The Creation of Faith & Fairies

by C.S. Haviland

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Faith & Fairies has interesting roots.

Your first question will probably be: which part is based on family legend? Ah, but I can't tell you that, unfortunately. I am a Haviland, after all, so I'm not allowed.

I cannot stop you from looking up Haviland Hollow on a map of New York. If you find it (and you may not), I can't stop you from going there. And if you see something strange there, something you didn't think could possibly exist, don't say I invited you--because I didn't. But if I don't invite you, you shouldn't see anything there anyway. At're not supposed to.

I can tell you that my direct ancestors lived in Haviland Hollow. In fact the valley was named after them.

I can also tell you that I inherited a lot of genealogical information from my family. You can see more about Haviland genealogy at the Haviland Genealogical Organization web site: But you won't see fairies there. In fact, what I've been instructed to tell you is that fairies are the work of fiction...they are figments of the imagination...there is no parallel world...there is no giant tree hidden from the eyes of mankind. I mean that's just silly. Right?

I cannot confess who instructed me to say these things either, nor can I admit whether I'm hiding something. Sorry.

But nobody said I couldn't write stories. And nobody said I couldn't base stories on my family legend, secret or not. I am not allowed to admit that my stories are based on secrets, but I never did anyway. I just said that Faith & Fairies is based on family legend. I didn't say whose.

But would you like to know how the actual narrative came about? I can tell you that.

It all began when I graduated from the University of North Texas in 1988 with a BA in Radio/TV/Film production, and in early 1989 I moved to Orlando, Florida and began to work as a production assistant, stand-in and extra on several TV series and films shooting at Universal Studios Florida (in the production studio, before the theme park was built). In the summer of 1989, while waiting around on the set of a b-movie as an extra, I was inspired to write a low budget comedy screenplay entitled When It Rains. I cannot talk about the source of this inspiration. My apologies.

But it featured two boys, Scott and Terry, both in their early 20's (my age at the time), who get caught up in a spy scandal with a family of young girls (named Anne, Kelly, Gina, Molly, Katy and Stephanie). Terry had too much confidence; Scott had too little. But the two were friends, and Terry found an opportunity to help Scott get over his fear of girls.

Until then I had only written in science fiction, fantasy or horror, so writing a comedy was new territory for me. The script was so-so. It had a few cute scenes and pieces of dialog, but otherwise I didn't feel particularly proud of it. I have never had a great interest in pure coming-of-age comedies.

About that same time I had started a fantasy screenplay I called Magicia, about a couple of college-aged boys who lived in an apartment in New York City, and one day they came home to find a beautiful young girl with small white-feathered wings in their kitchen, playing with their food. The boys could never identify exactly what she was or where she came from, but her name was Fawn, and the plot centered around keeping her hidden from the outside world. I only wrote the first 15 pages, and then was stopped.

I was afraid of getting too close to... Well, never-mind. I can't talk about that. Now, where was I?

In late 1989 I was given an office at Universal Studios Florida to work as a reader for a small company there. In March, 1990, I partnered with my cousin, Paul Sirmons, and formed a production company called SHO Entertainment (SHO was to refer to Sirmons Haviland Organization, a future "parent" entity, which never materialized). We took over the lease for my office at Universal, and that is where I spent every single day until late 1993. The initial Universal theme park was built in those days, and I attended its opening ceremonies in the Spring of 1990 as a VIP. I had met Steven Spielberg that day and had a pleasant (if short) chat with him, which was exciting, but it didn't lead to anything. I didn't tell him anything about my writing. I didn't have an agent back then.

Most of the time I wrote new screenplays, hoping to use one to raise private financing and make an independent film. But my low-budget scripts were too weak, and my strong scripts were too expensive to make. In 1991 I tried to revitalize Magicia as a low budget fantasy named Fawn. This version was about a 14 year old boy named Ronnie who lived in a future where society had moved underground, due to pollution. He ran away from his abusive parents and discovered a fairy with small brown-feathered wings on her back, named Fawn. But again, I stalled about 15 pages into the story.

In 1992, director Joe Dante (who made Gremlins) moved into an office two doors down the hall from me to shoot the movie Matinee, starring John Goodman. I got to know many of the cast and crewmembers. One day I was playing the soundtrack of Gremlins in my office and, like some kind of pied-piper effect, Gremlins producer Mike Finnell wandered into my office and said, "I know that music." That's how I got to meet him. I met Joe when I simply invited him in to sign my poster of The Howling. But I never spoke to either of them about my scriptwriting. I was afraid it would throw up a barrier, and anyway, I didn't feel that I had completed anything they would have any interest in.

But as fate would have it, the producer's assistant asked me if I had any screenplays to submit to Joe. I felt that was opportunity knocking, and hard. Though I didn't have anything on hand that would suit Joe's taste, I told her I would come up with one he'd like. So in May 1992 I pulled out my unfinished screenplays When It Rains, Magicia and Fawn, reworked the ideas and plotlines, thought about something I felt Joe would be interested in visually, and rewrote a new story called The Tree. This script featured three orphan boys, Terry (the eldest teen), Scott (about 14) and Ronnie (pre-teen), who crashed a car in the woods and discovered a giant tree. Inside a cottage under the tree lived a family of young girls (Ellen, Anne, Katy, Libby, Belle and Mariam) who turn out to be fairies (or dryads, more exactly), each with tall pointed ears and brown-feathered wings on their backs (similar to Fawn). For whatever reason, the combination of characters took on a life of its own, and the story fell into place almost automatically. At least 98% of the plot remains the same to this day.

I wrote my first draft in 40 days (my fastest work until I wrote Code & Chemistry many years later), but by the time I was done, Joe and his company moved back out to California. I mailed the script to them, but it was rejected by their readers without explanation, and that was that. Neither Joe nor Mike had seen it. Not being the best networker in the world, I blew it.

I rewrote The Tree numerous times between 1992 and 2002 as my life changed and my writing matured. Many of the rewrites were driven by a determination to make it more popular in screenwriting contests (a market in which fairy fantasies, especially at that time, tended not to do so well). I dropped the character of Belle rather quickly, to simplify things, but the scenes I kept changing the most were in the climax. I knew what I wanted, but I couldn't make it work just right.

Let me digress for a moment and talk about inspiration--except that which may have come out of family legend, which I will expressly deny.

First and foremost, the childhood stories of L. Frank Baum (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) and A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh) will forever lie at the very base of my imagination, supporting everything I've built in there over the years. They are the earliest stories in my memory, and when I was a child I knew them intimately.

Like most kids who grew up in the 70's, I was not allowed to see any movies at the theater except Disney animated features. The influence those pictures had on me must have been substantial, and it didn't take long for me to learn that a large number of them were based on folk tales that date back hundreds of years. With many thanks to Walt Disney, I introduced myself to the literature of The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Joseph Jacobs, Andrew Lang, Charles Perrault, and my own fourth cousin once removed, Virginia Haviland. These authors compiled and retold folk tales from around the world, each using their own distinct voice and style. Of course I would eventually happen upon J.M. Barrie (the author of Peter Pan) and Carlo Collodi (the author of The Adventures of Pinocchio), but the very first "big" novel that I remember was J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. It was read out loud to my 4th grade class by our teacher (Mr. Gould) in Woodland Park, Colorado in 1974. To this day I wish I had thanked him for it.

Some of the earliest novels I remember reading by myself were The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and White Fang by Jack London.

But it was in 1977 when my life changed. I was living in Wyoming then, and I wanted to study to become a paleontologist. I had committed hundreds of dinosaur names to memory and could recite most of their classifications, having memorized a good portion of the appendix in Alfred Sherwood Romer's Vertebrate Paleontology (most of the taxonomy of which has since changed, of course). I was a big fan of science fiction and fantasy, and was reading mostly Isaac Asimov's work in the late 70's, but I didn't really have a "vent" for that passion. Dinosauria was my bag.

Then Star Wars came along in 1977.

Star Wars (years later to be sub-named, as almost everyone knows, to Episode IV: A New Hope) literally changed my entire focus. I was 12 years old (the perfect age) and saw it at a theater in Sheridan, Wyoming. It was the Fall of 1977, and the new school season had begun. All the other kids at school had already seen it over the summer, because it was released around Memorial Day. My mother didn't take me to movies much in those days, but she finally gave in, after months of begging, and we saw Star Wars.

The movie impacted me so completely that I decided, very consciously, that I wanted to pursue movie-making as a career goal. Unfortunately (or perhaps very fortunately, depending on how you look at it), kids in Wyoming looked forward to futures in retail, automechanics and ranching. There wasn't much of a science fiction fan base in Wyoming, nor was there a community of youngsters even remotely interested in making movies. I was utterly alone.

There were no home video cameras on the market yet; the earliest models of those that I remember would appear in the early 80's, and they weren't a good substitute for film. Video cameras were large, and the video recorders were not built into the camera like they are these days. Instead they were big heavy boxes that you had to carry around on your shoulder and hook up to the camera with a cable. And the cameras needed a lot of light. The light-gathering ability of cameras these days is remarkable compared to those of the early 80's. If you tried to shoot a scene without a lot of good strong light the picture looked horribly grainy, and people left ghostly streaks through the image as they moved.

I had read that film directors got their start making small movies on super-8mm film, and mom had a really old super-8mm camera. But there was no store that sold super-8 film and I had no money to buy it anyway. My mother and step-father didn't take any role in my filmmaking interest at all--they neither encouraged nor discouraged it. Nobody knew anything about filmmaking, and very few people who had any interest in science fiction or fantasy.

So much for my movie career.

So, to vent my passions, I began to simply create stories instead of films. But I needed paper to write on, and I never had enough.

At the end of every semester at school all the kids were ordered to clean out their lockers and toss their junk. Large barrels were set out in the hallways and students would fill them with locker trash. Most of that content was paper, and most of that unused! It was amazing how many notebooks were thrown away with hardly any paper used. So I snuck into the halls during lunch breaks and recess and fished through the garbage for clean paper. I found many wire-bound notebooks with just maybe 5-10 used pages which I would tear out, leaving me with a clean notebook. This became something of an adventure, because if the janitor caught me he'd chase me out with a mop.

After a couple of years I had accumulated stack of clean notebook paper several feet high. And long by then, using my favorite 4-color pen, I began to write. I wrote a few short stories but they weren't very satisfying. One of them I sent to Omni Magazine in 1982. That's when I received my first rejection slip. But I was more interested in writing longer novels. Aside from Isaac Asimov's I, Robot (which had a profound influence on me as a young writer) and a few other books, I didn't read short stories very much.

In my mind, filmmaking would always be a priority. This would prove to be my greatest mistake in the decades to come, but I had no practical guidance and teenage boys are not apt to listen to it anyway. That's why I majored in Film when I started college in 1983.

But ultimately, I have George Lucas to thank for giving me that jolt of inspiration that pushed me into developing a new craft in writing literature.

By 1992 I had written several screenplays that I thought were pretty good (ignorance is bliss) and had tinkered around with an old science fiction adventure novel for over a decade (which would become my 200,000 word space opera Deitron another decade later), and I had never written anything that wasn't science fiction or horror. I had not yet tried my hand at classic fantasy. There were very few live-action movies that would directly influence me to write a folktale-based fantasy, but two I should mention were Legend by director Ridley Scott and Splash by director Ron Howard. I will make it no secret that the character of Darkness, brilliantly portrayed by Tim Curry in Legend, inspired the race I called "rams" in The Tree, and most particularly King Stag himself. But as visually magnificent as Legend was, I thought the story was too lingering. Not enough momentum. I wanted something that captured the same sort of witty romance and quirky characters that worked so well in Splash.

During the process of writing and rewriting my work in general, there are two people I would like to mention who had a hand in guiding my craft: J. Michael Straczynski and Christopher Vogler. I would not get to speak to either of them until some years later.

In the mechanical and marketing aspects of screenwriting, there are many books out there. But in the early 90's I was armed with one written by J. Michael Straczynski, called The Complete Book of Script Writing. (My copy was published in 1982, but it's been since updated.) This and William Goldman's Adventures in the Screen Trade were my bibles to the film and television industries of that time. Just a year after my first draft of The Tree, Straczynski himself launched a new TV pilot called Babylon 5. Because I was familiar with him (he wrote my bible after all), and because it featured startling special effects made with computer animation on a budget smaller than that of Star Trek the Next Generation, which was still on the air at the time, I watched the pilot with great interest. I thought it was a little confusing, but it was very intriguing, and except for the Star Trek franchise there wasn't a lot of science fiction on TV in those days. Another year passed, and the Babylon 5 series was picked up. I continued to watch, and the story got better. And better, and better. I'm awfully glad I hung in there, because Babylon 5 remains, to this day, my all time favorite television series. Hands down. I don't know if it was Harlan Ellison's creative contribution or J. Michael Straczynski's own genius, but Babylon 5 has some of the most intelligent dialog I have ever heard on television, especially in science fiction. (Granted there were a couple of painfully weak episodes and snippets, but I'm willing to forgive those. They are few and far between.) This show continued to inspire my writing for a long time, and I would count J. Michael Straczynski as one of my two major influences for punching up drama, dialog and intrigue in my writing.

Next, after I moved to New York and The Tree seemed like it was going nowhere, I picked up a book called The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. I opened to a miscellaneous page and spotted the following term as part of the underlying structure of a story: "Call To Adventure."

It must have been fate, because that's all it took. It was like the moment I saw my future wife's face for the first time. I just KNEW.

For whatever reason, the phrase "Call To Adventure" hooked me on some instinctive level and I had to have this book. Inspired by mythologist Joseph Campbell (who was born in White Plains, NY, where I lived from 1996-2005, and where my son was born), Vogler uses mythological analogies when he breaks down the structure of a story. In doing so, he has illuminated a long-forgotten path that modern literature has walked since it began in prehistoric days when we sat around a fire and listened to the tall tales of a hardened traveller. With the skill of a scientist discovering the origins of mankind by exploring the human genome, Vogler has found the very roots of storytelling in his close inspection of the world's greatest movies (with a heavy nod to Star Wars, a comparison Campbell also made). The Writer's Journey unpacked a lot of what I had already done, making sense out of it. I could see The Tree in a new light, which helped with my work on the script since 1999. It would especially lead to its adaptation into novel format in 2002-2003.

(I remember when I saw Peter Jackson's excellent adapatation of Return of the King in late 2003 at the theater, I was shocked at a scene near the end of the movie. After the crowning of Aragorn, Frodo and the other three hobbits knelt before the king and he asked them not to, saying, "You bow to no one." Then he and all the crowds bowed to the hobbits instead, for saving Middle Earth. It had tremendous impact in the theater, and yet, I felt suddenly depressed: for this was strikingly similar to a scene near the end of my story, when all the fairies bow to Scott, Terry and Ronnie for saving the Empress Mother. I introduced that scene in 2002, the last of my major rewrites. The bowing scene in the movie did not come from Tolkien's original novel. This was an idea conceived by the writers of the movie adaptation for emotional effect, and coincidentally they had the same idea as I. For the most part, my novel is deliberately whimsical and simplistic, whereas The Lord of the Rings is very serious and highly complex. It pains me to think that anyone would compare the two. Different leagues. But, unfortunately, I fear that many misguided souls will compare my story with the movie adaptations and assume I borrowed this bowing scene directly from Return of the King, which I did not. And since my novel version wasn't published until the summer of 2004, I cannot prove it. Only my proofreader and my agent would know the truth, though I doubt they will remember. Oh well.)

Occasionally The Tree screenplay would compete in writing contests. My draft of 1993 was a quarterfinalist in the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, the most prestigious contest for unproduced screenwriters, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (of Oscar/Emmy fame). It was in the top 10% of 4000 submissions world wide. I also submitted it to the Chesterfield Writer's Film Project contest (sponsored by Universal Pictures and Amblin' Entertainment) that year, but it failed to rank. In 1994 I resubmitted a new rewrite of The Tree to the Nicholl, which I think was the last year they accepted resubmissions. It failed to rank at all this time. I decided to try the new draft with the Chesterfield again in 1995, but again it failed to rank. The same year I also sent it in to the Austin Heart of Film Festival screenwriting competition, but it didn't rank there either. The Austin contest sent me a post card in 1996 saying The Tree did advance into their "2nd tier of judging" in the 1995 competition, despite that it didn't reach the semifinalists; placing it in the top 13%. It was an attempt to get me to resubmit for 1996, which I never did. I figured it was time for another rewrite, because this one wasn't cutting it.

So I set The Tree aside for a few years to simmer in the back of my mind. In 1997 I invested quite a bit of my time and money in an independent feature film written by my associate Gary Rogers and directed by my first cousin once removed Paul Sirmons, produced by our company SHO Entertainment, called The First of May. Shot in the Fall of 1997 it starred Julie Harris, Dan Byrd, Charles Nelson Reilly, Mickey Rooney, and the Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, as himself. (Joe D died a year later, but he reportedly had watched his scene on a video screen in the hospital room the day before he died, and was very pleased with it.) I received two credits on the film: co-producer and location manager. (It would later debut on HBO in 1999-2003.) Based on the young adult novel The Golden Days by Gail Radley, the movie was about a foster child and an old lady in a nursing home who find something in common and run away together.

In 1998 I finally tried yet another rewrite of The Tree. As I had already failed twice to rank in the Chesterfield, I was determined to get them to at least acknowledge that it's among the top percentile of unsolicited scripts on the market. This time I succeeded. This draft of The Tree became a semifinalist in the Chesterfield, among several thousand entries. I also attempted the Hollywood Columbus Screenplay Discovery Awards, but it didn't get anywhere in that one. It was right around this time that I found Christopher Vogler's book. So I analyzed the script as hard as I could, gave it a polish, and looked for some fresh contests.

In 1999, my new draft garnered a semifinalist status once again, this time in the Maui Writers Conference Screenwriting Competition, being one of the 50 scripts out of 550 submissions. (Coincidentally, I would later meet Christopher Vogler in person at the Maui Writers Conference in 2002, where I pitched him the story. He really seemed to like it, and I was very pleased. In 2004 I spoke to him again at the Conference and gave him a copy of the novel version.)

I still wasn't satisfied with the contests, but I didn't do a lot with the script in 2000 because I was busy with other things. Most importantly, I was getting married. I had met a girl in Taiwan via the internet back in 1998, and in 2000 we were wedded in St. Petersburg, Florida. (You can read our true internet love story at

After things settled down again I once again tackled The Tree and submitted the latest draft to the Chesterfield in early 2001, this time partnered with my science fiction screenplay Code & Chemistry (which was written for--and competed in--the first Project Greenlight contest, in 2000, where it failed to rank with the hordes of competitive wannabes). Together, the two scripts gave me a semifinalist ranking again. The Tree was also an "Honorable Mention" in The Writers Network contest around that time.

On September 11, 2001, I witnessed the horrible destruction of the World Trade Centers outside my office window in New York City. Soon after this shocking event sank into my daily reflection, I realized what I wanted to do with the climax of my story. I quickly wrote a new draft. Suddenly the whole story came together, as if it was waiting for that final emotional punch all these years. In late 2001 it was a finalist in the People's Picture Show contest. In 2002 it became a quarterfinalist in the New Century Writer Awards and also a quarterfinalist in the 2002 Screenwriting Expo screenplay competition (sponsored by Creative Screenwriting Magazine). At the prompting of my cousin / business partner Paul Sirmons, in late 2002--barely more than 10 years after its first screenplay draft--I decided to give The Tree a new, more descriptive name: Faith & Fairies.

In 2002, my wife was tutoring the daughter of Caldecott award-winning children's book illustrator and author Ed Young. Ed was in my apartment one day and we got to chatting about my screenplay, and the difficulties I've had in getting anyone in the industry to read it without an agent. So he referred me to his agency, McIntosh & Otis, in NYC. So I sent the script to an agent at McIntosh & Otis who picked it up and shopped it around Hollywood for about a year. It got a lot of attention, but no takers. Part of the problem is that the movie business is still shy of making fantasy unless it is based on bestselling books, like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, etc. When I had pitched it at the 2002 Maui Writers Conference some people advised me to write it as a novel. Selling it as a screenplay right away wasn't doing the story justice.

This seemed like a good idea. Anyway, one of my biggest frustrations with these many rewrites was the 120-130 page limitation of the screenplay format. There was too much story I wanted to tell. So in late 2002 I decided to rewrite Faith & Fairies as a novel, expanding the story to include a dragon, many more fairies, and more plot points that interested me. It was at this time I introduced the scenes with the butterflies (inspired by my wife's love of the insect), the city of snorts and the sub-plot with the nail, the bowing scene near the end, Horde-Kaa and her fight with the Empress Mother, and a few other things.

Of course all of this may be just a cover story. It may be a diversion from the truth. It may have nothing to do with the real source of Faith & Fairies. But alas, I can't tell you about that. I've said too much already.

--C.S. Haviland