On writing fantasy: it's Narnia business

Lev Grossman, author of The Magician's Land, recalls the journey that took him from a Harvard and Yale-prescribed life of reading classics to writing fantasy novels, and how much it liberated him.

I was in my 30s and dealing with different problems from Harry’s. I wondered if there was a way to make my magician’s life look more like my own.

So I made my magician older. I made him American — he doesn’t talk in the crisp, correct manner of English fantasy heroes. I gave him a drinking habit, a mood disorder, a sex life. I wasn’t going to give my magician a Dumbledore or a Gandalf. There would be no avuncular advisor to show him where the path was. I wanted my magician to feel as lost as I did.

The first time I wrote a sentence about a person casting a spell, it was like I heard distant alarms going off. I felt like there must be a control room somewhere with a bunch of people sitting wearing headsets and looking at a red dot blinking on a map, and the dot was me, and the people were saying, He’s breaking the rules! We can’t let him get away with this! I was writing against my education and my upbringing. I was writing against reality itself — I was breaking rules, and not just the literary kind but the thermodynamic kind, too. It felt forbidden. It felt good.

Finding My Voice in Fantasy [Lev Grossman/NYT]

(Image: Armando Veve/NYT!)