Tell us about the book:
1) What was your inspiration for The End of the Trail?
I began writing the story in November 2013, and at that point had already been toying with the idea for a couple of months, so now, almost two years later, it's hard to say. It started with the sick king and his child bride – a random image of fantastical medieval darkness – and from there the rest of the story developed slowly, from the setting, to the objective of the journey, and finally to the journey itself and the man undertaking it. I can't pinpoint a source of inspiration more particular than the general concept of the dark ages.
2) Why a novelette and not a full novel?
Originally, I set out to write a short story. It proved a bit heftier than that, and dragged on into questionable territory. I'm still not entirely sure that it's more a novelette than simply a long short story, but I do think that it ends when it should end and makes all the right stops along the way, so turning it into a novel was never an option. I do, however, plan to write more stories and novelettes set in the same world, so in that sense The End of the Trail might end up a part of a larger, novel-like work.
3) You wrote a dark fantasy novelette. Is this a go to genre, favorite, or just the one you needed in order to tell the best story?
I often write dark fiction with fantastical elements, but rarely bona fide dark fantasy. In this case, I think the medieval setting nudged the story in that direction. I wasn't particularly concerned with genre as I wrote it, but after the fact the label seemed to fit pretty well, although elements of magic realism and fairy tale horror are also present.
4) The cover is beautiful and relates so much to the novel. I know you’re a cover artist as well as an author. What themes or ideas were you going for with this one, if any?
Death, violence and snow.
5) Most of the characters in the story were nameless (which was a great choice). Was there a reason for this?
There were two reasons, one of which is very superficial – I can't stand most “fantasy names.” The other reason is that for the narrator, each person is a function somehow relating to himself. His wife, his brothers, his king, his queen, the witch he's looking for, the woman he finds.6) Where do you get your story ideas from?
I know that “from my head” is not the most satisfying answer to this question, but I'm afraid that it's the best I can offer. Naturally, I'm inspired by art, beauty, experiences, sights, anything under the sun that makes me pause for whatever reason, but when it comes to tangible ideas, they're usually the result of intentional brainstorming with the purpose of writing a story.
7) What made you write about salt, snow, rumors, and deception?
I wanted to write about a harsh world inhabited by gossipers and liars.
8) I both loved and hated the ending. It was a perfect place to end, but at the same time I wanted to see what else would’ve been in store for the MC. Is there a specific reason you ended the story where you did?
I felt that it came to its natural end. It's a story of a man's physical and spiritual journey, guided by the basic question of “What do I want?” In the end the narrator abandons his romanticized (almost romantic, even) allegiance to his king, and instead chooses what he had in fact wanted from the start – comfort, books to read, and a woman who won't die young. Moreover, he loves her, to the point that the revelation of her lies and murderous actions doesn't shock him, but instead leads to a quiet shift of worldview. He's on her side now, against the king. He has found his place, the end of the trail. What happens next might be alluded to in another story set in this world, but in this story, there's nothing left to say.
9) How much research did you do?
Not much. Most of the information necessary for the world-building was compiled from things I had already learned before, one way or another. For instance, the part about the women gathering to prepare provisions for winter, is loosely based on a story my mother has told me about rural Russia. If I recall correctly, the most concrete bit of research I did for The End of the Trail was reading up on the weight of medieval swords.
10) The story had poetic language and great imagery. Did your chosen style emerge from the plot? If not, where does it come from?
I think the style did emerge, in part, from the plot. The historical, magical atmosphere definitely goes hand in hand with the language used to create it. But I would say that this probably explains about forty percent of it, while the rest is just, for lack of a better term, how I write. I think style and content are inseparable – at the end of the day, “how you wrote a sentence” and “what the sentence is” are the same thing. As a reader I like the attention to detail that results in beauty that is both conceptual and musical, and I try to aim for it as a writer, as well.
Tell us about your writing background:
When I was eleven I spent the majority of my free time writing bad stories. Then I didn't write much for a year or so, and when I was thirteen I got back into it and the stories got a little better. I'm not sure when the realization formed, but I think it must have been during one of those two nonconsecutive years.
12) Why do you write?
I find it incredibly fulfilling. There's nothing I enjoy creating more than a story.
13) When did you write your first story and how old were you?
I think I was eight. I don't remember what it was about.
14) What advice would you give to your younger self?
I'm rather pleased with the way my writing is going at the moment, and where it seems to be headed to, so I think I wouldn't say anything to my younger self, for fear of messing up the present by meddling with the past.
15) What book or books have influenced you or your writing the most?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, Leaf Storm, and his countless magnificent short stories, as well as the short and long works of Truman Capote, particularly Other Voices, Other Rooms and Handcarved Coffins. There's an overwhelming mastery to their writing, which makes me eager to write and improve.
16) Do you outline or plot or do you wait to see where an idea takes you?
I usually outline anything longer than flash fiction. But that doesn't mean I don't wait to see where the idea takes me, it's just that I break the idea down into two parts – the skeleton of the story, and the meat – and work on them separately. I work on the skeleton first, and here, I don't constrain my imagination, but I do retain the freedom to go back and change course if I see that I've ended up at a stupid or nonsensical place. Because this is just the outline. Once that is done, I start working on the meat – actually writing the story, the people, the details. Sometimes, and this metaphor kinda breaks down here, the meat might change the skeleton, but I still find it better to know where I'm going, even if I might change my mind, than to dive in head first with no preparation.
17) What is your favorite book? Or some of your favorite books? And why?
My favorite books are the same as the ones that have influenced me the most – One Hundred Years of Solitude and Leaf Storm by Garcia Marquez, Other Voices, Other Rooms and Handcarved Coffins by Capote. I'd also add some short story collections to that list, mainly ones by Etgar Keret, Neil Gaiman, S.Y. Agnon and Edgar Allan Poe.
Tell us more about your current and future endeavors:
18) What are you working on at the moment?
I'm writing my first novel, which I've been working on for nearly three years and will finish soon, hopefully. You could say it's a psychological thriller with theological undertones.
19) What book/s are you reading at present?
- The Floating Opera by John Barth
- The Golem by Gustav Meyrink, but more the former than the latter.
20) What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Write things that make me proud and make a comfortable living off of it.
21) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I'm not very far from being an aspiring writer myself, so any advice I give should be taken with a bucketful of salt, but I think common sense would dictate the following:
Read a lot, write what you'd want to read, don't bother with trends, and finish what you start.
22) Where can we find your books?
Many of my short stories can be read online for free, and others can be purchased as part of anthologies or magazine print issues. To those who haven't read anything of mine, I'd recommend starting with Coming Home, a literary, psychological science fiction story published in Bartleby Snopes. For a complete list of my published stories, you can go to www.louisrakovich.com/short-fiction. The End of the Trail is available as an ebook from most major ebook retailers.
23) Any final thoughts for the readers?
Thanks for reading the interview. I hope it has offered you some enjoyment. I@LouisRakovich. I would love to hear from you.
f you end up reading anything of mine, please feel free to tell me what you thought either through my website, or on Twitter at
I also want to thank you, R.M., for this interview, the thorough and insightful questions, and your very kind words about The End of the Trail – from the writing style, to the ending, to the cover art. Thank you!
It was a pleasure.