Guest blog: Strange Emotions author Amie L Spurgeon wants more dyslexia-friendly sci-fi & fantasy

Author Amie L Spurgeon talks dyslexia-friendly sci-fi and fantasy novels

Sci-fi and fantasy have become increasingly popular over the years in films and books; people enjoy being taken to places beyond their own imagination.

Since I can remember I have been a fan of fantasy and sci-fi, going right back to my childhood. It was always films that enabled me to enjoy this genre. Unfortunately, for me, I was unable to enjoy sci-fi and fantasy books nor use them to exercise my imagination quite like I could with films. This was a huge disappointment to me. After all, a lot of films have started from books.

I was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 14. This is when I first experienced the difficulty in reading fantasy novels. I did try very hard to read them but I remember one time I even spent most of my wages from a Saturday assistance job on Harry Potter novels, only to find that after the excitement of getting them home I was let down by myself. I was unable to get past the first page without difficulty.

My dyslexia made it hard for me to read anything that had long, complex words, especially imaginary language which I came across many times in my attempts to read fantasy novels. Sometimes I would ignore the word and carry on, but the frustration got too much and the books began to collect dust.

It was when I was nineteen I felt the need to read again. I was yet to complete a book appropriate for my age. After searching I realised that the book I was longing for did not exist. I found that books I could read were written for children, which then lead me to my biggest challenge and accomplishment of them all.

Easy reading books for adults are at a huge shortage in the fantasy and sci-fi genre. I could see the gap in the market for a long time. Using my own struggles to figure out how to write for people like myself was a gift. I used it as a positive writing tool. I am sure many of you have friends or family who would love to read more who might have dyslexia, or you might struggle yourself.

What makes an easy reading book in fantasy different? Is a question I get asked a lot. First, its important to have a good size font, not to small. Second, the size of the novel can be off putting if too long and you are trying to read again. Think of the book as a stepping stone, once you have got past one you feel confident to try out another.

Long complex words that might not be used in everyday vocabulary are very off putting. People who have the disability tend to use their memories to help with reading the words they struggle with. This is also why imaginary words can be very hard and challenging. For instance, I name my characters Chloe, Ben, Jane, etc., as these are small and common names rather than Voldemort and Daenerys as these (unless you see/hear them on the screen) are hard to learn to pronounce. Many people with dyslexia read how it looks to sound and this isn’t always correct. As much as we appreciate the creative language and the author who created them we feel unfortunate not being able to pronounce the names and places they have created.

Frustration is the main cause of putting down a book. If the scenes drag on or there are too many words that are confusing, then concentration is challenging.  Reading these books can be exhausting enough without being difficult as well.  It is a real shame that so many feel they cannot enjoy reading this genre as we, who are reading this, have grown to love.

Awareness of more easy reading books is important. I have become aware of the gap and I am trying to make a difference. I wish to encourage more people like me to write more easy reading books in this genre, and to help others read books that they want to enjoy and not be stuck reading children’s books and to have the content appropriate for their age.

The first fantasy easy reading book I have written, called ‘Strange Emotions’, was published in November 2016.  I feel proud of my achievement and I am glad to be able to help others read and enjoy new adventures beyond our own reality.  I really do hope more novels will be available by other authors in the future. As I always say, ‘I have only got one pair of hands and can only write one story at a time’.

You can buy Strange Emotions from Amie L Spurgeon from Amazon.co.uk now.