Many an author is asked who their influences are, which other writers of old made their marks upon their souls, and if they’re like me that is not a simple question to answer. In my case I was quite the avid reader as a kid, and much of what I read stewed around in my head for a few decades before it came out in the blend that is my story and style. Just to fully understand where some elements of my Maldene series came from you would have to read the same hundred books, see the same fifty movies, that I took inspiration from. In some cases the influence was in the way I decided to tell a story, in others certain elements of world background that I loved enough to include my own version of. Whatever the influence, if you’ve a careful eye you can see it there behind the shadows.
So let me take this opportunity to lift the shadows at least a little, to give you a glimpse into the back corridors of my mind…
First off J. R.R. Tolkein. I mean, there is not a single fantasy writer out there who has not been influenced by the world of Middle Earth. Elves, Dwarves, evil minions, he did it all. Before I’d even read the Lord of the Rings, he was an influence. How, you ask? Well, a friend had given me a capsule summary of the story, mentioning that the bed guy had some sort of a powerful magic ring. Great idea, so I borrowed it, and Miro has his own ring. However, since I had yet to read the story, Miro’s ring ended up completely different from Sauron’s (thank goodness) and the plot connected to it uniquely Maldene’s (or technically, Miro’s). Still, there was that influence.
Homer is another one. Yes, that ancient Greek storyteller than many suspect wrote a whole lot more that just the Iliad (I strongly suspect that every Greek fable we’ve ever heard of had his touch to it). I read a lot of mythology as a kid; Greek mainly but also some Norse and a bit of Egyptian. But just how much did he influence me? Well, one reviewer of the first Maldene novel compared it to “The Hobbit meets The Odyssey”, so there’s definitely some significant influence there.
William Shakespeare. Surprised? I’m not a Shakespeare buff, and only had to read Hamlet as a class requirement in high school. The influence here, however, is in the way I describe some things, specifically a sort of quasi-poetic style I came up with that I save for select lone lines that I want to stand out and hit the reader in the face. The first example you will find as the opening line of Chapter One of Maldene: “Distant cry of thunder. A portender of events awaiting the eccentricities of mortals.” If you say it in the right tone (say with Patrick Steward’s voice), it does sound sorta like some mix between old William and something almost poetic. Well, I use that same style in scattered places throughout my books, though never overly much lest it wear thin.
Andre Norton, the grand dame of SF and Fantasy herself. She was writing literally up to the day she died, submitting her last book just one month before passing away. I must have read something like 30 of her 90 books in High School, so I’m quite sure that something of hers rubbed off on me, particularly as I went through my early teen years and developed this habit of analyzing what I liked of a given book, how it was written, or specific details of some aspects of its writing to then squirrel away in my subconscious for twenty years.
Frank Herbert has influenced quite a number of authors, and in my case I loved his Fremen, so when I gave Maldene a really big desert I populated it with a people clearly influenced by Herbert. Of course I changed a lot around, gave it that Maldene flavor, made my Destir skilled with certain desert-oriented psychic and magical powers that you’ll first see in “Maldene II: Mysteries of Olde”. Then when it came to populating the desert with various creatures, I also took inspiration from his sandworms, though again with many changes in biology, usage, and a bunch of other details. Then end result is all mine, but Frank Herbert planted the seed.
There are a ton of authors that each had their own version of Royals and powerful lords at odds with some enemy or other factions; too many to name or even remember, but the collective vibe is still there. One specific influence though comes from an old comic strip by the name of Prince Valiant. In there, the Prince had two daughters with yellow hair (they looked like twins in the one strip I saw); well, one set of triplet daughters of Maldene’s King each have straw-yellow hair because of this.
Guy Gavriel Kay, authored The Fionovar Tapestry, one of the most well thought out fantasy trilogies around, with not a single plot point left hanging, and an attention to detail that has no doubt influenced my own such.
My bad guy Miro is an example of a character with several influences, in that he was inspired by every mustache-twirling diabolical reprehensible bad guy in written and filmed fiction that I’ve ever seen.
I could go through a library of influences, and even name a couple of old movies as well (watch Sinbad and The Eye of the Tiger after you’ve read through “Maldene II: Mysteries of Olde” and see if you find any commonalities in certain specific types of places and their visuals), but these are the most obvious ones. Everyone has their influences, every author and movie maker out there, these are just a few of mine. All of my influencers have had the many years to simmer and stew in the back of my mind to make of me the writer that I am. Read through my various novels and see how many more influences you can spot.
And thus to all those who made my childhood a joy to read through, I salute you!