Sunday, April 12, 2009

Guest Post: Christine and Ethan Rose

I have to be honest and say that I regrettably couldn't enjoy Rowan of the Wood as much as I would've liked, but I find this following guest post by Rowan authors Christine and Ethan Rose absolutely FASCINATING, as spellbinding as the topic I suggested they write about (because their book reminded me a lot of it, and I wanted to know their thoughts on the topic. I hope you enjoy!

Authors Christine and Ethan Rose. Can you say "awesome costumes"??

Harry Potter and the Phenomenon

Every so often a book comes along that breaks out of its genre and by doing so, defines it. When I was a kid that book was actually a trilogy—The Trilogy—The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. It not only influenced literature, but music through bands like Led Zeppelin and Shadowfax. Cars sported bumper stickers which claimed that “Frodo Lives.” Movies were attempted but the technology wasn’t there yet. Many fantasy books published at the time sported a reference to its similarity to Tolkien’s work. It defined the fantasy genre even though the genre already included many great writers like Lord Dunsany and Robert E. Howard. It was because it had surpassed the field of fantasy and entered the populous at large.

Readers of fantasy recognized it as a great work but also realized that there were other great works in the field. When people who did not normally read fantasy thought of the genre, however, they thought of The Lord of the Rings because it was what they knew.

Harry Potter has had a similar effect on the current generation. When someone thinks of middle grade or young adult fantasy, they think of Harry Potter since that is the work which has broken out of its genre and entered the main stream.

While on tour with my own middle grade fantasy, Rowan of the Wood, I am often asked a variation on “Are you going to be the next Harry Potter?” I generally pass it off with a comment about settling for a fraction of Rowling’s success. The truth is that there won’t be a next Harry Potter, while that phenomenon lasts. Any young adult or middle grade fantasy, no matter how well written or successful, will be compared to Harry Potter because it is the book that has broken out of its genre and by doing so defines it. Just like Mike Hammer defines the P.I. or James Bond defines the Secret Agent.

Similarly, since Harry Potter dealt with a young orphaned protagonist, many make the mistake of thinking any orphan protagonist is a Harry Potter knock-off. The orphan-hero protagonist dates back to Greek times in Literature. It did not begin with Harry Potter. In our book, Rowan of the Wood, we have a "orphaned" protagonist. He's actually in the foster care system, as both his parents are not dead. Many readers immediately see Harry Potter in the pages because there is magic, an orphan boy, and a mean sibling figure/foster family. This is understandable because of the reasons stated above; however, our protagonist Cullen Knight is based upon my childhood, not upon the character of Harry Potter.
  • I grew up in foster care among the redwood forest.
  • I lived in less-than-ideal foster care.
  • I had a bully foster brother, and, most importantly, I dreamed of of magic and wizards while walking amongst the redwoods with my copy of The Hobbit in hand.
My wife/co-author grew up in suburbia, and she's always been fascinated with my childhood tale. This is why Cullen Knight suffers in this situation. Although I read the Harry Potter series and enjoyed it immensely, I still prefer the works of Tove Janson and Roald Dahl. Rowling however is in my top ten. Her greatest contribution to literature is that her books taught a love of reading to many people young and old who would otherwise have missed the opportunity. What more could any author ask for?


Thank you SO much for that incredibly eye-opening guest post, Christine and Ethan! If Rowan of the Wood sounds like something you're interested in, be sure to pick up a copy and check it out yourself. :)


  1. Hi Steph & Steph's readers!

    Thank you so much for hosting us on your blog today! I'll be here all day to respond to comments and answer questions, so please leave a note for me!

  2. I've never read Harry Potter. I've just never been a big fan of wizards (with the exception of Gandalf LOTR and Ged from The Wizard of Earthsea). I think because of that evil Gargamel from the smurfs.

    The redwoods are a very pretty place to visit though.

  3. Hey Lenore -

    The redwoods are a MAGICAL place to visit. I hope you get there one day.

  4. We're planning a visit to the Redwoods this fall...

    I won a copy of this book on another blog, and I have to say, I'm really excited to read it!

    What I would like to know is where you got the idea for Cullen's name? It is such a strong name...

  5. I met someone named Cullen Knight when I was about 20, and I always thought that was the coolest name EVER! I've never met a Cullen imagine my surprise when I pick up Twilight *after* our book was written.

    I couldn't believe it.

    Still - I love the name Cullen Knight, so it stuck!

  6. Great guest post! Possibly one of the most interesting ones I've read. Thanks for posting, Steph!

    Cullen is a brilliant name, I wholeheartedly approve. Ahh, Edward...

  7. Nice post! :) Love "Lord of the Rings" , and it is definitely a trilogy legacy. :) That is definitely something to shoot for as I'm taking a step into the literary world....
    Thanks for the post again!! :)

    God bless,
    Taylor J. Beisler

  8. Great post! Definitely interesting to think about, and it makes me wonder what the next book that will break out and "define" a genre will be. What would people say are the books that "define" the YA genre? I think that might be a tough question to answer because of the breadth of the books that full under the YA label, but interesting all the same.

    Thanks for the great post!

  9. Thanks for stopping by Nora, Taylor, & prophecygirl! I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! It was written by my wonderful husband/co-author Ethan.

  10. I am glad so many people enjoyed my post. It is something I have been thinking about for a while since so many people make the comparison with our book just on seeing the cover. When I try to tell people that Lloyd Alexander had I much bigger influence on my writing, they generaly say "Who's that?"

  11. Oh dear, that's rather frustrating, Ethan. It's sometimes a bit hard to believe that with all the debut authors and new literature out there, people have never read tried-and-trues from the "experts" in the genre!


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