When I started work on my latest novel, Blue, I committed to writing about its core topics – the relationship between fathers and daughters, the effects of divorce, and the need for hope and imagination, to name a few – as honestly as I possibly could. I therefore decided to write Blue as a fantasy novel. As incongruous as this might seem, there was real logic in my thinking.
Fantasy novels provide many experiences. Certainly, there’s the experience of escape. When one enters a fantasy world through the pages of a book, one can come upon a vast array of inventions that can take you completely out of your life for as long as you are immersed. Then there’s the experience of wonder. The best fantasists – and I’m not suggesting that I am one by any stretch – can make our jaws drop with their creations. However, I think the most powerful experience that a fantasy novel can provide is the experience of remove. Fantasy allows the author to take readers out of their world so they can see that world from a new perspective.
That was my goal with Blue. I wanted to create an outsized version of things common to many of us to show how important those things really are. Most parents would tell you that they would give the world to their children. However, what would it really be like to give a world to your child? In Blue, I wanted to show a father’s devotion in a way that truly symbolized how we feel about our kids. When his five-year-old daughter Becky is sick, Chris, one of the novel’s three main characters, comes up with the idea that the two of them should start making up a story together at bedtime. This bedtime-story fantasy world becomes so meaningful to them that they continue to add to it every night long after Becky is better.
But then Chris’s marriage to Becky’s mother ends. Chris is so confused by this that he can’t adequately explain what’s going on to his daughter, now ten. In response, Becky declares that she will no longer continue their story. The fantasy is ending right here for her. What this symbolizes for Becky is fairly obvious, I would imagine: the loss of illusions. However, I used this device because I wanted to symbolize something else here: how devastating it is to a parent when a child rejects what they once shared. We miss little talks, easy laughter, silly traditions when our kids outgrow them, but many times can’t pinpoint why. By making the thing that Chris and Becky shared an elaborate fantasy world, I was attempting to give substance to what is often ineffable.
All of this is background to the main action in Blue, which is largely about what happens when the world that Becky and Chris created comes alive when Becky is fourteen. Here’s where I employ the tools of fantasy liberally, including the third main character of the novel, Miea, the young queen of that world. The reason why this world has become real is the central mystery of the novel, so I’m not going to explain my perspective on that here (you can e-mail me after you read Blue if you want to trade theories). All I’ll say is that one of the reasons I chose to make a bedtime story come alive is that I wanted to symbolize one of the most satisfying truths about parenting: that if you truly connect with your children in their early years, you create something very real that will be with you forever. In this case, the fantasy world is that creation.
I wanted Blue to be as truthful as my skills would allow me to make it. Therefore, I believed that the only choice I had was to make it a fantasy.
Lou Aronica is the author of several novels and works of nonfiction, including the New York Times bestseller, The Element (written with Ken Robinson) and the national bestseller, The Culture Code (written with Clotaire Rapaille). He lives in Southern Connecticut with his wife and four children.
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