The Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature by Philip A. Martin

The Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature is an interesting book. Gathered between the covers is a rather diverse set of interviews and essays by some of fantasy’s most respected and recognized writers. The book doesn’t exactly give the reader a step-by-step method of writing. Rather, the essays and interviews with the authors convey how these established writers approach their craft. That in itself is of value to the aspiring writer. The many authors herein present different methods and approaches that they take to writing. They all do agree that reading and actually writing are two of the most important things a writer needs to do. Outside of that, each author has their own method of madness.

The book starts with an examination of the Harry Potter phenomena and then discusses five types of fantasy: High Fantasy, Adventure Fantasy, Fairy-tale Fiction, Magic Realism and Dark Fantasy. These chapters and the subsequent chapters on “The Building Blocks of Fantasy Stories” and “Techniques of Writing Fantasy” feature either essays or interviews with a fairly wide selection of writers from such “classic” writers as Ray Bradbury and Ursula K. Le Guin to established writers such as Patricia A. McKillip and Terry Pratchett to recent genre ‘stars’ as John Marco and Kij Johnson. Add to this the number of anecdotal quotes, both from their books and about writing, and asides from other authors such as Graham Joyce, Robert Jordan, Stephen King, Michael Moorcock and Philip Pullman and you have perhaps the most wide array of fantasy authors gathered in one book with something to say about their craft.

The majority of the interviews and essays previously appeared either in magazines and journals or on the Web at There were a couple of minor typos that irked me, such as the spelling of one of the leading publishers of fantasy, Del Rey which was misspelled as Del Ray. Another misspelling was that of H.P. Lovecraft, one of the giants of dark fantasy/horror. In the book he was indicated as H.R. Lovecraft.

Overall, this is an interesting book if for nothing else, the range of author interviews and essay that are reprinted. This book may not necessarily be the be-all-end-all of how to books, but the diversity of the authors included give this book much appeal as book to keep on the shelf as an interesting reference. If you are looking at how to get in the head of some these writers, you will get a nice glimpse in this book.

Reviewed by Rob H. Bedford

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