Our Author Takeover for July comes from Aisha Bushby, a debut author and Potterhead whose short story “Marionette Girl” is published next month in A Change Is Gonna Come from Stripes. #ChangeBook is an anthology of stories and poetry from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic writers on the theme of change, and its contributors include Tanya Byrne, Inua Ellams, Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Ayisha Malik, Irfan Master, Musa Okwonga, and Nikesh Shukla. Alongside Aisha, A Change Is Gonna Come introduces fresh new voices in YA fiction: Mary Bello, Yasmin Rahman, and Phoebe Roy.
Aisha’s short story is heavily influenced by her own love of Potter, and the escapism that J.K. Rowling’s world has given her. It has themes many fans can relate to, examining mental illness and applauding characters who fight mental battles as much as we do those who physically defeat villains. Aisha shows that there is action in contemporary fiction – just a different kind.
Follow Aisha @aishabushby #ChangeBook
Fighting Mental Battles
I must have been 12 or 13 when I started writing Harry Potter fanfiction. I attempted my version of the final book in between the publication of Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. Harry Potter and the Final Horcrux, I called it.
It was the first time I truly became absorbed in the writing process, staying up all night to finish a chapter. I remember those moments vividly, even though it was over a decade ago.
My theory was that Harry’s green eyes were not his mother’s at all – as Hagrid points out – but a mark to prove that he was, in fact, the final Horcrux. In my version, Hedwig sacrificed her life in exchange for his. I’m still a little proud of these predictions.
I also, for a time, role-played Horace Slughorn on a forum – I’ll let that sink in for a moment – and I remember enjoying the process of writing my way into his character.
These were the crucial first steps towards what would eventually become a serious attempt at a writing career. Fanfiction lets you play with words; you have a ready-made world and characters to experiment with. You already know how they will react because you know them almost as well as you know yourself.
My love for the wizarding world made me a reader, then a writer. I was sure I would write fantasy, just like J.K. Rowling. I remember declaring it proudly – probably while moonlighting as Slughorn.
I tried and failed to write a fantasy novel and found my voice in contemporary fiction instead. This led to the publication of my short story, “Marionette Girl.” My protagonist, Amani, is obsessed with Harry Potter. It’s an ode to a writer I admire.
Amani navigates her OCD through Harry Potter: she has a cat called Hermione who brings her comfort; she drinks from the same mug every morning with its motto “Don’t Let the Muggles Get You Down”; and it’s the film adaptation of Philosopher’s Stone that pulls her back from the throes of a panic attack.
Harry Potter is to her what it is to me – hope.
While Harry is busy hunting for Horcruxes and dueling Dementors, Amani is fighting the demons of her own mind. Her battlefield might be smaller in scope, but her plight is harrowing, nonetheless. After all, strength comes in many different forms.
This is what I hope readers will take away from my story: that mental illness should be taken as seriously as any living, breathing villain. Amani doesn’t always understand this about her OCD. At one point she declares that she can’t possibly be a Gryffindor because she feels scared when things don’t go to plan. But, as Dumbledore once said, “There are all kinds of courage,” and facing our fears – whatever they may be – is one kind.
Aisha Bushby was born in the Middle East before moving to England with her family as a child. After spending some time in Kuwait, Lincolnshire, Birmingham, Vancouver, and Cheltenham, she now lives in Cambridgeshire and works in London as assistant to a literary agent.
Order #ChangeBook here: A Change Is Gonna Come