Guest Post: Alys Murray- This Book is a Call-Out
A Brief History of Pettiness
As a writer, one of the best pieces of advice I ever received was this: “If you aren’t seeing the books you want to read out there, then you have to write them. If the stories you want to hear aren’t being told, then you need to be the storyteller.”
I’ve always loved this advice because it erases all risk from the equation. This isn’t advice about getting published, hitting the NYT Bestseller list, or buying a house in the Hamptons with your advance money. It’s just about love. Love of stories, love of storytelling, and love of reading, love of writing. If you love an idea, concept, world, hook, vibe - whatever! - enough, then it’s both your joy and responsibility to create it and share it with others.
This could look like anything! It could look like fanfiction shared on your favorite story-sharing platform; it could look like a global, smash, bestseller that’s translated into 183 languages. But either way, if you believe in it, you should put it out there.
This advice is so positive! So, of course, you could only leave it to me to twist it into something extremely petty.
Shortly before writing The Almost Queen, Game of Thrones fever had fully struck the globe. Like winter, the final season was coming. Everyone was feeling the hype. Back then, folks still believed that the story they’d been following for years would finish in a satisfying and worthwhile manner.
Unfortunately, I was immune to Game of Thrones fever. Every episode left me with a worse and worse taste in my mouth. To me, it was not the “gritty, realistic” fantasy that so many people praised it for being. It was a bitter, nasty, indulgently cruel show that never once rewarded its audience for any positive investment - hope, love, compassion.
Did I watch every episode? Oh, yeah. Absolutely. But did I also spend the hour after every episode complaining to my partner about how much I hated it? Yes. Yes, I did.
What bothered me was not the inconsistent pacing or the shoddy characterization or the ways in which these characters seemed hostage to the writers’ desire to move on to other projects. What did bothered me was the way Game of Thrones seemed to confuse bleakness with realism.
My greatest beef with modern media is that we see this mix-up quite often. The more depressing something is, the more likely twitter and Reddit are to call it “realistic.” However, isn’t happiness just as realistic as sadness? Triumph just as realistic as loss? Love just as realistic as deceit and betrayal?
Further, isn’t the world sort of like stories? If we aren’t seeing the one we want, isn’t it our responsibility to create it?
So, out of this attitude, The Almost Queen was born. While not Game of Thrones fanfic by any stretch of the imagination (Game of Thrones is made by cowards who would never have the balls to cast a sexy plus-size woman as a romantic lead), it is what I would consider “call-out post as literature.” It was written as a total rejection of a popular trend that has infected every corner of our culture, from video games to Batman. It’s about characters who, having seen the worst of the world and humanity, have to do their best to try and fix the wrongs of the past. It’s about hope and love as our greatest collective strengths. It’s about fighting for the best, even when the worst seems inevitable.
Getting to publish The Almost Queen has been the happiest surprise of my life. It was one of those stories I wrote just for the joy of writing it. But I could not be more pleased that this little slice of fantasy romance joy will be getting into readers hands soon. Yes, it may be a literary call-out post, but in the end, it’s also a celebration of everything “realistic” that often gets forgotten in our grit-and-grime focused culture.
In the end, The Almost Queen isn’t really about Game of Thrones or Batman killing people or any of the other pop-culture quibbles I’ve had in the last few years. It’s just the story I wanted to read. And I hope other readers love it, too.