The Call of Fantasy
Below is a blog post originally posted on the AuthorsNow! website. A reader just asked me about inspiration, and I went back through my files sure that I had done some writing on this before. Here’s what I found!
We all know them—those kids who read fantasy novel after fantasy novel after fantasy novel. I was one of those kids—obsessed with the Chronicles of Narnia. I read my favorite, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, thirteen times. (I have since read it to both of my children—so now I am up to fifteen!) As a fantasy writer today, I have to acknowledge my debt to CS Lewis, and to JRR Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, another of my favorites.
At the same time, Lewis and Tolkien would be the first to acknowledge their debt to much earlier sources, such as Norse mythology. When I set out to write my debut novel, a fantasy called Watersmeet, I too went back to earlier sources: folktales, hero quests, mythology, legend. After all, what are these tales but fantasy stories? Odysseus making his way back to Ithaca—fighting the Cyclopes, Scylla, Charybdis, and the Lotus Eaters. Fantasy! Atlas with the world on his shoulder. Fantasy! Uncle Remus and the Br’er Rabbit stories. Talking animals are definitely fantasy. Scheherezade and the One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Native American stories about Coyote the Trickster. All are fantasy stories. It seems almost as if from the moment language was invented, people were gathering to tell stories about monsters, magic, heroes and power beyond what we could understand.
Fantasy connects with a very deep vein. Even today, when our society is so rational, so technological, so scientific, fantasy sells—and bookstores can be open at midnight for the launch of the seventh Harry Potter book. In fact, I think the call of fantasy is even stronger now because so much mystery and magic is gone from our daily lives. It’s no wonder kids are flocking to the genre.
When I started sending out my first novel—a fantasy—the Harry Potter phenomenon was just starting. An editor read my book and had nice things to say about it, but offered no contract. (Yes, I got what we know in the writing business as a “good rejection.”) One of her comments stuck with me: “Fantasy always sells.” In fact, fantasy has been “selling” for thousands of years. As a fantasy writer today, I feel like I’m adding my own, individual voice to an ancient and ongoing conversation.