We had the good fortune of connecting with Todd Fahnestock and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Todd, as a parent, what have you done for you children that you feel has had the most significant impact?
My short answer: choosing a career you love, being persistent and being a decent person to those around you. But my full answer requires a story and is, in fact, the reason I’m a writer. Writing saved my life when I was fourteen. My parents divorced, and I could have gone down some dark paths. I had a few friends who did, making bad choices. Drugs. Crime. Explosive anger. Ruining their grades. These were all ways to either salve their pain or upstage it with a larger drama. Me, I escaped into fantasy fiction instead. In fantasy stories, there’s always a hero who starts with very little power and a villain who starts with immense power (think Frodo and Sauron from Lord of the Rings). A journey eventually brings these two opposites together in a clash that, as unlikely as it seems, the hero will win. This pulled me through that dark time, made me believe that maybe I, too, could somehow win through when the odds seemed insurmountable. And when I was old enough, I wanted to give that same gift to other kids going through tough times, not only an escape, but a view of heroes who exemplified virtues that, if emulated, could even actually help in real life. As I watch my own kids grow, and as I build my writing career, I hope they’ll cherish those same virtues in my fictional heroes, just as I cherished the characters of other writers. I also hope to set a real-life example for two things I consider important: choosing a career they love and persisting against all odds.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I write high fantasy stories, which is to say I write about worlds with swords and magic and fantastical creatures wherein the protagonists try to be noble and effect something good in the end. Those were the stories that picked me up as a kid and I still love them to this day. My Tower of the Four series is a perfect example of this kind of high fantasy. I have also dabbled in other genres. My time travel novel, Charlie Fiction, is more geared for adults, and tells the story of Daniel, the first man in the world to discover how time travel actually works, who is trying to stop the end of the world with the help of the woman he loves, a ghost named Charlie Fiction. My current personal favorite, though, is Summer of the Fetch, a magical coming-of-age road trip story set in 1988. On a rock climbing trip to Canyonlands, the seventeen-year-old main character Eric meets an Irish trickster spirit called a fetch. She promises him invincibility for the summer. He will be legendary at anything he attempts, but there is a price. On the eve of his eighteenth birthday, he will die. Eric takes her hand and accepts the deal… My love of stories, a dogged persistence, and thousands of hours of hard work pushed me through many challenges and moments of doubt in this career. The cool thing about this job, though, is that every time I finish a book, I’m excited to start the next one. I have yet to reach a moment where my mind isn’t bursting with ideas, so from that perspective, it is easy. But there are many challenges to being a writer, not the least of which is doing the work. I make myself stick to a schedule and try to average 2,000 words every day, whether I want to write or not. Whether the words are good or not. Sometimes when I write, it’s like the muse is dancing in the room with me. I’m inspired and the words flow. Sometimes, I feel like I’m shoveling horse dung and that’s all I’m ever going to be capable of creating. What do I want the world to know about my brand? Well, if you like magic, deep characters, high adventure and inspiration, you’ll love what I write. Some of it can get gritty, but I’m also a sucker for happy endings. I tend to put my characters through hell, but they win in the end.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I am entertaining friends who are first-timers to Denver, we go the Denver Museum of Nature and Science or the Denver Art Museum. Or both. I just love both of those places. Oh, and while we’re downtown, we grab some sweets at Voodoo Donuts. That place is paradise. The last two years for my birthday, we didn’t get a cake. We got a dozen delectable delicacies from Voodoo Donuts. If we have a hankering for old-style Mexican food, we hit El Tejado on Broadway close to my house. Love that place. It reminds me a little of Francisco’s Restaurante Y Cantina in Durango, where I worked as a busboy growing up. Oh! And Park Burger on Pearl Street. Amazing turkey burgers and the best fries anywhere. And of course we gotta grab drinks at the Tabletop Tap. Most of my friends are gamers, and the Tabletop Tap has all kinds of old school video games (Donkey Kong, Galaga, Frogger) as well as a library of board games and big tables to play them on. If my friend is athletically inclined and wants a good workout, I’ll take them to Family TaeKwonDo of Littleton, where I train. Oh, and definitely a trip to DuffyRoll on the way home. I just recently discovered Duffyroll on Broadway and Evans, and they have fantastic breakfast sandwiches (Not kidding. They are ridiculously good). And of course their sweet rolls are famous. And if we’ve got a whole week, we’ll hike a portion of The Colorado Trail. Maybe Segment 2 or 3, something relatively close. My son and I hiked the whole thing during this past summer of COVID, and it was incredible. In fact, the photo I included is of me and my son at the 400-mile mark, inside an old mine a couple dozen miles from Molas Lake.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Shout Out goes to my wife Lara Fahnestock. I’ve had so many people who are excited and supportive about my writer’s journey, but none more than her. She reads everything as soon as I finish it, and she’s the first one to tell me to buck up when I have moments of doubt. In addition to the nearly full-time job of emotionally supporting a crazy writer, she also serves Denver Urban Gardens as their the Senior Director of Operations. She is simply, flat-out, the best person in the world. Ask anyone. I will also Shout Out to my kids, Elowyn and Dashiell. Elo is an amazing storyteller in her own right at age sixteen, and she helps me plot my books, work through character arcs, and gives me insight to her generation. Dash, one of the wisest people I know, even at age fourteen, subtly reminds me every day to keep my spiritual house in order. And he comes up with Dad jokes! Ah, it makes me so happy. Sorry I instilled that in you, buddy. It’s only going to get worse as you get older… Of course, my Shout Out wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my writer’s group, Chris Mandeville and Aaron Brown. We have a weekly Zoom meeting these days where we discuss the politics of the day, the daily mechanics of integrity and morality, and of course, everything and anything having to do with writing. I simply wouldn’t survive without them. Lastly, I want to Shout Out to my readers everywhere. You make my dream of being a writer real with every page turn. Thank you.
Rashed AlAkroka Laura Hayden