At the Edinburgh Book Festival earlier this week, I was sitting at a signing table looking at a long line of First Aid For Fairies fans (I knew they were fans, because most of them were cuddling a stack of slightly dog-eared books) and I had to think of something personal, interesting and appropriate to write in each book.
Because Maze Running is the last of the series, I asked most of the readers “Who’s your favourite character?” so that I could write in their book: “Thanks for coming on x’s last adventure.”
I’ve been asking that question in all the events I’ve done this summer, and I’ve been surprised to discover that pretty much every character has fans. In a line of readers there will almost certainly be Helen fans, Yann fans, Sapphire fans, Rona fans, Lavender fans, Catesby fans… There might be fewer Sylvie, Lee, Serena and Tangaroa fans, because they don’t appear in as many books. But even so, I think almost every character in the series is somebody’s favourite. At the Maze Running launch, I even met a boy whose favourite character was the Master of the Maze!
And I’ve met, or seen pictures of, children dressed as various First Aid For Fairies characters for World Book Day (I’ve met Helen, Lee, Lavender and Rona, but I wonder if there have been any others? Any phoenixes? Any centaurs? In fact, I hereby promise to send a free signed book to the first person who can prove they’ve successfully dressed up as Yann!)
I have my own favourite characters too. But I wonder whether I like my characters for the same reasons readers do?
Do some readers like Lavender or Rona because they like the idea of being a fairy or a selkie? Do some readers like Sapphire because all dragons are cool? (As well being as fiery hot…) So now my signing queues could get even longer, because I might start asking not just: “Who’s your favourite character?” but also: “Why?”
As a writer, I like my characters for lots of different reasons. For example, a particular character might be very useful when I’m writing the story: Sapphire is incredibly handy as transport, Yann is great for kicking doors in, Lavender is very easy to injure (sorry), Sylvie can be relied on to disagree with pretty much anyone. And there wouldn’t be a First Aid for Fairies series at all without Helen to be our guide in that world, or all those nasty baddies making the adventures necessary.
But I don’t just use my characters to push the story along, I enjoy their company too. So my truly favourite characters are the ones whose voices I can hear in my head, who seem to come alive as I write and who surprise me by doing things I don’t expect. For that reason, Yann is my absolute favourite because he argues with me all the time (I can sometimes actually hear him shout at me) and I’m also very fond of Lee, because I never quite trust (or understand) his motives or indeed his world, which is a very interesting position for a writer. And outside the First Aid For Fairies series, I love Emmie in Rocking Horse War, who changed that entire story by putting her hands on her hips and giving me a cheeky smile.
So, who are your favourite fabled beast characters, and why? And do you think writers and readers like characters for different reasons?
Maze Running signing queue at Edinburgh Book Festival 2012