The fairy tales & fantasy of Devon McLaughlin

Devon McLaughlin
Devon McLaughlin

by Timothy Pike

Fantasy author Devon McLaughlin is finally ready to write the third and final installment of her vampire series, but there’s just one little problem: her character is on sabbatical.

Where this particular character has gone is anybody’s guess, but what it means for Devon is that her novel is on hold, at least for now.

“I found out a long time ago that I can’t force a story to be told if the character isn’t in the mood to talk,” Devon tells me. “If I do, the story ends up wandering aimlessly, and then I have to edit out huge chunks that—while they are interesting—have no bearing on the plot whatsoever.”

“I would buy a new fantasy novel every two weeks,” Devon recalls, “looking for the same literary high J.R.R. Tolkien’s books gave me.”

In fact, one of Devon’s greatest ongoing challenges has to do with the flightiness of her characters, which can make it hard for her to stay focused. “I tend to bounce around a lot from story to completely different story depending on which character in my head wants to talk,” she says.

Fortunately for Devon, she finds ways to press on. Writing, after all, is in her blood. “I come from a family of readers and writers,” she says. Devon’s sister did a long stint as a reporter, her mother wrote a column for the local newspaper, and her father, a wildlife biologist, penned and illustrated his own autobiography.

As for Devon, it didn’t take long for her own writing to veer into the fantastical—no surprise for an author who fell in love with bats at an early age, and even worked in a pet crematory.

“I started writing stories when I was eleven,” Devon says, “and they were always rather different from the rest of the family. I read [J.R.R. Tolkien’s] The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in high school. I had never read anything like that before, and my writing immediately changed.”

According to Devon, fantasy soon became like a drug to her. “I would go to the bookstore and buy a new fantasy novel just about every two weeks,” she recalls, “looking for the same literary high Tolkien’s books gave me.”

It’s no surprise that someone who fell in love with bats at an early age—and even worked in a pet crematory—took a shine to the fantastical.

Devon spent her childhood in Delaware—in an old house surrounded by salt marsh—but as time went on, she found herself drawn to the rolling, green hills of the Pennsylvania countryside, where her family would travel frequently to visit relatives. “I’ve always been more comfortable with wide open spaces and rural areas,” she says.

These days, writing from her farm in York County, PA, this four-time published author takes the time to explain where the ideas for her novels come from.

“Sometimes I start with a premise,” she says, “but mostly I write from the seat of my pants. Wanderling’s Choice came from a dream I had during a migraine.”

More often than not, however, Devon’s ideas emerge from, er, more pleasant experiences, such as the “faerie festivals” that she and her husband like to attend. “My husband and I go to a lot of festivals and conventions,” Devon tells me. “After we attended one such festival, he told me his idea for a costume and I suggested that his character needed a backstory. So Once Upon a Troll is the story of his character, a troll who has a curse put on him by an evil witch. The whole tale is told from the troll’s point of view.”

“It’s what I like to call a ‘twisted fairy tale,'” she says. “I’m having a lot of fun writing this one.”

For all the fun she’s having, Devon, like most writers, admits to experiencing occasional discouragement, and even tells me there are times she just wants to throw her hands up and walk away. “Every time I go to a book signing and no customer is interested in my stories,” she gives as an example, “or every time someone tells me that people don’t read books anymore.”

“Not the wisest thing to say to an author, by the way,” she adds. Agreed.

But Devon makes it clear that she won’t be backing down anytime soon. “I will write even if the reviews say I’m the worst author out there,” she says. “I will write because I must. There are feelings inside me I cannot express any other way. When I am inspired to write, I must scratch that itch, or else.”

“As long as I keep dreaming,” Devon assures us, “the books will keep coming.”

It’s that inspiration to write that gave rise to her four hundred–page fantasy novel, Legend of the Blood Raven. Released in 2015, it was my introduction to Devon’s work, and an impressive one at that. Here’s the exciting premise:

Bran is a young lass who lived in the dwarf kingdom of Tor Ambroc. She was a normal dwarf just like any other—except she liked to ride horses. Vilmar is a simple farrier’s son. He is a better horse trainer than scholar. But all the dwarves say he “stinks of magic.” Delkan is a dwarf maiden with a cunning wit and a bad habit of saying just the right thing to get everyone in trouble. Daga is the mysterious uncle to every dwarf born. He carves magic toy horses and he likes to dabble in the ebb and flow of Fate. Unlikely friends, together they strive against evil who has marked all dwarves for death. Thus is born the Legend of the Blood Raven.

As her fans clamor for sequels to the novels she’s published, Devon spills some good news: sequels are on the way. “Everyone wants a sequel to the story they just read,” she says, “and I want to give them a sequel. The rough draft of the sequel of Wanderling’s Choice is almost done. I need to write more sequels to A Slice of Unkindness, my first steampunk book.”

And regarding the long-awaited follow-up to Legend of the Blood Raven: “I have the rough draft of part of it.” So diehard fans can rest easy; it’s on its way.

But we’re still not sure when, as Devon insists that it’s her characters who dictate her timetable. “Sometimes a character from a completely different world is monopolizing my keyboard,” she says, “and I must write their story, or deal with the consequences.”

In the meantime, Devon’s rich imagination promises to bring to life many more exotic worlds, fairy tales, and stories of fantasy.

“As long as I keep dreaming,” she assures us, “the books will keep coming.”

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