There’s an interesting that happens when I tell people I’m an author. The first response will be to ask what sort of thing I write. That’s pretty much the case across the board. After that, reactions split. This is where I learn who my people are. Either their eyes will light up with the bright interest of the Geeks, or the interest will fade and the subject will soon change to something else.
And that’s fine! It’s nice to be in that secret club of magic-dreamers and world-travellers. The people who are able to see beyond what reality shows us. There’s a beauty in the impossible that makes the banality of the every day so much more captivating.
People might not grab a random fantasy of the shelf at the airport the way they will a thriller or the latest movie adaptation (unless they’re already fans), but I could never leave my sorcerers and demons.
So maybe it’s time I address the question: why did I choose fantasy?
If you had asked me at thirteen years old what I would be writing, I would have said mysteries. I very clearly remember telling my dad that I would never read anything other than mysteries. “Everything else is boring.” I was devouring all kinds of murders and thrillers, and must have re-read the old Nancy Drew series often enough that I could remember the titles in order off the top of my head (don’t test me now).
But if you read what I was writing at the time, you would have found magic, kids discovering werewolves in the barn behind their house, ghosts in the basement, brothers and sisters crossing into other worlds in my own little Narnia*.
It wasn’t until I actually started reading fantasy that I was actually able to put a name to what I loved about my creative playgrounds. My first real taste was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. If you’ve read it or watched the mini-series, you know how engaging it is. It’s a whole world a deep magic, religion, beauty, philosophy. This is the book that really sparked my love of cloaks and dresses with bell sleeves, or herb lore and ritual.
After that, I devoured all of her work, and from her moved over to Mercedes Lackey and her extensive backlist.
Bruce Coville (My Teacher’s an Alien), The Bailey School Kids (Aliens Don’t Wear Braces) Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time), Jack Whyte (A Dream of Eagles) were what solidified my love of the other. The fact that in these worlds, as long as you knew why it happened, anything could be real.
The escape they offered was unlike anything I experienced in other fiction. Mysteries grab me and zip me along, they often get me thinking and working out puzzles, chick lit gets me right in the feels and is perfect for a cold snowy day, and I will always appreciate a good literary work. But even among my fiction it’s Charles de Lint and Alice Hoffman, with their beautiful, subtle ways of weaving magic into the real, that really sweep me away. It’s the step into the other that will keep me in my chair for hours and sometimes make it difficult to wake up from their dream back into my reality.
Why do I write fantasy? Because I believe living in one world is a waste when I can create and live in as many as I want. When I can snap my fingers and create fire, or speak with animals, or tap into the energy that keeps the world turning. I want my world to have vampires and werewolves, sorcerers, and through them, finding my people with whom I can enjoy them.
So tell me in the comments: what fantasy worlds did you first lose yourself in, and which ones do you keep going back to?
*I have the evidence to prove it, and I intend to share it with my $5+ Patreon subscribers starting in December. I recently reclaimed all of my old short stories, things I wrote when I was just learning my handwriting, and some of it when I was still printing. I intend to post a few of these a year, sans edits, for your laughs and enjoyment (and my own sense of nostalgia)