I have just finished reading two absolutely fantastic books: ‘Sanctum’ and ‘Fractured’ by Sarah Fine. I am not their target audience by more than twenty years – they are aimed at the young adult market – but I was completely drawn in by them. It’s rare for me to feel so engaged with a book that I want to just read and read it and for the book to never stop so that I can just stay in that world with those characters. It happened with The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson and to some extent with the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson but it’s a rare occurrence.
It’s made me sit down and try and analyse why I couldn’t get enough of the books. There were the usual aspects – strong characters, cracking storylines, excellent plotting, vivid descriptions, story- and character-arcs across not just the book itself, but in the Sarah Fine and the Stieg Larsson books, across the set of books... but there can be that in other books which left me satisfied rather than hungry for more, so what exactly has it been about these ones? Is it the highly inventive setting and the complexity of the characters – so many shades of light and dark and colour in them? Is it something else? Something like stardust?
I yearn to write something as good as these. Reading them inspired me to take a half-sketched idea for another book and really play with it – turn it around, play with the characters, make things more extreme at times, focus in on things and develop them and develop them and develop them – take them as far as I can without shattering the thread of credibility. I have been playing with it all for a couple of days and am now standing on that thin line between inspiration and despondency. Inspired beyond words to go for it, to think and plan and write notes on something that is currently as exciting to me as the Sarah Fine books were; despondency because I fear I will only succeed in writing something a fraction as good as she has. Whilst I am planning and disappearing so far down the rabbit hole that I’m emerging stunned and blinking into The Real World at the end of the day, it is thrilling and exciting and I am inspired. Once I come out of the rabbit hole, then the despondency starts to creep in, helped along merrily by self-doubt and insecurity. Who am I to think I could do something like that? Who am I to think I can write something so thrilling and un-put-downable that other people will miss meals to stay immersed in the book? Or who will feel empty once the book has finished?
I live, I hope, I practise, I try. I reflect and analyse and deconstruct and reconstruct and question and question and question every aspect of the books I consume so greedily. Who? Where? What? Why? How? ... Why??
Maybe one day I will succeed.