I like to say I came out of the womb writing. This is not much of an exaggeration. I do not remember a time I did not do it. I still have and use the binder my grandparents gave me as a child to put my writing in. I remember a teacher in college talking about writers and saying they must write. Yes, indeed. I have so many stories inside of me just waiting to come out!
My dad was a huge influence on growing up among the fantastic worlds of Star Wars and Star Trek. He also discovered the name of one of the people in a fantasy I wrote 20+ years ago and recently dusted off. My wizard and apprentice were first called simply Wiz and App. I was so anxious to get the story down, I did not wait for the names to come. I still remember the evening at a bookstore when my dad came up to me and told me App’s name.
The wizard had a cat who never had a name except Cat. The only name I could think of for him was Sebastian, and he let me know that was definitely not his name. He never told me what it was. Much more recently, a young man I had a lot of plot bunnies for before I knew his name was just ‘the guy’ until I finally asked out loud what his name was. He spelled it for me immediately, but he did not pronounce it. I think I have it right, though maybe the bunnies do not belong to him after all.
My first published book is Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings (Westbow Press, 2012). http://ow.ly/ez2dT
My favorite authors in my teens and early twenties were Katherine Kurtz, Barbara Hambly, David Eddings, Raymond Fiest and Kenneth C. Flint. I have not read all they wrote, but I love many of their books. I devoured the expanded universe of Star Trek and Star Wars until I moved to the Shire in 2004. More recently, I have so totally loved Lisa Bergren’s River of Time series, a time-travel tale set in medieval Italy before and during the Black Death. Guy Gavriel Kay’s trilogy, The Fionavar Tapestry, moved me deeply, especially the second and third books with its strong Arthurian elements. My heart ached especially for one of the people in the story, and I felt awe at the accomplishments of another, which you felt the author shared. Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw about Sir Gawain of the Arthurian legends filled me with joy. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which takes place in Germany during WWII, blew me away. The narrator and the writing style is just so wonderfully done. Stephen R. Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle and Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain rock.
Besides our military and first responders, many of my greatest inspirations and role models come from secondary worlds: Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin, Faramir, Gandalf, Aragorn, Merlin from the BBC series of the same name, Luke Skywalker, and Mara Jade. I admire all these, whether from the Primary world or from various sub-creations, for the same reason: what they teach us about selfless, sacrificial love.
I want to show in my own writing those who demonstrate beauty, love, light, and hope still exists. I want to show those who have struggled through challenges far larger than they could ever endure on their own, but because they knew something larger than themselves has called them, they embrace these difficulties, no matter what the cost.
I write from the point of view you do not choose who to write about; the people choose you. I do not like to say ‘characters’ because it sounds like they are not real. If you do not believe they are, they will not fully live on the page or in the minds and hearts of the reader. The surest way to remain unblocked is to let them tell you the tale. They lived it, and if they honor you as their voice in the present, you must honor them in return, and retell what they tell you or while you walk beside them on their adventurous journeys and write down what happens as it occurs. Do not force your own ideas and get them to go on a path they did not. You will know what works and what does not feel right. But do not discard anything either. Maybe you just have not figured out how all the pieces fit yet.
As a serious admirer of Middle-earth, and a fellow sub-creator, I feel Tolkien a true kindred spirit in the creative process. The History of The Lord of the Rings gives fascinating insights as his unfolded. He moves from his original ideas of what he thought would happen through to discovering what really took place. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien also gives more detailed information about the world he says several times he did not feel he created but discovered. The essentially autobiographical short story “Leaf by Niggle” speaks of the trails and tribulations of finding time to pursue your passion amidst many other responsibilities. His essay on fantasy and sub-creation called “On Fairy-Stories” is a delight. You can find the last two in The Tolkien Reader.
With my own fantasies, I have a lot of ideas I thought would work, but like Tolkien, discover not all have in the way I first thought. Still I think they must fit somewhere. I just have to figure out what really happened, enjoy the ride, and see how the pieces fall into place. Plotting the whole thing out ahead of time, as if I am the orchestrator of it all and the people in the stories are just puppets entirely under my control, does not work for me. I prefer the organic approach of letting the story and the people within it breathe on their own and tell me what happened. To me, it is a far more natural way of coming to the truth.
Why do you write? Who and what influenced you to do so the most?