I found myself pondering today. The sort of pondering that comes after a particularly strange dream, perhaps one in which I’m waiting tables but end up driving up a mountain and getting bitten by mosquitoes while talking to regulars who haven’t shaved their scruff in a while. That sort of pondering.
I imagine my pondering looked somewhat like this:
I grew up reading both urban and epic fantasy, but the first worlds to really immerse me were the ones created by David Eddings. When I first attempted writing, I attempted epic fantasy. I was (and still am) infatuated with trilogies because of an unexplained and possibly neurotic fuzzy spot I have for the number three. This endeavor got about a hundred and fifty pages in, which is a decent attempt for a seventeen year old (shut up, Chris Paolini), and I decided that it was rather trite. So I went to college, started an epically crappy otherworld travel story that was an unabashed knockoff of Stephen Lawhead‘s Song of Albion trilogy, got quite depressed about it, and stopped.
Then I went off to Poland and ran smack into a young lady called Anna MacPherson. She lived in Edinburgh, but she’d grown up in foster care in Portland, Oregon with her brother. Her parents had left them some money when they were killed, but she didn’t know that until she went to college. She grew up protecting Robbie until he could take care of himself, and then she decided to see the world. So she went to Russia and Poland and landed in Scotland for a couple years. And she was about to get a terrifying phone call.
All of the sudden, I stumbled across someone magical.
She seemed rather ordinary, if resilient. But she followed me around until I started writing. I got fifty pages into her story before someone mentioned a woman named Sarah, and I realized that Anna’s story wasn’t the beginning. So I went back to the beginning, which became my first completed novel.
I found after many years of subtle conditioning from L.J. Smith and Ce’Nedra and Aunt Pol, I needed to write a story about women. I knew these women would be powerful, but they’d also have weaknesses. They’d sometimes be stubborn or terrified or angry. They’d sometimes make the wrong choices. But they’d eventually find where they were supposed to go, what they were supposed to do.
I could have perhaps done this through epic fantasy — I plan (whoa, action verb, whatcha doing there?) to eventually go back and finish up that trilogy I began in high school. I think it has a lot of potential. But the character who found me first was a rather soft-spoken young woman with trust issues and a protective nature. She happens to be a lost witch, among other things. But she’s really quite extraordinary.
She is who set me on my path to writing urban fantasy, because her story is a very human story told in the midst of some very superhuman happenings.
And that, gentle viewers, is where all kind of fantasy comes together. It’s the essential fact that they are stories about people who find themselves in strange circumstances, but those circumstances can often parallel reality, at least symbolically.
So I want to know: which stories have touched you? They can be your own, if you write your own. If not, which people popped out of the fantasy world to make a home in your life?
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