Growing Up Geek: Writing What I Know, a guest post by F. T. Lukens
One of the most uttered pieces of writing advice that is often passed onto emerging writers is to ‘write what you know.’ Everyone has heard that phrase at least once in a writing class or from an author they admire or on social media. While I don’t disagree with the statement, I do think that sometimes it is misinterpreted or taken too literally. And young writers might not realize that what they actually know extends beyond specific life experiences and situations.
Take SO THIS IS EVER AFTER as an example. It is a fantasy romantic comedy set in a castle with magic and politics and murderous fowl and a group of questors who don’t know the first thing about running a kingdom. And to be fair, I don’t know the first thing about running a kingdom. The only castle I’ve ever seen the inside of is Cinderella’s castle at Disney World. And I have never been cursed to wither away unless I find my soulmate within three months. If I took the literal interpretation of ‘writing what you know’ then this book wouldn’t exist.
But what that adage doesn’t take into account is that I do know role-playing games and questing groups and fantasy tropes. I have spent the majority of my life with my nose stuck in a sci-fi or fantasy book reading about epic quests and prophecies and curses and magic, or in a movie theater seat snacking on popcorn and watching the latest fantasy epic, or in front of my television hoping that the next episode of my sci-fi show wasn’t preempted for a sports game. (Other older millennials know exactly the devastation I’m talking about when we joined our shows already in progress).
As a child, I found my older brother’s Dungeons and Dragons books under his bed and read all about the magical creatures of the game. In my teens, I spent much of my hard-earned chore and odd-job money on Magic: The Gathering decks. I played in my friend’s basement, sitting on the floor, hunched over a stack of cards depicting creatures and artifacts and spells, tapping Mana and battling monsters and vying for the win. And as a teen, I read and watched so much science-fiction and fantasy that the familiar tropes burned their way into my brain and stayed there. I was a 90’s kid, so I grew up with the chaotic found family of The Goonies and the magic of Labyrinth and the fantasy zombies of Army of Darkness and the epic quests of The Wheel of Time novels.
In college, I was a member of The Science Fiction & Fantasy Club at William & Mary (affectionally called Skiffy) and many a night we stayed up late rolling for initiative as we played a variety of role-playing games. We had gaming days of Kill Doctor Lucky and Before I Kill You, Mr. Spy both of which were made by a company called Cheap Ass Games because cheap ass games were all we could afford. We had dart gun fights with intricate rules which we played at night in the academic buildings that blurred the line of gaming and live-action roleplaying. We watched many a bad movie and a lot of Star Trek. I was immersed in geek culture every day of the week and I learned so much from my friends who expanded my horizons beyond anything I could imagine. Not only about all things geeky but about relationships and life. We called ourselves a family and we were –living in each other’s pockets, partaking in quests on and off campus, laughing and crying together, and even fighting with each other sometimes. Skiffy was my found family, my questing companions as we learned and grew and began to tentatively figure out life in those weird early adult years which for most of us was our first time away from home. The years I spent with that group have informed much of my adult life and several of us are still friends today. And I would be amiss in not mentioning how they all influenced my writing, especially when it comes to snarky dialogue and group dynamics which are abundant in SO THIS IS EVER AFTER.
Now, as an adult, my geek life has continued, but not in such an all-consuming way. I did spend many an hour playing World of Warcraft on my computer completing quests and gathering loot with my Blood Elf Mage or my Undead Rogue but had to step away when I realized just how much time I was playing. There have been a few game nights of Munchkin and Unstable Unicorns. And I have a group of ‘pocket friends’ – internet companions that have become my questing group – who are the first people I run to after watching the newest episode of the hot fantasy media of the time or who I bounce ideas off of when I need a spark of inspiration. Among Us has become one of our new games to play and laugh and fight over. And I even have convention friends, ones that I’ve met at DragonCon and other conventions who I look forward to seeing each year and bonding with amidst the chaos that is a convention weekend.
I might have not lived in a castle or ruled a kingdom. I have never needed to break a curse by finding my one true love. But I have wielded magic to defeat a moat monster more than once either in my imagination or in a video game or with a deck of cards. I have been a part of questing groups – small ones and large ones and all sizes in between – and have made a chosen family with the people around me who accept me wholeheartedly for who I am. I’ve lived and breathed and loved fantasy worlds since I was young. Writing a book like SO THIS IS EVER AFTER without the knowledge of all the years I’ve read and watched and played and quested would’ve been practically impossible.
Science fiction and fantasy and roleplaying games will continue to be a part of my life even as the iterations of them change and grow and new voices and new ideas permeate the landscape. I look forward to them because I will always be a geek.
And that is what I know.
Meet the author
F.T. Lukens (they/them) is the New York Times bestselling author of So This Is Ever After, In Deeper Waters,and five young adult novels published through Interlude Press. Their book The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic was a 2017 Cybils Award finalist in YA Speculative Fiction, the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Winner for YA fiction, the Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction, and on ALA’s 2019 Rainbow Book List. F.T. lives in North Carolina with their spouse, three kids, three dogs, and three cats. Visit them at FTLukens.com.
About So This Is Ever After
Carry On meets Arthurian legend in this funny, subversive young adult fantasy about what happens after the chosen one wins the kingdom and has to get married to keep it…and to stay alive.
Arek hadn’t thought much about what would happen after he completed the prophecy that said he was destined to save the Kingdom of Ere from its evil ruler. So now that he’s finally managed to (somewhat clumsily) behead the evil king (turns out magical swords yanked from bogs don’t come pre-sharpened), he and his rag-tag group of quest companions are at a bit of a loss for what to do next.
As a temporary safeguard, Arek’s best friend and mage, Matt, convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued from her tower. Except that she’s dead. Now Arek is stuck as king, a role that comes with a magical catch: choose a spouse by your eighteenth birthday, or wither away into nothing.
With his eighteenth birthday only three months away, and only Matt in on the secret, Arek embarks on a desperate bid to find a spouse to save his life—starting with his quest companions. But his attempts at wooing his friends go painfully and hilariously wrong…until he discovers that love might have been in front of him all along.
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date: 03/29/2022
Age Range: 14 – 18 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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