Guest Post: Katy Krump on How Hard Is It To Write Teen Fantasy
Our second feature today is from Katy Krump, author of the teen fantasy Blue Dust: Forbidden. She's talking about how hard it is to write teen fantasy.
Honestly, I don’t find it too hard. I suppose it’s because basically I’m a teenage girl masquerading as a middle-aged woman. I once asked my mother what it felt like to ‘be old’ and she said, ‘I don’t feel any different now from how I felt when I was sixteen.’ I did the required eye-rolling and snorting and thought, ‘Pshaw, rubbish,’ or words not as complimentary, and continued with my happy, uncluttered teenage life, boiling with fury when I was dismissed or treated as insignificant because of my youth. Now, I realise she was right.
I still feel sixteen in my head, though of course I’m much wiser. I am, really I am. I remember the feeling of disempowerment and in direct contrast to that, the rush of knowing I was invincible and would never get as old as my mother. Those moments of pushing the boundaries just to see what would happen are as clear now as they were back then. I was often treated as if I was too young to have valid opinions or thoughts and constantly told that I’d ‘understand’ when I was older. Those feelings have influenced my writing and are a major motivation for my choosing to write teen fiction. I clearly recall the muddle in my head as I tried to find my true self, the surging hormones that made me feel out of control and dangerous, and Qea, the heroine in Blue Dust : Forbidden, reflects these emotions. I think it’s vital for a writer to draw on life experiences. My book is sci fi/fantasy about an alien. Obviously I’m not an actual alien, but I do understand what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange place after emigrating, so I took what I knew and turned it on its head. For me, using personal experiences makes the writing easier. It’s not necessary to write exactly what happened, but turn it around and you have a fantasy story.
I have clear memories of my childhood and teenage years and the uncontrollable passions that could swamp me in an instant. I was a bit of a loner, but I spent a lot of time observing others (in a non-stalker way of course) and it was through these observations that my writing began. Times have changed so much with all the technology and social media that young adults are involved in, and yet the essence of growing up, discovering your true persona, parental and sibling relationships, negotiating the quagmires of friendship and love, remain constant. I store up my observations of people’s behaviours and dialogue, and use them in my writing. Once you learn to do that, the writing gets easier.
As far as writing fantasy is concerned, I’ve always had an over-active imagination, so writing for the teen market helps me excise and share some of the weirdness in my head. We didn’t have a television until I was fifteen and so I read prodigiously and spent a lot of time making up stories in my head. I loved sci fi and fantasy television programmes, which back then were filled with dodgy special effects and cardboard rocks, because they made me realise I wasn’t the only one with thoughts about other worlds. There has to be an exciting story and strong characters who undergo challenges and face terrible dangers. Fantasy enables the monster to be bigger and scarier. The worlds can be more bizarre because nothing is impossible in fantasy, and I love the freedom of this genre. I love words, and spend a lot of time finding the ‘perfect’ word for a sentence. I don’t dumb down my writing even though it is for teenagers and I’ve had some interesting comments from young readers who enjoy the words I use. My thought is that if someone doesn’t understand a word they can look it up, which is what I used to do and nowadays ‘Doctor Google’ makes it easy.
Blue Dust : Forbidden didn’t start out as a fantasy. Halfway through I realised it was taking a direction I didn’t like and so I stopped and thought about what kind of story I really wanted to write, and instantly came to ‘fantasy/sci fi’. I turned it around and immediately it became easier as I was able to let my imagination run riot, unbound by having to keep it all ‘real’. As with any writing, teenage fantasy needs to have a strong story, believable characters and the correct structure. Structure and character development can all be learned, but it’s what you do with the technical skills that matters most, in my opinion. Correct spelling and grammar are important, but for me with fantasy, it’s the story and characters that matter most. Dodgy structure, grammar, spelling etc., can be fixed. A writer must believe in the writing and the genre. It would be no good my trying to write a book about the joys of motorcycles, because I don’t care about them, but strong female protagonists and fantastical worlds, that’s what I care about.
My advice to writers is to find the genre that makes your soul sing, spend some time learning about the technical aspects and then do it. Write whatever you want to no matter how weird it might feel or seem to others. Fantasy is ideal for people with vivid imaginations, like me. The writing is the easy apart. It’s what comes afterwards that’s difficult; re-writing, editing, learning how to take out a superfluous passage or even chapter, even though you love it, that’s hard. As with anything, discipline, perseverance , willingness to take constructive criticism from an editor and self-belief are vital when writing. Getting what you’ve written published is a whole other story...
Katy was an English and music teacher before almost losing her sense of humour (and mind) and deciding she needed to devote herself to the thing she loved most - writing. She published a number of children’s musicals and then became a full-time television scriptwriter for children, entered a nationwide scriptwriting competition and was selected to be on the writing team of a popular South African soap. She also worked as an advertising copywriter, wrote radio ads and jingles, educational textbooks and readers...anything writing-related to keep the wolf from the door. Basically, she’s constantly writing, books and TV scripts and if not that then plotting, planning and scheming how to take over the world!
Like her creation Qea, the feisty heroine in Blue Dust: Forbidden, Katy understands something about being an alien after she embarked on a new journey, crossing the galaxy to settle on a new planet (England) many moons ago. Some like to call this process 'immigration'. Katy is now a proud possessor of a maroon Intergalactic Wayfarer Permit and has come to love the aliens she mixes with daily.
You can find Katy's book at Amazon. Interested in knowing more about Katy: Check out these websites: