When Dean asked me if I had any thoughts on ’Dangerous Ideas’, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about because there has been a troublesome idea floating around in my head for some time.
Once I have finished writing my young adult dragon novels, The Rachaya Series, I really want to sink my teeth into something completely different. I snuck into a university library and hunted down books on topics that I thought might interest me. I came across a section on Mythology from across the continent of Asia, and what I read absolutely fascinated me. I spent hours in the library, reading feverishly. I began to loosely plot a story around the mythos and history of a couple of the places I was reading about.
Cue the ‘Dangerous Idea’ – the world I was researching was brutal. I don’t write about brutal things. I write about magic and wonder and dragons, but this story would not let me go.
There are so many themes in my research that I never thought I would tackle in a story – poisons, suicide, torture, dirty tactics in war. It’s not that I want to shy away from such topics – this is straight out of history and is therefore a part of humanity. But am I good enough at my craft to handle these themes? Have my skills as a writer matured to a level where I can write something that resonates with my readers without glorifying or romanticizing atrocities? To leave these events out would be dishonest. And yet there’s definitely a temptation to put this story off, to push it back until I feel my writing skills are an even match for the task.
Ashleigh Oldfield, author.
There’s also the sense of responsibility with my writing about how stronger themes will affect my younger audience. I am a teacher in my other life, and adults have bought my books for their kids several times over simply because they trust me and my professionalism as a teacher. In fact, I was at the opening of a bookstore last night and an elderly lady bought Fyrebyrne Island for her granddaughter for that very reason.
If I publish a book with sex and violence, it may well end up in the hands of those I feel a moral obligation to protect – my students and others of their age bracket. I don’t think I could live with myself because I have had a duty of care towards children for a decade and it’s a difficult habit to shake.
I also worry that a more adult novel from me would not be very well received. I think of J.K. Rowling, whose follow up to her Harry Potter series, A Casual Vacancy, was largely disliked because it was more adult. People expected something different from her; they expected a certain level of safety from her. With the fiction that I currently write, and the profession that I have, I would be in a similar position, so I guess in a way I also have that fear of failure, that no one will like something I have worked so hard to get right, simply because they expect another Rachaya Series out of me.
The fear of failure is, I think, something all creatives have in one form or another and is just something I will have to learn to live with. Having a story embed itself in my brain has made me even more determined to be the best writer that I can be so that when the time comes, I can do this story justice. I still have research to conduct and other books to finish writing first, but I am working harder than ever before so I can craft this story into a work of art.
Ashleigh Oldfield is a fantasy fiction and children’s writer from Melbourne, Australia. Always having a love for the written word, Ash wrote her first stories by moonlight at the tender age of five, long after her parents thought she had gone to bed. To this very day Ash still prefers to write by the light of the moon long after any sensible person has succumbed to sleep.
When she is not working on her latest piece of fiction, Ash enjoys drinking good coffee, taking her dog for walks on the beach and hanging out with her two cats. This year, Ashleigh kicked off a weekly podcast with her husband Steve De Niese. Called "The Book Stash", the podcast is a great little show about reading and writing in which Ashleigh and Steve talk about the craft and what inspires them in the journey. For new writers with an eye to improving their own method, The Book Stash is a must listen.
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