The Not So Chosen One by Kate Emery
The Not So Chosen One is the debut young adult fantasy novel of Kate Emery, a Perth journalist and writer. It is about a Perth teenager who has to juggle an unexpected pregnancy with an even-more-unexpected introduction to the world of magical high-school. As the title of the book suggests, Lucy’s experience with magic isn’t entirely as straightforward as she might have hoped.
In this article for Joy in Books at PaperbarkWords, Kate writes about why she was so determined to write a standalone fantasy novel.
The Not So Chosen One is published by Text Publishing and was shortlisted for the 2020 Text Prize.
When I started writing my young adult fantasy novel, The Not So Chosen One, I had no idea where the plot was going but I knew one thing: it would be a standalone novel.
I’ve loved fantasy books ever since my mum read me Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea when I was in primary school, but the one thing I find consistently frustrating about the genre is how common it is for books to be part of a series.
How I have come to hate that feeling of arriving at the last few pages of a book and realising – too late! – that they’re never going to be able to wrap up the storyline in what little space remains. Even worse is the realisation that the sequel has yet to be published and I’ve got potentially years to wait in order to find out what happens to the characters in whom I’ve just invested hours of my life.
A series can be a wonderful thing if you stumble onto the first book long after the trilogy, or whatever it might be, has been completed. But having to wait one or sometimes many years for a sequel usually means that, by the time the next book comes out, I have to re-read the previous books to refresh my memory. I can’t tell you how many times I re-read the first few books in Robert Jordan’s sprawling The Wheel of Time series before eventually deciding to cut my losses.
So The Not So Chosen One was always planned as a single novel with a story I could tell in 90,000 words.
The Not So Chosen One tells the story of Perth high-school student, Lucy, who finds out she’s pregnant on the same day she learns that, oh wow, magic is real and also she’s been accepted into a top secret magic school, Drake’s. Things don’t go quite as well as Lucy hopes at Drake’s, mostly because she seems to be a bit rubbish at magic but also because students are being attacked at school.
Any more description of the plot would get into spoiler territory but I can tell you that the plot is wrapped up by the final page.
Well, sort of. To me, the book is entirely self-contained, albeit with a conclusion that is deliberately open to interpretation. I’ve always had a soft spot for an ending like Frank R Stockton’s famous short story “The Lady, or the Tiger?” in which the reader is invited to draw their own conclusions about what happened next.
But, once The Not So Chosen One was published, I was overwhelmed by the response from readers asking me if I was going to write a sequel because they wanted to know what happened next.
I love the idea that readers might lie awake thinking up their own ideas for what happens after the final page of The Not So Chosen One.
However, the feedback got me thinking, also, about what I think comes next. Shortly after publication I sat down to work on another manuscript and, instead, found myself opening a blank Word document and banging out a few thousand words picking up where The Not So Chosen One left off.
This manuscript may never see the inside of a bookshop, but the experience has given me a lot more sympathy for writers who can’t quite bear to leave behind their fictional worlds: jumping back into Lucy’s life was so much fun that blank document bloomed to 25,000 words in a matter of days.
Does this make me a hypocrite? Possibly. But if it does I’m in good company. After all, A Wizard of Earthsea was intended as a standalone fantasy novel before Le Guin succumbed to the temptation to write four more books set in the same world. And, honestly, my bookshelf would be poorer without them.
The Not So Chosen One at Text Publishing
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