“I’m sometimes asked why I don’t make more realistic stories. ‘Aren’t you just running away from reality?’ they ask. They suggest that I go off in that direction because I cannot face reality. . . . From my point of view, I’m not avoiding reality. What I’m trying to do – and this sounds so pretentious – is trying to get at the truth, at what is real.”
From an interview with Moto Hagio
For a long time I felt like I had to justify to myself why I liked fantasy stories. Why fairy tales? Why space operas? Why not real-world dramas or thrillers or mysteries? Why don’t I write literary stories?
I began reading in fourth grade. This isn’t when I learned to read, I learned in first grade. But it wasn’t until fourth grade that I read books on my own. I might never have if not for my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Madson required a certain page count each quarter. If I’m remembering correctly it was 900 pages during the 1st quarter, 1000 pages the second quarter, 1100 pages 3rd quarter and 1200 pages in 4th quarter. That was a lot of words. At some point I was not reading enough and my parents had to get involved in the project. I ended up reading those classic books that have a picture every other page. I don’t remember what other books I read, except that’s when I really started reading.
Back then I read Nancy Drew mysteries, Little House of the Prairie books, the Baby-Sitter Club books, Black Beauty and I specifically remember a book about a bunch of girls stranded on a desert island, but they didn’t get off the island and I never found the sequel. Poor girls, still stuck on that island. I didn’t like fantasy books. In seventh grade the class was supposed to read Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea. I didn’t finish it. I hated it. (What was wrong with me!) I read mysteries in 8th grade, mostly Mary Higgins Clark, and some classics like The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Louisa May Alcott, Journey to the Center of the Earth. I tried to read Great Expectations, but didn’t get the story at all. I remember my teacher asking me about it and I tried to describe Miss Havisham locked in her room, still in her wedding dress.
Everything changed when I discovered Tamora Pierce. After reading Tamora Pierce’s Alanna books , there was no looking back.
Eventually reading changed into writing. If I couldn’t find the books I wanted to read, I might as well write them myself. And what kinds of stories did I love the most? My weakness is for stories set in our world with a little bit of magic on the side, with something supernatural, or someone supernatural. Diana Wynne Jones did this best. She would talk about real things, like divorce or child abuse, or being unable to find your place in the world, or the fact that you don’t really fit in. But when she was talking about divorce she would write a story about a girl with two sets of memories, like Polly from Fire and Hemlock. When she talked about child abuse it was through story of a girl who was a ghost, haunting her siblings, Time of the Ghost. For someone was unable to find their place in the world, well maybe it was because you were born a griffin, Year of the Griffin. Or maybe you don’t fit into this world because you were cursed and changed into an old woman like Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle.
If I can write books like Diana Wynne Jones, I will be satisfied. I guess I better get started.