I am optimistic that imagination is alive and well in The Digital Age. I have seen it in the rising generations who have viewed computer screens and other media since they were babies. Of course, one of the most abundant sources of a vivid imagination is a fantasy writer. I am excited to share an interview with Alyssa Auch, a fantasy writer who majored in Marriage and Family Relations in college. She gives tips on tapping into our imaginations.
Auch sent messages to many of her google+ followers including myself in the days leading up to the release of her fantasy book, Inito. Finally, she gave us access to a substantive sample of her book so we could know that she had real talent. When the timing was right, I bought my own copy. I admire her ability to create a magical world. She shares her insights in the interview below:
Q. Why do you think it is important for youth to read fantasy or magical books?
A. I think the imagination is one of the most powerful gateway tools for finding a real life passion. When your imagination is free to roam, it goes in all kind of places. And the more that young people read, the more they discover. The more they discover, the more they realize that there is an infinite amount of knowledge to be obtained. Once a person realizes that, I fully believe that they then obtain a passion to learn, explore, and innovate. So I feel very passionate about not only writing books that are entertaining, but pique the interest of young people; I want them to think, "I wonder if we still use herbs for medicine today," and then they will research that and maybe find an interest in alternative medicine, for example. Some incredible things come from the cultivation of imagination.
Q. A lot of adults love fantasy books aimed at a younger audience too. Do you have any feelings about this?
A. I don't find it terribly surprising that this is the case. What's more exciting than the discovery of life that a youth faces? These young adult books are usually about the realization of dreams, goals, and knowledge. It's a thrilling time for everyone, and even if we adults are past that point of self-discovery, we can still very much remember the intense emotions that went along with it. Also, when you read about a young character coming to an epiphany sometimes that sparks a realization of our own, no matter how old we are. For me, I am in love with watching people fall in love. It's so emotional and fun to experience! Books are a great way for everyone to enjoy those struggles and triumphs.
Q. Are there any authors or works of literature that have really influenced you?
A. Many! But I would say as a young reader, Lloyd Alexander was the most influential author to me. His books inspired me in a very direct way to begin writing fantasy. From there, my talent grew, but his stories were the beginning.
Q. At your blog, you have credited your mom with helping to develop your imagination. What are some ways that parents and caregivers can encourage children to cultivate and use their imaginations?
A. Great question! My mom is an incredibly imaginative, artistic person. She set boundaries for us of course, but the imagination was not one of them. She read to us constantly. She even made up stories at bedtime: I remember one in particular was a series that she called The Ten Kingdoms. She would tell a story about a different kingdom every night, and it was so brilliant and original, how could that not have rubbed off on me a little bit? I think I saw that she could create worlds like that on the spot, and so I thought, "Well heck, if she can do it, why can't I?" So I did! Also, as a mother, she was very adamant that we play outside or read books. I'm grateful to her for that because if I wasn't creating stories through play, I was reading them in literature. What better way to nurture a writer?
Q. Are you familiar with the benefits of children playing with their parents for a half-hour for more in a manner that is child initiated? Can you give any examples of this type of play?
A. As a graduate with a degree in Marriage and Family Relations, I'm actually very familiar with this! And it has merit. Children have incredible imaginations. So vast, diverse, and fantastical that the only boundaries are the ones we set in place. So when a parent takes the time to not only play with their child, but allow the child to dictate the rules, both parent and child benefit. The parent learns what's inside their little kiddo's brain, and the child learns that their thoughts are valued. Their imaginings are not strange, but wonderful. When they believe that the stories they have come up with are cherished by the person they look up to the most, they will keep using that in all aspects of life moving forward. The endless opportunities that arise from that are magnificent! My husband is better at this than I am. Every night after dinner, he gets down the floor for a good romp with the kids. Sometimes the children demand that they build a castle, and other times it’s a space ship. Whatever their preference, he is game, and I love that about him. I'm less physical about playing with them, but one of my favorite things to do is let them put on a play for me. I sit on the couch, and each of them gets to sing, dance, tell a story, or whatever they come up with. Some of the things they do are hilarious and so unique! One of my favorites was a "magic show" they did out of the blue. It put us all in stitches.
Q. Would you kindly define Inito for the reader?
A. Inito is the continuation of the story of Wynn, the only witch born in her kingdom in 100 years. And although she survived her fate to be killed and used by her fierce counterpart the warlock, her last spell had a terrible side effect. She created something unnatural. Pure darkness, and malice without thought, it begins to inhale the essence of every magical being it can find. Wynn must find this thing she has created, or she might doom her kingdom to a fate worse than the one she stopped.
Q. I find it amazing that a fictional character can have a type of life in the mind multiple readers or viewers. What is it like for you to develop fictional characters and give them attributes and in some cases magical gifts? Do the characters become more real to you as you write?
A. Developing the characters is the most fun part of writing a book! Usually they are born as most people are--with a past. And then as is natural, they begin to evolve and shape themselves based on the past they were born from. With Wynn, she was feared. Cast off by her parents, and living in fear of the warlock who might one day find her, Wynn was formed out of some of the most basic and raw human emotions we can ever experience. And because of that, I felt very connected to her. I love Wynn dearly, and I feel for her, especially because of how difficult it is for her to have the emotions I feel on a regular basis. I often get asked if I write characters who are like me, but not really. Wynn is a creation of the events surrounding her. As are we all!
Q. Can you tell us about some of your other published works and any books that you are working on now?
A. The other published work I have written is Lunula, which is the first book in the Irador series, chronicling the adventures of Wynn and Gethin. I am always working on new things! But lately, with three children, it seems I have less and less time to do it. Right now I am working on a third book for the Irador series, a historical romance, and...a secret project ;) I can't tell you what that one is about, but it's a good one!
The tag line for Auch’s blog, Auchward, is "embracing the geeky side of writing." If her writings are considered geeky, then it is a mighty fine thing to be geeky.