Our theme Sail Away in a Story is perfect for the stories David Owen has been writing. Set around a seaside town and then out to sea, Alex Neptune is an exciting new hero. Read on for David Owen’s thoughts on writing sea-based tales.
There’s a reason children’s authors can’t stop writing about the sea – it never runs dry of stories.
Humans have been telling stories about the ocean – and the creatures real or otherwise who call it home – for centuries. Whole tracts of folklore, the tales and legends that have shaped communities and countries, come soaked in briny water and rimed with salt. To this day, the sea holds incredible sway over our imagination and sense of identity.
One of many reasons for this is the mind-blowing fact that up to eighty per cent of life on our planet resides in the ocean. Within that, some 50 million oceanic species are yet to be discovered. We know there is strange life down there, we just don’t know what it is.
Imagine what we might find! Suddenly it’s remarkably easy to believe that the Water Dragon, or something like it, really does exist somewhere in the depths.
The ocean is a separate world, unfathomably huge, and the creatures we have discovered in its darkest reaches are the closest lifeforms we have to aliens. As the world above water becomes increasingly known, its wildest places tamed and televised, the sea still offers an incredible blank canvas upon which writers and readers can sketch their most outlandish ideas.
Plus, plenty of the sea animals we know about are really cute.
The endless potential for stories (I have sequels to write, after all) is not the only reason I chose a seaside setting. I also knew I could have an incredible amount of fun playing with water powers as my protagonist Alex Neptune develops his ocean magic. Waves can be tossed around like weapons, air bubbles summoned to empower exploration, water frozen to icy armour, mist raised to halt pursuit. The flexibility of water is a writer’s dream.
However, I didn’t want to write a simple power fantasy of taming the ocean. Because a natural force as vast as the ocean can never be tamed. Once again, this opened incredible possibilities to me, as there was no ceiling to what abilities Alex’s magic powers might grant him. But it also provided needed friction to the story as, despite the ocean being on his side, he will always have to work alongside its unpredictable nature to properly harness his power.
This means that his magic, as it deepens and develops throughout each book and across the series, is always inextricably linked to my core message: that we must learn to respect the ocean as our largest natural habitat, with its own needs, rather than something humans can bend to their will. If we don’t, all life on the planet above and below water will suffer the consequences.
That’s why it remains crucial that stories about the sea persist: they can be one of our strongest weapons in the fight for the ocean’s, and humanity’s, survival, so that many generations to come can tell their own stories about it.
Alex Neptune Dragon Thief and Alex Neptune Pirate Hunter are both published by Usborne Books and available now.
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.