First, I have to admit, fantasy was not my choice of genres. Writing Allon came about at the request of my daughter when she was in ninth grade. She liked fantasy, but nothing too dark, more along the lines of the old-fashion type like Lewis and Tolkien, good verse evil. At the time, I was focusing on my genre, historical fiction for adults. I did write for an animated cartoon series called BraveStarr back the 1980s, a sci-fi, western. The same studio that did He-Man and She-Ra produced BraveStarr. My husband worked on as a staff writer and storyboard artist of He-Man and She-Ra. This experience would prove helpful with Allon.
However, I didn’t want to get too far-fetched like some fantasy authors who use hard to pronounce names and go out of their way to make up things to take the place of common items just to be different. I wanted names, places and settings to be understood. So the first thing I did was to read Lewis and Tolkien. What I discovered fascinated and encouraged me. Even though the books were fantasy, they were based upon history and mythology. I could use my historical fiction background in developing story! Yet I didn’t want to place Allon in the Dark Ages or give it a dirty and dingy atmosphere. Instead, I chose an equivalent Elizabethan time. This was a transition period in history with some modernization in weaponry, medicine and conveniences, but still influenced by mythology and folklore. As the series progresses, I bring in myths and legends from other cultures and follow the classic method of storytelling.
What makes Allon unique is the catalyst. When my daughter shared with her high school friends what I was doing, they became very interested and began visiting me to discuss the story. Soon those story conversations turned personal about the tough life issues facing teens. Perhaps the biggest need expressed was the desire for hope. These kids weren’t seeing much hope in their lives or the world around them. In each new book I make an effort to address the issues they raised, but always with a message of hope.
Actually, these kids bemoaned the dark, depressing tone of recent YA books. This was especially true where the main character reaches a certain age and poof – they have some special power that makes them different. Yes, the theme of being different can be effectively used in storytelling, but typically in these types of stories the inexperienced author writes their character into a corner where they must magically get out of it.
Some of the most beloved characters in classic stories – Frodo, Sam, Aragorn, Peter, Susan, Lucy and Edmund, do not use magic to solve their problems or face trouble. Characters don’t grow by magic; rather they grow and change from experience. To respond to the kids, I let the conflict of the story act as the vehicle with the supernatural an added element, not the central theme.
Shawn Lamb wrote for the animated cartoon BraveStarr. In 2011 she was named one of 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading 2011 -2012 and featured in an e-book by that name. She has won several awards for screenwriting, including a Certificate of Merit from the American Association of Screenwriters. In addition to her Allon series, she is launching a new historical fiction line for adults.