All of my books to date have one thing in common: some aspect of the fantastic which, if looked at from the right angle, might not be fantastic at all. I’m using the “removed from reality” meaning of the fantastic: those things which, by definition, do not exist (because if they do, they are not fantastic). A decades-long rain, a kindred serpentine spirit, a fungus run amok, and even the fate-changing baseball cards could have both supernatural and natural explanations. The magical is usually a human interpretation of what’s going on. They are improbable but not impossible events.
When I am second guessing myself, I wonder if I should inject more fantasy in my books, to be a bigger hit with readers, and their insatiable appetite for superheroes and mythic beasts. Or, conversely, if I should abandon the fantastic all together and write strictly realistic books, and be a bigger hit with tastemakers. Either road would be better than wandering aimlessly between them, I figure.
Why not write both, some well meaning person will suggest. And some writers do, but I don’t work that way. It takes quite a bit of effort to finish a book, and the ones I see through are the ones that reflect the deep indecisiveness of my soul.
And I really don’t know, at least as far as fiction goes. There are uses for enchantment but also epistemology. Personally, I feel like the real world has plenty of miracles that surpass the imaginations of our most fanciful authors, but these miracles take patience, pondering and closer observation to appreciate.
I’m thinking about it now as I look into the abyss of “what’s next,” with one manuscript (which has the least magic of any book yet, but not quite none) almost ready to send out into the world. I have a ghost story that needs revising, an utterly fantastic/fairy tale kind of book I started in a fit of excitement, and a gritty magical-realistic book written in draft form that is probably inappropriate for children. I’ve also considered writing nonfiction, but kind of like the way I’ve considered marathons.
I’ll have to pick one project and see it through, or (more in line with past experience), one of them will pick me.