A Song of Ice and Fire
By George R.R. Martin
Martin is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve read most of what he’s written, including his sci-fi work he did before ASOIF, so it’s no surprise his work is a big influence of mine. One of the ideas Martin has espoused on writing genre fiction is the idea of “used furniture.” I’m paraphrasing heavily here, but the idea is that there are certain tropes in each genre that readers are accustomed to, and that authors should use those tropes to their advantage so that they don’t have to describe every detail of their world in tedious detail.
Since A Game of Thrones has become such a big part of the modern fantasy landscape, I decided to borrow some of Martin’s furniture. I used the idea of having messenger ravens and even named the realm in my world similarly to his. He has the Seven Kingdoms. I have the Five Kingdoms. Other inspirations include the grittiness of the narrative and the fact that no character is safe. Ever.
A Wizard of Earthsea
Ursula K. Le Guin
I invoked this same spirit in The Dreamwielder Chronicles. You’ll see it in the discordance between magic and the budding industrial technology in the Five Kingdoms. You’ll also see it as Makarria, the main protagonists of the series, matures and learns how to control the magic she was born with.
The Lord of the Rings
I didn’t go nearly as far as Tolkien, of course, but I was inspired to thoroughly imagine the world of the Five Kingdoms well before ever sitting down to start writing the story. I have pages and pages of history, mythology, maps, and timelines that will probably never factor into the story of The Dreamwielder Chronicles, but by knowing those details, I was able to make the world far more believable for the reader than I would have otherwise.
I set out to make The Dreamwielder Chronicles an epic fantasy that was roughly analogous to the real world Americas. Part of the history I mentioned when discussing Tolkien involved the arrival of conquerors from the Old World, at the cost of assimilation, and in some cases, annihilation of indigenous peoples. This facet, in particular, will be more apparent in book 3, but even in the first two books, there is a conscious mixing of cultures that is indicative to the Americas.
Wild Seed influenced me in two other ways. For one, it served as a model for me in writing a true omniscient third person narrative in Dreamwielder. Most modern fantasy fiction, like other popular contemporary fiction, relies on tight, limited 3rd person viewpoints, even when there are multiple viewpoint characters. Yet Butler masterfully weaves a true omniscient narrative in Wild Seed, flowing from one character’s viewpoint to another from one paragraph to the next as the story unfolds. Reading this narrative story telling mode gave me the license to do the same, even if true omniscient is out of fashion.
The final influence Wild Seed had on me, along with all the magical realism I read over the years, was a comfort level writing a story with a woman protagonist. Butler approaches her characters in Wild Seed with compassionate and unbiased viewpoints, regardless of race, gender, or anything else. Perhaps I was naïve when I first read it, but I took this as a matter fact as to what good writing was supposed to be. As such, it never occurred to me that it might be odd for a male author to write a woman protagonist. I wrote Makarria, Taera, Talitha, Fina, and all the other women characters in The Dreamwielder Chronicles the same way I wrote any of the male characters: I put myself into their shoes, and wrote them like the humans they are.
The Anubis Gates
(On a side note, it’s worth mentioning that Wild Seed has a character, Doro, who is similar to Dog-Face Joe, or perhaps visa versa is more appropriate since Wild Seed was written three years earlier. In any case, I’d forgotten about Doro when writing Souldrifter, but it’s likely that I subconsciously borrowed from this character as much as I did from Dog-Face Joe.)
Lord Kelvin’s Machine
James P. Blaylock
David Eddings (and in all likelihood Leigh Eddings)
While Eddings’ writing is by no means high-literature, he wrote with a fluidity that sucked me into his worlds, combining high fantasy, action, humor, and twisting plots into tales that made me read through them with an unhealthy fervor. The writing never got in the way of the story, and that’s something I’ve tried to emulate as an author.
It’s worth noting that The Belgariad, despite having adolescent protagonists, was sold as straight up fantasy. There was no YA tag placed on it. I took the same mindset when writing and marketing Dreamwielder, which was perhaps a mistake. The modern marketplace is geared very much towards niche marketing, and YA is hot, hot, hot. If we had branded Dreamwielder as YA from the outset, it’s very possible it would have reached a wider audience, but so it goes.
Souldrifter, is available now in ebook and paperback formats from Diversion Books. Learn more at www.garrettcalcaterra.com