The Useful Myth

Fairy tales shaped my early love of story, and as my interest in literature and history deepened in my teen years, I began to develop a love of ancient mythology as well. It took off, and was fed, in a college course dedicated to studying the works of C.S. Lewis. I loved seeing the connections to mythology in The Chronicles of Narnia, which had shaped so much of my early growth as a reader. The idea of using aspects of myths as a starting point in my writing has been around since the early days of my appreciation of mythology, but I became quickly overwhelmed by the vast, deep well, and felt that I could only ever skim the surface.

Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis, an allegorical novelization of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, and American Gods by Neil Gaiman, with its web of ancient and modern mythology, were two (very different) books that both inspired and scared me off. They were so richly imagined and researched, and I was thoroughly daunted, but hungry to read more.

It wasn’t until a few years after a college trip to Ireland, that I couldn’t help but give it a try. I was experiencing a hot-blooded, desperate sort of nostalgia that pushed me to research Ireland and its history, which often seems inextricably entwined with its layers of legend. I wanted so badly to inhabit not only that beautiful, physical place, but the magic and robust life contained in its stories.

I also wanted to write a story about a young girl (for young girls), fighting for her place and purpose in a changing land that is being overtaken by ruthless men, who would use a girl like her for their own gain. I wanted to write a story of adventure and sisterhood, and a magic that is as much part of the very fabric of a beautiful land as its deeply-felt history. I couldn’t stop thinking about Ireland and this girl, so I wrote Huntress.

It was an intensely emotional endeavor, fraught with mistakes, but I believe that story taught me how to write. Writing a novel, your first novel, is a little bit like going on an epic journey, then returning home again and realizing that it’s changed you. Your life won’t be the same again, you must keep ever onward, ever seeking. It’s a feeling that I wouldn’t change for anything. My writing might never find its place among the works that inspire me and the rest of the world, but I won’t let that stop me from trying any longer. Right now, it’s enough that some of my stories exist outside of my own head.

And for the record, I did only skim the surface. I used a teaspoon of myth and a bit more of history as my jumping off point, but it was enough to set me on my way. 🙂

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