5 reasons I write Fantasy

5 reasons I write fantasy

Since I first wrote a fantasy story, back when I was a child, I have always been drawn to this genre, both as a writer and a reader.

Let me tell you why.

Seeing beyond the mundane with a writer’s eye

I don’t think I’m the only writer who does this, but I’ve always looked at the world from a curious, searching and to an extent alternative eye.

When I look at a photo, it’s the quiet background details that stand out to me, such as the reflection cast on the window glass behind the family posing for a holiday snap or the half hidden gateway beyond the beautiful garden.

My inspiration is often drawn from a ‘what if’ mindset. What if the family were unaware of the shadowy presence that stood just beyond the photographer’s shoulder? What if that half hidden gateway led to a world of mystical wonders?

My ‘what if’s always lead me to fantastical scenarios and magical characters.

It’s all about the magic

By definition, fantasy stories must always include some element of magic, be that magic spells, magical artefacts or mythical creatures.

I suppose my love for magic began with the fairytales I read as a child. There was the fairy godmother in Cinderella and her transformation of the pumpkin (to a carriage), mice (to footmen and horses) and of our heroine herself, the curse cast over Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, and the little mermaid’s transformation into a human.

Magic opens up so many more possibilities for a story, like a magical doorway to escape through, runes that imprison, and mystical healing powers (all of which you’ll find in Haven Wakes).

Fantastical beasties

There are countless mythological and magical animals in fantasy stories to write about or use as a basis to invent a new animal.

There are mermaids, and goblins, and giants, and dragons, and… I could go on forever. Alongside those childhood fairytale favourites, I also read a lot (and some more) of mythology stories.

My mind brims over with fantastical beasties to include in my stories, and I love them all – even the dark and sinister ones.

Fantasy spans all age groups

You’ll find fantasy fiction written for all of the readership age groups. There’s the Harry Potter and Skulduggery Pleasant books for the younger readers. Fantasy-loving teens can enjoy books by writers like Cassandra Clare and Suzanne Collins. For adults (young, new or more mature), there are plenty of fantasy novels like the Game of Thrones novels, the Terry Pratchett Discworld books, and The Night Circus.

Haven Wakes is written for an 11+ readership but I also have ideas that would work better for teens, and others that would definitely be for mature readers. Writing in this genre doesn’t limit the age of my potential readership.

I keep coming back

I’ve read plenty of other genres, especially as a literature graduate, and I’ve tried my hand at writing outside the fantasy genre (I spent two decades writing murder mystery plays) but the genre that I return to time and time again as both as a reader and a writer is fantasy.

It’s where I feel most at home. It’s the genre I read when I need to escape the hardships of life, and the genre I write when at my most inspired.

Progress, a chat with my muse, and much much walking the dog

Progress, a chat with my muse, and much much walking the dog

When I started this blog, it was with the honest intention to post on here a couple of times a month. So what happened to my June posts? Well, I’ll tell you.

Progress on my novel

Do you know what a developmental edit is? I didn’t until the lovely folks at my publisher, Burning Chair, let me in on the secret.

A developmental edit is what happens when your publisher/editor takes your manuscript and scours it for improvement opportunities. In essence, they make it better, on a line by line basis and also from a godly overview perspective.

June was spent applying the findings of my developmental edit to Haven Wakes. Here’s what I learned:

  • Where it’s relatively easy to rejig a manuscript in the making (move the order of chapters around, change a character’s motivation, send the cast to the beach rather than the city), making changes to a manuscript that you have fixed in your brain because, in your mind, it’s finished, can seriously chafe your aura. It means mentally retracing your steps, if only just a few, to make the necessary changes.
  • I am exceedingly protective of my baby, I mean, manuscript.
  • A second pair of eyes is always useful. I thought Haven Wakes was already a fully formed being, but 98% of the changes that my editor suggested will produce a much more polished, pacy and intuitive read (sorry, couldn’t think of a third ‘p’).

I finally emailed the edited version to my publisher this week, with some re-ordering of events, and a couple of completely new sections too. Fingers crossed they like it.

A chat with my muse

You know how avid readers have a tendency to buy new books even though they’re not only mid-read of one book but also have a humongously long to-be-read list? Well, writers are similar in that we are prone to coming up with brilliant ideas for new stories long before we’ve finished the one we’re working on.

My muse keeps doing that to me. “Yes, I know you’re editing your manuscript but if you could just stop for a moment, I’d like to tell you about the next book. I have this wonderful idea to…”

I tried to ignore her but, in the end, she won. She’s good, my muse, very imaginative, but also a touch random. I have pages of ideas for book two (including some cross-continental travel for my main characters) but it’ll take a massive sorting session to put them in order.

Much much walking the dog

Working on my novel this month has meant taking a ‘bigger picture’ view. For me, this requires a bit of open space and a lot of sky.

I’ve spent much of this month out walking the dog and envisioning the bigger picture for Haven Wakes and its follow-up novels.

If I let this character live, what do I do with them in book 2?

If this character intervenes here, how does this other character get away so they can do what needs to be done?

How could I bring this character back in future books?

What clues do I need to seed in book 1 for the rest of the series?

That’s the kind of question I’ve been considering on my dog walks.

What else can I tell you?

The book cover for Haven Wakes is still in the works but it’s coming along nicely. For me personally, and maybe for all writers, seeing my book cover come together is one of those giggly moments when you realise that your dream is becoming a reality.

My short story is at the editing stage and should provide a lovely taster for the world of Haven Wakes. I’m hoping that it’ll be the first of many related short stories.

We’re still on target to release Haven Wakes later this year. You’ll be the first to know when there’s a definite launch date.

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There’s a lot of lovely blue sky out there today so I’m off to walk the dog for some of that bigger picture thinking. Talk soon.

Inspiration: My top 5 World Builders

I love a good novel, but as a reader the thing that elevates a novel to the next level for me is when that story isn’t alone. It stands as merely one of many paths into a world created by the author.

There are some real writerly experts out there who are adept at crafting worlds that pull us back in time and time again.

Here are my top 5:

Stephen King

Prolific. I think that’s one of the most fitting words for the writer Stephen King. The prolific-ness (is that a word?) is down to not only the number of novels he’s written, but also the many genres he’s crossed and writing forms he’s successfully tackled.

He’s known mainly as a horror writer, but his stories have spanned fantasy, science fiction, and thriller too. He writes novels and short stories, stand-alone novels and series, and has even been involved in screenplays.

You might think that because he’s written across so many genres that it would be impossible to build a world to contain them all, but you’d be wrong.

In his Dark Tower series, Stephen King creates a hub that links to all the outlying worlds where his stories take place. If you’re a long time reader and fan, you suddenly see exactly how the stories work together.

I’m not sure if Stephen King had the Dark Tower hub in mind when he began writing his books, but for me, it works incredibly well.

Clive Barker

For me, Clive Barker has always written books that are both horror and fantasy. Two of his books – Weaveworld and Cabal – are linked, taking certain species and their culture from Weaveworld and turning them on their heads by locating them in our own world in Cabal.

In Weaveworld, a magical world is hidden away inside a tapestry to keep it safe from mankind and those who would harm and abuse it. In Cabal, a disturbed young man who is apparently guilty of murder finds his way to a sanctuary for supposed monsters called the Nightbreed.

I loved this dark mirror effect of taking individuals who are seen as good and talented in one book and presenting them in the other book as monsters when seen from the perspective of those who are ignorant to their culture and intent.

J K Rowling

I couldn’t talk about world building and not mention J K Rowling. Her take on the world of witches and wizards, the related culture, and all the magical beasties imaginable, has been a game-changer in the fantasy genre.

The Harry Potter books, and slightly later the films, became a phenomenon in themselves. You only have to look at the amount of merchandise available all over the world and the massive range of fan fiction to see how much the Harry Potter monster still has us in its clutches.

It was reintroduced, or maybe just strengthened, in the Fantastic Beasts films and books, adding a past and even more rich layers to J K Rowling’s magical world.

However you approach it, be it from the Harry Potter books, the stage play or the Fantastic Beasts films, it feels like a tightly-woven world with a colourfully imagined culture.

Derek Landy

‘Buffy meets Dr Who meets Ghostbusters’ is how the Skulduggery Pleasant website describes this series of fantasy novels.

A dead, sorcerer detective (that’s Skulduggery) and a normal teenage girl who is pulled into the dangerous and magical life of her late uncle are our guides in this dark, exciting and multi-faceted world.

I found Skulduggery Pleasant in our local library as a book to read to my son. I can’t say who enjoyed it most, me or him, but this series has been a favourite of my family (me, my son and my daughter) ever since.

Cressida Cowell

My daughter began to read the How To Train Your Dragon series of books long before there was a film (or three). She was fascinated from the first book and even now, as a teenager about to leave school, the HTTYD books are still a treasure to her.

The world of Hiccup, his Viking tribe, and the dragons he comes to love, paint a heartfelt picture of a place I’m sure most children (and many adults) would love to visit.

What inspires me most about these books is the fact that there is a level of familiarity that most people can connect with. There’s a boy who feels he’s an outcast and not living up to his family’s expectations. Then, there’s Cressida Cowell’s take on the Viking culture too.

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What about you? Which fictional worlds do you love?