Dragon Slaying and Other Extreme Sports

Or, Why I Write YA Fantasy

By Jill Bowers

A chilled, new-spring breeze caressed my face as I stood and talked with my neighbour. My dog pulled against her leash, begging to get on with her walk, but my neighbour had stopped to chat.

They always do that, don’t they?

“You’re writing a book, right?” she asked.

“I just finished!” I smiled.

“That’s great,” she replied. “What kind of book is it?”

“It’s a young adult fantasy novel,” I said.

Her smile noticeably dimmed.

“Oh,” she said. Her voice was completely deflated. “Well, that’s okay, Jill.”

Jasmine (my dog) was very happy when we continued with our walk a quick “Well, have a nice night, great chatting with you!” later.

Unfortunately, this is not the only time I’ve received a less-than-pleasant reception to the idea of writing young adult fantasy. Hence the question:

Why do I write YA fantasy?

There are several answers, I suppose. I love reading YA fantasy, so it makes sense that I’d write these stories. I think adult novels are too bogged down with description, and I get bored in them too easily. I very much prefer the fast-paced attention-grabbing of a well-written young adult story.

But, if I’m being honest, these are all superficial reasons that cover my real joy in YA fantasy writing:

Dragon slaying.

Throughout my life, ever since I was four years old, I’ve had personal demons I’ve had to battle and fight. Being a child, I was never strong enough to fight anything off physically, and honestly, that’s not where most of my battles have happened. Most of the bloody, exhausting, dark wars have happened right inside of my mind.

Honestly, I think slaying dragons would be way easier than all of the stuff I’ve had to work out in my head. At least you can see the dragon, right? You can see the fire-breathing beast, and you know that that, that right there, is your enemy, and it needs to be taken care of. Sure, there’s the possibility that you’ll be burned to a crisp, or eaten, or torn to pieces, or meet any other number of gruesome ends, but at least you know exactly what you’re facing.

Life isn’t that simple, unfortunately.

Writing fantasy novels helps me make sense of my life and all of the things swirling around in my head. It helps me face my demons and put them into forms on the page that I can actually think through and conquer.

Young adults are the perfect audience for my type of writing, because adolescents are just learning and growing and finding out who they are and what they want to be. That can be confusing. And even if you have a seemingly perfect life from everyone else’s perspective, there are inevitably trials that sneak up on you while you’re growing up. Life is hard. I write to young adults to show them that their demons can be beaten.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

The above quote, by Neil Gaiman, perfectly sums up why I write YA fantasy, and also why I will always put real-life problems and trials in my stories. You don’t have to wait to grow up to face the “real world.” Growing up is hard, and teens everywhere face dragons every day. I want to show them that they can slay those dragons and emerge victorious.

In Immortal Writers, the protagonist, Liz, gets to fight dragons, but that’s not the hardest thing she faces in the book. Her biggest triumph is overcoming her inner demons.

And isn’t that what fantasy books teach us? We can face anything and win. This is the message I want to get across to my readers, and it’s something I constantly need to remind myself:

That dragons can be beaten.

Jill’s YA fantasy novel, Immortal Writersis now available for purchase! 

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