I think every piece of writing has a touch of fantasy to it somewhere. Writing itself is an exercise in fantasy, a kind of magic, a pulling of something out of nothing.
I admit, when I’m in a bookstore, I tend to keep a wide berth of the fantasy section. Adult fantasy literature just seems to have lost something, something of the wonder and beauty that I always go in expecting. There are gems there, I’m sure, but I don’t know where to find them among the roughage. I often feel like character and story take a second seat to concept and plot, and I can never favor the later over the former.
That’s why I do and always have gravitated towards children’s fantasy, but I was beginning to think maybe I’d outgrown it, after all, because as much as I still loved the books I’d read when I was younger, the literature that was capturing my attention really was Young Adult. I had been won over by Judy Blume and my fantasy leanings were reserved for movies and teen dramas on TV. Fantasy stories in books, I thought, were pretty much a thing of the past for me. I was (mostly) very grown up and serious at fifteen, you see.
I even, for a long time, resisted that world of worlds, Harry Potter. I wasn’t going to read a book about a little orphan boy who finds out he’s a wizard, thanks very much. I gave in after watching the first movie, though and… well, I would have hated to admit it then, but it was watching Harry and friends (under the guise of holding my breath for Ron and Hermione to happen) that probably led me back to wanting to believe in magic.
And I wasn’t the only one. I couldn’t have been, because just when I was starting to hunger for more fairy tales, more paranormal novels… they began to appear. And it wasn’t just kid’s stuff or adult novels anymore, but there they were in the very market I had grown to love, Young Adult.
It took some time for Young Adult fantasy to finally arrive in its own place. I read and loved a series called Fingerprints by Melinda Metz (of Roswell fame) about a girl who could read other people’s thoughts off of objects when she touched their fingerprints, but that series faded from view without many people noticing.
And then, there were beautiful books emerging slowly, about fairies and elven creatures. Books like Tithe by Holly Black. And then Shannon Hale’s Bayern series which started off with a re-imagining of a Grimm’s fairy tale. And then most recently, and undeniably most predominantly, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, which more or less broke the dam, if you will.
I think the appeal of YA fantasy is that it’s such a crossroads of every single thing wistful romantics can wish for. Not only are there characters on the cusp of discovering themselves and becoming who they’ll be, but there’s all the magic of first love, and all the expansive beauty and breath-held awe of the supernatural, with maybe just a little touch of a thrill of fear mixed in.
Not everything I write is fantasy, of course. I don’t discriminate the worlds my characters come from, and there are a number of stories that captivate me without having any sort of supernatural element in them. But more often than not I find myself reaching for fantasy reads. If it’s escapism, so be it, but the choices have been so wonderful and abundant of late that I can’t help myself, and that reflects in my writing as well.
This will be a place for me to explore that love a little deeper, and to explore my own writing, also, pulling myself out of my comfort zone and demanding a more serious commitment from me than I’m wont to give. I’m really excited about it, especially as it means a chance to work alongside Isabelle a little more.
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