by guest blogger, Paula Harrison
Paula Harrison is the author of Faerie Tribes (for older readers) and The Rescue Princesses (a younger series). She wanted to be a writer from a young age but spent many happy years being a primary school teacher first. She finds inspiration in lots of things from cloud shapes to snippets of conversation. She loves sandy beaches and eating popcorn. She lives with her husband and children in Buckinghamshire, which is nowhere near the sea. Whenever possible, she packs her family into the car and journeys far and wide to find a sandy beach where she can paddle in the waves.
It came to me one teatime – one of those goose bump ideas. You know: the kind that make you run round the room searching for a pen. Fairies live among us.
But these fairies weren’t the tiny creatures that live under a toadstool at the bottom of the garden. They look like us. They talk like us. Your next door neighbour could be one of them and you would never know.
The first thing that happened was that my fairies turned into faeries, because apparently this is what you do if you want to make it clear that you’re writing for children aged 9 + and there will be darkness in the story. The spelling change made me think about some of the different representations of these magical folk in children’s books. (I’ve left out YA here and focussed on books up to ages 12/13) First up there are the kinds of fairies you get in young, girl-skewed series such as the popular Rainbow Fairies.
These small creatures are beautiful and friendly and perform all sorts of useful tasks as guardians of pets, flowers, special occasions and so on. Is it all sweetness and light? Not completely, because you also have a magical villain called Jack Frost with his goblins.
The fairies in Michelle Harrison’s Thirteen Treasures trilogy are a lot less friendly than those in young fiction and are quite capable of inflicting serious harm if you get on the wrong side of them. These fairies remind me of the ones found in many folktales: capricious and not to be trusted. Also for older readers, the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer gives you a completely different take on the wee folk. I love these fairies and the way they combine magic with technology. They fly around kitted out with all sort of gadgetry and there’s even a centaur as the technology whizz.
So how did I want to represent my fairies, I mean faeries? I knew from the start that they would belong to different tribes and that Laney, my main character, would be a member of the Mist tribe even though she doesn’t know that at the start. Mist faeries draw their power from water and can perform great things with it. Other tribes would draw on their own elemental powers.
I wanted them to feel a strong connection to the landscape around them, even though they’re hiding their true nature from the human community they live in. I also knew that not all of them would be good and that using a faerie’s “dust” (their dead body) would bring the greatest power and the greatest curse of all.
There are lots more children’s books with fairies in that I haven’t covered here. What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments! Faerie Tribes: The Crystal Mirror is out now!