No book comes out of nowhere. In fact, no book comes out of only one direction. There’s the trigger, the push that takes a story from faint germ to realized idea, of course. And the faint idea grows out of anywhere from three to three hundred background points, gathered over a period of time and stored in our brain’s back room until needed.
But often, there’s something more. Something that sets up shop long before we even start to subconsciously gather material…..
My most recent, SILVER ON THE ROAD, was already a finished book, the second book already a draft, when my brain woke me up to explain something to me: The grandfather, or godparent, or guiding influence, whatever term you want to use, for the series was Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain books. Specifically, TARAN WANDERER.
Those books were….everything to me, as a kid. Ev-ry-thing. Those books are still important to me as an adult – one of the seven books I have that are signed treasures is a copy of TARAN WANDERER, the last trade edition before Mr. Alexander died. The messages in those books are layered in my bones, the characters and their joys and sorrows as real to me even now as people I went to school with.
But I didn’t realize until after the fact that I’d taken all of that, had filtered that influence through my own culture, only instead of a never-existed magical Wales, I set my story in a never-existed magical North America.
Oh, there’s not an exact correlation. I don’t have an assistant pig-keeper, or a princess. Or a Gurgi, which pains me something fierce. But the sense of learning your place by learning your country, of an adventure that has nothing to do with an object quest, of letting friendships and obligations be the forge in which you are shaped…?
All there. Isobel and Gabriel, the Boss and Marie, even Farron, madman that he is.
That was the lesson I took from the Prydain books. That growing up isn’t about taking on burdens, or even succeeding in grown-up things, but something inside, something no-one can give or grant you, not even something you can earn. It’s about acceptance, and resignation, and letting go of dreams, and finding your joy in being awake.
Thank you, Mr. Alexander. I hope I passed the lesson along with even half the grace and skill with which you taught me.