I wrote Against the Elements when I was 15. I’d just finished writing a five-part series (which, by the way, will never be fit for human eyes – the characters and world I created were at times quite brilliant, but the writing needs a serious rethink) and I wasn’t sure if I could write a stand-alone. I hadn’t ever tried.
I remember sitting at my wall-bolted desk, with my flowery notebook in front of me, thinking. I have this lovely green Parker fountain pen I had got for Christmas that year. It was dark early and sunny late, and the ink stained my fingers as I sat. I had received two albums that year for Christmas – one was Out of Nothing by English indie-band Embrace; the second was The Coors’ Borrowed Heaven. I would listen to them on repeat while writing.
The first sentence I wrote was about a rose on a table. That was the image that created Against the Elements. I was rather content with the rose on the table. I read it and re-read it and read it again. The image of the rose on the table perhaps sums up what I wanted to do with Against the Elements. In that first scene it lies in solitude against black silk, waiting for something. Against the Elements feels like it is waiting for something. There is some sense of underlying tension, a struggle to keep it contained, in only one place as one entity that can never be followed.
I don’t know if I achieved such a thing. I was never planning on publishing it when I began to write it. At night, I would put the CDs into my Walkman and listen to the songs until images came to me to help me write the next chapter – which is something I still do today. When I listen to those albums now, they remind me of my cozy corner at my desk, writing about Delphi.
I forgot about Against the Elements for many years – there were other stories to write, other worlds to create – but I returned to it once I got a laptop, at about the age of 18. I wanted to type all of my hand-written stories to keep another record of them, to improve upon them. When I re-read it, all of my fond memories of the characters and the feeling of sitting and writing came back to me. There was something comforting about characters I no longer worried about; something lovely about their singularity. I devoted hours of my time to making my words pixelated, taking parts out, putting them back in – I think that’s the only editing I ever enjoyed. There was no continuity to worry about. There were no long struggles to maintain. There was only that one line to follow, and I followed it diligently.
There was still no intention to publish it, however.
What made me want to share it was the feeling of comfort it gave me, that I wanted to pass on to others. When I was 15 – and to some extent, even now – I used to write things I would love to read. I read a lot, and outgrew books quickly due to my reading ability. Books written for twelve year olds, I’d have read by the age of ten. I wanted something like Against the Elements in my reading life – something long, a little complex, a little adventurous, something fantastical.
I think young adults today feel the same way. There’s a cozy bubble surrounding fantasy books that realism books don’t quite give. If you’re a teen, feeling trapped, sometimes you don’t want to read about teens with real-life problems in real-life situations. I think adults forget that. That’s the time in your life where it’s weird to play made-up games or daydream. You’re meant to be grown up already. You feel like you want to be older, but at the same time you miss that immersion into a different, stranger place. And fantasy books provide that little, childish escape.
I’m looking forwards to putting Against the Elements out there. I hope it brings that same companionship I feel when I read it to others.