Professor Pens Fantasy Novel
By STEPHANIE BREIJO
Judging just from the poems and Tolkien memorabilia on his Combs office door, fantasy is Dr. Warren Rochelle’s forte.
While teaching a full load of courses, Rochelle, an associate professor of English, found time to create mythical worlds full of fairies and enchantment. His latest novel, “Harvest of Changelings,” features four children on their quest for belonging in the midst of an eventual war.
“The beginning premise of the book, which I think is rooted in my own interests of fairy fantasy, is that all fairy tales are true,” Rochelle said. “This book is about the collisions of magic with the real.”
Rochelle is no stranger to the line between fantasy and reality. He modeled one of his characters, Ben Tyson, a librarian from North Carolina, after himself.
“As I tell my creative writing students, write about what you know,” Rochelle said. “I was able to draw upon my own experience as a librarian. It became the background you do not pay too much attention to, but it rings true because it is true.”
Rochelle uses places from his own life as inspiration for the traditional small country towns in the novel. He used to read about The Devil’s Tramping Ground, one of the locations in the book, from North Carolina ghost stories.
“A lot of my own life is woven into this story,” Rochelle said.
Rochelle also combined his knowledge of Celtic lore and myth to create an unconventional story.
“One of the things I like to do with fantasy is to make you see reality in a slightly skewed fashion, so it is sort of familiar, but not quite,” he said.
Rochelle’s writing process digs deeper than personal history and research alone. He worked on “Harvest of Changelings” for over a decade before publication.
After originally writing the novel as a short story, Rochelle came to a stopping point in graduate school. When he began working on it again, his original story needed a lot of revisions and rewriting.
“I printed the whole thing out, erased all of the files and then re-entered the whole book,” Rochelle said, “which allowed me to rethink the whole process.”
Rochelle worked around his busy Mary Washington schedule to edit and re-edit time and again.
“It’s a matter of a lot of juggling, a matter of being really focused on it ,” Rochelle said. “And I have to make that effort to do it every day as a part of my continual process. Sometimes life gets pretty busy.”