Verdict: No Imagination
I never expected to become a fantasy writer. As a child and teen, I wasn’t allowed to read or write fantasy books, except for the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. Fairy tales, myths, and legends were taboo. My parents insisted that my books—on my shelf or in my head—be realistic and preferably religious.
In fourth grade, a creative writing assignment for Halloween revolved around the usual topics: ghosts, witches, haunted houses. I wasn’t permitted to dabble in such subjects, so I wrote a story about a plane crash. Everyone died. Suitably grim, I hoped.
My teacher was less than impressed, and she wrote in my report card that I had “no imagination.”
I had an imagination. When I wrote stories for myself, I could see my characters, and they talked to me. But when I told my parents that, their reaction was negative in the extreme, and I learned to keep the vibrant world in my head a secret.
In my forties, I discovered that I have a condition called hyperphantasia, or an overactive imagination. This explains the high-definition imagery in my mind and my ability to perceive places and people in my field of vision, superimposed on reality. Hyperphantasia also explains how real my characters and fictional worlds become to me. When I imagine a scene, I see and hear everything, and with less intensity, experience tastes, textures, and smells. The constant images and incessant internal dialogue in my brain are exhausting, especially when I try to process all of it alongside reality. Writing helps to keep the ideas in manageable order!
But as a child, I concealed all that, thinking something was wrong with me.
In my late teens, I started writing historical fiction. A novel I wrote in my early twenties, Fool’s Gold, was published online by Reconciliation Press circa 2000.
Many years later, when I began the Dragon’s Fire Series with what became the second title, The Rose of Caledon, I intended to produce more historical fiction. It bothered me, though, that I had set the story in a made-up land, instead of placing my characters in England or Ireland. A third of the way through Myrhiadh’s War, when James and Myrhiadh came up with the plot for Dragon’s Fire, a hint of magic crept into the book. I loosened the reins on my imagination that I’d stifled for so long and let it run.
I love writing fantasy. The Dragon’s Fire Series is low-fantasy, or magical realism. Through it, I’ve discovered who I am as a writer, and to a great extent, who I am as a person. I’m learning to embrace my imagination instead of viewing it as a disease or even a curse.
The novel I mentioned earlier, Fool’s Gold, will be re-released in print at a later date. An editor who went over the text, having never met me or had any interaction with me, commented, “She would make an amazing fantasy writer!”
Such a comment 20 years ago would have terrified me. When I wrote Fool's Gold, I didn't dare let my imagination take over, but the editor noticed it, just the same.
The Dragon’s Fire Series has taught me to embrace who and what I am, and to appreciate how fun a soaring flight of unhindered imagination can be.
I hope my fourth-grade teacher reads them.
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