My Gemmell Morningstar Award Post
Voting continues for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award, and award that my debut novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, has been nominated for. If you haven’t yet voted, and you enjoyed reading Winds, please consider heading over to the site and voting.
In the meantime, the kind folks organizing the award have asked the nominees to post about why we chose fantasy as a genre to write in and who our influences have been. Here’s mine:
I’ve been reading fantasy practically since I learned how to read. I came across The Hobbit in third grade—I even remember the friend that turned me onto it: Jim Vogt, my best friend at the time—and I’ve never looked back. It was a wondrous experience, walking through Middle Earth with Bilbo and Gandalf and the dwarves. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like had I found another seminal work in a different genre. Would I now be a mystery writer had I read Sherlock Holmes or Sexton Blake when I was young? Would I write spy thrillers if I had somehow stumbled across James Bond? I like to think the answer is no. Fantasy feels like a part of me at this point, so strong was my reaction to The Hobbit and, later, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. I can’t imagine a world that feels more internally consistent, more whole, than those volumes.
And I think this is what eventually drove me to be a writer. As I matured I started to read other things, things like Piers Anthony’s Split Infinity Series, Stephen R. Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Terry Brooks’ Shannara Series, Thieves’ World from Lynn Abbey, and Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné. While I enjoyed these and many other books to varying degrees, none of them quite had that sense of history, of scope, that Tolkien had created in his stories. So as I started to dabble in writing in college, while I didn’t realize this consciously at the time, I was trying to recreate that sense of wonder that I’d found while traveling toward the Lonely Mountain to steal into the lair of Smaug.
As I became more serious about writing, I grew more conscious of my own style, and I started to recognize both the writers I was emulating unconsciously and those I wanted to write like but knew I had work to do in order to achieve it. First of all, while I will probably always be striving to match Tolkien’s worldbuilding, I realized I didn’t want to write like him. He came from a different time with a different set of sensibilities. While I treasure his books, I don’t have, nor do I want to have, a voice similar to his. A voice that was much closer to how I wanted to write was George R.R. Martin. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is a more recent influence on me, but it’s been a particularly strong one. I think he’s succeeded in marrying a more contemporary fantasy writing style with the scope of The Lord of the Rings. I also think his is the most gripping of the doorstopper epic fantasies.
Another voice I wanted to emulate was C.S. Friedman’s. Her Coldfire Trilogy had a profound affect on me and my writing. I love the dark and serious tone of that world. I loved the feeling of threat she managed to create in the world of Erna and the tension that brewed between Gerald Tarrant and Damien Vryce. Glen Cook’s Black Company Series made me realize that there’s more to war than the grand, romantic sagas that some novels paint them to be. That these two writers—writers I had been reading for nearly two decades—said nice things about my first book has been one of the true high points in my short writing career.
I later started reading Guy Gavriel Kay based on some recommendations from friend, and I fell in love with his prose. If I can bring some of his sense of poetry into my own writing, I will be pleased indeed. And finally, last but not least, I’ll mention Tim Powers. The Drawing of the Dark is one of my favorite novels, and while I don’t and probably won’t dabble in historical fantasy, I do appreciate the attention to detail that Tim puts in his novels. I may write fantasy in secondary worlds, but I want them to feel as if they’re consistent wholes. It’s this, and his ability to make the reader feel like they’re flying by the seat of their pants, that I appreciate about Tim’s writing.