As a young Army brat, Reader's Choice award winner J. (Jenny) Keller Ford, traveled the world and wandered the halls of some of Germany's most extraordinary castles hoping to find the dragons, knights and magic that haunted her imagination. Though she never found them, she continues to keep their legends alive. Her story, The Amulet of Ormisez, is available as part of the MAKE BELIEVE anthology. Dragon Flight, is slated for publication in December 2013. When not at her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and reading. She works as a paralegal by day and lives on the west coast of Florida with her family, three dogs, and a pretentious orange cat who must have been a dragon in his previous life.
What is there not to love about YA fantasy, science fiction and dystopians? Today, they top the charts with both young and old readers alike. Authors like Cassandra Claire (City of Bones, et. al), J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Veronica Roth, (Divergent)”, and Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) are household names, ranking up there with the likes of C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, J.R. R. Tolkien and Roald Dahl. But what makes these stories so popular, and why do so many authors, including myself, want to join the ranks?
To me, YA FanSiFiTopians are the ultimate escape. Whether set in an urban town, a destroyed society or in a different world with magical strange creatures and beings, young adult literature opens the mind to possibilities, imagination, and the conviction, even as adults, that anything can happen if you believe. Tap into the teen side of you, the one that is invincible, the one that can take on the world. Stop being a grown up. For me, tapping into that young adult part of me provides freedom and unlimited possibilities, not only in my writing but in my perspective of the world.
Writing YA fantasy is exhilarating to me. I’m not confined to a certain set of laws, reality. I can create my own worlds and civilizations. Whatever rules there are, I make up. I decide. The universe is mine to toy with. If I want dragons to have tea time or monkeys to ride on the backs of pterodactyls, I have the power to make it happen. The only limitation is my imagination. The hard part is making the reader suspend their beliefs long enough to come along with me on the journey.
Easy? Yes and no. Writing fantasy means letting your imagination go while equally balancing it with reality. Readers need something, someone they can connect with when they read fantasy. They need a reason to go on the journey. Characters have to have traits that are relatable. Scenery needs to be familiar. Magic needs to be obtainable. For me, friends, family, strangers are a wonderful source of inspiration. I listen to conversations, watch the way people move. I study people. Do they have a contagious smile, Confidence? Swagger? For scenery, I look around me. I pull on memories of where I’ve been in my life and if I can, I travel. I was lucky as a child to have traveled around the world. My inspiration for writing fantasy came at a very early age while hopping from one German castle to another, walking the ancient towns, touring the ancient ruins, and staring in awe at Neuschwanstein, longing to claim that castle and its grounds as my own. Wondering what it would be like to battle a dragon clinging to one of its many towers. Escaping through hidden passages. While the internet and books are amazing for research, they don’t take the place of actual hands-on contact. Once you feel it, touch it, you know how you can manipulate it. At least that’s what I find works best for me.
Of course, not everyone can travel so they must rely on the internet and books for research. I, myself, have had to rely on several sources to learn medieval terminology, the types of clothes different classes of people wore and what they were called. I think the more we educate ourselves in reality and cultures, the more ability we have to twist them to our wants and needs. Once we incorporate reality with fiction, the reader begins to suspend belief.
What also helps me in writing is taking what the experts say about writing to heart…and then tossing it out the window. What makes these best-selling authors, best-selling? They broke the rules. They gave the world something it didn’t have. They dared to be different, to be bold. I think it’s important to follow our gut, find our own style, our own rhythm, and stop trying to be the next Rowling or Meyers. Be yourself. Be genuine.
I have also found that it works best to just write until the novel is finished. I used to be one of these people who had to revise Chapter 1 a gazillion times before moving on to Chapter 2. What a silly way to tackle a project. My advice…write. Write, write, write until you put “The End” on the final page. There’ll be plenty of time for edits once your novel is finished and you pop it out to trusty beta readers/critique partners in your target audience group. Yes, it hurts, but it is necessary to let the rabid dogs rip your manuscript apart. Trust me; a great beta reader will remove one layer of tarnish after another until your masterpiece shines. I would be lost without my beta readers. I cannot put a price on how valuable they are. And I know when that manuscript is finally polished, I’m ready to take the next step…submission.
But that’s an entirely different beast all together.
Thank you, Brad, for hosting me. It’s been fun.
Dragon Flight - ONE MORE DAY anthology - J. Taylor Publishing. Releases December 2, 2013
The Amulet of Ormisez - Make Believe Anthology; J. Taylor Publishing - Released December 2, 2012