My current book, The Forest Keepers (Book 1) is now complete (hooray!!) and I am in the editing, revising and re-editing stages! It is a fantastic place to be. The story changed as I wrote, as they tend to do, and as the main character, Calla, took me on her journey. There are some twists and turns I hadn’t predicted in my plotting. I also now have the building blocks for the next book in the series, which is exciting. I am readying myself for the KidLitVic conference at the end of May, where I will be pitching the manuscript to a literary agent, and getting feedback on part of the story from two different publishers. It is an amazing opportunity and hopefully, I will return with at least some interest in making Calla’s story ( Forest Keepers Book 1 ) become a real published book.
As I was writing this story, which I like to call a ‘nature fantasy’, it got me thinking about how we research topics for fiction as writers. Even when you are creating an entire world, (as I have done in this book, the world of Pratensis, meaning ‘of a meadow’), which includes drawing maps of the world and creating all of the characters – human and fantasy- there are still plenty of aspects to the setting, themes and characters, which are very real. There is a combination of fantasy creatures and humans in this story, as well as many aspects of the Australian landscape’s flora and fauna. Woven through the story are issues facing the characters which mirror current issues facing our planet. These include climate change, monocultures, destruction of forests and wildlife habitat, damage from introduced species, the harmony and diversity needed in nature, and the critical issue of preservation of old-growth forests. There are also real themes facing humans everywhere, including embracing diversity, dealing with prejudice, leaders who have no respect or interest in anything but their own power, discrimination, loving yourself and your body, self-esteem and body shame.
For me, incorporating aspects in my fantasy stories about our planet, nature, environment, and the very real issues facing us all, is very important. I want my books to engage, inspire, excite, entertain, evoke emotions, and take readers on a cracking adventure. But, I also want the themes to connect with readers (the target age for this book is 11-14 years old) on a range of levels. There is no issue more important to the future of our planet, for our beautiful children, than the environment and nature. Children and young people across the planet are standing up this Friday to strike for climate change. They are raising their voices and trying to make adults, and especially our world leaders, realise this is a crisis, and that we must take the steps needed right now, to save their future.
When I write, I can not ignore these issues. I can not ignore our planet and the importance of climate change and other environmental issues. When they read, young people might want to escape reality, and immerse themselves into a world that is very different to their own. This is important for all of us as readers, and, we all need to escape reality. Many of the books I read and the shows I watch, are galloping fantasies. But they always include connections between characters, self-revelations, personal development, and themes that are based in reality.
I do not believe in stories leaving young readers depressed and hopeless. The ultimate aim of Calla’s story, is to leave you with hope and inspiration; hope that there are many of us in the world who stand with our young people, hope that we have them, that we are working to do everything we can, that change is on the wind, that we all hold power in our hands to make a difference, and that their future is bright.
You can not ignore reality, even in a fantasy, and the balance between the two, is the key to a wonderful story, that will make a lasting impact.