Why I changed my genre (Pt. 2)

Previous: Why I changed my genre (Pt. 1)

Beginning with my first elementary school trip to a pioneer village in Port Carling, and to Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto with my grandparents, I developed a lifelong fascination with all things 19th century, especially the Victorians.

Over the years I’ve carted the hubby and kiddos along to several pioneer villages. As we wander from one creaking room to the next, cicadas buzzing and birds chirping outside the windows, there’s this feeling of stepping into liminal spaces; of being caught in a time warp between two worlds. But I also feel something else: a craving for tiny doors too small for even my foot to fit through. Tiny doors that lead…where?

As a teen, I discovered by chance that I loved Celtic instrumental music. It was both melancholy and uplifting, and so enchanting and mysterious; whisking me away. I was a maiden standing on the edge of a cliff, skirts and shawls flapping in the wind as I gazed out to sea. It was a mood I found haunting yet strangely decompressing. I’m second-generation Canadian born, but because I have mostly Scottish and British ancestry, I’ve long felt a connection to the United Kingdom. So for me, Celtic music was a portal between worlds.

I grew up in Muskoka, Ontario, with a family cottage in Haliburton County. My parents love the woods and took me and my siblings on endless hikes, canoe rides, and drives through the countryside. For as long as I can remember, forests and woody landscapes, fields, barns, and century homes – especially decrepit and abandoned/boarded up ones – have struck a chord in me.

Sunbeams on a forest floor, wildflowers, mossy logs, brooks, swamps, ponds, lily pads, gnarled trees… I’ve always looked at them with a sense of whimsy or an eerie intrigue, as though a faerie might appear or some sort of spook. I also feel a mild disappointment each time when of course, nothing ever does appear; my mind urging me to fill those nooks and crannies with otherworldly, shapeshifting creatures.

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Whenever I’d see a hole in a knotted tree I’d shrink down and explore it from a squirrel’s eye view. A Victorian mansion? I’d explore the rooms in my mind’s eye, searching for secret passageways leading to mysterious chambers, attics and cellars. An overgrown country cottage being consumed by nature? I’d peek into the decomposing rooms and hear the whispers, see the shadows, of wandering spirits. Modern shops housed in 19th century buildings? The street becomes overlayed with horse and carriage; the pedestrians garbed in wide-skirted dresses and petticoats, feathered hats, tweed suits and top hats.

G.K. Chesterton put it well when he said of such peculiar sights: what story waits here to be told?

This is how my mind works, how I think, but I’ve kept it largely to myself until recently. When it comes to much of my fiction writing, I’ve barely scratched the surface of my imagination – I was too busy writing for adults! Well, now the time has come to put to pen what I’d previously chalked up to childish fantasies. I find cryptids and faerie lore most fascinating, and that’s why my first youth fiction is about a werewolf.

C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter, “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

I’m old enough now to start writing them… 😉

Image by AD_Images from Pixabay

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Why I changed my genre (Pt. 1)

I’ve always been a bookworm but it wasn’t until my early twenties that I seriously began tinkering with fiction writing. Over the course of the next decade I proceeded to co-write a murder mystery novel with my youngest sister and two solo novels in the contemporary Christian fiction genre (which is drama with a subplot of romance).

Then one day, while I’d already started a third solo novel, my other sister asked if I wanted to co-write a fantasy genre novel with her. She had already plotted it and created the characters and setting, so I took a look at what she had and quickly agreed. After that it took us four years of collaborative writing to complete the novel, and we named it The Attic.

While absolutely LOVING the experience of writing fantasy (especially exploring all those secret passageways in the Gothic mansion!) and considering it a marvelous adventure, I didn’t quite feel I was capable of plotting fantasy fiction on my own. So I finished writing my third solo project: another Christian drama/romance.

BUT once that novel was completed I distinctly felt like I’d reached a dead end: or a finish line if you will.

The wind was out of my sails. I felt like I’d said all I ever wanted to say in the contemporary Christian fiction genre. So what to do next? I didn’t want to write drama without romance and I didn’t want to right full-blown romance either. I also didn’t want to write murder mysteries because they require too much knowledge of police and detective work (all that inside legal and procedural stuff, not to mention forensics).

So it was at this point that I began writing short stories in order to play my hand at a variety of genres. And it was here I serendipitously discovered in allegorical fiction a niche in which I could write for a mainstream audience (like we did with The Attic) while still being inclusive of my Christian faith and values.

Then one summer on a whim, I bought a youth fiction novel because the synopsis appealed to me and it had a delightful title: A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano. It had simply never occurred to me before that I might enjoy youth fiction, of all things, but the book just popped out at me from the shelf. I went on to read many more novels for middle graders after that first one. But in reading this particular book I felt an awakening, like I’d found something I didn’t even know I’d been looking for!

Continue reading Why I changed my genre (Pt. 1)

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