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Abáloc-- and this and my other worlds...

"Um... That Must be Nice for You."

Back when I wrote Beneath the Hill, the first of the Abáloc books, fantasy and fairy tales were still looked on with a lingering mistrust by not a few psychologists and educators in America. The U.K. had a long tradition of fantasy written by well-known literary figures and academics from Lewis Carroll to J.R.R.Tolkein. Not so, here. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its sequels were pretty much it for children from 1900 to mid-century, but even before 1950 there were rumblings from beneath the floorboards, where science fiction and fantasy were enjoying The Golden Age of the Pulps. And treasures from the Scots and Brits did lurk in our bookshops and libraries. Then, in 1954, American Edward Eager came out with Half Magic, Madeleine L'Engle with A Wrinkle in Time in 1963, dear Lloyd Alexander with The Book of Three in 1964, and in 1967 still more, including my Beneath the Hill . We were off and away!

It was years, though, before my mumbled reply of "I write fantasy novels for children," to a new acquaintance's question of "And what do you do?" earned me anything more than glazed-over eyes and "Um... ah, that must be nice for you." In this century it's usually genuine interest, even enthusiasm or downright excitement. But, yes, once in a long while you can still get, "Um... ah, that must be nice for you." You can almost hear them think, "What does that mean?" and see them wonder vaguely, "Something like...?

Or...? Or even...

Never! If someone were actually to ask, "What does that mean?", years ago I probably struggled politely to stuff my latest into a nutshell. Now, I hope I would laugh and tell the truth: you can't put fantasy into a nutshell-- and mine are not all fantasy, anyway. "But if you're ever curious enough to read one, I'd probably suggest Beneath the Hill. It begins in the real world, and you might be drawn in. Or not. I was. Eight books deep."

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