This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Serena Clarke is the latest author to tell us about the book that changed her life – or, in Serena's case seven books, known collectively as The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S Lewis. Here she explains how they taught her about the complete escape that books offer. Serena's first novel, All Over The Place, is out now.
Writers have good imaginations. We all agree on that. But I think that even an incredible writer has nothing on your average preschooler. In their minds, anything is possible. Fired up with the stories of Moon-Face, Saucepan Man and the children in the Enchanted Wood, I used to search for pixies at the bottom of the garden. Oh, they were definitely there somewhere…and my imaginary friends helped me look for them.
Yes, that’s friends, plural. There were four of them. My big brother was there when they arrived unexpectedly one night, just after lights out. “Oh!” said my two-year-old self. “Hello Berber. Hello Murmur. Hello Pickie. Hello Bhunda.” And that was that – they were part of the family. Luckily, my mother remembered to pack them in a suitcase when we moved to Australia, and then back to New Zealand. It must have been an uncomfortable way to travel! As far as she can remember, they slipped away just before I started school. (If your child has them now, I’d love to hear from you!)
That’s the unselfconscious, powerful kind of imagination that writers try to tap into every time they sit down to write. Whatever genre you work in, you need to believe in your imaginary world, as much as any little person believes in theirs.
It was only a short step from The Faraway Tree and The Enchanted Wood to the books that changed my life – The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Or perhaps they didn’t change it exactly, but echoed and validated what was already in my daydreamy little head. Those seven paperbacks, bought one a month from the Scholastic book club, provided a kind of touchstone for a small girl with a huge appetite for the magical and the mysterious.
As an adult, I became aware of the ongoing debate around Lewis’ meanings and intentions, but as a child I was oblivious to all that. And I’ll continue to cherish these books for their magic and their extraordinary storytelling, and the certain knowledge that in the end, good will triumph and there is a point to it all. Wherever you stand on life, the universe and everything, that’s something to hold onto I think.
It was a longer step from reading the Narnia tales to writing my own stories, but the wonder of those seven books still resonates in my mind as I write. The extraordinary in the ordinary, the universal struggle between right and wrong, the hope of finding sweetness in unexpected places, and the idea that a life-changing adventure could be around any corner.
Maybe being a writer is a sort of refusal to grow up, even as you write about the most adult subjects. We might not ever be transported to another world through an enchanted wardrobe, or by stepping into a pond, or being pulled into a suddenly-alive painting. (Although I can’t quite give up the possibility!) But for readers and writers, a story is still the way we escape, if only for a while. I can believe in that.