When I started writing my Folk series (Found, Book 3, is now available), I knew I wanted to write about contemporary fairies, but I also knew I didn’t want to call them fairies because of all the mental images associated with the word. You know what I mean: little gossamer beings wearing moonbeams and spider webs and fluttering through the forest. I wanted big guys in flannel shirts living in the mountains. No moonbeams allowed.
But what to call them? For help I turned to my source for all things fairy-related, Anna Franklin’s Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Fairies. Were there other names for fairies? Were there ever!
It turns out virtually every civilization has some kind of fairy as part of their culture. In Brittany they’re the Ben Socia, or “good neighbors.” In Russia, they were the Domoviyr. Dante called them the Farfarelli (which sounds a little like pasta). The French called them Fée or Fayules. The Arunta tribes in Australia had the Alcheringa. The Apache had the Gaans. Almost every culture has some kind of magical people living alongside the regular people.
So what to call my magical people? There were so many possibilities, some of them pretty exotic. A lot of other paranormal books with fairy characters call them fae, but I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want to deal with other people’s ideas about what fae were like. I wanted to create my fairies from the ground up.
So I settled on the Folk. It isn’t a term from a particular culture, and yet it’s used a lot. In part it represents a widespread idea. People didn’t want to refer to these supernatural beings by their real names because they didn’t want to inadvertently call them to visit. That, of course, would be a Bad Thing. People wanted to refer to them in a way that was respectful, but not specific, like the Bretons referring to the local fairies as “good neighbors” in hopes that they might be just that. Folk is generic but could still let the listeners know you were talking about some very specific folk—ones who could make your cows stop giving milk if they were annoyed.
And so I have my Folk. They live in the Colorado mountains, and they try to keep a very low profile. They’re not anxious to be discovered, so they do their best to look and act like everyone else. But every so often they can’t resist doing something to show they’re not like everyone else after all. Like freezing some beer (which gets a group of Folk good ol’ boys in trouble in Away) or taking care of some potential rapists (which gives the heroine a sense of satisfaction in Found). They’re sort of tricky, in other words.