Gillian Bradshaw, author of more than 25 books of historical fiction, historical fantasy, and science fiction, answers some readers’ questions.
Question: Your book The Dragon, The Thief, and the Princess is one of the very few historical-fantasy books to feature children of color. Is that diversity important to you? Answer: I could just say that I want my wonderful grandson to be able to see at least a few people who look a bit like him in the sort of books he enjoys–but that would be dishonest, since I wrote the book many years before he was born. I can’t even claim to have had my clever history-loving nephew in mind, since he, too, was not yet on the scene. I suppose that really I just hate the narrowness of the popular vision of history, which too often becomes a chronicle of the doings of white European men–very little about women; nothing about non-Europeans unless the Europeans are fighting them; very little detail on anything before the 18th century. The world is much bigger and messier and much, much more interesting than that! Distorting history impoverishes even that fraction of the population it doesn’t actually exclude.
Too often we forget that the human race actually evolved in Africa, and that “prehistory” in that continent went on much longer than it did anywhere else. Africa has more history than Europe, and treating the continent as though it just appeared out of nowhere during the colonial era is ludicrous. Africans were interacting with Europeans back as far as European culture goes–in Greek mythology there was an African contingent fighting in the Trojan War. If you go to a museum you can find people of color represented on everything from Greek vases to Renaissance paintings. The absence of Africans from the historical narrative is just wrong, and I wanted to do what I could to correct that.
Q: What advice do you have for children who want to become writers? A: Read books you like. Remember to show what happens, don’t just list it—and leave out as many of the boring bits as you can.
Q: What are your three favorite children’s books? A: Only three? Very hard to pick. Today I’ll say Archer’s Goon, by Diana Wynne Jones, Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff, and A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin, but if you asked me tomorrow I might have a different list.
Q: When you write a story, do you know how it’s going to end? A: I usually know how the story’s going to end, but I don’t know how it’ll get there.
Gillian Bradshaw is the author of over 25 books for adults, young adults, and children, including The Dragon, the Thief and the Princess, Alien in the Garden, Aliens on Holiday (forthcoming), Wolf Hunt and Hawk of May.