Hooked on Classics

Why did I become a writer?  The short answer:  Lord of the Rings and Star Wars.

Which is a pretty cliched reason for a speculative fiction author, but it’s utterly true.  Here’s the twist, though:  I was introduced to both story worlds in the same six month period.


It was a watershed year, for sure.

Way, way back in primary school (what North Americans call elementary school), I was exposed to an excerpt of The Lord of the Rings, part of the section when they’re in the Mines of Moria.  I forgot all about it until I was in (junior) high school, and picked up the three inch thick book one of my friends was reading.  I was already a book worm, so the cover caught my attention.

It was The Lord of the Rings.

I flipped through the first few pages, my heart pounding, because I recognized the story even though I’d never read it before, or even heard of it (I thought).  There was a powerful sense of familiarity about it that was compulsive.  I got hold of a copy of the book within a couple of days and read the entire book in a week of intense homework ditching and reading until 2am.  When I reached the Moria sequence, I suddenly remembered the excerpt I’d read as a kid.  It didn’t matter:  I was thoroughly hooked.

For Christmas that year, I asked for the three volume set, with all the appendices.  I re-read that full edition every year until the first of Peter Jackson’s LOTR movies, The Fellowship of the Ring, came out as a DVD extended edition.  I have been watching the extended movies every Christmas since then, and last year I got back to re-reading the books themselves.  It’s been so long since I read the book version that it was (almost) a new read.

Then there was Star Wars, which was released around the same time I first stumbled across The Lord of the Rings.

Star Wars struck me with the force of a mallet, and I ended up writing my own version of what happened after the movie ended.  They didn’t call it fanfic then.  I didn’t know other people even did that.  I hid that story from everyone, just as I hid all the stories I wrote after that.

It took twenty years for me to move from scribbling stuff to actually writing stories for publication, and even then, I wrote in a genre completely unrelated to spec fic.  Why?  Because I read everything.  Fantasy and SF were my favorites, but I also read historicals and thrillers.  So I wrote in a genre I thought would suit me, and that seemed easier than my beloved spec fic.

Unfortunately, I wrote well enough to be published in that genre and make enough money to write full time, too.  I say unfortunately, because it has taken me a very long time to reach a point where I could write the genres I really wanted to write.  Bills must be paid, right?

So why urban fantasy?

I mean, as The Lord of the Rings is one of my all time favorite stories ever, why not write high fantasy and be done with it?

At the time I first got hooked on LOTR, urban fantasy didn’t exist.

But there was a fantastic children’s fantasy series that came out not long after I met LOTR:  Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising sequence.  Even though it wasn’t called urban fantasy, it basically was:  It was set in contemporary Britain, and fantasy species lived and moved among humans and fought their war while humans lived their lives.

I loved it.  I still re-read it, too.  I won’t go near the movie, though.  (ugh.)

There have been a lot of UF books since then, but that one was the foundation.  It had all the qualities of LOTR that I loved, including a deep, deep history and world building that was rich and layered.

I didn’t want to write just another epic fantasy, which everyone else was doing at the time.  And I really, really like the juxtaposition of fantasy and supernatural worlds playing out their events in the modern human world.

So here I am, writing rich, layered fantasy stories with long, deep backstories, set in the modern day world where cellphones and swords mix.

Such fun!


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