Fantasy worlds: “A strange hooded figure came to my door … “

Cover… and offered me writing skills, in exchange for a piece of my soul “ and that, apparently, is how Garth Nix got started writing fantasy.  He says.  We are not sure we believe him, and the other authors on the panel at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival this afternoon also look a little startled by this – their answers to the question of how each of them began their writing careers were a little different from Garth’s. 

Elizabeth Knox grew up creating fantasy worlds with her sisters, Cassandra Clare simply wrote what she wanted to read, and Margo Lanagan’s was a pragmatic decision to move to fantasy because she wanted to sell more books than she had been. 

I was really looking forward to this session, and wasn’t disappointed.  Entitled Fantasy: Freedom all round, and chaired by Paula Morris, it was crammed full of discussion about everything from ‘adult’ book covers, to themes of social commentary, genre snobbery, escapism versus reality, plotters versus pantsers*, urban exploration and shadow cities, and how fantasy writing is simply a socially acceptable form of lying (Garth Nix again – this man is seriously funny.  Also, I think he might lie a lot). 

As always with sessions where there is a panel of people, it’s impossible to fully share what everyone said about everything.  And so I will say again what I have said a lot this weekend – find the books, search the web, read up on all these guys, and then come find me and we can talk glorious genre fiction like total fantasy nerds!

* as in flying by the seat of your …

The Youth Perspective

Cover image of "Worldwide adventures in love"I’m 23, and unlike the rest of my colleagues in the Popular Team, my teenage years didn’t occur in a different century. Ah, bet that makes ’em all feel really old! As one of the ‘yoof’ Bronnypop speaks of , I think I have the necessary qualifications required to comment on all matters relating to young people. Today I’d like to talk about adults pretending to be teenagers, either by writing like one or acting like one  in front of a camera.

Some of these adults give real teenagers a bad reputation. Perhaps it is because I am still within the realm of youthdom, but it irks me greatly whenever I read a book or watch a film or a television programme that depicts young people as mumbling, sulky troublemakers or ditzy, spoilt consumers. Clearly people who dream up such characters have completely lost touch with their former teen selves and refuse to consult another more modern teenager, instead relying only on stereotypes for inspiration.  And don’t even get me started on the dialogue these authors and scriptwriters invent to try to prove they still are ‘hip’ and ‘down wit da kidz’. All that outdated and overused slang is just plain painful to read or listen to!

Cover image of "The secret life of bees"I mean, give us some credit. Us young’uns are capable of intelligent conversation from time to time.  Our vocabulary isn’t always limited to grunts and snorts; in fact we can be quite articulate when we want to be. That’s why I love it when I come across books written by adults who manage to successfully capture what it really means to be young. Such authors are able to write from the perspective a young person in a way that gives an authentic voice to the story’s narrator. 

The teenagers in these novels are imaginative, innocent yet wary, clever and witty, hungry for life experience but vulnerable to mistakes, charming, unapologetically honest,  rebellious, sweet and infuriating at the same time. They are brave, adventurous, empowered by their sense of immortality.  They live somewhat instinctually, love from the deepest parts of their heart, act with passion and give serious thought to the world around them.  And unlike those who have grown cynical in adulthood, the way they look at life still has that dreamer’s quality, that unending hopefulness.

Cover image of "The dead fathers club"My favourite adult novels narrated by a child or teenager are:

What are yours?