Someone asked me recently why I wanted to write a novel. Not an unusual thing to ask, but it stumped me for a bit. Because at this stage of the process, when most of the writing is done and it’s now a case of editing and polishing and trying to make the book the best it can be, it’s easy to get caught up in outcomes and lose sight of this central question, which is of course the most important one of all.
Ever since I was small – about five or six from memory – I was enthralled by the people and places authors created from their imagination. With those books I loved the most, I so very desperately wanted them to be true… each found a way to affect and remake me profoundly, not unlike certain people I’ve met over the course of my life. Somehow these characters reside in me still. Michael Ende’s Momo, the Narnia children, Frodo Baggins and Roald Dahl’s BFG. Anne of Green Gables and Moonface from the Magic Faraway Tree. The Famous Five and Owen Meany, and the strange worlds of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. As a child I lived in a sort of half-place between reality and imagination (the way most children do) wishing these people could escape from the pages and invade my own world the way Bastian found in The Neverending Story, or that I could escape into theirs. I wanted all my books to be ‘dangerous’ in this way, until one day – probably during my mid to late teens – I forgot to wish for such things.
I can tell you now, decades later, that reading has always been a way of connecting with that same sense of childish wonder and delight. Along with forays into other art forms like illustration and dance, film and music – or a trip to Cirque du Soleil – it’s the best way for me to recapture it. That another person can make us feel this way through their writing is amazing, don’t you think? It’s a small miracle, and I want in!
The same person who asked me this question the other day also said; ‘books are powerful, they change lives’. Of course she’s right, and no writer should wield this power lightly. It’s taken me a few days, but I have an answer for her (which is why I’m so rubbish in exam situations – I need time to ponder these things).
I want to take readers on a journey, and make them delight in wondrous things. To make a connection, and leave a lasting impression. Because we are all essentially the same underneath, and narrative is everything.
I would like to tell you a story…