I’m not sure where other authors get their ideas, but mine have a weird habit of coming to me while I’m either trying to get to sleep, or while I’m dreaming. While it’s a great way to come up with new material, it tends to be a lousy way to get enough sleep.
My first novel, SIOFRA, came to me in a dream. I think it was the result of trying to find vampire novels I wanted to read and not being able to find them. I knew I couldn’t be the only person who was tired of seeing the same thing out there. Stuff I would still refuse to read if you jabbed at me with a pointed stick to make me do it.
So many of the novels I found seemed to involve vampires who hated what they were, and were looking to be returned to their human, mortal selves, or it would end up being some sort of romance. Neither genre was or is something I would ever read. It’s just not me.
I was the kid who rooted for the monster in those classic Universal horror movies and some of the remakes/reimaginings. I loved Frank Langella and Gary Oldman as “Dracula” in their takes on the classic character. Barnabas Collins was my first non-Dracula love, in the days when I didn’t realize how truly hokey soaps like DARK SHADOWS (1966) really were. I would race home from school (I was in the First Grade) to see it, I loved it so very much. Who was I to know that the acting in that show was so over the top?
All I knew was that it was a show with vampires, ghosts, witches, werewolves, and more, and I couldn’t get enough of it! I’m not sure if I even noticed when a “wall” shuddered as a door was closed, or a piece of lighting equipment was in the frame, both of which have been well-documented over the years since the series ended.
Already precocious reader, even at that age, I begged my Mom to buy the tie-in books for the campy soap opera (so campy there should have been roasted marshmallows and mosquito bites in evidence), and with her generous heart, she enabled me to devour tales of Barnabas, Quentin, and whatever evil they faced in those hideously bound (what was that color? Yellow? Green?) rectangular treasures by the mythical Marilyn Ross. I’d even reread them whenever I had the opportunity.
Did anyone else think of another “Willie” when they first heard of “Groundskeeper Willie” in THE SIMPSONS? Yes, that’s how my mind works, if works is the right word here.
I often wonder where other authors (I don’t include the “author” of the Dark Shadows tie-ins in that number, as they were simple fluff marketed by canny sales executives at ABC Studios during the show’s run) come up with their own ideas for new novels, but a few of those authors immediately come to mind when I think of which of them helped to inspire me to become an author.
When I was in high school, I discovered the second novel in Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragonriders of Pern” series, DRAGONQUEST, while I was visiting a friend after school, and happened to take a closer look at her bookshelves. I suppose you could say that much like newborn dragonets, I was Impressed by what I read and suddenly couldn’t get enough of Pern, its dragons, and its humans.
Just the idea of magnificent dragons, telepathically linked to their riders for ever and ever, traveling instantly between one place and another, caught my attention. I was equally enamored with her fire-lizards: miniature versions of those self-same dragons, so I gobbled up her “Harper Hall” series of Pern novels as well. Dragons, even in miniature, where just another taste of klah for me, and I loved that wonderful burst of literary flavor I got with every sip of her words.
When I ran out of dragon-related stories by Ms McCaffrey, I moved on to her other novels, from DINOSAUR PLANET (not what I really hoped it was, but it was something she’d written, so I absolutely had to have it), to her debut novel, RESTOREE, which was a romance novel thinly disguised as science fiction. Her DECISION AT DOONA was something I completely adored, and I’ve read every sequel, including those co-written by her with the inestimable Jody Lynn Nye. I knew I’d like those because of their earlier collaborations with Ms Nye on the Ship Who novels.
When THE WHITE DRAGON came out in hardcover, I absolutely had to have it, even at it’s wildly inflated hardcover price (at the time) of $7.95, and I scrambled to assemble enough of my allowance (my folks gave us an allowance for the performing of specific chores every day, once a week) to get my greedy little hands on a first edition of it. I was equally as eager to lay my hands on any of her subsequent sci-fi/fantasy novels, and so most of those also ended up on my shelves.
I learned about the amazing artist Michael Whelan from seeing his work on the covers of the first several Pern novels, and was heartbroken when the publisher decided to change artists. His were the dragons Ms McCaffrey said looked like what she imagined when she wrote her dragons, and I took that to heart. Pernese dragons had four legs and a set of wings, and depictions of them on post-Whelan covers, as two-legged, two-winged beasts didn’t jibe with what she’d written in her novels, from the time of the first chapters of DRAGONFLIGHT.
After all, Mnementh captured Lessa in one of this forepaws and held her in place until F’lar to get to her, and if he’d done that with a back foot, he’d have been terribly off-balance, which wouldn’t have been a good thing for anyone. A dragon almost the size of a DC-10 (according to Ms McCaffrey) isn’t some lightweight, you know.
I learned the Teaching Songs from those two series, and even went through the Dragondex at the end of the book and bitched and pissed and moaned about inconsistencies in that compilation. I doodled dragons and I painted dragons, and I sang dragons.
Did you know that The Fire-Lizard Song can be sung to the tune of “Puff, the Magic Dragon”? Well, you do now.
I discovered Stephen R Donaldson’s “Thomas Covenant” series of books at about the time epic fantasy caught my attention. I read and reread those novels as well, reveling in the story of the damaged main character and his redemption of sorts over the course of multiple series. I wore out more than one set of the first series, which I read long before the advent of e-books.
Of course it was a no-brainer to replace them as they wore out or were lost to injudicious loaning.
David and Leigh Eddings’ Belgariad, Malloreon, Elenium and Tamuli were constant friends to me, and I grabbed up each as I discovered them. I read those aloud to my daughter, multiple times, and she loved them as well. We still use certain phrases we heard in those novels, with secretive grins and knowing smiles at one another, don’tcha know dorlin’?
I used to fantasize about who I would cast in the roles of those series’ characters, if I were given that opportunity. I know I’m not the only person to do something like that, and it’s comforting in a way to know that. It’s good to know that I’m not the only person to have loved these series so very much that I would take the time to do something that silly.
These are all authors about whom I would love to know how they came up with the stories and characters I came to love so very much. The thing that binds these novels — these series, all together is that they are part of the wonderfully vast science fiction and fantasy universe, but then they go their own ways, feeding some need I had to sate at the time I discovered them.
I hope that when people find my stories, they come along at the right time in those people’s lives.