My debut novel Askari has been out for nearly a month and the reviews are starting to trickle in. I am pleased to find that my book has been well-received by my readers, yet the inevitable questions are beginning to arise. Who are the inspirations for the characters? Do the places in Muralia really exist? And my personal favorite: Am I a devil-worshipper because I write fantasy? Really?
I write fantasy for the same reason that I read it – escapism. It is the same with all fiction, whether it’s fantasy, romance or mystery…readers want a sense of transportation into something or somewhere other than where they are. It’s fiction. However, it has to be believable fiction or it won’t capture the imagination of readers.
Verisimilitude is defined as having the appearance of truth. Characters have to be believable, situations have to appear as realistic as possible or they ring hollow and readers have to be able to see, smell and feel where the author has placed them or they’ll put the book down and rent a movie. However, there are dangers inherent to creating lifelike characters and situations…sometimes readers think that they’re actually real.
Like most authors, I am first an observer. I try to see everything and note what makes something interesting or memorable. People are wonderful because they have so many facets to their personalities. There are the physical characteristics that make individuals unique, then there are the quirks, turns of phrase, voice inflection and gestures that stick in my memories. To be immortalized in the written word can be a blessing or a curse and I wouldn’t be the first spiteful author to have taken such liberties with folks who have annoyed me or had a significant impact on my life.
I have to be honest, there are a few characters in Askari that are modeled after certain individuals. Cedron, my hero, is modeled after my oldest son Dale. Others who have made an impact on characters were a friend from my time as an exchange student in Germany, one of my Marine Corps drill instructors and an exceedingly annoying professor from college. Otherwise, characters have been created using images from magazines or loosely fashioned after people I’ve known or imagined with no conscious efforts at recreating anyone intentionally.
The land of Muralia, as far as the book has explored in this first novel, is very similar to the Pacific Northwest where I’ve lived most of my life. It’s beautiful here – mountains, streams, ocean, plains. We have it all and it makes for an impressive locale for any armchair adventure. My day hiking in the Ape Caves near Mount Saint Helens inspired one chapter significantly…coupled with my love of skiing and the idea that surfing and snowboarding should be as fun as they look.As a SCUBA diver, I’ve encountered amazing creatures in the deep that have made it into my writing.
Again, it’s all about creating a venue for escape that has the appearance of realism. Magic and mystery can transport us from the challenges or boredom of our everyday lives, but they have to appear plausible. Because I write fantasy, about magic and demons, does that make me a devil-worshipper? Sorry, it’s hard not to grin here. I have researched a lot of Wiccan tradition, satanic rituals and read a lot on paranormal activity, magic and mythologies in order to represent these things with verisimilitude. Despite the risk of offending my readers whose faith may be challenged by my work, please remember one thing: it’s fiction!
Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass was a cautionary tale for me. In his trilogy, His Dark Materials, of which The Golden Compass was the first book, the heroes effectively kill God. This book had the appearance of a criticism of Christian theology…Catholicism in particular. The movie sparked a movement among the churches of our nation to boycott the film as a result of the theme. It was very important to me not to offend anyone in the creation of what I hoped would be pure reading enjoyment. I created deities from polytheistic traditions and creations myths from around the world so that they would ring authentic without appearing to challenge the validity of any one religion or faith. My personal beliefs have no bearing on or in my writing.
Dear readers, I am not a satanist or pagan nor do I feel the need to have my beliefs labeled. They aren’t relevant. Again, it’s fantasy…fiction…pure escapist enjoyment. Besides, I haven’t sacrificed a virgin in my back yard in years.