Readers, today we turn to epic fantasy with writer Gina Denny. Gina’s take on telling the inverse side of traditional tales is fascinating, and she has some great things to say about how fantasy breaks the expectations of what stories can do.
Hello, Gina, and welcome! It’s very cool to have you here — epic fantasy is my first loves, and I love talking to fellow fantasy writers. Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I am a homeschooling stay at home mom who has always has a skill for “improving the truth.” Somewhere along the line, I realized what I was doing was storytelling, and I decided to hone that skill. Several years later, here I am, getting ready to query my first novel, SNOW FALLING, a retelling of Snow White’s tale. Except there’s a twist: Snow White is a spoiled brat with an ax to grind, and the “evil queen” is going to great lengths to protect the kingdom.
What made you decide to write epic fantasy?
I wanted to write the villains’ stories: You know, the “other” side to the story, why they did what they did, etc. And in order for these fairy tales to be done properly, I felt high fantasy was really the only acceptable way to go. This isn’t a reimagining of the story, it’s telling the same story from another angle. So it had to be set in a similar setting to the original tale.
What types of stories does epic fantasy make possible?
EVERY STORY. Epic fantasy removes virtually all the constraints of this world: language, social structure, even the laws of physics can be bent and broken. Because magic is often present, and the setting is not Earth (at least not as we know it), everything you know to be true can be turned on its head. Epic fantasy allows you comment on the human condition without “taking sides” and it allows readers to see that commentary objectively. Everything can be seen through a fresh lens, because everything is new.
What audience do you think epic fantasy attracts? How does that alter the types of stories you tell and characters you write?
Right now, I think epic fantasy still attracts mostly a stereotypically “nerd” audience. Don’t get me wrong – I AM A NERD. I LOVE NERDS. But this audience does two things. First, it is incredibly freeing, because I don’t have to worry about trying to chase down a mass-market trend. This is a niche, and it’s not subject to the whims and fancies of pop culture quite the same way that, say, urban fantasy is. (Ever heard an agent say “I want more mermaids, fewer vampires.”? That’s the changing winds of a mass-market genre.) Second, though, this audience is also very intimidating. Fantasy readers know their stuff. They live it and breathe it, and you absolutely cannot BS your way through an epic fantasy novel.
How does epic fantasy affect the stakes for your characters and your audience?
As I said before, epic fantasy allows for the rules of our world to be broken. This exponentially increases the tension of the story because danger could come from anywhere. Yes, there are certain rules within the world that you build, of course. But those rules aren’t spelled out for us on the first page. One of the best examples of this, in my opinion, is Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. By the end of the series, some eight thousand pages in, you’re still fully gripped by the battle because Richard’s powers are continually growing and evolving. There’s fidelity and continuity, but it’s completely unlike anything we could experience here in this life, and that’s what makes it so extraordinary.
Why do you think people love to read epic fantasy? How do you think the genre affects its audience?
This particular genre is the ultimate escape. It’s the fulfillment of childhood daydreams. Dragons and elves and a whole other world that feels just enough familiar to be real, but so fantastical that it might also be a dream. I have the utmost respect for people who proudly proclaim their enjoyment of epic fantasy because it says, “I want to believe in something amazing.” And we need more people who are willing to believe in something amazing, if only for a few hours at a time.
For fun, what is your favorite genre to read? Why?
Any genre where the main character puts on a cloak. I read a lot of everything, fiction and non-fiction alike. But I always come back to speculative fiction. Fantasy and science fiction and all their sub-genres. Give me Orson Scott Card over F. Scott Fitzgerald any day of the week. Love it.
How can readers track you down?
I blog at “This is Not Your Blog” (ginadenny.blogspot.com) and tweet as @GinaD129.
Thanks for stopping by! Go check out Gina’s blog or give her a howdy on Twitter.