A Firm Foothold in Unreality

The Watergate at Enniskillen Castle.

Why write fantasy stories? For me, there is an easy answer and a deeper answer.

The easy answer: writing them is fun.

Ever since I first read the Hobbit when I was 12, I’ve loved reading and writing fantasy. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed books in other genres, such as the Dick Francis horse racing mysteries and the Brother Cadfael books, but I always return to fantasy.

I’ve occasionally tried writing other types of books. I even had a professional book published. The book filled a gap in the existing books about the profession, and I got to work with some outstanding editors in the process of writing it. But writing it wasn’t fun.

The easy answer, however, is not really enough to address the question of why I write fantasy. On a deeper level, the genre fulfills a fundamental need for me. Life has always been more interesting when it is sprinkled with imagination. Castles, monsters, magic, and exotic locales are the spices that add a “larger than life” quality to the world. I used to joke that I got through college by keeping “a firm foothold in unreality.”

Of course, I keep the other foot rooted in the real world. Eating just spices instead of substantial food would not sustain anyone for long. I comply with all those activities required of a “grown up.” But the fantasy element adds excitement to the mundane and sparkle to the commonplace.

For example, I went to Enniskillen (see picture above) in 2019 for a “grown up” reason: to do genealogy research regarding my Irish (McCaffrey) ancestors. But while I was there, I made sure to tour the castle! Great fun!

Now that I think about it, maybe writing fantasy is in my blood. I am descended from McCaffreys, after all. — Just kidding! As far as I know, I have no direct relation to Anne McCaffrey. (But wouldn’t that be great if I did?)

-Susan 7/3/20

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