JRR Tolkien

Suffering the arrows of outrageous fortune

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Me, except I've got eleven of the Uruk Hai's black arrows sticking out of me...
Me, except I’ve currently got eleven of the Uruk Hai’s black arrows sticking out of me…

It seems obvious to me now, that writing Charlie’s Worries was akin to making the dread journey through the Mines of Moria – battling the goblins of procrastination, the cave-troll of doubt and then the ultimate enemy, the Balrog of pernickety editing. It’s almost as if JRR Tolkien wrote that section specifically to highlight the perils and torments of writing a novel.

So, after two years of scribbling and typing, I emerged from the fusty tunnels of imagination into the bright light of hope and Lothlórien. Galadriel took me to a clearing and showed me some things that have not yet come to pass. I expected to see money raining from the sky and awards and publishers prostrating themselves before me, yet strangely all I saw was fire and ruin.

“I know what it is you saw, for it is also in my mind.” Galadriel’s voice echoed in my head, somewhat smugly.

“I cannot do this alone.” I replied.

“You are a writer, Simon. To be a writer is to be alone.”

So I screwed up my courage and sent out missives to the Gatekeepers of Amon Hen (I think this is what most people call Literary Agents). Then I set out onto the river of rejection with only some biscuits for sustenance.

Gatekeepers of Amon Hen - A cross between an orc and a Nazi.
Gatekeepers of Amon Hen – A cross between an orc and a Nazi.

I could sense the Gatekeepers chasing me down the banks of the river. Somehow I knew they were there, just out of sight, but always in my thoughts. I imagined them reading my work, gasping at its audacious originality, crying at the pathos, laughing hysterically at the funny bits and then falling over themselves to send me an Email of Acceptance.

But this utterly failed to happen. Instead gnarly, black arrows of rejection thumped into my heart. Each one chipping away at my self belief, until now, two weeks after I sent the first email, I lie breathless against a tree with eleven slivers of despair protruding from my soul.

Then, once again, I hear Galadriel’s voice in my head. It says: “The quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little and it will fail to the ruin of all.”

So, slightly heartened by these somewhat ambiguous words of encouragement, I determine not only to stagger to my feet and suffer the inevitable sting of bad news, but to write more. I’ve already written nearly 15,000 words of The Book of Lies and I shall use this as a shield against the depressing times ahead.

So bring on Sauron, what’s the worst that can happen?

What inspired me to write “Entering the Weave”

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For my thirteenth birthday I got a typewriter. I loved its clunky mechanics and the artful complexity required to load it with interlacing sheets of foolscap and carbon paper. I wrote dreadful stories on it based almost entirely around a hero who was always too good to be true.

In my teens I read voraciously. And I’ll never forget the bittersweet pleasure of realising that there were only twenty or so pages of Diana Wynne Jones’s “The Power of Three” – the mixed emotions of feeling the width of the remaining pages dwindle to nothing. On one hand I wanted to finish the book – to devour all of its secrets, on the other I knew that once the final page had been turned reality would once more intrude and the magic of another first read would disappear forever. There was a wealth of children’s writing that furnished me with a more mature view of fiction. The hero was never perfect, the villain never entirely evil. So with my trusty typewriter I developed more realistic, although still fantastical words and worlds.

As adulthood approached I learned how to make a living. I wrote computer programs during the day which paid the bills, and wrote nonsense at night which fed my spirit. I sent some short stories off to Interzone and gained quite a rapport with the editors, especially Lee Montgomerie who was always very encouraging about what I sent, but never so encouraging as to publish anything. Looking back at my competition I can understand why.

In my thirties children took up most my time. But the rare moment of quiet would always be spent dreaming – conjuring words together to please myself and perhaps an avid fan of mine at bedtime.

And then I turned forty and the words began to explode onto the page. I had more time, and more focus and almost before I knew it I’d finished “Entering the Weave” A decades long process of idle thought and frantic life mashed together with my ever present desire to emulate the heroes of my childhood. So thank you Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and every other hero of mine.

The inspiration for “Entering the Weave” is a study in how a finished product can be entirely different from its initial conception.

I had two ideas. One was complicated and I eventually discarded it because it was too difficult. The other was simple and it gave rise to all of the concepts and ideas in the book.

The complicated idea was that the book would contain clues which could be deciphered and followed online which would open up an extra dimension to the story told on the physical pages. I had a few ideas for this but they always ended up getting in the way of the story…

The simple idea was that I liked the name Trinity Vale. It sounded quite mystical. A place where the dreams of all the living things on Earth might coalesce to form a natural virtual reality of memories. And this place, this Trinity Vale, would be an accessible heaven, a place where all our loved ones could reside forever.