Threads of Realism in Fantasy: The Great Library

As regular readers of this blog know, I have put together a slide show—Threads of Realism in Fantasy—to go with my YA novel, Maya and the Book of Everything. (I recently gave my first presentation at the University of Maine at Orono.)The gist of the presentation is this: Even though my book is a fantasy that takes its heroine, Maya, across the universe, there are elements of realism to ground the novel. The story is partially set in central Maine, and I weave my Franco-American heritage into the book.

Central to Maya and the Book of Everything is a place called the Great Library. It is home to the sentient Book of Everything, which can travel through time and space. Both the Book of Everything and the Great Library definitely fall into one of my favorite categories—fantasy, fairy tales, and folderol.  But even here I used realism when I imagined what the Great Library would look like.

Because I love fairy tales so much, I immediately thought of a castle in envisioning the Great Library, and I ended up picking out two castles—one for the locale and one for the actual look. Both castles are from France. I didn’t set out to choose castles from France, but somehow I did. It must have been my Franco-American roots urging me forward.

The first castle I thought of was Mont St. Michel, which certainly looks like it comes straight from a fairy tale. I love how remote it looks and how the castle is surrounded by water when the tide is in. Mont St. Michel also happens to be in Normandy, where some of my ancestors are from.

Here is another view of Mont St. Michel.

So that was the locale I wanted.

But for the actual look of the Great Library, I wanted something more compact, something that looked a little less Gothic, a little less like a cathedral.

For this I chose the Chateau de Chaumont, which is in France’s Loire Valley.

One of the things I especially like about fantasy is that you can mix and match various aspects of realism if you want and still have a magical story. Maine, my Franco-American heritage, and two castles from France all come together in Maya and the Book of Everything.

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