LOUISE CUSACK

Fantasy inspired by an imperfect childhood

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.

A rare pic of me playing with someone else – telling my cousin stories

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.

Just wanted to share that insight, for what it’s worth! If you’re curious about that first fantasy series I wrote, the opening book Destiny of the Light is currently FREE as an ebook, courtesy of my publishers Pan Macmillan. Enjoy! And let me know in the comments below whether you’ve had insights into your childhood, especially if you’ve experienced something “‘seemingly bad” that’s turned out to be perfect for you as an adult.

Thanks for reading!