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C.K. Beggan on her favourite books, inspiration, and writing with chronic illness

by Amanda O'Dell

C.K. Beggan is an independent fantasy author and book blogger who writes for young adults and adults. Beggan is a Pushcart Prize and South Million Writers Award nominee who continues to push the representation of chronic illness in literature.

What was your favorite book growing up? And why?

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Something about stepping through an ordinary space into this winter wonderland world with a lamp post in the snow gripped me from the start. It didn't hurt that my grandparents had the same kind of lamp post in their yard, so it gave me a sense that magic was just waiting around the corner. Of course I missed the part about winter being a curse in Narnia!

Do you remember when you decided you wanted to be an author? What was your inspiration?

I guess a typewriter was my inspiration. I was eleven years old, clacking away on this old typewriter even though we always had computers. As I was writing, it finally occurred to me that I could do this for a living — though technically I'm still working on that last part! I'd been writing stories since before I could spell much of anything correctly, but for whatever reason I didn't think of it as a future job. I think it was the realization that creating stories for the rest of my days was an option and didn't have to just be a hobby.

What is your favorite book that you have written?

Oh, man. Is a tie allowed? My first book, Girl of Shadow and Glass, has a special place in my heart, because I poured so much of my chronic illness and disability experience into it, and because of how the main character, Kith, grows. It was also very painful to write at times because it was so personal. So writing a short, fun novelette, Snow-Swept, that was about romance, but also living with grief, is a tie for me.

Who is your favorite author?

Another tough question, but I always pick Intisar Khanani. She's a hybrid indie and traditional YA fantasy author whose stories seem to have this inherent goodness in them, no matter how dark things get along the way.

What inspires you to continue writing?

This might be kind of an odd answer, but the feeling I get when I discover a new book I want to read is the same one I get when I'm developing an idea for a new story. I often want to pull back from my writing as I deal with health issues, but that feeling keeps me coming back. It's me going through the wardrobe with Lucy again — it's that same kind of excitement.

And the end result is that there are more stories with chronic illness and disability representation out in the world, even if it's in an indirect way. I'm only one author, so I can't fix the problem of little representation or misrepresentation by myself, but I can chip away at it and hopefully inspire someone else to do the same. When someone says one of my stories made them feel seen, I know the struggle to put out that book was worth it.

How has chronic illness affected you as a writer?

I have multiple conditions that cause brain fog and chronic fatigue, so having the energy and brain power to write is a constant challenge. I won't ever be someone who writes full-time because of my illnesses, and honestly, they feel like a full-time job as it is! Because indie publishing has leaned towards rapid release for some time now, there is constant pressure to write more. I'm a pretty efficient writer when I'm feeling well, but my body and brain just can't do that on a regular basis, so I'm trying to learn to tune that pressure out and work at my own pace.

Why do you think there isn't more chronic illness representation in indie publishing?

There isn't a lot of awareness and acceptance in general for health issues that don't have a direct and effective treatment, especially with invisible illnesses. I think we all internalize a lot of messages that we don't deserve to be heard or that our experience isn't just as valid.

Writing fantasy with authentic representation can also be a challenge because one of the predominant models is "Save the Cat," which originated with screenwriting. The main character does something heroic or significant at the start, introducing them to the reader through action. But what if your character cannot physically do that? You have to give them a non-physical task, like standing up for themselves in an argument, or let the action come to them, the book How Lucky comes to mind, but that isn't necessarily what readers are expecting.

And then there's the indie publishing industry itself. Self-publishing means paying for all the components yourself or having to make difficult decisions about what you can or can't actually afford. For writers with income impacted by their health or disabilities, either because they cannot work, work part-time, or just spend much of their expendable income on out-of-pocket care, this can be extremely challenging. There are so many other demands, too, like posting regularly on social media to raise awareness of your books or trying to make ads "work," that can be draining.

I keep a list of books with chronic illness and disability representation, and it is fairly long and growing all the time.


Website & Social Media

Instagram: @ckbeggan

Facebook: C.K. Beggan

Goodreads: C.K. Beggan

TikTok: @ckbeggan


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