ArtView May 2015 - Page 12

him to enter the story and become their hero. On one level, the book is a fable about the power of love and imagination. But it‟s also a rumination on the act of reading and on the real magic of books: that they can change your life. If you‟re familiar with my writing, you‟ll know that I write the same way that I read: I like a good genre “mash-up”. I like to read and write across the spectrum (paranormal, mystery, literary, crime, thriller, romance, you name it). Like the decaying Fantastica we first encounter in The Neverending Story, ours is a dark, complex, chaotic and densely-layered world. When I'm creating a fictional world, and people to move through it, I subscribe to that Japanese way of looking at things that's summed up in the words wabi-sabi. Paraphrasing badly, it means something like "beauty from imperfection." To me, a character is more complete, more beautiful, more memorable and interesting, if they are flawed. And the world they inhabit — especially if it looks like ours — has to be as wide and amazing and conflicted as ours is if it's going to go anywhere near seeming "authentic" or "real". So if I set out to create a female heroine, I will consciously ensure that she is a think-on-the-fly, strong and abrasive, yet empathetic character because I have been surrounded by strong women my entire life — in the home, in the careers I have led, in my friendships. I won‟t foreground romance for the sake of romance because life is often about difficult choices and getting through. And romance is the icing, but it‟s never the cake. Another thing you will notice about my books, is that people like you and me, the person you stand next to on the tram, will feature in them. When I was growing up, no one on Neighbours or Sons and Daughters looked remotely like me, or spoke a different language. So when I finally started getting things published, I was granted the ability to adjust the "real" world my characters lived in to include Chinese and Columbian kids, people who spoke Spanish or Russian or Italian, or who were forced to work as strippers or waitresses or clairvoyants, just to make ends meet. I've tried to fill my books with the kinds of people we live side-by-side with, the kinds of people we are. I just do it because it adds to the "reality" of the story and the characters, and reflects the world I live in. Writing the “real” into the fictional is what I do. My take is: if you're going to write fantasy — urban, steampunk, whatever — you need to ground it and dirty things up and give it a patina of realism before you can even go off the map. Like my novel Mercy, my latest novel, The Astrologer’s Daughter was a fictional response to some t errible stories involving crimes against women that were emerging in the press around the time I was writing. The “real world” news is a potent trigger for book ideas. What people do to each other in real life is staggering. I don‟t set out to write easy-to-read, teen-chicklit. I‟ve been strongly urged to do it, but it‟s not my bag. With my books, I always hope to reach readers who are willing — while being entertained — to think and worry and be challenged by the themes I cover. I especially want readers to be aware that — even if, or especially if — you‟re girly and klutzy