One of my first memories involves hearing the tale of Kay and Gerda and The Snow Queen, it sparked what would become a life-long love of the fantastic and the supernatural. Back in those days, of course, it was quite permissible to include all the gory details too as it wasn’t considered over the top to introduce young minds to the notion of right or wrong actions and their frequently bloody consequences. The themes of loyalty, love and cunning have stayed with me and feature often in my own stories. Stumbling across the books of Charles de Lindt and, later, those of Joanne Harris was a gift; until that point I had not come across the term magical realism and finding out there were other successful writers out there who shared my visions of the world was a thrill beyond words.
As well as The Snow Queen I discovered Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Rapunzel and Beauty and The Beast all sumptuously illustrated in the gorgeous Ladybird books of the time. An incidental bonus of these little treasures was a later appreciation of Pre-Raphaelite art which just so happened to compliment my growing love affair with all things Arthurian wonderfully.
I also made the acquaintance of Alice and The White Rabbit, another book which bolstered my thrill of all things extraordinary in stories; recently I got to relive a great deal of my original enthrallment whilst watching the series Lost which drew heavily on Lewis Carroll’s books and many others. It gives one hope that perhaps there are still wonderfully imaginative writers out there who are gradually finding a way into the establishment.
In my teens I was introduced to gems such as Tarka the Otter, My Family & Other Animals and of course Tolkien. The Hobbit was a set book but quite a few of the class went on to read The Lord of the Rings of our own accord. Peter Jackson’s masterful retelling of these tales rekindled interest in the books but it has to be said, I was working in an independent bookshop during that time and sadly almost all of the copies we sold found their way back to our second hand shelves once it became apparent they did not read like comic books. I take vicarious pride in the fact my daughter read them at the age of ten after she had worked her way through the (then) available volumes of Harry Potter. She found parts of LoR hard going, Tolkien is not known for his straightforward writing style, but she persevered and ended up loving the characters as much as I had.
With Harry Potter Ms Rowling achieved something spectacular when she reached out to young minds and got them reading again however she also opened the door of ‘commercial’ publishing so wide that a great stream of material came gushing through. I am told it is easier to get a recording contract these days than a publishing deal! Who would have thought it? I have just heard that one of my stories is to be published in The Rhondda Writer’s Anthology; here’s to the first step on the first rung of the first ladder.