I was asked at a weekend workshop I was teaching, “What one thing has inspired your creative writing the most?” and it really made me think. There have been many formative books and movies: Alice in Wonderland, Edgar Rice Burroughs Princess of Mars, Frank Herbert’s Dune, but when I get right down to it, the thing that really inspired me to create fantasy worlds was wanting to escape my own. Not because my childhood was terrible, but simply because I was alone a lot, and had so much time to think about how life could be more exciting.
I did read books, but instead of constantly losing myself in someone else’s created world, I fantasized about my own, inventing bizarre landscapes, allies and enemies, and most importantly, a reason to be in that world – a well motivated goal. My first fantasy (which became my Shadow Through Time trilogy) was about a girl called Catherine leaving our world behind in a quest to find her missing twin brother. That goal drove her actions for most of the story which was about love – the love of a brother, of a family, and ultimately of a kingdom.
I’m not sure if I craved love as a child, but I certainly fantasized about it, created stories about it, and later turned those fantasies into best-selling novels. Being alone so much when I was in a family of four children didn’t feel strange at the time, but I think I was considered a loner or at least a child who was happiest playing alone.
To a lot of adults, that would appear to be an imperfect childhood, and I can imagine helicopter parents wanting to ‘socialize’ a loner child, to fill their day with activities that involve other people. But now that I’m so much further along in life, I can see how unhelpful that would have been for me. The childhood I experienced, perfectly shaped my creativity. I couldn’t have asked for better.
Thanks for reading!