After years of writing young adult books, which are fun, fast, and easy compared to say, a non-fiction book or a memoir, I embarked on a journey that surprised me. Last year I started writing a novel about fairies called The Fairies of Feyllan. As a huge Tolkien fan and an admirer of J.K. Rowling and her myriad Harry Potter books, I realized after my last round of reading The Lord of the Rings that I felt “experienced” enough as an author to attempt a fantasy novel. That may sound silly, that one must be experienced to write fantasy, but it wasn’t only my writing skill that would be put to the test. It was gaining insight, and discovering information that I didn’t know just a few months before, that was the key.
Writing about fairies is tricky. There is a lot of information out there in books and on websites about fairies, but most of it, in my opinion, needs to come from within. I learned more about fairies by spending afternoons in the garden and paying close attention to the plants, trees, and wildlife around me than I could learn in any book. I discovered that plants “talk” to us in a way; if their leaves are drooping, they are thirsty. If a flower looks a bit faded, some nutrients are needed. At our hummingbird feeder, I watched what we call “The Hummer Wars” as those ruby fliers invaded the sugar water, bombing opponents to fight for the prize. I realized that hummers need constant nectar to fly so swiftly, so that was an element I translated into the fairy world…fairies must need constant nourishment or they can’t fly.
I recognized that fairies must be connected to trees and the plant life around them, so I incorporated their instinct for communing with their natural surroundings. I watched lizards to learn about dragons, I learned the ways of ravens by observing a local horde and I studied the antics of my pet pigeon Penelope to incorporate the behavior of the birds in my story. I was inspired by nature to disappear into the writing of my fairy world, and once there, it was difficult to return to mundane daily living. While fantasy may be make-believe, I think that finding the truth in the natural world around us is the key to writing about the mythical creatures that we all love to get to know in our favorite fantasy books.
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