The other day my daughter’s English class were writing ghost stories and one kid wrote a story about a haunted bus. Pretty cool idea. Except loads of the other kids said “That’s just like the night bus, you’ve stolen that from Harry Potter!”. And there’s the problem.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like the Harry Potter books, they’re inventive, exciting, wildly imaginative, which of course is why they’re so successful. The problem is they are so amazingly, almost overpoweringly, successful that it feels like they’re looming menacingly in the background when you’re trying to write a fantasy story about a teenage hero who leaves home, has adventures, goes to ‘school’,makes friends and enemies etc.
Which is what I’m doing.
The obvious answer is to write something else. There are two reasons why not. For a start I’m a teacher, and teenagers and schools are what I know, but the main reason is that this is the story I’ve got inside of me. This may sound strange but I feel like I invented this person and I’ve got them into a situation and I sort of owe it to them to get them out of it. Ed McBain said he always started writing his detective stories with a body and then went about solving the murder, I sort of feel the same way.
The fact is that when I was a kid I loved books about teenagers having adventures and this was way before Harry Potter. I particularly remember P.G.Wodehouse’s books ‘Mike and Psmith’ and ‘Tales of St. Austin’s’. Swap Cricket for Quidditch and you’re well on the way to Harry Potter right there. I loved Robert Heinlein’s books like ‘Farmer in the sky’, I read all the Swallows and Amazons books again and again, it’s only natural I suppose that those are the sort of stories that I want to tell.
You can always draw parallels between stories and it’s always hard to know where your influences come from. There are probably millions of books being written right now, all are unique in one way or another. This one is mine.