Everyone has to start somewhere, have some moment, some…thing, that put them on the path to where they are now. Inspiration is a wonderful thing, it plants seeds and then lets them grow. Sure sometimes the seed falters, the dreams die, but inspiration is never put off, it has plenty more seeds.
For as long as I can remember I’ve loved reading. Its because of my love of words why I’m now a writer. A writer, me, that feels so good to put down, its something I’ve longed to say for such a long time, and something I thought I’d never get to say. But now I can, I’ve been published, by the end of this year three times. And if the gods are good I’ll be published some more in the years to come.
But I’m veering off, reading, I’ve always loved to read. But where did it all start.
My Dad is a big reader, growing up the house was full of books. He favoured Dennis Wheatley, Frederick Forsyth and Louis L’Amour, quite a mix. He also had an interest in science fiction and fantasy, he wasn’t into it in a big way, a passing attraction when the mood took him. It was through that attraction that I picked up The Savage Sword Of Conan. For someone in their early teens it was mind blowing. There was blood and gore, monsters and wizards, and scantily clad women that Conan had to regularly rescue.
It was my first experience of grow-up storytelling. It opened my eyes to a whole new world, a world that was dark and dangerous, full of exotic locations and people. I drank every copy in, read and re-read them. My bedroom became a store room, piles of comics ranked along one wall. From the comic I’d also progressed to the books, albeit the heavily edited and re-written books of L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.
For many years I collected and read the full collection, for all those years I thought I was reading the works of Robert E. Howard, I know different now. The books were the work of de Camp and Carter, based on Howard’s work, characters and ideas. But despite that I loved them, and in time like the comics, I’d read and re-read them until the books were nearly falling apart. I’m happy to say now that I’m the proud owner of The Complete Chronicles Of Conan: Centenary Edition.
The seed had been well and truly planted, the worlds of wizards, warriors and things from the dark beyond had me by the throat and wasn’t letting go. But then, through a friend, I came upon a book – well three books but they are usually viewed as one – that blew me away on so many levels.
The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Two Towers, The Return Of The King, collectively known as The Lord Of The Rings. Nothing I’d read before prepared me for what I found within those pages. I was still in my teens – the downhill stretch – and I was lost in the wilds with Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry and Strider.
Howard’s Conan is a pulp classic, its raw storytelling is simplistic but to the point. JRR Tolkien on the other hand was creating history – a made up history – but history all the same. From these pages I learned depth, character, layered storytelling. All tools that helped me later in life. Alongside that it made me hungry for the epic story, the sort of stories that you’d devote months of your life to reading.
It was only a short leap from the War of The Ring to The Silmarillion. If Rings was epic, then this was megalithic. I know some fans of Tolkien who have never managed this mammoth book, too long winded, too complicated with its Elvish names and pages of songs. I managed it, in fact I’ve read it three times. Not saying I understand it all, but I managed to follow.
I followed Tolkien with something very similar, so similar in fact I at first thought it was a parody.
I’ll say right now I’m not a fan of Terry Brooks epic tale of elves, dwarves, trolls and a future post apocalyptic world. I’ve only ever read the initial trilogy, by the time further books came along I had moved along from fantasy and was soaring through the stars aboard a starship…more of that another time though.
Shannara takes everything it can from Rings (hence my belief it was a parody) and fails to give anything new. Whilst entertaining in itself, its closeness to what went before overshadows the story, the result was I felt myself comparing one with the other and finding the pretender wanting. Like I’ve said, I’ve only ever read the original trilogy, from what I know of the series the followed I would probably like it as a whole. But its doubtful I’ll ever get to read it, the series is so big now.
So that was me in the beginning. The three building blocks that introduced me to the worlds of swords, sorcery and adventure, three authors with differing styles but all with a skill to spin a yarn. My first stumbling attempts at writing were set in the fantasy genre, I had a towering hero, a damsel who needed rescuing, I had quests, monsters and a wizard or two. Most of it was rubbish, no honestly all of it was rubbish, a good proportion of it was probably plagiarism, but it was fun, I was finding my feet, honing what little craft I had at the time.