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23 March 2014

Romancing the Fantasy - Stuart Aken


With a week to the release of the first of his Fantasy trilogy: A Seared Sky: Joinings, I am pleased to welcome Stuart Aken to talk about a subject dear to my heart...


Romance in fantasy? But, isn’t fantasy all about dragons, swords and sorcery, maybe elves, goblins and other magical folk? That’s certainly the image projected by much that falls under the umbrella of ‘epic fantasy’.

Fantasy, of course, includes dozens of sub-genres, and strays into areas reserved for other forms. Perhaps, before continuing, we need to define what fantasy is in regard to story-telling? It’s a tale set in a world, time, or dimension, or a combination of these, different from what we believe is reality. It may also involve animals as protagonists as well as beings that don’t exist in the known world.

Animal Farm, the Twilight series, the cult of Demonic Eroticism, Alice in Wonderland, paranormal stories, much of soft science fiction, animal-based novels like The Stonor Eagles and Watership Down, and many others fall within the wider definition of fantasy. And, clearly, romance does exist within this broader definition.

Noticeably, however, it’s far less common in epic fantasy. One reason may be that this specific sub-genre is often aimed at the YA/teen market and, more specifically, at boys. Boys are not, as a rule, attracted by romance. Sex, yes, but romance, no. There’s no more than a hint of romance in the most famous epic fantasy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Sam and Rosie, Arwen and Aragon), and this holds true for many within the genre. With the entry of more female authors into the field, it is becoming more common.

Perhaps we should also define ‘epic fantasy’? It usually involves a world that is ‘other’, a quest, magic in some form, battles, and themes that include ‘good versus evil’. But romance? Not commonly, especially from male authors.

No rules, and no valid reasons, exclude romance from epic fantasy. My own feeling is that the inclusion enhances such a tale and allows readers to enjoy the invented world much more. So, perhaps it depends on what readership the author envisages. In fact, I suspect that the exclusion of a romantic element has actively discouraged many readers who would otherwise appreciate this form of fiction.

My epic fantasy trilogy, A Seared Sky, is aimed at an adult readership, though it is also suitable for a YA audience over the age of 15. I’ve woven the story around three sets of couples in each of the three volumes. These threads are romantically based, though the underlying story they carry is far more complex than that simple scenario might imply. I have some magic, in the form of a limited type of telepathy. I have battles, physical and mental, involving war between good and evil. And I have a central quest, involving many characters in a search for what they believe is a crucial artefact.

Romance is as fundamental to the telling of my tale as any other element. But the story remains a fantasy and is an epic, covering adventure over many lands in an invented world. Will you see it in those terms? Discover for yourself. Joinings, the first volume, is published by Fantastic Books Publishing on 30th March in both paperback and ebook formats. There’s a launch party, to which you’re all invited. The publisher is putting on quite a show. It’s a virtual event, online, so you can attend from anywhere in the world. To find out more, click this link.

P.S. As an illustration of how little romance there is in epic fantasy, I searched for hours to find a suitable illustration for this post and the one up top was the best I could find!

12 comments:

  1. Many thanks for the opportunity to share thoughts with your readers, Linda. It's especially appreciated when you're also launching your own book. But I guess that's writers for you: we're a supportive group.

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    1. You are very welcome, Stuart. I've been on to the FBPublishing Facebook page (link above). The integrated support the books are getting from this new publisher pre-launch is outstanding.

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    2. You're right there, Linda. In FBP, I've found a publisher who really cares about his books and, perhaps as importantly for us, his authors.

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  2. Intriguing snippets here. And I've just been listening to an interview with Dagla Kaz, one of the characters in the book (now who thought up that idea!) I can't wait to read the whole thing. I found the interview here: https://www.facebook.com/events/263130767190284/permalink/265302996973061/?stream_ref=3

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    1. I thought Dagla Kaz's interview was particularly chilling. Tumalind, on the other hand, is a young woman who is blinkered by her own naivety, though there is just a touch of 'something's not quite right' seen from the corner of her eye. Well, who can blame her? It'll be interesting to see how she copes when the earth shifts.

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    2. It's great when your publisher has good ideas. I'd originally decided to do some interviews as written scripts, but Dan, the owner of Fantastic Books Publishing, thought they would work better as videos. And they do. The portrayal of Dagla Kaz lends the character an air of the sinister that fits well with his place in the story.

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    3. Linda, Tumalind is an innocent, a child of her society; obedient and well-behaved, but with an intelligence that is initially untested. but things change for her as the story develops and, as a result, she also changes.

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  3. I like the idea of romance and fantasy, Stuart. Why not? There's romance in the Odyssey (the hero and his Penelope) and heart-breakingly in the Iliad, and these are epic tales. I wish you lots of success with your latest release.

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    1. Ah, yes, we concentrate too much on the Tolkien variant, forgetting the classical epics were Fantasy, too. Thanks for dropping in, Lindsay.

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    2. You're absolutely right, Lindsay. In the early days of storytelling, the masters understood that a rounded tale included many elements. It's only recently that the genre has become separated from this, for me, crucial aspect of human experience. I hope to set that right to some extent in my trilogy.

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  4. There's far too much pigeon holing of genres that actually blend seamlessly. Nothing in the real world is one-dimensional, why should fictional situations be any different? Worlds within worlds. Wishing you every success with yours.

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    1. Thanks Karen. You're right, of course. But most of the restrictions are made by publishers/agents in order to make their selling task easier - so they say. In fact, many readers don't seem to give a hoot about genre; they just want a good story populated with characters they can empathise with. That's what I intend to do here. And, to have found a publisher who understands that the book is about the book, not about the genre, is so refreshing and inspiring. I've been really lucky here.

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