I’m still not back to 100 percent, but I have reached the point of illness at which I’m annoyed about not feeling up to doing things and the state of the house is bothering me (when I’m really sick, I’m too sick to care). Thinking is also kind of a challenge. I’m okay at absorbing information, but creating things takes more energy than I really have. Which means research reading!
I realized yesterday that I was reading an entire book to research a part of a character’s backstory that happens when he’s too young to remember it. So that means it’s probably going to be entirely offstage, unless he runs into someone who was there who can tell him about it. But I feel like having credible details might help at some point.
And I just thought of how it might apply to the present in the story, so maybe I’m not just over-researching minor details.
Anyway, I’ve also done some fiction reading, including an odd little book called The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet. It’s basically an author’s wildest dream and biggest nightmare.
An award-winning young adult novelist is facing a career crisis when his latest book flops and his agent informs him that she can’t sell another one of his books about troubled teenage boys. But she could sell an epic fantasy. That what editors are demanding, and she might have hinted to one that he’s working on that sort of book. The problem is, he’s never even read that sort of thing. He checks a bunch of books out of the library, and he hates them. He’s sure he could do better, but he can’t think of any ideas. After an afternoon of drowning his woes in the pub, he pauses in his stagger home by the local standing stones, where he falls asleep and dreams a fantasy novel, complete with narrative. When he still remembers it upon waking, he hurries to write it down. It’s like transcribing rather than writing, it’s so easy. But then he reaches the end of the part he dreamed and has no idea what happens next. That’s when he’s approached by a strange little man — the narrator of the story — who offers to give him the rest of the story if he’ll help in a quest to retrieve an amulet of great power that’s been lost in this world. It seems easy enough, but then he needs a sequel …
As an author, I feel somewhat judged/targeted by this book, though I have the reverse situation, where what I want to write is fantasy and I’ve had editors ask if I can do a non-fantasy contemporary YA, but I don’t really like reading that and I have zero ideas. No mysterious teens have appeared in my life to dictate their stories to me, though.
I would say that this is an interesting read, but it’s not necessarily fun. The main character is a real jerk, so I have mixed feelings about what’s happening to him. It goes to some pretty dark places. I’m not sure what the author is trying to say about fantasy. I got this one in the goody bag at either the Nebula weekend or the World Fantasy convention, so I suppose it’s classified as fantasy, but it also gets in a lot of snark about fantasy. I can spot some of the things he’s mocking, and I don’t entirely disagree, but at the same time, I feel a bit judged about my reading taste.
The thing that I find interesting is the concept that a fantasy novel might be the real history of events in some other place — and you may or may not be able to trust the person telling the story. We’re used to thinking of the primary viewpoint characters as the protagonists, the good guys, but is that just because we’re seeing things from their perspective? As a writer, I’ve had a few books that felt like I was transcribing dictation. I didn’t feel like I had to make many decisions or figure out what to do next. I just typed the words that were flowing. Were those being fed to me by some other dimension?
I suppose you could say I recommend this if you’re intrigued by meta fiction and have read enough fantasy to get the satire. I’m not sure how this would play to anyone else. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think I’ll be keeping my copy.