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



Ten Fantastical Female Characters Over Forty

Do you feel that the older you get, the more likely you are to take up arms and wage war against the orcs? I hear you. Female characters over the age of forty are not always common in fiction, and yet, in my experience, they have a unique and resilient perspective. Let’s celebrate some of the best female characters over forty in fantasy, to whet your appetite for rebellion and celebrate International Women’s Day 2024!

1: Galadriel – The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

If we’re talking about female characters over forty, let’s start with one who is thousands of years old. A wise and powerful elf with a magical insight and a dark side that compels you to read on…I’d be on Galadriel’s team any day.

2: Catelyn Stark – A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

All right, I hear you, in the books she is below forty years old, but they upped her age for the show, so she does belong on this list. She is represented as a fierce protector of her family, a gentle and strong matriarch, a woman who doesn’t deny her pain and speaks her mind.

3: Granny Weatherwax – Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

One of my favourite characters on the disc has to be Granny Weatherwax, a formidable witch with a strong belief in her powers. She has a no-nonsense attitude but demonstrates her love for others in her own way, shaking off her intended ‘wicked witch’ title.

4: Morwen – Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Another witch who won’t take any nonsense from anyone, this time flanked by a significant number of cats. YA is not just for kids (trust me, it’s okay. You don’t have to read it on your Kindle), and Morwen is an excellent example of a self-assured and powerful woman over the age of forty.

5: Moiraine Damodred – The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan

An Aes Sedai (servant of all), talented in healing and channelling the ‘One Power’. If you haven’t read the books, that probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but know this: Moiraine is both thoughtful and manipulative, a complex woman with a calm demeanour. That’s who I would want on my team.

6: Aunt Pol – The Belgariad series by David Eddings

Aunt Pol (Polgara) is an immortal sorceress, which is a pretty good job to have bestowed on you from birth. She is also one of the most feared and powerful women in the world, so if I didn’t put her on this list, it would be an injustice.

7: Professor Wendowleen Cripcot – The Finery by Rachel Grosvenor

A retired professor nearing 101, Professor Cripcot is ready to take down a totalitarian government with her pet wolf by her side. There’s no messing about when it comes to Professor Cripcot—she says what’s on her mind and will stop at nothing to fight for her rights.

8: Queen Talyien – The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso

It’s not easy being queen, and Talyien demonstrates her struggles and wins, navigating the difficult situations she faces in her complex political world. In short, she’s doing her best to protect her people, but sometimes that’s just not enough. As a side note, this series is called ‘The Chronicles of the Bitch Queen’. That’s enough to drive me to read it, anyway.

9: Kelsea Glynn – The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johanse

Though she ascends the throne at nineteen, inheriting a broken kingdom, the reader watches her grow in age and strength until she proves herself to be a far more capable monarch than expected. Kelsea is a legend in the making.

10: Irene Adler – The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogma

A name you might recognise if you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, Irene is a spy and librarian for a magical and multi-dimensional library. In terms of cool jobs, a spy-come-librarian might even beat an immortal sorceress.


Do you want to write something magical featuring a strong female character? Stick around the blog, there’s lots to see!