I was six years old when I began to read real books or at least try to. My sister had given me a book about Greek mythology, and although my naive brain didn’t understand just how strange the stories were, it did know that mythology was intriguing.
I immediately ditched the imaginary friends that I had and instead started creating stories about how Greek Gods would deal with life in the modern world. I wanted to write a fantasy series about mythological characters in the United States. Sound familiar?
It wasn’t until I was ten years old, and picked up The Lightning Thief, that I realized my idea had been taken and done. Everyone had recommended that I read Percy Jackson because I was that annoying kid who nerded about Greek mythology at every chance I could get. Once I did, I was both sad and extremely in love.
Rick Riordan beautifully crafted a modern take on the Greek (and Roman) Gods and my childhood was literally a million times better reading about diverse and relatable children. On the other hand, the idea I had been working on in my head for years was not going to work out. I was also ten years old, so writing a book seemed far-fetched anyway.
What ten-year-old me didn’t realize was that this was just the beginning of where my story was going to go. I began evolving my characters. They all started out as Athena, Zeus, Prometheus, etc. But now, they are much more. Now they are the children of devils and angels, representations of people I have met, icons for different social movements, and hopefully characters you can relate to.
Riordan’s work paved the path for me to see just how my stories could work in the world. They showed me what a fantasy series should be and what mine could be. His books forced my ten-year-old self to push deeper into world and character building and even now as I write this article at twenty-one years old, I am constantly going back into his work to get inspired or learn how to be a better writer.
I love reading about Percy and Annabeth in the back of a van with a zebra or underwater in a bubble because these scenes craft a love story that doesn’t rely on toxicity for entertainment. Their bond makes sense and helps them grow while remaining their own individuals. This was an idea I used as the basis of every relationship in my novel. Fun and entertainment don’t and never should come from toxic or unhealthy drama. There are far better ways to create and solve conflict.
I love reading about Thalia, Nico, Percy, and Jason paving their own paths. In a world where they have no control, they manage to create control and exhibit high emotional intelligence. I wanted my main characters to find solutions even when none had been presented to them, but more importantly, I wanted my characters to face problems that had no solutions. Like the riordanverse characters learned, sometimes, you have to reroute and create new paths.
I love reading about the Greek Gods interacting with modern-day mortals. Originally, my book had been about the Greek Gods coming to Earth themselves; however, over time, I started reimagining the Gods as new characters. I wanted them to have flaws and personalities realistic to current society. I wanted them to descend from a world unknown to mortals, but still behave like and coexist with mortals. After all, we can all relate to feeling like we don’t belong where we are from or where we go. Does anyone ever really fit in and should that even be the goal? I wanted to challenge these ideas.
The diversity Riordan portrays in his series was another major influence. Through research and proper beta reading groups, Riordan created a world that mirrors the diverse world we live in. He didn’t include characters so that a certain group was represented. Instead, he created a world where his characters could be relatable and, like in the real world, from all walks of life. He exemplified the idea of natural diversity instead of forced diversity beautifully. I wanted to learn from this and expand the representation in books further. I made it a point to research cultures and people’s backgrounds while writing my characters. Instead of writing a ‘insert group type’ character, I began writing a character and let their story define them. I looked within to what biases I may have had and consumed content that would help me counteract them. Lastly, I asked my beta readers what they envisioned when reading the book. Could my diverse set of readers envision themselves as a character? Can everyone find a character they want to be, want to meet, want to learn from? That was the goal.
From Greek Gods to figments of my imagination to the descendants of angels and demons, my characters have evolved into a new universe and I owe Rick Riordan for the lessons his books have taught me as a writer. He has changed the game for modern literature. So yes, ten-year-old me was a bit mad at Rick Riordan, but twenty-one-year-old me wants to thank him for the paths he paved the way for in diversity, storytelling, giving voice to children, and portraying life lessons through an entertaining plot. Without him, my debut novel, The Game Plan, would not have come to be.
Alisha Sehgal is never found walking on a sidewalk. Instead, she's daydreaming about being on a mission where every passerby is a potential clue. She's never attending a Zoom class. No, she's in an intergalactic sci-fi movie where the world has become completely virtual.
Alisha translated this passion for daydreaming into writing fantasy stories. She aims to explore growing up, realizing who you want to be, and finding the confidence to become that person through her writing.
Alisha currently lives in California and is pursuing a Data Science degree at UC San Diego. She takes every adventure life throws at her and weaves it into a storyline. Her personality shines through her work as she puts humor into dark fantastical themes.
You can find more about Alisha and her work here:
Instagram - the_gameplan_author
Blog - https://lifelessonslishlearned.wordpress.com/