Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who authored Sherlock Holmes, was fascinated with fairies. He wrote that his friend E. L. Gardner said,
“Fairies are not born and do not die as we do, though they have their periods of outer activity and retirement. Allied to the lepidoptera, or butterfly genus, they partake of certain characteristics that are obvious….”
This must have dug into my subconscious and rested there until I began writing The Oak Tree, about an 8-year-old child, confined to his bed by illness. He could only watch the shadows from the oak tree outside his window and, to combat his loneliness, imagined a wide variety of things, including fairies, who quickly became regular visitors.
After his needed surgery at age 13, the fairies came by less and less often, and by the time the child had grown to 15, he had begun writing stories about the fairies’ world. The Oak Tree was never published, but it’s been revised from time to time.
I became obsessed with fairies about that time and wrote at least five short stories about them over the next several years. I started my story, The Wizard’s Key (originally Seekers of the Key), in 2010, and envisioned it only as a short story. Once that novella was finished, I started thinking about a sequel, which turned out to be several short stories about friends and family of the MC from The Wizard’s Key.
It seems that the research I did before writing about fairies was focused on how to write children’s stories. After my first two short stories, The Wedding Fairy and The Power of Music, neither of which were for children, I never followed up until I wrote Erin’s Necklace, a story with a wood sprite and a troll, rather than an actual fairy.
Some of what I read to research my fairy stories had more to do with writing fantasies or a quest; I took classes, read dozens of writing books, and wrote a number of pretty bad stories, as most authors do. My first fantasy was published in 2000, as “Jennifer’s Journey.”
Wikipedia says the term fairy may be used to describe any magical creature, including goblins or gnomes. It might also describe a specific type of more ethereal creature, such as a sprite or a pixie. In medieval times, it was believed that a witch or sorcerer had an agreement with a familiar spirit, a fairy, to serve them and perform various tasks.
C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, also wrote about fairies, as did, of course, William Shakespeare.
I think you must have a remnant of childhood awe to write about fairies. To read about fairies one must suspend disbelief, and I think that’s a requirement for writing about fairies as well. If you can’t believe in fairies, even for a few moments, then you can’t really write sensibly about them. But in fact writing about fairies is just about the same as writing about any character – a fairy is just a tiny, glittery, magical character, who may or may not be evil – or at least, conniving. And normal life-size, non-glittery, non-magical characters also might or might not be evil or conniving. And fairies are fun to write about.
About the Author
Harriet Darling is 77 years old, retired from her position as Coordinator of Editorial Research at a major high-tech newspaper. After leaving there, she worked as a freelance editor and began writing the books she’d always dreamed of writing. She took third place in a flash fiction contest conducted by the Sacramento chapter of California Writers Club.
Harriet has one adult son, married and living in Sacramento. She is the oldest of five, with seven nieces and nephews, and many grand-nieces and -nephews, etc. Besides writing and reading, her hobbies include studying anthropology and geology, playing card games and board games, and driving around Northern California.