Risingshadow has the honour of publishing a guest post by James Walley.
James Walley is the author of The Forty First Wink (Ragnarok Publications, 2014).
Arriving in the rainy isle of Great Britain in the late '70s, James quickly became an enthusiast of all things askew. Whilst growing up in a quaint little one horse town that was one horse short, a steady diet of movies, '50s sci fi and fantasy fiction finally convinced him to up sticks and move to Narnia - also known to the layman as Wales. Since there was no available qualification in talking lion taming or ice sculpture, he settled for a much more humdrum degree in something vague but practical, and set out to find a talking lion to make an ice sculpture of.
Mystifyingly finding himself behind the desk of a nine to five job, he kept himself sane by singing in a rock band, memorizing every John Carpenter movie ever made, and learning the ancient art of voodoo. Finally deciding to put his hyperactive imagination to good use, he ditched the voodoo and picked up a pen. A few months later, his debut novel, The Forty First Wink, was born. With a clutch of short stories in the offing, James is now loving his new life as an author, and still sings when plied with alcohol or compliments.
He also recently developed a penchant for fiercely embellishing his past. He really was a singer, although The Forty First Wink may not have brought about world peace. Yet.
GUEST POST: Two hobbits walk into a bar... by James Walley
Many years ago, way back in the annals of time, long before one Peter Jackson discovered Middle Earth tucked away conveniently in New Zealand , I picked up the paper version of Tolkein's epic saga, and set myself upon an irrevocable path. As grand fantasy epics go, you'd be hard pushed to find a more magnificently and meticulously imagined example, and within a few chapters, I knew that this was the genre for me.
Adventure, mythical creatures, characters to both love and loathe, magic, battles, unlikely heroes, and a scrawny little chap with a questionable understanding of the English language, all played out amidst an entirely new world. It had everything...right?
Of course it does, and I would never presume to second guess an all time classic, and a staple of my childhood. Having said that, it does also provide a decent example of fantasy stories, no matter how awesome, being largely sombre, serious, po faced affairs. It's hard to imagine Aragorn kicking out one liners as he charges toward the black gates, or Saruman picking out amusing costumes for his hordes of otherwise fearsome Uruk Hai to wear into battle. The odd movie would come along (normally helmed by Pythons) that would splice fantasy and humour, but that only served to whet my appetite for more.
Years later I would discover novels by the likes of Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin, and my journey to the dark side would be complete.
This is why, when I sat down to write The Forty First Wink, it was almost a given that it was going to be in some way other worldly and fantastic (in the fantasy sense, although if anyone says that it's fantastic, I will not argue with them), whilst also being quirky, off the wall and farcical. Of course, the actual story lends itself easily to the surreal, but to then fill it with characters who might be in some way ridiculous, or generally unpredictable, allowed me to really hurtle, full throttle into all manner of deliciously fun hijinks. Sure, your antagonist can be intimidating. He can be threatening and even terrifying, but place him in a ludicrously insane situation, and the possibilities are limitless. From there, you can go wherever your imagination takes you, and hopefully your fantasy tale just got a whole lot more interesting. Have your demonic hellspawn chase down his victims on a tricycle, or make the setting of your final, climactic battle a petting zoo. Keeping the tone epic and heroic just makes it that much more amusing.
Personally, I found that writing in this way keeps the ideas fresh and original, and also helps turn your characters from sword wielding, all conquering warriors, into individuals who are not only endearing, but also compelling. After all, who doesn't want the well meaning but sadly lacking hero, armed with nothing but a sense of fun and an egg whisk, and riding a flying hedgehog, to succeed? I make no secret of my love for anti heroes, movies and literature are chock full of them. It is therefore only a short leap into the realms of the absurd to turn your anti hero into said whisk toting hog rider. Fantasy characters are great. They can be wise, heroic, courageous, noble, complex, or a mixture of all of the above. I truly believe that if you throw in an element of the bizarre and crazy, you add another vital piece to that puzzle. You make them fun.
To me, the purpose of good fantasy is to suspend the reader's belief, to open up new and exciting worlds, and to embark on a journey into the wildest of dreams. If you can make those dreams wilder, then so much the better.
(No hedgehogs were harmed during the writing of this blog.)