I find it hard to answer when people ask: “Where did it all begin?”
Do I go back to my childhood and my love of reading and writing? What about when my best mate introduced me to fantasy reading, by giving me a copy of Legend, by David Gemmell, at age 15?
But one definite place where it all began was when I interviewed fantasy giant Raymond E Feist, in 2002, at Starbucks coffee shop in Hornsby.
Back then I was the editor of the Hornsby Advocate and, like so many other people, a frustrated writer.
My one attempt at a fantasy book had slightly interested one agent – and that was it. Convinced I couldn’t write fantasy, I was trying – and failing – to get a contemporary Australian novel published. After getting to the final 10 of a pitching contest at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, and having an agent want to read the whole manuscript, I had hit a brick wall.
But if I couldn’t write, at least I could interview one of my favourite authors, who was out here on his Talon Of The Silver Hawk promotional tour.
I managed to arrange an interview with Feist through HarperCollins, as he was also going to have a book signing at Borders Hornsby.
Now, no author is going to be unpleasant to an interviewer, even one from a suburban newspaper, but I found Feist to be charming and an absolute delight to talk to.
We discussed his books, as well as fantasy in general and also his friend William R Forstchen (they co-authored Honoured Enemy). I have all eight of Forstchen’s Lost Regiment series – coincidentally bought at Karen Miller‘s Phantasia bookshop in Penrith.
Then we began talking about writing, and he described how his characters sometimes take his story threads off in different directions to the one he planned. That they almost tell the story for him. The way he described it they begin at A and have to get to Z but they don’t go there via B, C, D etc – they might jump to H, then back again and so on.
This was very similar to the way I like to write – that once I have my characters firmly in my mind, they almost take control of the story.
We spoke for so long, the HarperCollins PR lady had to come and get him, as the crowds in Borders were getting restless!
I walked away from that interview just buzzing, my mind afire. If Feist, the mind behind such classics as Magician, wrote like that, then why couldn’t I?
It was hugely invigorating.
Now the story that became The Wounded Guardian did not begin to take shape until 2004, almost exactly two years later – my son was born one month after the Feist interview and helped occupy my time – but I decided in 2002 to leave my contemporary novel and go back to fantasy.
Now, seven years later, my dream is about to come true!
I emailed Raymond E Feist after I signed my contract with HarperCollins and he wrote back, a lovely email that included:
“Don’t go blaming me, mate, if you got the storytelling bug. And if you somehow manage to get rich and famous doing this, it’s not my fault!
Anyway, continued success to you and if I played even a small part in motivating you to live your dream, thanks for letting me know.’’
He does not endorse books, and I would not expect him to ever read The Wounded Guardian. But he played more than a small part in motivating me to live my dream!
Find out more about The Wounded Guardian, which is officially published on 1 July (but will be hitting bookstores from next week onwards).
Duncan Lay is a layout designer and headline writer at the Sunday Telegraph. He lives on the Central Coast of NSW. Visit Duncan’s blog.