So, some weeks ago ( I SAID sorry for neglecting you!) I met one of my idols: A writer. A published author. She had Written A Book. I’m sorry, but I get slightly starry eyed when meeting these avatars of culture.
No I am not being sarcastic. In my inner eye, the minute you have written a book (well published it anyway) you get a niche in the great pantheon of writers from Homer and Herodotus to Emily Dickinson and Murakami. On a little plinth. Because you deserve it. You’ve given the literary canon another little brick, another book to put on top of the pillar stretching towards the stars. (Yes, I know that by internal logic the authors of “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and “Who moved my cheese?” are put on a plinth somewhere too, but I try not to think about that. Shush!) Did I gush a little there? I think I gushed a little there. Also, Siri Pettersen (for that is her name) writes fantasy.
Now I should note that my resent home country, Norway, has a rather strained relationship with fantasy as a genre. In short, it didn’t quite come off as… Well, as worthy literature. Scandinavia is a pragmatic modern region, making a point of being rational. The Age of Reason made it big here, in Norway at least as strong if not stronger than Sweden or Denmark. (Finland, nobody knows, really. The other countries are slightly afraid of it and never ask).
So in stead of fantasy, or even science fiction (I suspect the implication that the future, or anything can be better than current life in Scandinavia is slightly offensive. Also that dystopias rock the boat too much) people read crime. Nordic crime. Dark, brutal crimes in the cold unforgiving wasteland that is Scandinavia. The real reason it is so sparsely populated is that sooner or later, hidden conflicts between people come to a head and are only resolved by murder. Cruel murder with hidden hints as to why he or she had to die. Like, say, through a pitfall trap filled with sharpened bamboo sticks hidden across the path of the victims regular morning constitutional. Or something. (And the victim probably was a rich psychopathic pederast with Nazi connections from WWII). So Nordic crime is popular in a country and region where fantastic literature is derided as immature and unrealistic, is what I am saying.
Anyway she wrote a fantasy novel without elves and dwarves. And no dragon. There really is no magic in that universe, either. When exasperated friends and critics asked “But, but, there is a quest the heroine must complete to fulfill an ancient prophecy, right? And a sacred artefact? Preferably several?
Pettersens reply to this is that No, there are No magic items, no dragons, elves, dwarves or orcs, no quest and no prophecy!
This often is followed up (tentatively) by the question… “Ehm… You ARE certain it is a fantasy novel?”
Yes, Siri would be sure to reply.
“BECAUSE”, she will say triumphantly opening her book, “There is a MAP ON THE FIRST PAGE!”
There are as we all know, two kinds of fantasy novels: Those with maps and posers.
You need maps in proper fantasy novels. That is just how it is.
So, meeting Siri Pettersen I shamelessly started picking her brain on how she planned the structure, got it published, and sort of accidentally blurted out that I wrote a novel as well.
She asked what it was about. I proudly answered “A man trapped in the body of a gorilla must travel Dublin – Cambridge round-trip, in a Morris Mini!”
“Really? Wow, interesting!”
That was a catalyst. Dragging my old NaNoWriMo project out again, I started figuring out how my gorilla hero was to get out of Belfast clad only in a Celtic football scarf with his trusty Scottish motorhead sidekick again. One of the people who’ve done it and became a Successful Writer (giving automatic fringe benefits like eccentric habit privileges and becoming a token part of the gallery on the screensaver on Kindle Readers. Or so I assume) heard my plot and found it “interesting!”
So back to my trusty (dusty) writers seat! Imaginary plinth in the literary pantheon here I come! Also, I will throw paper planes at the author of “Who took my cheese?” if he is there as well.