I have never felt entirely comfortable with bios (especially my own). Any time I’ve had an occasion to write one, I’ve always felt weirdly pretentious about it. Even as a child, I recall opening the backs of novels and being greeted by a big, grinning portrait of the author, which always came across to me as vaguely egotistical. However, I recognize that such things serve an important purpose, in that they (quite literally) put a human face on the person whose work one is reading. It allows the author to build a connection to the reader that might not otherwise exist. That being said, I always prefer it when an author addresses the reader himself directly, rather than being spoken of in the third person. This is the way I have chosen to address anyone who does me the kindness of reading this little bit of self puffery.
My name is Jack, and I have been writing fantasy fiction off an on for the better part of a decade. However, my journey as a fantasy writer goes back further than that. Long before I dared put pen to paper, I spent many an hour musing and scheming over what and how I should like to write. I had been exposed to the works of Tolkien and Lewis as a child, as well as the perhaps less well known but nonetheless estimable works of Nesbit, Eager, Juster, White, and more. As I grew older, I added Carroll to the mix, along with Conan Doyle, Chesterton, Allingham and Sayers, along with copious doses of Wodehouse. By this point my stylistic preferences had been quite firmly routed in the voices of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and I tended to eschew more contemporary writers (which I think has had a marked effect on my own writing style). Heinlein I enjoyed for a time, as well as touches of Asimov and Bradbury, moving my literary preferences further into the 20th century. I once had the misfortune to read one of Crichton’s novels, which I found so thoroughly distasteful that I have never had an inclination to read another. One notable exception to my general avoidance of contemporary writers is Zahn, whose excellent work I consumed in great quantities, and whose style was quite impactful to me in many ways (indeed, on occasion when I experiment with science fiction I find that my own style tends to make an abrupt shift in his direction). In a curious turn, which I think betrays my own less healthy idiosyncrasies, the more I became involved in my own inventions, the more I came to eschew other writers. Over time I gradually became familiar with the likes of Howard, Lovecraft, Pratchett, Gaiman, Jordan, and Martin, but by this point I had acquired a kind of obsession with “originality” (whatever that really means) and an almost paranoid fear of cryptomnesia (which haunts me to this day). This led me to avoid reading anything which I feared might unduly influence me. I did eventually read Rowling, and curiously I was never particularly afraid of being influenced by games, and I indulged heavily in various MMOs and ultimately Dungeons and Dragons. But the net effect of all this was that I long remained more or less insulated in my own literary corner of the world, and thus developed a style which has been described as decidedly “old fashioned”. I comfort myself with the thought that if the likes of Tolkien and Lovecraft can still be popular after all this time, then so perhaps could I.
Of all writers,the one who has had the greatest influence on me was Tolkien. Perhaps not so much in style, but in a desire to emulate. It was Tolkien who made me say to myself “I want to write stuff like that!”. His world, and the depth of detail and consideration which went into it, was the primary factor which inspired me to create a world of my own. Second only to Tolkien was Wodehouse, whose humorous prose did perhaps the most to inform my own voice. And following Wodehouse, there was Lewis, whose charm and profundity I most wished to mirror.
I suppose I’ve said far too much already on my influences. I fancy it’s high time I said something about the upshot of it all. When I first set down to create a universe of my own, I thought very long and hard about what, exactly, I wanted that universe to be. Among my other interests, I have always had an interest in history. I make no claims of any great knowledge in that regard, but I’ve always been poking around the subject, whether it be reading about the nuances of Operation Overlord or browsing through photographs of medieval armor. And in so doing, I have always had a preference for historical accuracy, and a disliking whenever I find it lacking. One of the most significant moments in my literary life was when as a teenager I attempted to read Conan Doyle’s “The White Company”. I was frankly appalled by it, and never finished it. Not because it was a bad book (it wasn’t), but it was so transparently Victorian in its outlook. The characters all spoke (and most importantly, thought) not like people of the 14th century, but entirely like people of the 1890s. This made a very profound impression on me. I resolved that I should never engage in historical fiction unless I could be confident of absolute, near perfect historical accuracy. “Accurate right down to the smell” was what I demanded of myself. In hindsight, I think my attitude was far too excessive in this regard. But it had the effect of steering me in a very particular direction. I felt that in order to justify writing about a particular historical period, then I should be obliged to become an expert in that period. This may be all well and good for men like Patrick O’Brian, but the other side of my dilemma was that I had no desire to restrict myself to any one historical period. I may wish to write a story about The Black Prince today, a story about the Napoleonic Wars tomorrow, and a story about Ancient Egypt the day after. I felt I could never manage to become a “expert” in everything! What was I to do?
The answer was simple: I resolved to cheat! I took my love of history and sought to combine it with my love of fantasy. I set about creating a world which could encompass any epoch of human history in a way that freed me to contaminate and bastardize those eras however I wished. I created a world which allowed me to pick out whatever I liked from the annals of history, plonk it down in a sandbox of my own making, and pit it against whatever wild creatures and exotic civilizations my own imagination could come up with. Thus were the beginnings of what would become Journeys in the Fairworld.
I think I’ve said quite enough about myself already. So I’ll do my best to hurry and finish up before I bore you any further. Anything else I may think of to say I can leave to future blog posts. In addition to writing, I have always had a love of toys: Legos, action figures, and toy soldiers in particular. This interest has carried on into adulthood. I have for many years worked with miniature figures of all sorts, starting with 54mm scale Napoleonics and then graduating to 28mm tabletop wargaming and roleplaying miniatures, and more recently the rapidly growing field of custom action figures. I love arms and armor, and own far too many swords for my own good. I also love classic films and vintage music, and I am a keen swing dancer. I also play bagpipes.