[Originally composed November 2005, revised January 2018]
A wonderful person requested that I share more about reading/movie influences on my writing (not including the Ewok bit already covered in my essay on what inspired the hyarmi).
I found this request to be quite difficult. Firstly due to trying to track such things down in my memory, and also online whilst, fighting the internal dislike of anything resembling plagiarizing. Secondly, because the topic gets bigger the longer I work with it. Thirdly, the fact that there is no way to write in-depth about such a topic without strewing spoilers around like confetti in New York City on New Year's Eve.
It is book spoilers, simply because my five Geren books are the center of all my writing endeavors, my magnum opus, so to speak. But don't worry, I will not be putting up spoilers for books 4 and 5 in this essay.
Having been asked for reading or movie influences, I will first start in my contrary fashion by going in a different direction. In wrestling with this topic, I realized I had another influence quite as important as those. The influence of living people.
There are bits and pieces of people I know in some characters, though generally unconscious rather than conscious. (My mom might be surprised to know there's bits of her in Renna, Daresh's wife, but that was not intentional). Llao owes a bit to my dad in appearance and pessimism. The hu-hyarmi Hu-Halle, who shows up in 'A Song in the Twilight' and will takes center stage in the latter part of Hope's Passage, had a conscious tie to a science teacher I respected and loved in high school. But only in her bearing, and no other way.
The other key examples of this are with the hyarmi Hened (one of my favorite hyarmi characters) and Hadarek (Fourth Judge on the Council of the Races in Geren's time).
Hadarek owes a little to Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court in America, my most beloved of the lot. How I love that man! So yes, a little of his sharp tongue and passion is seen in Hadarek.
Hened, on the contrary, owes a lot to the recently passed Pope John Paul II. Now, I am not Catholic, and I don't wish to offend any of you who may be, so realize that my comparison is not intended to be insulting in any matter. He was derived from the pope in the pattern of events and influence, and no other fashion. Pope John Paul II was chosen fairly young and had tremendous sway in world events both due to the length of his position as pope as well as his own considerable gifts.
Hened was also appointed Master Historian of the hyarmi at a fairly young age, due to a parallel circumstance of his immediate (and elderly) predecessors being appointed and dying shortly thereafter. The hyarmi historians got weary of going through the whole proceedings repeatedly, and selected a young, yet very exceptional, historian as a counter. Hened survived the secrets he inherited without breaking, and his own tremendous giftedness and long tenure won him a respect and influence among his entire race far greater than that usually given to his station--truly an equal of the Black Prince in the eyes of the hyarmi, and the only one really able to counter him.
When it comes to books, I know I've been influenced by McKillip's Riddle-Master trilogy. The whole bit of Geren discovering that someone he knows is actually the Defender in human form was certainly influenced by the revelation at the end of that trilogy. But I don't believe I out-and-out 'copied,' because I'd already drawn a picture of that revelation in my student planner as a college freshman (Sept 1993) whereas when I became obsessed with McKillip's trilogy was Jan 1994. But the idea of somebody rescuing/helping a stranger and not knowing who they aided is a common convention in fairy-tales and the like, so I could have gotten that from anywhere. Still, I know McKillip's story had an impact on the setting and timing of the revelation at the climax of my first book; I specifically wanted Geren to find out well before the final climax, unlike what happened in McKillip's story. This gave me four books to play with the aftermath of Geren's revelation.
Obviously, since I'm a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, and he is my favorite writer, a logical place to look for influences would be there. But in his case I believe matters are a bit more subtle. Encountering The Lord of the Rings as a youngster showed me what I was 'made for,'--what I loved the most. Because of Tolkien, and my great love for his dwarves and elves ('perfect,' in my opinion), I chose to stay away from the stereotypical fantasy races. I did not believe I could outdo Tolkien, nor did I want to copy his races, therefore I chose to head in a different direction. But at that same period, wallowing happily in the 12-volume HOME books, I gained the highest respect for his world-building and cosmology. I simply cannot compete in the area of language, I hate languages and an un-gifted there, so I took my own world-building in the direction of my interests, not his. I avoided the whole language mess as much as I could by adopting a 'pre-Babel' setting and keeping the language of the races so separate that humans simply cannot speak the avarii or hyarmi tongues. It provided a good excuse to largely avoid the whole made-languages affair, or smattering my books with such things, and basically served to keep me from being miserably depressed by contemplating a challenge I'm utterly incapable of.
I also took Tolkien's idea of a 'alternate earth,' having my tales set in the past on my own planet in a sort of parallel history. But my reasons for doing so were not just a blind imitation of Tolkien, but also very much tied to my love of biology and creation. My original conception was during the ice ages on the real earth, but I moved away from that within a matter of years, for a number of reasons.
I also got some names, quite unintentionally, from Tolkien's works. I should know better now than to just grab stuff floating in my head--it's bound to have come from somewhere. Avarii was avari, which was his name for a type of dark elf. (Once I realized that years later, I tacked the extra 'i' on, as it was far too late for me to change the name then.) And Hiarmintar-ik came from Hyarmentir, name of a mountain mentioned in The Silmarillion.
I love Tolkien's essay about Fairy-Tales, love his concept of eucatastrophe and sub-creation, and share his dislike of overt allegory (though I enjoy fables and parables). All that has influence in my writings, but probably in a broader rather than particular sense. Well, except for the ending of book 5, but I'm not going there.
Another significant influence is C.S. Lewis. I'm not talking about his fiction in this case, but his Christian apologetic non-fiction, which I adore. In preparing for this essay, I wound up re-reading about five of his nonfiction books, and it's been a few years since I'd last enjoyed them. It was his theorizing about how interactions with humans affect dogs in The Problem of Pain that led to all sorts of personal speculation as to how the centuries of interaction between t'DoL and the Wolf Lord would affect the latter. The whole idea of the beast lords, by the way, came from fairy-tales, and also the fact that in the dozens of trapped flies, beetles, bees, and the like I'd rescued from my parents' house, none of them ever stopped to thank me, like they do in the fairy tales (though the curve of their departing flight was purest joy). That 'what if...' led to the lords of various species in my stories.
Anyway, back to C.S. Lewis. It was his discussion of the interface between mind and brain in Miracles (some of those chapters make my own brain smoke!) and his speculation upon the control unfallen Man had over his body that served as my jumping-off point for the whole concept of power in my world (I dislike much of the baggage that comes with the word 'magic' and try to avoid it). While the mind-body interface is quite important in my own thought, I made little attempt at being systematically rigorous with the abilities possessed by the races.
Let me apologize. There are two quotes (presumably from C.S. Lewis, perhaps Tolkien) that had a huge effect on my writing. Unfortunately, one of them this old lady simply can't recall (and therefore can't search for) and the second one I've spent a few weeks scouring for, without success. So, at least in my mind, this essay is incomplete. [One gets addressed in Chapter 3 written in 2018]
My two big 'role-models' aside, some influences I was able to track down pretty precisely:
Ebonfel, The Lord of Wolves came about because I adore black wolves. But he has two specific 'origins.' One being the black wolf I saw flipping through an ElfQuest comic in my teen years (never did read them, just ogled the art at times). I thought it was the most gorgeous creature I'd clapped eyes on (like black horses and black cats) and it may have started my fascination with black wolves. The second was a black wolf character in one of Joseph Wharton Lippincott's books called the Wolf King. I found his book Wilderness Champion in college, and fell in love with the artwork and the Wolf King as a character. The concept of a Wolf Lord I believe already existed, but the prominence of Ebonfel was magnified due to the influence of that book and character. I didn't get my hands on the actual book The Wolf King until well after college, and it is by far the rarest book in my collection. (So of course it's the book my cat Shado decided he needed to chew on--I named him too well!)
The Puma Lord owes his appearance to two things. First, my aesthetic liking for contrasts--a pale horse and a dark one (Kunama and Tambo!), a pale cat and a black one, a white dog and a black one (which I hope to have someday). So to contrast the Wolf Lord's dark majesty, I wanted a pale puma.
Not a wretched pink-eyed creature, however. I got my idea from a book I read in high school by field biologist R.D. Lawrence called The White Puma. It was fiction, but grounded in science, and years later on I tracked down photos of white pumas on the internet to make sure such a thing could really exist (but years later they appear to all be disputed). The Puma Lord lacks phaeomelanin (red pigment) but still possesses eumelanin (black pigment). No weak pink eyes this way--albino squirrels notwithstanding, a completely albino puma would be unlikely to survive with that defect.
The Vale of Remembrance/The Defender's Vale also has direct inspiration. I was strongly affected by a poem I read in American Lit in high school (I was finally able to track both it and the puma book down for this essay--hurrah!). Above Pate Valley by Gary Snyder (our class never covered it, I just read the Lit books cover to cover repeatedly for fun). It really shook me up and grieved me back then, to the extent that I never forgot it and some of the closing words. My mental image of that beautiful, doomed little clearing eventually became the origin and the fate of t'DoL's Vale.
As for movies, there isn't much outside of the already mentioned Ewok influence. I didn't even have a television at home for a chunk of my childhood, and movie-going was rare. Add that to the fact that I prefer books, and it means that books had the far stronger influence for me.
All I've scrounged up is The Rescuers Down Under. I loved that giant eagle, on the brink of extinction, that they fight to protect at the end. Since it came out in 1990, those huge, glorious wings might have stirred up my wing-passion and might tie in to the drawing of winged men in 1992 that would eventually lead to my first drawings of t'DoL.