A reviewer recently posted this comment on Amazon and Goodreads about the Beast of Seabourne.
“I also loved the way the author wrote about Oz, Ellie and Ruff. All three of them were three-dimensional characters and the author explored their lives and their friendship in a fantastic way. In my opinion he writes about these characters in a natural way, because he lets his readers relate to the characters’ problems. These delicate issues are handled in an effortless and realistic way.”
It got me thinking about inspiration and why on earth a man in his fifties would want to write a fantasy about kids in their teens–though I’m with Phillip Pullman when he says that labeling a book as ‘children’s’ or ‘kids” or ‘fantasy’ immediately shuts out more readers than it includes, and so from that viewpoint, it’s an irrelevance.
But the wonderful thing about having young protagonists is the canvass they provide for exploring the things that affect us all; growing up, facing cruelty, dealing with love, coping with overwhelming power as an innocent. And all in that hyper-acute state that comes with experiencing these things for the first time.
But it’s also the case that I believe writers have an ability to tap in to a memory of those experiences. Not details necessarily, but a kind of emotional drawer that one can open and examine. So is this simply a device? A way of grabbing your reader and putting them through the mangler ? Hopefully, yes. But if it’s done simply for effect it can come across as thin and false. One has to make sure that those drawers aren’t full of mawkish dust.
And sometimes, inspiration emerges from the work. Wading through the process, revisiting a scene over and over and over again. Here perspiration can yield insights, sometimes as a sudden flash or slow rising sense of awareness. Trusting that there is almost always a way out of the hole is what makes writers finish the job.
But of course, there is the other answer to inspiration. That what I write is in fact a historical document. A record of how someone really did find an incredible artefact of astounding technological power and decided that the safest and best way to tell the world about it was to fictionalize events.
You see, that’s the trouble with writers. You never know quite when they’re telling the truth.