Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved fairy tales, myths, legends, and fantasy. It’s something I responded to instinctively as a young reader, and something I took to easily as a young writer, too. In my imagination and my dreams, journeying to those magical worlds seemed to me as natural as breathing. Of course I was an imaginative child; but it’s only lately that it’s struck me that perhaps there was also another reason why I so took to those genres. For the classic fantasy themes of the journey between worlds, the sojourn in strange places, and the sudden irruption of a different reality into the everyday is at the very heart of my own lived experience.
I come from a family whose ethnic history is to say the least, complex. Taking in French, Basque, Spanish, Portuguese, and French-Canadian, our history was always more than a bit player in all of our lives. People to whom I’ve told even a fraction of the vivid family stories are thrilled by them; they say, No wonder you became a writer!
But it’s more than that, for three things happened to me as a child that were like fairytale gifts: First, though my parents were both born and brought up in France, I was born in Indonesia, as they were expatriates working there at the time; second, because of ill health, I was then taken as a ten-month old baby to live with my paternal grandmother in France for four years, was told many traditional stories by her–and did not see my parents in all that time; and third, I was then taken, at the age of five, to yet another new place, Australia, where I first discovered English. And what’s more the first book I read for myself in English was a Little Golden Book comprising three fairytales–Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Toads and Diamonds–in it (there it is, in the centre of the picture). [Read more…]