As I neared the end of the first book, I realized a few things about my story.
Firstly, I saw that the fight scenes – and there are quite a few – were (according to my editor) rather animesque and over-the-top. I rather liked them. Fantasy these days tends towards the grimdark. The grit and realism of books like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and Glen Cook’s The Black Company is the style that’s currently in vogue with fantasy writers. I enjoy it too, but I knew that when I began writing that I wouldn’t be taking too many cues from those stories.
It seems obvious to say, but what drew me to fantasy wasn’t the realism.
It was the the vibrant colours, the new societies, the strange histories, where myths and legends were never in doubt. I was drawn to the named swords, the dragons, the wizards. The towers, the artefacts, the talking beasts – and eventually the unimaginable horrors that could neither be faced nor understood.
I follow A Song of Ice and Fire religiously and I’m looking forward to book 6 as much as anyone… but when I think of what I owe my writing to, it’s The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Forgotten Realms that I think of. As I grew older, I added the works of HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith (builders of the Cthulhu Mythos) to my list of influences. Eventually, I stumbled on Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy, and to this day, I have yet to find a castle and its people described with prose of such quality.
Where the Gods Lie Dreaming owes more to the older style of fantasy. And it owes itself to the comic books and manga I’ve read. I’m a product of the twenty-first century, and despite my cynicism concerning its current creative sterility, I needed to produce something original.
Away from the beaten path, then, as before, though I owe a great deal to my influences, they determined only what kind of story I’d be telling. The heroes I created began as analogues of the heroes I admired in youth. There were many Aragorns and King Arthurs, Aslans, Supermans, Rand al’ Thors and many others, but as they developed, they inherited more and more of my own character defects and ways of thinking. I like to think that a few of my characters will be remembered for what they are. I like to think that I created something new, something great.
Time will tell.