Craft Publishing

The Draw of Fantastical Fiction

According to sales statistics, fantasy book sales grew by over 45% in 2021 compared to 2020, and I’m not a bit surprised to hear it. As a reader, I’ve always drifted toward the fantasy section in a bookshop, and as a writer, it was the promise of adventure that sparked my writing career.

            I began writing as a child after reading (you guessed it) The Lord of the Rings. As an elder millennial (I know, but I didn’t give myself that title), I was at that age when the movies started coming out just as I was allowed to go to the cinema to watch them with friends, alone. I had already read the books, and to see the characters come to life before me was thrilling. With Justified playing on my CD player, I would roll up my sleeves, stare for a while at my poster of Legolas, and begin writing fanfiction.

            The internet was different back then. I would post on a site where other Tolkien lovers would write their own fiction. Our characters would interact in Middle Earth, and I created a complex backstory for my elven warrior and her horse, Tengwar. By day, I was a mild-mannered Brummy student, but by night, my bow was my greatest weapon.

            I have always remembered the magic I felt at the keyboard of my family’s old-fashioned, loudly whirring computer. I would rush home excited to write, delighted to see updates from others, and I have striven to keep the same feeling.

            This is what fantasy offers me as a writer – excitement. Anything can happen, the world can be moulded into the magical. The mountains near my home become promises, begging to be traversed on a life-changing mission. The alleyways in my town hold secrets, bricks that, when pushed, reveal hidden houses and private rooms where witches dwell.

            As a reader, my favourite fantastical place to visit is Ankh-Morpork, the city of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. I had a similar cityscape in mind when writing my debut novel, The Finery (Fly on the Wall Press). Corruption and intrigue abound, but there is beauty there too. My main character, Professor Cripcot, is facing a very real situation – eviction. It isn’t that she overcomes this with magic, assisted by the aid of swords or bows and arrows, but rather that she is supported by those around her. The fantastical elements lie within the norms of everyday life – the care wolves given to older people, the tarot cards that truly reveal the future, and the underground network that survives for generations without sunlight. My writing has gone full circle in this way; I no longer pull fantasy into my real life but rather write my real life into fantasy. Perhaps that’s why fantasy book sales have shot up recently, the stress of the pandemic driving a desire to escape into a fantastical world.

As I write with my own wolf (really, more of a standard poodle) beside me, I do two things my education in writing taught me: I write what I know, and I add a dash of magic. After all, it’s that magic that leads me to both the keyboard and the fantasy bookshelf, every time.

Want to read some fantasy? Check out this post:

Fifteen Fantasy Books to Read When You Need a Break From Fiction