I’ve been seeing a lot of these “Why I Do Such and Such” blog posts lately, so I decided to add my own thoughts as to why I write fantasy.
In addition to being a self-absorbed writer who thinks you’ll find all of this interesting, I am a world-class escapist. Some of my closer friends and boyfriend wonder why I’m severely oblivious. The fact is, I spend more time in my head than I do in the real world.
As I leave important belongings like my cell phone and keys at a friend’s house, I’m not thinking, “Hm, I should check my bag to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.” No. I’m watching already-famous and wildly successful writer S.Z. being interviewed by Jon Stewart. Or creating a diabolical robot servant and considering the many ways it will turn on me. Or fashioning a zombie apocalypse strategy and then watching my leg being ripped off my body like a turkey drumstick on Thanksgiving Day after my plan fails.
To an escapist like myself, books are dependable portals into oblivion, and fantasy is the ultimate destination. No passport required.
Faeries and Witches and Gods, Oh My
I’ve been nestling my brain between the cracked spines of fantasy and mythology books since I could read, starting with fairy tales illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, selected works in Cricket Magazine, and The Illustrated Bulfinch’s Mythology. As a teen, I turned into a hippie of sorts. Faeries (I used to insist on spelling it that way), elves, nature gods, etc. were right up my alley.
Around 13, I went through a phase where I desperately wanted to be a witch and read every young adult witch novel I could get my hands on. Witch Week, Witch’s Sister, and The Letter, The Witch, and The Ring were some of my favorites. When I was 17, I shoved the first H.P. book in everyone’s faces like I’d discovered the cure to cancer, only to be told I was reading a kid’s book. Little did they know!
I was also reading adult novels, but young adult has always been my favorite. Possibly because, like so many teens, I had severe identity and self-esteem issues growing up. I really relate to that sort of struggle. When I read those books, I felt like the underdog could succeed. I felt like someone understood what I was going through, and that amazing things could happen to the flawed and overlooked.
It was also easy to ignore everything around me, the judgments I imagined, the loneliness and insecurities, when I was living vicariously through characters so like me in a world so unlike my own.
A Perfect Fantasy
I was always on the lookout for a great fantasy novel. With each visit to the bookstore, I’d tell myself, “Today, I’m going to find the perfect book.”
The perfect book was a vague idea I’d fashioned, and in which I’d placed implicit faith. It would have everything I wanted: the fantasy, the intrigue, the main character I’d always wanted to be, breathtaking scenery. I scoured the aisles like a starved bookworm, but I could never find this book (H.P. is still the closest I’ve ever come to finding it).
One day, I decided I had no choice but to write this book myself. So I started working on it. In the ninth grade, I wrote a short story about a girl who finds fantastic creatures in her own backyard only to wind up in the nut house. Nope, not it.
I started writing a novel that was mostly flowery description of another world. A friend said it was “gay.” Still not it.
I wrote tons of flash fiction and novel beginnings that glided off the path to nowhere onto a mountainous trash heap.
I realized that writing the perfect fantasy novel was not going to be easy. But I’m still trying my hand at it, and I’ve come closer than ever with my current project.
At this point, I realize there is no such thing as the perfect book because everyone’s perfect book is unique. Now, I’m determined to get my version of the perfect book out there; to share my vision. The best part is, there isn’t just one vision. There’s a world of them.
And who knows? Maybe some introverted, acne-ridden, socially awkward kid will pick up my book and find comfort in its pages like I did with so many novels.