I am often asked what inspires me as a fantasy author. I am equally inspired by reading great books, and having more amazing and magical life experiences than I probably deserve.
So what would I consider a great book? Well, there are many, but if I had to judge by the number of times I have read something, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, takes the prize. I am not only a fan of the books though; the movies have kept me spell-bound even after viewing each at least eleventy-one times. Hubby’s reaction, after asking me how many times I’ve watched that movie, is one of pure bafflement. His taste in movies run to slap-stick comedies and Quenton Tarantino. He doesn’t get fantasy. Not at all.
To me, the addiction to Tolkien seems quite rational, but don’t ask me to explain it—the reason exists in a galaxy far, far away. As an author, all I can say for sure is that Tolkien was the gold standard, a trail-blazer, who knew how to write an epic saga. Fantasy writers have been trying to duplicate that ever since.
When I decided I wanted to write in the fantasy genre, I remembered how I felt when I read Tolkien for the first time: I didn’t want it to end. I had to think about that when I wrote my first book of the genre, The Six and the Crystals of Ialana. I had to think about what it was that pulled me in to The Hobbit for the first time and made me ask, “Where have you been all my life?”
I didn’t want to crank out just another Tolkien rip-off, though. There are no Hobbits or Orcs in my fantasy, or even a Shire, although the village of Meadowfield, I feel, could come pretty close. My wizard is not a wizard either, but a strange and wise other-dimensional being who is also a shape-shifter. How, I asked, could I make my story as magical and engaging as the perilous quests of Bilbo Baggins, or Frodo and Sam?
Perhaps the inspiration for that also took root in a time long ago—well, not so long ago—back in the 1960’s, when I was still rather Hobbit-like myself: a young Hobbit, of course, and one who lived . . . well, while not exactly in a hole in the ground, in a hole of sorts.
I grew up in Africa, and thanks to my father’s construction job and an optimistic, pioneering spirit, our family lived in make-shift camps for years, in the middle of nowhere. Our camps had no running water: all water, both for human consumption and bath water, had to be retrieved from the river, and then thoroughly boiled before drinking. There was no electricity, television, or phones. Instead, we got used to living with snakes, bugs, and the unrelenting heat. Our only relief from the 100+ degree temperatures came when it rained, and then we had to contend with rivers of mud, and even more critters.
This kind of life-style fully prepared me for a world where the conveniences of modern living did not exist. It also ensured that I day-dreamed my life away when, according to my parents, I should have been doing something more productive, but I’m keeping that for another story on my blog. Daydreamers, stay tuned.
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