On Fantasy: Karen Cushman

Karen CushmanFor a few weeks, in celebration of my new fantasy novel, Grayling’s Song, this blog is featuring a few of my favorite fantasy authors answering four questions about their own writing. Today, it’s my turn. Grayling’s Song is available at your favorite library and bookseller today. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know.

Q: What was (is) the hardest aspect of building a fantasy world for you?

A: Ahh, the magic. What in this imaginary place was normal and what magical and how did it work?

Q: What do you feel is different for you, particularly, as a writer about creating a fantasy novel rather than writing a realistic or historical novel?

bk_grayling_180pxA: I discovered that a fantasy world has as much history, as many rules and boundaries and limitations, as historical fiction, but I had to invent them. I seem to like boundaries that are given to me, and so I found the fantasy harder going.

Q: Did you read fantasy novels before you wrote your book? If so, what’s your favorite fantasy novel and why?

I read several fantasy novels in preparation for writing Grayling’s Song. Two of my favorites are the beautifully written Seraphina for the world building, the way complex elements came together, and the striking visuals —I love the image of the dragon scales on her arm–and the fantasy/horror novel, Something Red, for its marvelously evocative, creepy, oppressive, menacing atmosphere.

Q: Is there a character in one of your fantasy novels that you wish you could invite over for dinner? What would you talk about?

A: I’m tempted to say Pook the shape-shifting mouse, for obvious reasons, but I would so like to see Desdemona Cork the enchantress with her cloud of hair and the blue tattoos on her face. I look forward to being enchanted.

 

A list of fantasy books, part two

SeraphinaAs part of my list of favorite fantasy novels, I offer Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. A gifted musician, Seraphina is also part dragon. Intriguing story with great characters and the wonderful image of her silver scales. Beautifully written.

Here’s Rachel Hartman’s website, where you can learn more about this book and her newest, Shadow Scale.

Sorrow’s Knot

Sorrow's KnotLast year, you may remember, I waxed eloquent over a book by Canadian writer Erin Bow called Plain Kate. It remains one of my three favorite fantasy novels (the other two are Seraphina by Rachel Hartman and Something Red by Douglas Nicholas). Erin kindly sent me a copy of her new book, Sorrow’s Knot, a lovely, sad, beautifully written fantasy based in an imaginary world that is reminiscent of early North American native cultures but still entirely new. That world is unravelling, and Otter, Kestrel, and Cricket, likable and believable young people, face fear, danger, death, and unanswerable questions together as they struggle to hold it together. Erin’s incredible imagination and exquisite writing skills have resulted in a wonder of a book that captured me with the first sentence: The girl who remade the world was born in winter. I recommend it—great reading for a winter night.

Great Book, Great Dragons

SeraphinaBeing of a somewhat oppositional temperament, I tend to dislike what everyone else likes. Here is a rare exception: I am neck deep in Seraphina and loving it. Rachel Hartman offers us a meticulously-built, rich and complex world peopled (if I may use that word to include dragons) with distinctive, engaging characters. I am absorbed, intrigued, and fascinated. Now farewell, I have a book to finish.