Seven Days for SEVEN PRINCES: The Inspiration John R. Fultz January 4, 2012

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7 days for SEVEN PRINCESI’m proud to tell anyone who asks me about it that I write fantasy novels. The publication of SEVEN PRINCES represents many years of hard work, commitment and stubborn dedication to one man’s crazy vision. Writers are obsessed with their ideas. They to have be.

I also write in the horror and science fiction genres. Yet fantasy has always been my first love – especially high fantasyor epic fantasy, as some like to call it. Although the term dark fantasy is also one that I particularly like. Many of my favorite fantasies are indeed ‘dark’, and you will find darkness in every fantasy – if only to contrast the softness and the light. The darker the darkness, the brighter the light.

One of the most common questions asked of copywriters and various “creative types” is: Where do you find your ideas? But what’s really being asked for in that old chestnut of a query is: What inspires you? For fantasy writers, one would assume that all inspiration comes from existing fantasy fiction. Yet that is certainly not the case. If it did, the genre would soon atrophy and die of relentless repetition and lack of innovation. Still, the fantasy genre is alive and well. . . and it’s not going away anytime soon. They say there are no new stories, only new ways to tell them.

Writers are looking for inspired wherever they can. . . and he often finds them when they least expect it.

So what inspires me?

Music. I have a thing for heavy rock and six-string blues, but I like a bit of everything. BLACK SABBATH’s early days are the foundation on which most of my favorite bands have built their music. I love the music of THE BLACK KEYS, ROB ZOMBIE and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE. . . and I literally have too many favorite bands to list them all here (or anywhere else). I relish MONSTER MAGNET’s “Superjudge” album as I write. I also found THE SWORD’s first two albums conducive to creating epic fantasy, as well as a wealth of instrumental soundtracks. (Jerry Goldsmith’s PLANET OF THE APES soundtrack has to be one of the greatest of all time.) Music is magic of the greatest power.

Laugh. Laughter renews and energizes the soul. And the soul is the source of all creativity. Me, I have a weakness for television comedies, from THE OFFICE to BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD (so happy to find them again!) passing by my brother from another mother CONAN O’BRIEN. I love comedies with heart and soul. . . where the story doesn’t collapse in favor of silly punchlines. I can watch episodes of THE SIMPSONS and SEINFELD a dozen times. . . and I have. With such a taste for comedy, you would think I would write humorous fantasy. . . but I’ve never been a fan of this particular genre. I like a good comedy, but I’m serious on my fantasy. . .

Books. I am addicted to books. There are books that I keep hidden away like sacred relics, usually those that have touched my soul in a deep and lasting way. And once in a while, I discover a whole new book that does the same thing. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m practically religious about TALES FROM THE FLAT EARTH by Tanith Lee. The same goes for the collections of stories by Lord Dunsany, Tolkien’s THE SILMARILLION, the Spread and Bridge trilogies, all of Tom Ligotti’s collections and the SORCERER’S MASK by Schweitzer. So much more. For a writer, every story and every book you read is an influence, whether you like it or not. So I am very careful about what I read.

Comic books. Matt Fraction’s CASANOVA is the latest comic to completely blow my mind. Like Ed Brubaker’s CRIMINAL, it’s a pure manifestation of the creators’ passions. The best comics challenge corporate strangleholds on characters and concepts. Like the best novels, they invent something new and tell stories that come from the heart, guts and mind. Mignola’s HELLBOY comics are inspirational as hell (pun intended). ORC STAIN by James Stokoe is another explosion of authorial genius and radical style. Bryan Talbot’s enduring masterpiece THE ADVENTURES OF LUTHER ARKWRIGHT was a defining influence, as was Peter Milligan’s groundbreaking SHADE THE CHANGING MAN. Comics have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember; raw inspiration crackles and burns between the panels of each page.

Art. Frank Frazetta is my personal art god. Looking at one of his paintings gives me at least twenty story ideas – he is the heart and soul of 20th century fantasy art. Michael Whelan is another iconic artist whose work has been imprinted on my brain from a very young age – from his amazing MARTIAN TALES covers to his 80s LOVECRAFT sequence, to everything he’s ever painted. anywhere, Whelan is a one-of-a-kind experience. Stephane Fabian. Bob Eggleton. Darrel Sweet. Steranko. Richard Corben. Jack Kirby. Jean Buscema. Gil Kane. Jack Katz. Alex Raymond. So much more. . . a great work of art tells a story, even when it’s just a single image.

Drama. Shakespeare. Lynch. Tarantino. The Coens. Kaufman. Scorsese. Jackson. Aronofsky. Hitchcock. Serling. Miyazaki. Yimou. Films are the myths of our time. The best movies don’t usually come from books; no, they are designed and built specifically to exploit the parameters and possibilities of cinema. But stories are stories, and greatness is greatness, no matter the medium. Every time I watch (or re-watch) a David Lynch film, it makes me want to create something new. It touches something deep and bottomless in my psyche. And don’t get me started on Shakespeare. . . massive, endless inspired. At the heart of every drama are human beings. . . and each person you meet is a source of stories, experiences and contradictions.

Story. It is the original source of all great stories. Early mankind, trading tales around their campfires, knew the crucial importance of Old Tales and the sacred role of the Storyteller. Without our history, humanity does not really exist. The fact that we tell stories about things that happened is what makes us civilized. It is what has raised us above the beasts of the field. Storytelling is the oldest art form, and all of history fuels the imagination of any writer, especially a fantasy writer. What fascinates me most are the stories that could have been . . . the lost sagas and the heroes who never returned to tell their stories. . . the dusty pulp of burned libraries and the obscure traditions of fallen civilizations. . . the blurred edges surrounding the solid substance of historical knowledge. And the more you study known history, the more your imagination travels to those hazy regions of unknown. . .

Nature. Nothing inspires quite as much as the beauty and grandeur of the natural world. Whether it’s a trip to the beach (I don’t swim) or a drive through the countryside, the Earth speaks to us whenever we make ourselves available to listen. There is a symphony in every storm, an epic in every cloud formation, a masterpiece written in the veins of every floating leaf. I live in California, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Sometimes the sheer beauty of the landscape here almost overwhelms me. There is gold in “these hills”, but it is not yellow metal. I like the rain . . . It makes me happy . . . has always. Sweet and blessed nectar from the stratosphere. Every drop is an ocean of possibilities.

I think there is perhaps more connection between nature and fantasy than any other literary genre. Consider Tolkien’s beautiful, verdant Middle-earth and how it contrasts with the cinder wastelands of Mordor. Or the fairy lands and dreamlike forests of Dunsany. These imaginary worlds are simply parallel versions of our own little blue-green paradise. There’s a reason most fantasy novels include maps as entry points into those made-up worlds we love so much. Society changes, history continues, and humanity evolves, but the Earth itself remains to whisper its eternal secrets, molding its wisdom into the enchanted shapes of trees and mountains. Fantasy is an extension of this ancient and primordial Earthsong. We listen and we dream.

Fantasy also connects us to our distant past. . . our early days when the world was full of magic, mystery and adventure. Human lives are made up of stories as much as flesh and blood. Fantasy delivers the timeless stories that are woven into our DNA, our ancestral memory, the immortal spirit that unites us all, even when we refuse to acknowledge it.

Fantasy fiction nurtures something deep, pure and ancient in all of us. And from this same source, inspired emerges to create all that excites, delights and inspires us.

So where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere . . .

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