Welsh fantasy authors discuss their writing inspirations

Authors of fantasy novels explored how politics, the media and ‘Welshness’ have influenced their writing in an event at Canton Book Festival.

Authors David Towsey (left), Katherine Stansfield (middle) and Jodie Bond (right) read extracts from their latest novels.

Welsh authors discussed how politics, the media and ‘Welshness’ influenced their latest fantasy novels as part of the first ever Canton Book Festival this weekend.

Katherine Stansfield and David Towsey – who form the literary partnership DK Fields – discussed how political narrative and the representation of current events in the media influenced their novel at the event at Chapter Arts Centre.

David Towsey, co-author of Widow’s Welcome (2019), said, “We link story and politics very, very closely in this world.”

Co-authors Stansfield and Towsey said that they were interested in the media coverage of politics and how stories are spun. Stansfield referenced the way the infamous front page photo of Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich was spun to influence the outcome of the 2015 UK general election.

Katherine Stansfield and David Towsey said they each wrote one of the sub-stories in Widow’s Welcome and they like to let people guess which one.

Their novel, the first in the Tales of Fenest trilogy, is based around an election that spans all three books, which happens inside a frame narrative of a detective story. It is a fantasy novel with elements of the crime genre.

Stansfield said the press coverage of the 2015 refugee crisis influenced Widow’s Welcome, which includes discussions of belonging and of those who have the power to decide where people can and cannot belong.

The Welsh authors talked about how fantasy novels create a ‘defamiliarisation’ effect in which the reader is taken into a world very different to their own.

Stansfield said, “People turn to stories for escapism and to understand our experiences better. The best fiction is making us think in different ways.

“It is a fantasy novel about something that is important to us right now,” she said.

Stansfield and Towsey discussed the influence of ‘Welshness’ on their writing, a concept which Stansfield said means different things to different people and is often politicized.

“This is a book of Wales, in that we have written it out of Wales,” said Stansfield.

Towsey said he believes the way you live influences your writing. As for specific Welsh influences, the central government building in Widow’s Welcome is named the Assembly, he said.

The Canton Book Festival event was held at Chapter Arts Centre.

Author of The Vagabond King (2019), Jodie Bond, said the Welsh influence in her debut novel was not planned, but seeped through, such as in the naming of the gods. She said Greek and Norse mythology were a big influence in her writing.

Bond said, “The story came out of nowhere really. I sat down one day with a big piece of paper and started sketching out characters.”

Widow’s Welcome was published in August 2019 by Head of Zeus and The Vagabond King was published by Parthian Books in October 2019.