Today I’m thrilled to introduce well-known author Sophie Masson in my Monday blog. Sophie has written a fascinating piece about being a time-traveller between worlds, and how her early childhood experiences, and the stories she invented about them, led her to become an internationally best-selling author. Sophie’s articles on a wide-range of topics have appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines throughout the world – and she also hosts A la mode Frangourou, a mouth-watering food blog! Her latest venture is children’s picture book publishing, with Christmas Press. Welcome, Sophie!
One of the reasons why I took instinctively, from a young age, to reading and later writing fantasy, and also fiction with supernatural elements, is linked to something right at the heart of my childhood. Of course it’s often so for every writer, but in my case it has to do with something very particular. For the classic fantasy tropes of the journey between worlds, the sojourn in strange places, and the sudden irruption of a different, disturbing reality into the everyday is at the heart of my own lived experience as a bilingual person of multicultural background, with a family history that is to say the least, rather complex.
A mixture of grand tragedy, thrilling romance, Gothic horror and high farce, which takes in a large number of ethnic identities—French, Basque, Spanish, Breton, Portuguese, French-Canadian and Huron, to name just those we know about!–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 stories engendered by my family 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 (or curses!) First, though my parents are from France, I was born on the other side of the world, in Indonesia, as they were working there at the time. Second, because of ill health, I was left as a ten-month old baby with my grandmother in France for four years, and did not see my parents in all that time. Third, I was then taken, at the age of five, to yet another new place, Australia, where I discovered another language, English.
My parents never intended to stay more than two or three years in Australia; Dad always had it in his mind to get a job back home. But that didn’t happen; the contracts kept being signed, and we settled into a shuttle of Australia for the two or three year period of each contract, with a stay of several months back in France at the end of each. English-speaking at school, we were not supposed to use it at home, and didn’t, with our parents. There soon evolved, between siblings, a kind of private language, a franglais, or rather frangarou, as I’ve coined it now to evoke Australian English mixed with French: an in-between weird patois that twisted and melded and that no-one else would understand.
That too, now, I see fed into my apprehension of the world as a multi-dimensional thing, a reality that could be disturbed, whose known layers could be peeled back to reveal something else, something unexpected, familiar and foreign all at once. The languages coined by fantasy writers are no more strange than the weird mixtures spoken between children who are growing up with more than one language deeply embedded in them. So it felt natural, to me as a budding writer, to invent new languages, to draw maps of imaginary countries, to believe in magic.
As a child, one of the ways in which I coped with difficult situations, (or even boredom in math lessons!) was to stare at a stone, or a piece of wood, or a stain on a wall, or anything innocuous really, focus on it till I felt as if I could crack its essence, and emerge into that parallel reality I loved so deeply in books of fairytales, legends, myths and fantasy. This was possible anywhere; but even more possible when we were back at our house in France, a place that with its nooks and crannies and secret places, hid many different passages to the otherworld. It was an actual physical reaction, this sensation of being in another world: a kind of dreamy dissolving of the limbs, a swimming of the head, and yet a great clarity of mind, and a delight that was piercingly sweet.
And this is the experience that underlies my writing as an adult; the understanding born of my childhood experience that I could go gleefully in and out of magical lands without caring a hoot for the ignorant thought police who label fantasy writing as second-rate, whilst also taking part fully in the world. I could be both French and Australian, could write for young people and for adults; I could be part of the crazy, wild family saga of my people, whilst also being myself. And not only can I escape into that magical territory of fantasy, I could also take tour parties—otherwise known as readers–with me as their guide.
Sophie Masson’s latest novels are the YA fairytale novel Hunter’s Moon (RHA 2015) and the adult novel Trinity: The False Prince (Momentum/Pan Macmillan 2015), a sequel to last year’s Trinity: The Koldun Code.
Sophie’s website: www.sophiemasson.org
Sophie’s writing blog: www.firebirdfeathers.com
Sophie’s author page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/SophieMassonAuthor
Sophie’s food blog: alamodefrangourou.blogspot.com
Follow Sophie on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sophiemasson1
Christmas Press website: www.christmaspresspicturebooks.com