins from Western Europe, Russia, and Korea. See if you can spot them!
Your heroes go to spooky places inhabited by spooky creatures. What is the spookiest situation you’ve experienced?
Oooh, I like that question. One night twenty years ago, I was on holiday leave from the US Army, and I was staying out at my childhood home. I came home late from visiting friends, and I was heading up the stairs when suddenly the walk-in hallway closet sprang open on its own! It made me jump, but that wasn’t the end of it. I heard a monstrous growling sound coming from my room. I went in there, and there was nothing, so I calmed myself down and went to sleep. The next day I came downstairs and saw a message flashing on the answering machine, and when I listened to the message, it was that same growling sound! I still, to this day, don’t know what happened that night, but it was chilling.
What is the most rewarding thing about writing children’s books?
Fan feedback. I love to get messages from moms and dads telling me how much their little ones loved the story and the cute things they did or said after reading them. Knowing that I make children happy is tremendously rewarding, and it makes me feel amazing.
Since you know Fairies so well if this Halloween we encounter a fairy, what should we do to get into her good graces?
If you are a good person, you already are! The fairies of Fairy Village are always happy to make new friends.